Rowe, Alfred (1853–1912)

By: H. Allen Anderson

Type: Biography

Published: June 1, 1995

Alfred Rowe, rancher, one of seven children of John James and Agnes (Graham) Rowe, prosperous English merchants who had business connections and a home in South America, was born on February 24, 1853, in Lima, Peru. As a young man he served two years in the family business, Graham, Rowe, and Company of Liverpool. In 1876 he went to the Royal Agricultural College in Gloucestershire, England. Two years later he moved to the United States with a capital of 500 pounds to invest in western grasslands. He arrived in Donley County from Colorado in 1878 and spent a few months learning the cattle business from others and starting his own herd, which he purchased from James Hughes, on Glenwood Creek, a tributary of the Salt Fork of the Red River. Rowe then established the RO Ranch on Skillet Creek through the purchase of state scrip and expanded the ranch over the next few years. He was thus one of the few foreign investors actually to settle for a time on his Texas ranch properties. In 1882 he formed a ranching partnership with his brothers Vincent and Bernard, who had been engaged in the manufacture of chemicals in Kansas City. They helped plow a fire guard and often hunted antelope and other game. During the next few years they made several improvements on the ranch's facilities. The partnership lasted until 1898, when Alfred bought out his brothers' interests. As a rancher Rowe became well-liked among the cowboys and stockmen for his honesty, high business principles, and genuine interest in the community. However, his habit of suddenly disappearing and reappearing puzzled many and reflected the extent of his desire to keep his affairs private. The railroad town of Rowe, which was moved to nearby Hedley, was named for him. He also laid out the town of McLean in Gray County, about five miles north of his first headquarters on Skillet Creek.

In 1901, at the age of forty-seven, Rowe married Constance Ethel Kingsley, a cousin of the British author Charles Kingsley, and brought her from England to the RO. Good-natured and adept at horsemanship, Mrs. Rowe often entertained eastern guests at the new ranch headquarters near Clarendon. Over the following decade the couple had four children, one of whom died in infancy. In 1910 Rowe moved his family permanently to England, leaving Jack Hall to manage the ranch and keep its records. However, Rowe returned at least twice a year to check up on the RO. On one of these trips in April 1912 Rowe booked passage on the maiden voyage of the Titanic. When the ocean liner struck an iceberg and sank in the North Atlantic on April 15, Rowe, a strong swimmer, refused to enter a lifeboat until others were saved. Consequently, he died from exposure to the ice-cold water. His body was recovered and interred in Liverpool. Five months after the Titanic disaster, his fifth child, Alfred, Jr., was born to his widow in Liverpool. The Rowe family continued to run the RO until 1917, when it was sold to W. J. Lewis. Alfred Rowe's memory in the Panhandle is preserved by the RO Ranch and its buildings, by Rowe and Kingsley streets in McLean, and by the old Rowe Cemetery, located on ground given by Rowe to the now-extinct town.

Laura V. Hamner, Short Grass and Longhorns (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1943). Willie Newbury Lewis, Between Sun and Sod (Clarendon, Texas: Clarendon Press, 1938; rev. ed., College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1976). Pauline D. and R. L. Robertson, Cowman's Country: Fifty Frontier Ranches in the Texas Panhandle, 1876–1887 (Amarillo: Paramount, 1981). J. N. Weaver, History of the Rowe Ranch (MS, Interview Files, Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon, Texas, 1934).


  • Peoples
  • English
  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Ranchers and Cattlemen

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

H. Allen Anderson, “Rowe, Alfred,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 28, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 1, 1995