Spur Ranch

By: William M. Pearce

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: July 1, 1995

The Espuela (Spur) Cattle Company, a Texas corporation headed by Alfred M. Britton and S. W. Lomax, was formed in 1883 to establish a ranch in the area east of the Southern High Plains. Later that year the company purchased from the New York and Texas Land Company 242,000 acres in four blocks of railroad lands located in Dickens, Kent, Garza, and Crosby counties in western Texas for $515,440. In 1884 the company reorganized under the corporation laws of Texas and became the Espuela Land and Cattle Company of Fort Worth with the same personnel as the old company. To the new company were transferred the holdings of the Espuela Cattle Company. Inasmuch as the state had retained title to every alternate section in the surveyed blocks of railroad land, and since these sections could be leased at low rates, the Spur range as finally fenced covered some 569,000 acres, including twenty sections of other public lands. Most of the cattle purchased to stock the range were bought from small ranchers who, no longer having access to what had been an "open" range, were forced to sell to the Espuela. In all, the company acquired sixty-one herds and their brands. Among the latter was the Spur, which gave the ranch its name.

Aware that English and Scottish capitalists were investing millions of pounds sterling in the acquisition of American cattle and range privileges, Britton went to London in 1884. There he succeeded in arousing the interest of a group of financiers who organized the Espuela Land and Cattle Company and agreed to purchase the land and livestock of the Spur Ranch from the Fort Worth company, a transaction that was effected on April 9, 1885. For the next twenty-two years the British concern had occasion to regret its Texas venture. Droughts and breaks in the cattle market made the enterprise less than successful, and when the opportunity to dispose of the ranch came early in the twentieth century the Espuela Land and Cattle Company agreed to sell its Spur holdings for five dollars an acre; the price included cattle, horses, improvements, and equipment. The purchasers were E. P. and S. A. Swenson of the New York firm of S. M. Swenson and Sons, James Sillman, Sigmund Newstadt, John J. Emery, and B. F. Yoakum. The partners, who never incorporated, became known as the Spur Syndicate. The contract of sale was signed in September 1906, and the syndicate took over the properties in 1907 when Charles A. Jones of Kansas City assumed management of the Spur Ranch.

The primary intent of the new owners was to colonize their property, not to raise cattle. To that end a survey of the ranch was conducted, two towns-Spur and Girard-were platted, a railroad from Stamford to Spur was promoted, and plans were made to dispose of the herd. The survey revealed that 62 percent of the land was arable and that 32 percent was rough, broken country best suited for ranching. In 1913 Jones was transferred to another Swenson enterprise and succeeded as manager by his son, Clifford B. Jones, who held the position for the next twenty-five years. The last of the cattle wearing the Spur brand were moved from the ranch in 1915. Records show that by 1928 the syndicate had sold, in 1,145 parcels, a total of 231,147 acres. By 1938, when Clifford Jones was elected president of Texas Technological College, the process of breaking up the Spur Ranch was practically completed. The remaining lands were divided among the partners, the syndicate was dissolved, and syndicate records were moved to the office of S. M. Swenson and Sons in Stamford.

William Curry Holden, The Espuela Land and Cattle Company: A Study of a Foreign-Owned Ranch in Texas (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1970). William Curry Holden, The Spur Ranch: A Study of the Inclosed Ranch Phase of the Cattle Industry in Texas (Boston: Christopher House, 1934).
  • Peoples
  • Scots
  • Business
  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Ranches Established After 1835

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

William M. Pearce, “Spur Ranch,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 28, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/spur-ranch.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995