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Square and Compass Ranch

W. C. Holden General Entry

The Square and Compass Ranch was started in 1882 by the Nave and McCord Cattle Company. Abraham Nave and James McCord, wholesale grocers with headquarters at St. Joseph, Missouri, had decided to pool their surplus income in the burgeoning "beef bonanza". Their initial investment in Texas was the purchase of 1,500 cattle and the range rights of Jim and Finis Lindsey on the Double Mountain Fork of the Brazos River at the mouth of Spring Creek in Garza County. Next they bought a herd from George B. Loving in Jack County. During several years thereafter they increased the size of their herd by retaining all the heifers; eventually it numbered around 15,000 head. The fact that Nave was a Mason apparently influenced their Square and Compass brand, which was patterned after the Masonic emblem. From the outset Nave and McCord made a policy of acquiring title to the land on which their cattle grazed. By 1884, when Rollie C. Burns was hired as resident manager, they had purchased and leased a tract eighteen miles north to south and twelve miles east to west, a total of 150,000 acres, lying south of the Llano Cattle Company's Curry Comb Ranch. About half of the Square and Compass land was on the Llano Estacado, high and level and good summer pasture, and about half was in the broken land, which made excellent winter pasture. The ranch was fenced in 1884 with posts made out of native cedar. One of the first projects that Burns supervised as foreman for the Square and Compass was the construction from imported lumber of new plank corrals with approaches from the south. These replaced the crude rock fences that had been built against the Caprock on the south side in such a way that cattle had to be driven in against the sun during the afternoon. Before the advent of railroads in the South Plains, Square and Compass cattle were driven to Colorado City, then the nearest railhead, from which lumber, barbed wire, and other supplies were freighted. The headquarters, consisting of a four-room main house and a bunkhouse, were located between the Caprock and the Double Mountain Fork near the site of the future John B. Slaughter estate headquarters. The Nave and McCord Cattle Company operated the Square and Compass at a modest profit, enduring the terrible blizzards and drought of 1886. Rollie Burns stayed on as foreman until December 1888, when he was hired by the neighboring IOA Ranch. In 1901 both the land and cattle were sold to John B. Slaughter; the sale included 99,188 acres of land at $1.60 an acre and 5,000 cattle. After Slaughter acquired the ranch, he dropped the Square and Compass brand and used his own brand, the U Lazy S.

Gus L. Ford, ed., Texas Cattle Brands (Dallas: Cockrell, 1936). Garza County Historical Survey Committee, Wagon Wheels: A History of Garza County, ed. Charles Didway (Seagraves, Texas: Pioneer, 1973). William Curry Holden, Rollie Burns (Dallas: Southwest, 1932; rpt., College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1986).


  • 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.

W. C. Holden, “Square and Compass Ranch,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 24, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995