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MO-RANCH

MO-RANCH. Mo-Ranch, a conference facility owned and operated by the Presbyterian Synod of Texas, is located ten miles west of Hunt on the North Fork of the Guadalupe River in west central Kerr County. It was purchased by the synod in June 1949 from the estate of Dan Moran, Houston resident and former president of the Continental Oil Company. The original ranch, more than 6,500 acres, was bought in parcels from small owners in the early 1900s by Robert Real in order to provide a wildlife refuge for deer. W. W. Wilson, a local rancher, bought the land from Real in 1927 but sold it to Houstonite O. R. Seagraves of Gulf Coast Oil the next year. Seagraves built a native stone and cedar main house, still a major attraction at the ranch, to be used by his family for weekends and summer vacations. When he lost his fortune in the 1929 stock market crash, however, the ranch reverted to Wilson, who in turn deeded twenty-two acres and the main house back to Seagraves. The house and ranchlands were reunited in 1935, when both Wilson and Seagraves sold their holdings to Moran. Moran transformed the ranch into a village that supported his private luxury estate for entertaining weekend guests. He added a tiled swimming pool, gym and recreation building (which doubled as a roller rink, dance hall, basketball court, and theater), barns, kennels, guest lodges (with bowling alleys), greenhouses, a Boy Scout building, canteen, infirmary, and chapel, in addition to servant's quarters, utility buildings, and catwalks connecting some buildings. When Moran died in 1948, his family offered both ranchlands and improvements for sale.

The Presbyterian Synod of Texas, which since early in the century had operated the successful Westminster Encampment on the outskirts of Kerrville, saw the potential of Mo-Ranch (the name is derived from Moran) as a conference facility. A down payment was raised through a statewide campaign, and on June 15, 1949, the 6,871-acre ranch was purchased for $525,000. The debt was cleared later that year by the sale of 6,500 acres of unimproved ranchland to the Texas Game and Fish Commission (see TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT) for use as a game preserve. That land eventually became the Kerr Wildlife Management Area. The facility was incorporated as the Presbyterian Mo-Ranch Assembly. Twenty-two conferences were conducted during the ranch's first summer in operation. New housing facilities and reception buildings now accommodate guests eleven months of the year. The Mo-Ranch Assembly is available for educational conferences, retreats, inspirational studies, and recreational activities, and is opened to the general public and other denominational groups as well as to Presbyterians.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Bob Bennett, Kerr County, Texas, 1856–1956 (San Antonio: Naylor, 1956; bicentennial ed., rev. by Clara Watkins: Kerr County, Texas, 1856–1976, Kerrville, Texas: Hill Country Preservation Society, 1975). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Rebecca J. Herring

Citation

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

Rebecca J. Herring, "MO-RANCH," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/apm08), accessed July 11, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on January 31, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.