Wednesday, January 4, 2017

THE KING RANCH by Cheri Kay Clifton

What and where is the King Ranch?


Some would answer, “It’s a Ford Truck.”  And yes, one can be found in our garage. My hubby has owned King Ranch trucks for years. 



However, seeing the famous “W” brand on our leather console and floor mats as well as the “EST. 1853” designation, the question for me arises, was there really a King Ranch?

Here’s a little history about a huge ranch in the big state of Texas.

Ranches in the American West grew in both size and number after the American Civil War. What may have been the largest ranch in the world in the late 1850’s was the enormous King Ranch, located in southeast Texas, south of Corpus Christie. Founded in 1853 by Richard King, the King Ranch covers 825,000 acres (1289 square miles) – a little over the size of Rhode Island.

Born to a poor Irish family, King grew up in New York City. Wanting to escape the confines of city life, young Richard learned the trade of seamanship, became a captain and with hard work and determination, made his way into the steamboat industry along the Alabama and Florida rivers. After moving to South Texas, he built up his river transportation empire, running supplies on the Rio Grande during the Texas Revolution. 



Soon he was investing his money in land for cultivation and cattle raising and by 1855 had grown a ranch empire of longhorn steers as well as thoroughbred horses. In fact, the legendary vaqueros and many of Captain King’s descendants have been devoted to the ranching life through the generations and have made top quality horses a clear priority on King Ranch.


The “running W” brand the King Ranch uses today first saw duty in the 1860’s and was officially registered in 1869. Not even the current King Ranch management knows for sure where the “W” really comes from. Some believe it represents one of the ranch’s many diamondback rattlesnakes or possibly the Santa Gertrudis Creek. Others say it signifies the sweeping horns of a Texas longhorn bull.



Regardless of its meaning, today the Running W appears on both prize-winning cattle and top quality leather goods as an indisputable icon of the American ranching industry.

Oil fields and timberland increased the success and wealth of King Ranch into the 20th Century and the empire now has satellite locations in Florida, New Mexico and South Carolina.

In 1961, King Ranch was designated a National Historic Landmark. Today the King Ranch Visitor Center in Kingsville, Texas offers an extensive museum, daily ranch tours and holds special events.

Is it still the biggest ranch in the world?

No … the biggest ranch is Anna Creek Station in South Australia covering 6 million acres. However, counting all its locations, the King Ranch is the biggest ranch in the U.S. and considered “one of the biggest” around the globe.

The King family and the ranch are part of the myth and mystique of Texas and have been featured in numerous stories and novels. The Kings of Texas traces the history of the ranch through “decades of conflict arising from the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, and the many skirmishes between Texas Rangers and border bandits.

Edna Ferber’s novel, Giant, about the ranches of Texas was turned into a film of the same name. The theme song of the film is a staple for high school bands in Texas. Many of the events of the King Ranch, such as the discovery of oil on the property, are also in the film.


In the James Michener novel, Centennial, the Venneford Ranch was said to be patterned after the King Ranch.

The western historical fiction novel, Lords of the Land by Matt Braun is based on the King Ranch and its founder, although names and some circumstances were altered.

After reading but a small portion of the history of Richard King and the King Ranch, I can see why Ford is proud to put its symbol on their trucks. 

Visit my web site at www.cherikayclifton.com and check out my books on Amazon 

"The Old West isn't just a time or place, it's a state of mind."


16 comments:

  1. Cheri--I never tire of stories of the King Ranch. I've mentioned it or written about several times--there are so many directions one could go in describing the Kind Ranch.
    I particularly have dwelled on his wife, who fell deeply in love with him. She outlived him by decades, and for a shy missionaries daughter, she made the King Ranch what it is today...or should I say, what it is remembered for.
    I liked your introduction to the post--something personal always grabs attention.

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    1. Oops, didn't know anyone had written about the King Ranch! I found his life fascinating and read a lot about his wife but decided to not make the post too long. I would love to take a tour of the museum and ranch someday.

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    2. Cheri--it's fine--we do it all the time! When a topic has so many ways to go, it's good to write a post from a different angle.
      Mine are old, which makes yours more relevant.
      The only thing I do...and would encourage others to do...is check WHEN a previous post was made..1,2,3,,4 years ago, sure write something new about the topic. But if a member just wrote about the topic last month..not so good.
      Go to draft page and type in your topic...you see if your chosen topic has been used, but more importantly, how long ago.
      Trust me, we've all done it, and it's fine.

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  2. Cheri, I've read quite a few articles about Richard King and the King Ranch. One can't live in Texas without hearing about the legendary Kings, but I still learned new facts from your post, particularly the part about the running w brand. Fascinating stuff! Thanks for sharing your research.

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    1. Lyn, I figured you Texans would know a lot more about the King Ranch than us southerners!

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  3. I read about the King Ranch as a young girl. Then as an adult I stumbled on a non-fiction book about the ranch, which also went into all the wonderful things the King Ranch has done over the years and how altruistic and compassionate Richard King was. But I wonder how many people are aware that the King ranch today isn't just a museum, it is also an education facility for Texas A&M. Their research and breeding program there is very well-known in the beef industry. The ranch has actually shrank in the last 50 years or so from over a million acres. And I believe it is also a huge wildlife preservation area. What a fantastic legacy. I've never been there but I'd love to go.

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    1. E. Ayers--I thought I knew everything about the King Ranch. But I did not know it was a education facility for Texas A&M. Read about his wife..she is really responsible for most of this. He died an early death...she carried on.

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    2. It is wonderful to know that Richard King and his faithful wife, Henrietta has left such an outstanding legacy for their future generations, considering King's endeavors as a land baron and rancher began over 163 years ago!

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    3. https://king-ranch.com/stewardship-education/king-ranch-institute-ranch-management/

      Isn't it always a really good woman behind her man that makes him successful?

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  4. Enjoyed your post, Cheri. We've driven past the King Ranch in past years, not lately though. Love the history. My cousin bought a King Ranch model pickup. It is beautiful.

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    1. My husband loves his! Next time we travel through Texas, we plan on visiting the King Ranch.

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  5. This is the first time I have ever heard of the King Ranch or the W signifying excellence. I'm a southeasterner, so maybe that's why I haven't heard of it.
    What I really like is how King, just an ordinary person from New York, had a vision and acted on it. I never tire of stories about real people who started with next to nothing and created a rich and interesting life. It's encouraging and renews the dream that, if one person can do it, anyone can do it.
    I wish you all the best and a very happy new year, Cheri.

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    1. As I had said, my hubby has owned King Ranch Ford trucks for several years and I thought it was just a great name for a truck. However, I should have known with the "EST. 1853" there was more to the name, and there sure is! Wishing you, Sarah, and all the Sweethearts a very happy, healthy 2017 with plenty of time for writing!

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  6. One of my friends grew up on the King Ranch and her mom worked in the ranch store. She has very fond memories of the people there.

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    1. Oh, wow! Bet it was a wonderful place to live.

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  7. How interesting, Caroline! Happy New Year to you & yours.

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