Early Ranching, Hemphill County

By the late 1800s the Texas Panhandle was known for its sandstorms, mirages, sweeping prairie fires and rolling, treeless plains. It was also the home to thousands of the Southern Plains buffalo herds which supported native Indian tribes, such as the Comanche. In the 1870s, numerous buffalo hunters arrived which spelled the doom for these enormous herds.

Included in our museum’s collection is the .50 caliber buffalo rifle used by Dick Bussell during that time. After the buffalo were gone, many former hunters stayed in the area, including Dick Bussell and the Wood and Simpson families who established a place near the current town of Canadian. With the buffalo gone and the elimination of the Indian threat, the area quickly became “cattle country”.

After 1876, investors began to purchase lands in the county for large-scale ranching. By 1880 fourteen ranches with combined herds of about 9,600 cattle had been established. A severe winter in 1886 and heavy losses caused the break- up of the larger syndicates and smaller ranches and farms began to form.

Some of these syndicates and individually owned ranches are discussed here within the Ranching History of the River Valley Pioneer Museum.