Friday, May 06, 2016

First settlers in Permian Basin found good grassland

...Since there is good grassland, the first settlers in Midland and Odessa were cattlemen and sheepmen looking for grazing land for their flocks and herds. Ranches developed early and were primarily larger parcels of land sometimes spreading over multiple counties. E.V. Graham, a man whose family arrived in Ector County in 1887, told historian J. Evetts Haley that when he came to this region the ranches were scattered across West Texas. “At that time,” Graham said, “there was not a ranch to the Pecos River. On the river were the J.M. Ranch and the T.X. Ranch. The J.M. Ranch was on the Texas side of the Pecos and was owned by the Halff Brothers. They owned both sides at Pontoon Crossing, which is down the river from Horsehead Crossing. The T.X. Ranch was 35 miles up the river and was owned by Dawson, Dawson, Biler, and by Tom and Bill Ward.” A few hearty individuals may have been in scattered locations near where springs of water were nearby. Otherwise there were no people present for miles. Alabama native Bill Arp Oden, who came to Texas in 1880 and was working for Frank Divers in June 1884 driving 1,200 head of cattle to New Mexico, stated that in the spring of 1884, Divers went to Starr County and purchased 1,000 head of longhorn Mexican steers. “We headed up the North Concho by where Sterling City is now located. There, we turned north toward Iatan Tank on the T. & P. Railroad in Howard County. Fifteen or twenty miles south of Iatan, we crossed a little stream of the clearest water I ever saw but very few of the cattle would drink it for it was strongly impregnated with alkali and forty-six head of our herd died as a result,” Oden wrote. “We crossed the T. & P. at Iatan and headed northwest toward the head of the Colorado River. About a day’s drive from Iatan we passed a ranch house which had been recently burned and learned later that it had been used by the Earl of Aylesford, an Englishman who had been hunting there. There was about a wagon load of cartridge hulls which had been exploded by the heat of the fire,” wrote Oden. Oden’s recollections about the early years in this area were published in 1967 by Palo Duro Press in a book entitled Early Days on the Texas-New Mexico Plains. In a footnote in that book added by editor J. Evetts Haley, it was stated that the “Earl of Aylesford, a British sportsman who came to West Texas with ‘a carload of purebred horses and fine dogs’ had, before coming to America, helped outfit an expedition for the Prince of Wales — later Edward VIII — for hunting in India. He followed the railway to Colorado City and moved on to Big Spring, where he bought and made his residence in the old Cosmopolitan Hotel. Noted for his drinking as well as his hunting, he is said to have thrown his last big party on Christmas Day 1885. Two weeks later the thirty-six year old nobleman was dead and his body was shipped to England for burial.”...more

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