The King Ranch, all 825,000 acres, started right here along the Santa Gertrudis Creek when Richard King had a vision—he wanted to buy land there. Richard King was born in 1824 to Irish immigrants in New York City. He was indentured to a jeweler and ran away at the age of 11, stowing himself on a boat bound for Mobile, AL. By the age of 19, he was a steamboat pilot, he built one fortune in the shipping industry and another ranching. In 1853 he purchased the first land for his ranch—15,000 acres, a Spanish land grant he got for the princely sum of $300!!!!
Richard and Henrietta King started a ranch that 150 years later is still operating—raising cows and horses at the operation near Kingsville, Texas. The Santa Gertrudis breed of cows is the first American breed of beef cattle and they were bred on the King Ranch in 1940 by crossing Brahmans and beef short horn cattle.
The couple had five children and the ranch is still privately owned by direct descendants of the Kings through their daughter Alice. At this time there are no family members in management positions. They do serve on the various board of directors.
The family home is not open to the public—it is 32,000 square feet and has not been occupied by any family member since 1974 but is available to any member of the family at any time. There is a staff of sixteen which maintains the home and grounds.
There are 300 head of quarter horses and 60,000 head of cattle on the ranch today.
Richard King went to Mexico in 1953 to buy cattle—he offered the people of the drought stricken village homes and jobs if they would come back to Texas with him. About 60 families came with him and some of their descendants still work on the ranch. The King Ranch provides housing, utilities and various other benefits to about 100 employees at this time. The housing is old with many of the structures having been built in the 1940’s. The ranch is in the process of tearing down many of these older homes and building these for the workers:
Just one of the many examples of the running W brand seen all over the ranch—Ford manufactures a King Ranch vehicle line with top grain leather branded with this running W. In Kingsville, The King Ranch Store sells furniture, leather goods and other items, many branded with this running W. Michael somehow left the store off our tour route???
When this 83 year old man was 9 years old he was breaking horses for the King Ranch—without their knowledge—but breaking the horses to ride. He legally went to work for the ranch when he turned 11 years old. The King Ranch owned the only Texas horse, named Assault, to win the Triple Crown—in 1943. The horse had a cut foot and there was talk of putting the animal down. The little boy at the time asked if he could take care of the horse, was granted permission, nursed the horse back to health, trained it with the horse going on to become a very famous racehorse! He gave an interesting little talk and even played us a tune on the harmonica!
This photo is for you Karen—this loom was set up in the same room where the man in the above photos gave his talk—he told us the loom had been used to weave saddle blankets.
It was a wonderful, totally interesting day!! Emmi stayed home alone and boy did she ever howl when we finally got back home about 5pm!!! Zoey and Angel were glad to see someone too!