Cattle Capitalists: The XIT Empire in Texas and Montana

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The Texas Constitution of 1876 set aside three million acres of Texas public land in exchange for construction of the monumental red granite Capitol that continues to house Texas state government today. The Capitol project and the land went to an Illinois syndicate led by men influential in business and politics. Austin's statehouse is a recognizable symbol of Texas around the world. So too, the massive Panhandle tract given in exchange -- what became the "fabulous" XIT Ranch -- has come to, for many, symbolize Texas and its role in the nineteenth century cattle boom. After finding sales prospects for ... continued below

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Miller, Michael M December 2017.

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  • Miller, Michael M

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The Texas Constitution of 1876 set aside three million acres of Texas public land in exchange for construction of the monumental red granite Capitol that continues to house Texas state government today. The Capitol project and the land went to an Illinois syndicate led by men influential in business and politics. Austin's statehouse is a recognizable symbol of Texas around the world. So too, the massive Panhandle tract given in exchange -- what became the "fabulous" XIT Ranch -- has come to, for many, symbolize Texas and its role in the nineteenth century cattle boom. After finding sales prospects for the land, known as the Capitol Reservation, weak at the time, backed by British capital, the Illinois group, often called the Capitol Syndicate, turned their efforts to cattle ranching to satisfy investors until demand for the land increased. The operation included a satellite ranch in Montana to which two-year-old steers from Texas were sent for fattening, often "over the trail" on a route increasingly blocked by people and settlement. Rather than a study focused on ranching operations on the ground -- the roundups, the cattle drives, the cowboys -- this instead uncovers the business and political side of the Syndicate's ranching operation, headquartered in Chicago. The operation of the XIT Ranch looked more like other Gilded Age businesses employing armies of clerks, bookkeepers, and secretaries instead of how great western ranches have been portrayed for years in popular literature and media. The XIT Ranch existed from 1885 to 1912, yet from Texas to Montana the operation left a deep imprint on community culture and historical memory.

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  • December 2017

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  • Jan. 27, 2018, 7:36 a.m.

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Miller, Michael M. Cattle Capitalists: The XIT Empire in Texas and Montana, dissertation, December 2017; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1062857/: accessed June 22, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .