The Free Range Era of Ranching

3121 4th Street
Lubbock, TX 79409


After Indians and buffalo were removed in 1870s, several hundred cattlemen with small herds came to rolling plains near site of later Lubbock, to graze free range. Vital natural water sources were found east of the Caprock, where springs and streams were fed from the Ogallala Formation of the High Plains.

Here, with good years and rising prices, the free rangers prospered until 1884, when syndicates began purchasing land and enclosing large blocks with barbed wire. Free range men had to sell their herds to the syndicates or move farther west.

The Spur Ranch alone acquired over 500,000 acres of land and bought cattle and brands from 37 of the free rangers. Similar ranches were developed by the Curry Comb, IOA, Jumbo, Long S, Magnolia, Matador, Pitchfork, Square and Compass, T Bar, and Two Buckle interests. By 1885 all free range operations were transformed into large, enclosed ranches.

Some free rangers exchanged cattle for stock in syndicates, others were employed by syndicates, and a few moved to Arizona, New Mexico or Wyoming. A few?”including the Edwards, Long and Slaughter Families?”acquired land and became sizable operators.


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