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CRESSWELL RANCH

H. Allen Anderson

CRESSWELL RANCH. The Cresswell (or Bar CC) Ranch was established in 1877 by the Cresswell Land and Cattle Company of Colorado. This syndicate was formed when O. H. P. Baxter and the brothers J. A. and M. D. Thatcher, owners of bank stocks, mines, and farms, decided to back Henry W. Cresswell, who was enthusiastic about building up a ranch in the Panhandle. Accordingly, Cresswell drove a herd southward and selected as headquarters a site in Ochiltree County on a small tributary of the Canadian known as Home Ranch Creek. He marked his cattle with the Bar CC brand he had first registered in Colorado and cropped their left ears. Another Colorado herd trailed to the area in 1878 increased the Bar CC cattle to 27,000 head. Soon Cresswell expanded his range and became a favorite personality among his neighbors, including Robert Moody, Joseph Morgan, Dee Eubank, Tom Connell (see CONNELL AND EUBANK RANCHES), and the Cator brothers (see CATOR, JAMES HAMILTON). When Morgan died of smallpox in 1883, Cresswell aided the family and bought the Morgan Triangle cattle from the widow. Eventually the Bar CC range covered 1,250,000 acres that extended from the Canadian north to the state line. The great Panhandle drift fence was erected across this range.

In order to move his headquarters to a more central location, Cresswell bought from Alfred H. Barton the old picket stockade and storehouse built by Charles Edward Jones and Joseph H. Plummer on Wolf Creek in eastern Ochiltree County. In 1882 the Prairie Cattle Company offered to buy out Cresswell, whose herd by then was estimated to be over 31,000 head. Although that deal fell through, some of the Prairie stockholders succeeded in joining the Bar CC operation in 1885. A new syndicate, composed of these English investors along with the old cattle company, was formed and called the Cresswell Ranch and Cattle Company. It bought the ranch for $1.5 million, and Cresswell retained $20,000 interest.

This transfer took some time, and it proved a time of troubles. The Cresswell Ranch was plagued in 1885–86 by a slump in the market, the "Big Die-up" that winter, a prairie fire, and wolves. Nevertheless, Cresswell doggedly overcame his financial losses by purchasing 11,000 cattle from Charles Goodnight and fattening them in Indian Territory. The new company retained Cresswell as head of the ranch, and he remained with the Bar CC until 1889. James McKenzie, a Scot from Kansas City, was named general manager, and W. J. Todd, who had counted cattle in the transfer, became superintendent. Laura V. Todd recalled how she and her infant son traveled by train to Dodge City from Trinidad, and then for two days by horse-drawn buggy from Dodge to the ranch headquarters, where she lived in a tent until a new frame house was completed. Mrs. Todd brought potted plants and had furniture shipped in by mule freight. She tells of an infestation of bedbugs and the death of her baby in 1886. By Christmas she had a second son, Jep, and joined in efforts to give the cowboys a real celebration, complete with a dance, wild turkeys for the feast, and a multitiered cake decorated with store-bought candles. Jack Meade, Dave Pope, Archie King, Dave Lard, O. R. McMordie, and Edward H. Brainard, who was later made range foreman, were among the Bar CC cowhands who helped host that memorable Christmas gathering.

In January 1894 the Barcee post office was established at the ranch headquarters with Laura Todd as postmistress. Until then mail had been left there for distribution to area settlers. The office lasted only until May 1895, when mail was routed to Ochiltree. By then the Cresswell company had more than 25,000 cattle, including purebred shorthorn and Hereford bulls, and 300 saddle horses. However, fluctuating cattle prices and pressures of settlers caused the company to decline. Around 1900 it closed its operations and divided the ranch. Snyder and Sears of Kansas City bought the last of the original Bar CC herd. The brand, made with two irons, was used until 1937 by the ranch of Mrs. John Jones and her son-in-law, F. C. McMordie, located on Home Ranch Creek, the site of Cresswell's first headquarters.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Laura V. Hamner, Short Grass and Longhorns (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1943). Arthur Hecht, comp., Postal History in the Texas Panhandle (Canyon, Texas: Panhandle-Plains Historical Society, 1960). A History of Lipscomb County, Texas, 1876–1976 (Lipscomb, Texas: Lipscomb County Historical Survey Committee, 1976). Pauline D. and R. L. Robertson, Cowman's Country: Fifty Frontier Ranches in the Texas Panhandle, 1876–1887 (Amarillo: Paramount, 1981). Wheatheart of the Plains: An Early History of Ochiltree County (Perryton, Texas: Ochiltree County Historical Survey Committee, 1969).

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Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, H. Allen Anderson, "CRESSWELL RANCH," accessed May 25, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/apc08.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on September 25, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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