While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Frances Mayhugh Holden

LAMBSHEAD RANCH. The Lambshead Ranch, a 50,000-acre tract thirteen miles north of Albany on U.S. Highway 283, is known for quality Hereford yearlings, preservation of native wildlife, restoration of the historic Matthews-Reynolds family ranch homes, and support of the Fort Griffin Fandangle, a regional folk drama. Between the late 1870s and 1909, John Alexander Matthews began putting together the lands that ultimately became the Lambshead Ranch. In 1880 he took a considerable financial risk when he purchased on credit the cattle and horses of his brother-in-law, Mart B. Hoover, for $50,000. Matthews invited his wife's brothers, George T. and William D. Reynolds, to form a partnership that could be dissolved after five years, depending on the wishes of the partners. Although there were no major troubles, there were occasional disagreements, so at the end of the contract period Matthews withdrew from it. During the five years of the partnership's existence, more land had been acquired, and that was taken into account when division took place in 1885. At that time Matthews received a southern tract that lacked "springs of water." Later he purchased a pasture owned by a company of sheepmen. The pasture was named the Culver after one of the owners, a family doctor. Matthews leased in 1886, and later purchased, Indian agent Jesse Stem's widest valley on the Clear Fork of the Brazos River and named all these collective tracts Lambshead Ranch for an early settler, Thomas Lambshead, who had emigrated from Devon, England.

In 1894 Matthews won the election for county judge. In 1897 he established a camp on the headwaters of Lambshead Creek. With the purchase of Lambshead Valley in 1906, a camp ranch headquarters was established. From 1915 to 1917 Matthews led an area crusade in tick eradication by dipping (see TEXAS FEVER). He also promoted grubbing prickly pear (see CACTI) and burning mesquite, practices that are continued today. By the time of his death in 1941, the J. A. Matthews Ranch Company owned 40,000 acres.

The ownership of Lambshead Ranch passed from the parents to seven grown children, four of whom subsequently operated the home ranch of 40,000 acres as a unit. Ranch manager Watt (Watkins Reynolds) Matthews continued a purebred Hereford cow-calf operation; however, longhorn cattle were returned to the ranch from Fort Griffin State Historical Park (now Fort Griffin State Historic Site) in 1972. With the reintroduction of longhorn bulls to his herd of Hereford yearlings, Matthews hoped to promote easy first calving. Shipments of Lambshead yearlings went to Portugal in 1967, and in 1972 two shipments, one by air, went to Hungary. Other breeds of cattle introduced on Lambshead Ranch include registered shorthorn and Hereford bulls and C K bulls from Kansas. Brands used by the Matthews-Reynolds families include the JOA, Spanish Gourd, MO, AV, and Long X.

A variety of grasses is available on the Lambshead Ranch. The primary trees are the gum plastic (chittam), sugar hackberry, and pecan. Pecans provide winter foods for wild turkeys, the larger ducks, raccoons, fox squirrels, feral hogs, and a host of smaller mammals and birds that profit from the wasteful habits of hogs. White-tailed deer also inhabit the Lambshead.


Frances Mayhugh Holden, Lambshead Before Interwoven: A Texas Range Chronicle, 1848–1878 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1982). Sallie Reynolds Matthews, Interwoven: A Pioneer Chronicle (Houston: Anson Jones, 1936; 4th ed., College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1982). Laura C. Wilson, Watt Matthews of Lambshead (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1989).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


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

Handbook of Texas Online, Frances Mayhugh Holden, "LAMBSHEAD RANCH," accessed July 12, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/apl05.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on February 5, 2011. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...