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MORRIS RANCH

Martin Donell Kohout

MORRIS RANCH. The Morris Ranch originated in the early 1880s, when Francis Morris, a New York broker, bought thirty-four sections of land in southwestern Gillespie and northeastern Kerr counties for twenty-five cents an acre. A few years later he sold nine sections, leaving 16,000 acres in his holdings, but he died in 1886 without ever having seen his land in Texas. The land passed to his son, John A. Morris, who turned it into one of the leading centers for breeding thoroughbred racehorses in the country. In 1893 Morris spent some $500,000 on barns, houses, warehouses, fences, a school, a cotton gin, a general store, and a flour mill; two years later Max (Maximilian J.) Hirsch was one of the jockeys who lived and worked at the ranch. Morris kept about 200 mares and ten stallions at the ranch, which was managed by his cousin Charles Morris from 1887 to 1910, and usually sent thirty yearling colts to his stables at Winchester Park, Maryland, each year, and sold the other 170. When New York passed its antiracing laws in 1897, however, the once-prosperous ranch community, which had entertained important guests, began to decline. The ranch was inherited by John's sons Alfred and David Morris and eventually by Alfred's son Capt. John A. Morris. In the early twentieth century under Clayton Morris, who succeeded Charles Morris as manager, the land was cut up into some seventy tenant farms, on which cotton became the principal crop. Captain Morris donated the ranch school to Gillespie County, and in 1946 it was the largest rural school in the county. When Clayton Morris died in 1949 his son Reginald inherited what was left of the ranch, but by then it was little more than a memory. The town of Morris Ranch, which grew up around the old ranch headquarters, preserves the name.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Isabell Grona, "The History of Morris Ranch," Junior Historian, May 1954.

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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, Martin Donell Kohout, "MORRIS RANCH," accessed July 09, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/apm03.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on June 29, 2020. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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