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 »


Julia Cauble Smith

QUIEN SABE RANCH. The Quien Sabe Ranch headquarters was ½ miles southeast of the Valley View community in central Midland County. The ranch covered between 500 and 600 sections of land in Midland, Upton, and Glasscock counties and operated from 1884 to 1918. "Quién sabe?" (Spanish for "Who knows?") was the answer that local Mexican cowboys gave when asked the origin of the ranch's unusual cattle brand. The brand consisted of two semi-circles facing in opposite directions, vertically offset from each other by half their length and horizontally by half their width. Mayer Halff of San Antonio began the J. M. Ranch on the Pecos River in 1878. Halff and his brothers registered the two-half-moons brand in Pecos County in 1898, and they used the free range along the Pecos River for grazing. The first ranch known as Quien Sabe was established along the Pecos River by Major Hewett of New York in 1884. Halff purchased this Quien Sabe and moved its cattle and name to his 500 to 600 sections of land in Upton, Midland, and Glasscock counties by 1902. He continued to run cattle on the Pecos even after he built headquarters in Midland County. From the beginning of the Quien Sabe until 1902, Barnes Tullous served as ranch foreman. Will Irwing filled the job from 1902 through 1906, when Sam Preston took over. Halff died in 1905, and his son Henry M. Halff succeeded him. From 1907 to 1914, while Preston was foreman, the ranch ran a herd of as many as 20,000 Hereford cattle. Beginning in 1910 Henry Halff cleared several thousand acres of land and subdivided them for cultivation. By 1914 a large part of the ranch was in farms. One of the plots, Cloverdale Farm, five miles southeast of Midland, was the site of a successful irrigation project. Rosedale and Red Top were two other farms cut from the original Quien Sabe. By 1918 the ranch was dissolved. The Quien Sabe Ranch was one of the last large ranches in Texas that used open range as well as privately held land to control hundreds of sections of grazing land. The ranch subdivided in front of an onslaught of fences and farmers.

Midland County Historical Society, The Pioneer History of Midland County, Texas, 1880–1926 (Dallas: Taylor, 1984).

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, Julia Cauble Smith, "QUIEN SABE RANCH," accessed May 27, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/apq01.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. 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...