RUDOLPH L. BIESELE, Editor
Cattle Empire: The Fabulous Story of the 3,000,000 Acre XIT.
By Lewis Nordyke. New York (William Morrow and Com-
pany), 1949. Pp. xiii+273. $4.
One of the West's biggest land deals since the Louisiana Pur-
chase has been dramatized only faintly in Dalhart's yearly fiesta,
the XIT Reunion. In Europe the rise and dissolution of the
fabulous XIT Ranch, almost as large as the whole state of Con-
necticut, might have been celebrated in a grand opera. But in
Texas sweeping spaces and huge transactions were too common
always to get the attention they deserved.
Most Texans know, of course, that the three million acres of
the XIT were strung through nine counties at the western edge
of the Panhandle. They recall, too, that the state swapped this
land for the building of the present Capitol. The details of that
trade and of the development of the ranch over several decades
make a colorful narrative that should interest not only Texans
but many others.
On the borders of New Mexico and the Oklahoma Strip, the
expanse of the XIT was a part of what map makers in an earlier
period had labeled the Great American Desert. Most of it never
had heard a surveyor's chain when the legislators took up the
idea of trading it for a new statehouse. In that day, Texans "down
in the skillet" regarded the Panhandle as almost a foreign coun-
try. Men who bought state land in that region of dust and bliz-
zards were regarded as not too bright.
A proposal to use public land to finance the building of a new
capitol was debated in 1875, soon after Texas had escaped from
the oppressive rule of the carpetbaggers. Granger influence put
this plan into the new constitution, which voters approved early
in the next year. Surveyors, protected by Texas Rangers, roughly
marked off the land in 1879-80. When the old capitol burned,
late in 1881, plans for a new one had to be rushed.
Early in 1882 the state contracted with a group of Chicagoans
who agreed to build an imposing capitol in return for title to the
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 53, July 1949 - April, 1950. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101126/. Accessed January 26, 2015.