El Rancho in South Texas: Continuity and Change From 1750 Page: 40
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there is no question that his workers were very loyal to
their patrdn and his family and that they were proud to
be los Kineios. Just as important is the fact that King
relied on his vaqueros for their knowledge of raising
cattle and training cowhorses. As Lea has noted, King
planned to adopt the Mexican system of ranching, im-
prove it, and make it pay (1957). This he did.
With the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Anglo laws
governing land ownership replaced the Mexican laws
and Spanish traditions of earlier periods. In Spain, land
(and other wealth) was passed from one generation to
the next through primogeniture, a system in which the
oldest son inherited all of the family's wealth, thus in-
suring that it would remain intact. The younger males
in the family sought their livelihoods in the military, in
commerce, and sometimes in the church as priests. By
the time the colonists arrived in South Texas, this sys-
tem had been modified somewhat. The family wealth
was held in common-as a herencia, or inheritance-
with each member of the family having certain derechos,
or rights. But the property remained intact, and one
individual could not take his part of the property and
go his own way. Under the new Anglo law, an indi-
vidual could go to court and sue for his part of the
inheritance and then either establish his own ranch or
sell the property to someone else. Over time, this re-
sulted in the division of the large ranches, even those
which had been successful, into smaller and smaller
units (Montejano 1987).
Another reason that, prior to the coming of the
Anglos, the ranch was more a way of life than a profit-
oriented business was the fact that there was no ready
market for the large numbers of cattle a rancher could
raise. A few ranchers had made drives into Louisiana
in spite of the Spanish and Mexican governments' at-
tempts to restrict trade there. Some also made cattle
drives south into Mexico, even though it already had
a large supply of cattle. There was a very limited mar-
ket in Matamoros, Mexico, where top animals would
bring as much as $In per head. Even the hide and tal-
low trade was complicated by the fact that there was
no major shipping point in the region from which
products could be shipped to Europe. In I859, Richard
King had tried to make a profit on his poorer cattle
in the hide and tallow trade, but he was unsuccessful
When the Anglos became involved in ranching, they
began to develop markets in other parts of the United
States. Oral tradition tells of cattle drives to Califor-
nia as early as i848, when the expanding population of
that state created a reliable market. The most profitable
way to sell cattle in the late 185os was as breeding stock
to those establishing their own ranches in the region.
Healthy stock would bring from $12 to $I8 a head. A
few cattle from the area were sold in New Orleans,
and some were shipped by boat to Illinois. Because the
Civil War disrupted travel beginning in 1861, the mar-
ket became limited to local demand, and cattle prices
declined to $2 a head (Lea 1957).
Following the Civil War, ranchers were successful in
developing a system of marketing their cattle at the
packing plants in Kansas City, Chicago and St. Louis.
A $5 steer in Reconstruction Texas was worth from $20
to $40 in Chicago, if a rancher could get it there. By
1866, large herds of cattle were headed up the cattle
trails to the railheads in Missouri and Kansas. The
growing practice of buying cattle to stock the open
ranges of the Southwest and West (including the vast
grasslands of Nebraska, the Dakotas, Colorado, New
Mexico, Wyoming, Montana, and the Rockies), also
provided an excellent market for Texas cattle. Between
i866 and 1890, more than five million head of cattle
were driven from South Texas to these markets. An
animal worth $2 in South Texas could be sold for $20
or more in Abilene or Dodge City, Kansas. The mar-
ket was not always constant, however. In September of
1873, Black Friday struck Wall Street and the livestock
market crashed, not to recover for two years. Between
1875 and 1885, on the other hand, the market boomed
Two types of cattle drives were organized in South
Texas. Individual ranchers could either hire crews of
cowboys to drive their cattle directly to the markets to
the north or west, or they could wait for cattle buyers
to come into the area and take the cattle they pur-
chased to the various markets. Many of the Mexican-
40 El Rancho in South Texas
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Graham, Joe S. El Rancho in South Texas: Continuity and Change From 1750, book, 1994; Denton, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc28328/m1/52/?q=el%20rancho: accessed January 23, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Press.