The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 101, July 1997 - April, 1998 Page: 78
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
both the Brownsville steamboat firm of M. Kenedy & Company, as well as
the livestock concern, R King & Company, he entered into numerous con-
tracts with the Confederate government to supply European buyers with
cotton; in return, his firms supplied the Confederates with beef, horses,
mules, and imported munitions, medical supplies, clothing, and shoes."
Placing their steamboat interests under Mexican registry and moving their
operations into Matamoros, King and his partners for the most part suc-
cessfully avoided the Union blockade and earned considerable fortunes.4
Federal authorities, however, took unpleasant notice of the amount of
goods entering the Confederacy via the Rio Grande. In late 1863, Union
forces invaded South Texas and captured Brownsville on November 6,
seeking to effectively interrupt the shipments of cotton along the Texas
coast. On December 23, Union cavalry raided and sacked Richard
King's ranch, occupying it for two days. King, however, was away from
stowaway on a vessel bound for Mobile, Alabama. From 1835 to 1841, King learned the art of
navigation, steamboating on Alabama rivers, where he rose from cabin boy to pilot. At the age of
sixteen, he enlisted under Capt. Henry Penny for service in the Seminole War. In Florida, he
met Mifflin Kenedy and during the Mexican War joined his friend on the Rio Grande, where, in
command of the Colonel Cross, he helped transport troops and supplies for Zachary Taylor's
army. In 185o, King and Kenedy became partners in a steamboating business on the Rio
Grande. In 1853 and 1854, he purchased two Spanish land grants in Nueces County of 75,000
acres, the nucleus around which grew King Ranch. See Tom Lea, The Kzng Ranch (2 vols;
Boston: Little Brown and Co., 1957), I, 175-235; and, Bruce S. Cheeseman, "Richard King:
Pioneering Market Capitalism on the Frontier," Ranching in South Texas: A Symposium, ed. Joe S.
Graham (Kingsville: Texas A&M University-Kingsville, 1994), 86-91.
' Chartered in 185o and capitalized at $250,000, the firm of M. Kenedy & Company
(1850-1866) and its successor, King, Kenedy & Company (1866-1874), came to dominate the
Rio Grande trade on a near monopolistic scale for over two decades. Its principal partners,
Mifflin Kenedy, Richard King, and Charles Stillman, operated twenty-six steamboats on the river
during this period, building the fortunes which they later invested in ranch lands. The livestock
concern, R. King & Company, was established in 186o with partners King, Kenedy, and James
Walworth to manage the land holdings in Nueces County. In December 186o, King moved with
his family from Brownsville to the ranch at Santa Gertrudis to fully develop the ranching business
In 1868, King and Kenedy dissolved R. King & Company and became individual proprietors.
The contracts with the Confederate Government were accomplished under another firm,
Kenedy, Stillman & King, which combined the assets and facilities of the above firms to serve the
Confederacy. See Pat Kelley, River of Lost Dreams: Navigation on the Rio Grande (Lincoln: University
of Nebraska Press, 1986), 77-82; Lea, King Ranch, I, 77-235; Kearney and Knopp, Boom and
Bust, 56-165; and, Cheeseman, "Richard King: Pioneering Market Capitalism on the Frontier,"
Flush with these Civil War profits, King and Kenedy developed two of the most famous
ranches, Santa Gertrudis and Los Laureles, in the American West. They revolutionized the econom-
ics of South Texas ranching with the introduction of fencing, livestock drives to northern mar-
kets, large scale cattle, sheep, mule, and horse raising, and the scientific breeding and upgrading
of livestock. Between 1869 and 1884, King and Kenedy sent over 2oo,ooo head of livestock up
the trails to northern markets, helping to stock the developing ranges of the western states and
to create the American ranching industry. Their partner, Charles Stillman, moved to New York
City and opened an investment banking firm on Wall Street. See Terry G. Jordan, North American
Cattle-Ranching Frontiers: Origins, Dsffusion, and Differentiation (Albuquerqe: University of New
Mexico Press, 1993), 150-213; Edward E. Dale, The Range Cattle Industry. Ranching on the Great
Plans from I865 to 1925 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1930); Chauncey Devereux
Stillman, Charles Stillman 18to-z875 (New York: Privately published, 1956); and, Anna Robeson
Burr, The Portrait of a Banker.James Stillman I850-1978 (New York: Duffield & Co., 1927).
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 101, July 1997 - April, 1998, periodical, 1998; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117155/m1/106/: accessed December 13, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.