Santa Rosa Ranch Papers

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Santa Rosa Ranch Papers


  • 1890-1910 (Creation)


3 boxes

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Administrative history

The Santa Rosa Ranch Papers (1890-1910) take the researcher into a time in Texas history when acres of land, head of cattle, and sums of money were counted in minimum denominations of thousands. Furthermore, it was a time when fortunes were made, lost and regained in often very short spans of time by men and women whose formidable legacies remain quite visible in the twenty-first century.

The story of the Santa Rosa Ranch begins with a pioneering trail-driver named Dillard Rucker Fant, born 27 July 1842, in South Carolina, son of W. N. Fant and Mary Burriss Fant. When D. R. Fant was 11 years old, his family moved to Goliad, Texas where his father set up a merchant enterprise and eventually served as county judge.

D. R. Fant began his career freighting with ox teams in South Texas and, during the Civil War, enlisted in Col. George Washington Carver's 21st Texas Cavalry, seeing duty in Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana, and eventually achieving the rank of orderly sergeant. After the war "Colonel" Fant returned to Goliad, where he married Lucy A. Hodges on 15 October 1865, and became a farmer and rancher.

Fant soon began driving cattle to Rockport, Texas and selling them to packing houses (1867-1869). Learning that some North Texas cattlemen drove small herds of cattle through Indian Territory to Kansas at good profit, Fant decided in 1869 to redouble the effort by taking a large herd from Southwest Texas to Kansas. So successful was this adventure, that others eagerly followed Fant's lead.

In 1874, Fant began improving his own cattle stock with Durham and Hereford breeds. For fourteen years he held government contracts to supply thousands of beeves to various military posts and agencies in Dakota and Indian Territory, and wintered herds on pastures in Nebraska, Wyoming, and Idaho. During the fifteen years he was in business, Fant herded between 175,000 and 200,000 cattle up the trail, reportedly never losing more than three percent.

So extensive were D. R. Fant's operations that he had several tremendous herds on the trail in a single season. In 1884, he employed 200 cowboys to drive one of the largest herds on record—42,000 cattle, requiring 1,200 saddle horses to keep the cowboys in mounts—to Kansas, Nebraska, and Wyoming, selling them for almost $1 million. D. R. Fant was still driving cattle as late as 1889, long after rail service has been extended northward from the Texas interior.

Fant is credited with extending the Chisholm Trail to Corpus Christi, Tex. and financing the construction of Texas public schools and railroads. By the 1890s he was regarded as one of the barons of the Texas cattle industry, and his extensive ranch holdings totaled more than 700,000 acres, including the 225,000 acre Santa Rosa Ranch in Hidalgo county.

D. R. Fant died 15 January 1908 and his widow, Lucy Fant, died soon afterwards in March 1909. The Fants are buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Goliad, Texas.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

This collection consists mainly of correspondence, legal documents, a corporate minute book, and handwritten notes recording the litigation connected with ownership of a large tract of land (89,000 acres) in Hidalgo country known as the "Big Santa Rosa Pasture". Actual litigation took place from 1903-1910.

Individuals involved in the case were: Dillard Rucker Fant and his wife, Lucy Fant; Daniel J. Sullivan; J. C. Sullivan; James V. Upson; Wiliam R. Elliott; Conrad A. Goeth; James Webb; J. M. Chittim; Archie Parr; Kate V. Elliott; G. G. Clifford; A. E. Chavez; J. A. Galligher; W. M. Sanford; Fred Kelly; F. A. McGown; F. W. Church; H. R. Wood; F. Groos and his wife, Hulda Groos. Legal counsel involved in the proceedings were: James E. Webb and Conrad A. Goeth of Webb and Goeth, F. A. McGown of Denman, Franklin & McGown, and R. L. Ball, all based in San Antonio, Texas.

At the onset of the difficulties, D. R. Fant had leased the Big Santa Rosa Pasture to the cattle-raising partnership of Chittim and Parr. J. M. Chittim was a large rancher in South Texas and Archie Parr, was a State Senator popularly known as the Duke of Duval. Based on the large annual rent monies Fant had expected to collect from Chittim and Parr, he then also borrowed money from D. Sullivan of D. Sullivan and Company Bankers (founders and owners of the large South Texas Mariposa Ranch) and, using the same collateral, borrowed more money from the competing F. Groos and Company Bankers (later a founder of Wells Fargo Bank).

When it appears, that Chittim and Parr defaulted on their rent payment for the Big Santa Rosa Pasture to Fant, Fant was then forced to default on his own payments to both banking organizations from whom he had borrowed funds. The bankers, in return, sued and foreclosed on the Big Santa Rosa Pasture.

Through the Santa Rosa Ranch Papers extensive set of legal documents, attorneys' memoranda, telegrams, letters, and financial disclosures, the most absorbing story of Texas land politics unfolds.

Notable among the papers is the Santa Rosa Ranch Minute Book, a ledger volume with handwritten entries detailing the Articles of Incorporation, By-laws and minutes of the first stockholders' meeting of the Santa Rosa Ranch Company. Also present is a manuscript plat map in black and red ink on light blue linen, of the 1905 Maria Rodriguez survey, which has been encapsulated and is housed separately in a Map Case Drawer.

System of arrangement

This collection is arranged into five series, mainly chronologically, to reflect the various stages in the progress of establishing the Big Santa Rosa Pasture as the Santa Rosa Ranch property, and the various legal disputes including the several defaults and foreclosure, and subsequent lawsuits concerning the property which followed.

  • Series 1, Formation of Santa Rosa Ranch, 1890-1905
  • Series 2, Default and Transfers Regarding Santa Rosa Ranch, 1903-1905; Undated
  • Series 3, Litigation Regarding Santa Rosa Ranch, 1904-1909; Undated
  • Series 4, Resolution of Santa Rosa Ranch Litigation, 1909-1910
  • Series 5, Miscellaneous Santa Rosa Ranch legal documents and Envelopes, 1908; Undated

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  • English

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  • Cook, John R. The Border and the Buffalo: An Untold Story of the Southwest Plains. New York: Citadel Press. 1967.
  • Cox, James. Historical and Biographical Record of the Cattle Industry. St. Louis: Woodward and Tiernan Printing, 1894.
  • "Dillard R. Fant" Pioneer. September 1922.
  • Goeth, Conrad A. Papers. Manuscript Collection at the Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library. November 27, 2002.
  • Hobart, Huson. Refugio: A Comprehensive History of Refugio County from Aboriginal Times to 1953. Woodsboro, Texas: Rooke Foundation, 1953.
  • Hunter, J. Marvin. Trail Drivers of Texas. San Antonio: Jackson Printing, 1920.
  • Mahnken, Robert R. "Ogallala - Nebraska's Cowboy Capital." January 2, 2003.
  • Chris Neely and Jeremy Schwartz. "Ex-political Boss Archer Parr is dead." November 26, 2002.
  • Oak Hill Cemetery. November 27, 2002.
  • Sowa, Carol. "Listen to the Quiet … San Antonio Botanical Garden." November 27, 2002.
  • The Handbook of Texas Online. "Fant, Dillard Rucker; Archer Parr; Normanna, Texas". November 27, 2002.

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Archivist's note

Finding Aid Authors: Liticia J. Salter.

Archivist's note

© Copyright 2019 Cushing Library. All rights reserved.

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