The XIT Ranch was a cattle ranch in the Texas Panhandle which operated from 1885 to 1912. Comprising over 3,000,000 acres (12,000 km²) of land, it ran for two hundred miles (300 km) along the border with New Mexico, varying in width from 20 to 30 miles (30 to 50 km). The ranch stretched across all or portions of Dallam, Hartley, Oldham, Deaf Smith, Parmer, Castro, Bailey, Lamb, Cochran, and Hockley counties.
In 1879, the Sixteenth Texas Legislature appropriated 3,000,000 acres (12,000 km²) of land to finance a new state capitol. In 1882 in a special legislative session, the Seventeenth Texas Legislature struck a bargain with Charles B. and John V. Farwell of Chicago, Illinois, under which a syndicate led by the Farwells, with mostly British investors, agreed to build a new $3,000,000.00 Texas State Capitol in Austin and to accept the 3,000,000 acres (12,000 km²) of Panhandle land in payment.
The ranch started operations in 1885 and at its peak averaged handling 150,000 head of cattle within its 1,500 miles (2,400 km) of fencing. The ranch also erected 325 windmills and 100 dams across its land.
According to the XIT Ranch museum website, it covered portions of ten counties which apparently helped perpetuate the misbelief that the brand -XIT- stands for "Ten In Texas". The brand, in fact, was originated to thwart rustlers.
However timing was bad for the XIT as cattle prices crashed in 1886 and 1887. By the fall of 1888, the ranch was unable to sell its cattle and make a profit. The cattle were constantly plagued by rustlers and predators, especially wolves leading to further losses for the syndicate.
Rufus Jack Bradley was a wagon boss on the XIT in the 1870s. His grandson and granddaughter-in-law, Minnie Lou Bradley, went on to establish the Bradley 3 Ranch in Childress County east of Amarillo. Much of the XIT surveying was done prior to 1900 by W. D. Twichell, then based in Amarillo.
In 1901, the syndicate that owned the ranch began selling off the land to pay foreign investors as the bonds became due. By 1905, most of the land was subdivided, with large tracts being sold to other cattlemen and small amounts of land being sold to farmers. The last of the XIT cattle were sold on November 1, 1912, and land sales subsequently increased.
Charles B. Farwell died in 1903; John V. Farwell, 1908.
Though the XIT was the largest and one of the best known of the cattle ranches, the JA Ranch to its east covered portions of six counties, and more than 130 years after its founding by Charles Goodnight and John George Adair, the JA remains a working ranch owned by the Adair heirs.
The XIT Ranch had a number of rules including the following:
- No employee was allowed to carry any weapons for offense or self-defense.
- Gambling or card playing of any description was strictly prohibited.
- No liquor or intoxicating beverages were allowed to employees during their time of service.
- No employees were allowed to hunt wild game on any of the XIT horses.
- Employees were not allowed to own any of the horses or cattle on the ranch.
In remembrance of the massive ranch, the City of Dalhart hosts the XIT Museum and the annual XIT Rodeo and Reunion held the first Thursday through Sunday of August. The celebration includes three days of junior and professional (PRCA) rodeo events, the world’s largest free barbecue, three nights of live music, a mud bog competition, an antique tractor-pull, and other activities.
Several businesses in the Dalhart area use "XIT" in their name and style.
In popular culture
The XIT is mentioned in the Charles Ives song, "Charlie Rutlage," about a poor ranch hand who is killed.
The XIT Museum located in Dalhart, Texas (2002)
Display of local brands at the XIT Museum in Dalhart, Texas. Note the XIT brand at the center of the display. (2002)
XIT Drive in Littlefield, Texas
- XIT Ranch from the Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved April 13, 2005.
- "Thumbnail History of the XIT Ranch". The XIT Museum. Retrieved April 13, 2005.
- "FAIRLAWN: THE FARWELL/McGANN ESTATE AT 965 EAST DEERPATH" Biography of Charles B. Farwell Retrieved March 17, 2011.
- "My Turn"  History of XIT Ranch. Retrieved March 17, 2011.
- "Thumbnail History of the XIT Ranch". The XIT Museum. Retrieved March 20, 2009.
- "Joe B. Frantz". tshaonline.org. Retrieved May 22, 2012.