Richard King (entrepreneur)

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Richard King
Born July 10, 1825
New York City, U.S.
Died April 14, 1885
San Antonio, Texas, U.S.
Occupation Rancher
Known for Founder of King Ranch
Spouse(s) Henrietta Chamberlain King

Richard King (July 10, 1825 in New York City – April 14, 1885 in San Antonio, Texas) was a riverboat captain, entrepreneur, and most notably, the founder of the King Ranch in South Texas, which at the time of his death in 1885 encompassed over 825,000 acres (3,340 km2).

Early years[edit]

Born in New York City on July 10, 1825 into a poor Irish family, King was indentured as an apprentice to a jeweler in Manhattan at the age of 11.[1] In 1835, he ran away from his indenture, stowing away on a ship bound for Mobile, Alabama.[1] Upon discovery, he was adopted into the crew and trained in navigation, becoming a steamboat pilot by the age of sixteen.[1] While serving in the end and Georgia.[1]


During the Texas revolution, King's friend Kenedy enlisted as ship master, running men and supplies to the United States Army along the Rio Grande, and in 1846, Kenedy convinced King to join the war effort on the Rio Grande, where King worked on the transport Colonel Cross, ferrying army supplies between Reynosa, Camargo, and Matamoros.[1][2][3] In 1850, following the war, King, Kenedy and two other partners formed the M. Kenedy and Company steamboat firm, renamed in 1866 to King, Kenedy and Company when the two other partners were bought out.[1][2] This firm achieved "nearly monopolistic" control on the Rio Grande for most of the years between 1850 and 1874, when the partnership was dissolved.[1]

Founding the King Ranch[edit]

Main article: King Ranch

As soon as King had arrived in Texas, he began speculating in land, beginning with lots in Brownsville, Texas and Cameron County, Texas, and continued investing the large profits from the riverboat firm.[1] In 1852, King purchased a false title to the southern half of Padre Island.[1] That same year, he traveled overland from Brownsville to Corpus Christi, and became fascinated with the grasslands along Santa Gertrudis Creek in the "Nueces Strip" (the land between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande).[4] In 1853 and 1854 King began land acquisitions in the region of the creek, purchasing valid titles to two ranches of a combined 68,500 acres (277 km2), forming the nucleus of the King Ranch.[1] He continued acquiring land until his death in 1885, when the ranch had 614,000 acres (2,480 km2).[1]


In 1885, in obvious poor health, King traveled to San Antonio to see his doctor. He died of stomach cancer on April 14, at the Menger Hotel.[5]


The King Ranch continues to be a dominant economic force in the region. The town of Kingsville, Texas is named for King.[1] Corpus Christi has a high school named for King.


  • Captain King of Texas: The man who made the King Ranch, Tom Lea, 1957, Atlantic Monthly Press.
  • Richard King: Texas Cattle Rancher, William R. Sanford, Carl R. Green, 1997, Enslow Publishers. ISBN 0-89490-673-9
  • "The Last Empire", William Broyles, Texas Monthly, October 1980


External links[edit]