1952 was a seminal year in King Ranch history. It was a year of centennial celebrations. The one-hundred-year legacy, however, was likely not as important as one other transformative event – in that year the King Ranch and its unique Santa Gertrudis cattle went international. In the early months of that year the ranch established operations first in Cuba and shortly thereafter in Australia. A journey across the expansive plains of Australia's Northern Territory and the Queensland Outback is an awe-inspiring experience, even for a veteran flatlander familiar with the vast American Southern Plains. It is not surprising the land beckoned to an American beef cattle entrepreneur. The Australian landscape promised possibilities beyond measure. Interpreted through the eyes of an expansion-minded international cattleman, it was a virtual beef factory, altogether underutilized and underdeveloped. Robert, or Bob, Kleberg, grandson to King Ranch founder Richard King, assumed management of the vast King Ranch empire. His ambitions were grand, and he directed the King Ranch international expansion. Kleberg believed the Australian grasslands harbored "immense and immeasurable possibilities for beef cattle production."
In 1989, following some thirty-seven years of relative success, the King Ranch, Australia ceased operations. That venture began in the earliest years of King Ranch international expansion and ended when the mighty ranch, facing hard economic realities on the home front, started a withdrawal from its international operations. Nonetheless, in the ensuing years the ranch and its distinct cattle—the Santa Gertrudis—transformed cattle production in the semi-arid and subtropical Australian grasslands. Those cattle, developed for the harsh grassland environs of Coastal and South Texas, prospered in difficult Outback environments. Despite a withdrawal to the coastal plains of Texas, the King Ranch demonstrated its international legacy through the prevalence of the Santa Gertrudis in marginal and environmentally challenging grasslands in Australia and across the globe.
Meet Leland Turner, PhD
Leland Turner is an Assistant Professor of History at Midwestern State University. He specializes in the history of the American West, Texas, Australia, and cattle ranching cultures. A 2007 Fulbright Fellowship to Australia allowed Turner to consider the international effect of American ranching culture through a transnational study of the cattle cultures and economies in Queensland, Australia and Texas. The resulting manuscript, "Outback by Southwest: King Ranch Cattle in the Australian Grasslands" is in progress and nearing completion. His work on cattle ranching in Trans-Pecos Texas and Northern Mexico expands on that interest in borderlands and transnational studies. He is co-editor of the forthcoming Conflict on the Border: Mexico's Revolution of 1910 and the Big Bend Country. The bulk of Turner's research considers the livestock industry and its attendant themes such as arid land environments, the diffusion of agricultural science and technology, and the influence of cattle raisers associations. His work on Murdo Mackenzie of the Matador Ranch and later the Brazil Land and Cattle Company is an example of such themes. Turner holds a BA from the University of Tulsa and the PhD in History from Texas Tech University.
James Hughes Callahan and Sarah Medissa Day were settlers who were in the forefront of the cultural, economic, and political changes in south central Texas during the mid-1800s. They were also everyday people. A native Georgian, Callahan migrated to Texas to serve in the Texas Revolution in exchange for land, eventually escaping execution as a prisoner of that conflict. He settled in Seguin, Texas, where he met and fell in love with divorcee, Sarah Medissa Day. Her family's journey and their colorful lives reflect what was typical for many new Texas immigrants immediately after its war of independence up to the Civil War. In a relatively short period of history, these two Texas pioneers would experience the effects of conflict, break social mores, and participate in the dawning of new industry, and their lifetimes were intertwined with the formation and evolution of societies.
Texas Rangers, Ranchers, and Realtors: James Hughes Callahan and the Day Family in the Guadalupe River Basin unfolds the lives of the Callahan family to provide a canvas on which to explore the people and the communities in the valleys of the San Marcos, Guadalupe, and Blanco Rivers during the formative decades of the mid-nineteenth century. Through their simple yet extraordinary lives, they helped sculpt Texas culture endowing it with many of the characteristics it is known for today.
The presentation, entitled "The cattle stompeded last night," will focus on the 1854 cattle drive from Seguin, Texas, to Warner's Ranch, California. Hired by Michael Erskine, Callahan organized and led a herd of 1054 cattle and arrived with 814; the most successful of the 25 herds that year that left Texas. The six-month trip passed through some of the most desolate, and also spectacular, parts of Texas, western United States, and Mexico. The cattle drive was vexed by little grass and rain, Indian raids, quarrelsome drovers, and stampedes. Two first-hand accounts, including that by Erskine, provide a unique perspective of daily life and hazards for men, cattle, and horses who weathered the 1500-mile trip. Once, in California, Callahan returned by ship passing along the Mexican coast to Panama and across the isthmus for another voyage to Havana, New Orleans, and finally to Texas. The colorful episode is virtually unknown or discussed by historians.
Meet Thomas O. McDonald, PhD
Thomas O. McDonald is a retired R&D pharmaceutical executive, an independent scholar of Texas history, and a seventh-generation Texan. In 2004, he retired from Alcon Laboratories, an American pharmaceutical company specializing in eye care products. Thomas holds a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in Biology from Texas Christian University. He earned his PhD in Cell Biology from Tulane University and completed the International Senior Managers Program at Harvard Business School.
Thomas has published numerous articles in scientific and medical journals. Moreover, he was a key member or leader of technical teams in profiling and developing new medications and devices for treating ocular diseases, such as glaucoma, cataracts, eye allergies, and ocular infections. Since retirement, Thomas has immersed his time in exploring early Texas history at the local level, resulting in the 2021 publication of Texas Rangers, Ranchers, and Realtors: James Hughes Callahan and the Day Family in the Guadalupe River Basin, published by the University of Oklahoma Press. Thomas is an advocate of preservation of local historic records and documents. He is currently writing a narrative on the first fifty-year history (1947-1997) of Alcon Laboratories.
The Texas Rangers have served in many different roles as the needs of an evolving Texas have changed, from a Mexican territory to an independent republic to one of the United States. William L. Wright's ancestors served in all these phases of Texas History, and he became one of the "Big Four" Ranger captains of the first half of the twentieth century. He worked as a Ranger under seven governors, from the twilight of the frontier era through Prohibition and the oil boom between the first and second world wars. He earned a place in the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame in Waco, and his achievements underscore the fact that the Texas Rangers, as a human agency, have their heroes as well as villains.
Meet Richard B. McCaslin, PhD
Richard B. McCaslin, TSHA Professor of Texas History at the University of North Texas, is the author or editor of nineteen books. These include Tainted Breeze: The Great Hanging at Gainesville, Texas, October 1862, which earned a Tullis Prize and AASLH commendation, Lee in the Shadow of Washington, which won a Laney Prize and Slatten Award and was nominated for a Pulitzer, Fighting Stock: John S. "Rip" Ford of Texas, which got a Pate Award and Bates Award, At the Heart of Texas: One Hundred Years of the Texas State Historical Association, 1897-1997, which won an Award of Merit from the Texas Philosophical Society, and Saratoga on the Cibolo: Sutherland Springs, Texas, which received a Publication Award from the San Antonio Conservation Society. His Tennessee volume for the Portraits of Conflict series earned the Douglas Southall Freeman Award, and the series received an AASLH commendation. A Fellow of the Texas State Historical Association and Admiral in the Texas Navy, he also has commendations from the Civil War Round Tables in Dallas, Fort Worth, and Shreveport for his academic work on the Civil War era.
A vast and desolate region, the Texas–New Mexico borderlands have long been an ideal setting for intrigue and illegal dealings—never more so than in the lawless early days of cattle trafficking and trade among the Plains tribes and Comancheros. James Blackshear's program will take us to the borderlands in the 1860s and 1870s for an in-depth look at Union-Confederate skullduggery amid the infamous Comanche-Comanchero trade in stolen Texas livestock. Peopled with Rebels and bluecoats, Comanches and Comancheros, Texas cattlemen and New Mexican merchants, opportunistic Indian agents and Anglo arms dealers, the program will illustrate how central these contested borderlands were to the history of the American West.
Meet James Blackshear
James is a professor of Texas and U.S. history at the University of North Texas Dallas. He has published several articles and three books on the Southwest, including Honor and Defiance: The History of the Las Vegas Land Grant in New Mexico; Fort Bascom: Soldiers, Comancheros and Indians in the Canadian River Valley; and Confederates and Comancheros: Skullduggery and Double-Dealing in the Texas-New Mexico Borderlands (co-authored with Glenn Sample Ely, PhD).
Camp Van Camp was a United States military expeditionary camp located outside what is currently Fort Stockton, Texas, in 1859. The mission of the Pecos Expedition was to explore the unknown territory and to interdict Comanche and Apache Indians whose attacks on westward emigrants, settlers, freighters and stagecoaches were increasing in the areas of West Texas. At the time there was little-to-no defense where expansion was occurring. The westward traffic was taking place on two main roads: The Butterfield Road and Upper Emigrant Road and the San Antonio to El Paso Road Lower Emigrant Road. These roads were increasingly filled with mail coaches, freighters and emigrants that ran right across the Comanche War Trail and into hostile Apache territory. Camp Stockton and Camp Van Camp's Pecos Expedition were an attempt to interdict the Indians and establish a new line of defense further west.
This was the first archeological investigation to determine forensically the full layout of an 1850/60s expeditionary encampment within the western United States. We were able to determine the exact layout of the encampment that included an infantry company that constructed, maintained and guarded the camp, and two cavalry companies that used the camp as their base of operations for the patrols up and down the Comanche War Trail. Through extensive research of military documents and four site visits to this previously untouched camp, we were able to reconstruct fully the entire site layout as well as the daily routes of this four-and-a-half month expedition into the stark expanse of the Pecos River region and far West Texas.
Meet Tom Ashmore
Tom Ashmore spent 21 years in the Air Force as a special intelligence analyst. After retiring as an analyst, he worked as a contractor teaching intelligence skills for the Air Force Intelligence School for 20 years at Goodfellow AFB, Texas. As a member and vice president of the Concho Valley Archeological Society, he headed up archeological investigations of Butterfield's Overland Mail's Johnson's Station in Irion County, Grape Creek Station in Coke County and Horsehead Crossing Station in Crane County. He also headed up investigations of Paint Rock 1800s Historic Camp Sites in Concho County; Tower Hill Military Lookout in Sterling County; and ancient rock shelters in the Lower Pecos region of Texas, working with both Conch Valley and the Iraan Archeological Societies. He completed a book in 2019 on his Butterfield Trail investigations, The Butterfield Trail Through the Concho Valley and West Texas. He is currently a member of the Iraan Archeological Society and the Southwest Federation of Archeological Societies (SWFAS). He has written several articles for Desert Tracks publications and SWFAS transactions over the years.
Between 1849 and 1921 American expansion into the southern plains forced the Bent family to adapt to a new social and political order. Increasingly, mixed-race families like theirs became objects of suspicion and fear. Drawn by the lure of gold and land, white settlers flooded into the Southern Cheyenne homeland triggering a decade of bloody conflict. But despite the horrors of Sand Creek and the Washita, the Bents continued to be adept politicians and intercultural brokers. Acting as federal Indian agents, interpreters, and historians, the Bent men aided the survival of their Native kin in Colorado and Indian Territory. The family's women forged new ties to prominent ranchers and businessmen in the borderlands, becoming the mothers of new communities. Rather than being emblems of a "passing era" of Western history, the Bents proved remarkably resilient in the face of long odds.
Meet David Beyreis
David Beyreis is a historian of the Great Plains and North American borderlands, and a member of the Fort Worth Westerners. He is the author of Blood in the Borderlands: Conflict, Kinship, and the Bent Family, 1821-1920 and articles in Montana: The Magazine of Western History, Kansas History, and The Journal of the Early Republic. His work has received a Wrangler Western Heritage Award from the National Cowboy Museum and Western Heritage Museum and was a finalist for the Western Writers of America's Spur Award. His current research focuses on intercultural diplomacy on the northern plains during the nineteenth century. He received his PhD from the University of Oklahoma, currently teaches history at Ursuline Academy of Dallas, and is a member of the Fort Worth Westerners.
In "Native Americans of Texas," James Everett will briefly examine the history and anthropology of the major Native American groups/tribes who lived in Texas between 1528 and 1875, concentrating on the 1800s.
Meet James Everett
James Everett has participated in prehistoric and historic period archeological projects in many areas of Texas as well as in New Mexico and Arizona. He is a Past President of the Texas Archeological Society, the Immediate Past President of the North Texas Archeological Society, and an Archeological Steward for the Texas Historical Commission.