A primary source refers to information from
the time period being researched. Diaries, newspaper accounts, business records,
letters, journals, ledgers, marriage licenses and other records are all primary sources.
A story written in a newspaper today about an event which took place years ago is
considered a secondary source. In the following exercise, you will examine copies of
actual primary sources concerned with ranching in West Texas and Colorado in the 1880s and
1890s. This material comes from the Matador Land and Cattle Company and Espuela Land
and Cattle Company Records. As you complete the exercises, try to imagine yourself
back in the late 19th century on the ranching frontier.
Documents Group #1---The
Matador Land and Cattle Company, Limited. Ranch Records: Surveyors field Notes
Number 3, 1882-1889. This group of documents includes maps drawn and notes taken by a land
surveyor for the Matador Ranch. Read through the pages and note the descriptions used to
describe the land. Then, answer the following questions.
Pages 30 and 31
- What are the names of the two creeks running
through the area?
- What is the name of the hill or peak located
on the map?
- What is the name of the river in this
- The surveyor is measuring in varas instead
of by yards or feet. Find out what a vara is equal to. Why would the surveyor use the vara
Pages 34 and 35
- In the surveyors notes, he uses a
measurement of 1203 feet instead of varas to describe the length of what?
- What is the name of the canyon mentioned on
- Which part of the map shows the best grazing
land---east or west of the Salt Creek?
Pages 102 and 103
- The surveyor mentions in his notes three
large objects, one of which is marked NW 59. What are the three large objects?
- What kind of cattle grazing is available in
this area? What do you think the surveyor means by these terms?
- Although there appear to be a number of
creeks or draws on this map, only one is named. What is its name? Using a dictionary, find
out what a draw is.
Pages 170 and 171
- When was the survey work on pages 170 and
- What kinds of soil are found in this area?
- What man-made features are shown on the map?
Pages 214 and 215
- The map shown here indicates perhaps good
soil for farming. What makes you believe this is true?
- What water source is indicated? Why is this
Documents Group #2---Branding
Register Espuela Land and Cattle Company (Ltd.). Examine the branding register for the
Espuela Land and Cattle Company. Notice the columns and information recorded there,
including date, Round Up, Tally Kept By, Number and Of Which Bulls. On large ranches,
branding took place throughout the year. This was the case on the Espuela (or Spur in
English) Ranch in the mid-1880s.
- How many cattle were branded on December 5,
- During April, 1885, on which day were more
cattle branded than on any other day of the month? Where?
- Who was responsible for keeping tally?
- In May, 1885, how many cattle were branded
all together at Red Mud Pecos? How many of these were Bulls? What was the date?
- How many total head of cattle had been
branded by end of May? How many bulls?
- By the end of September, the number of
branded cattle had increased to _______. _____ of these were bulls.
- In September, the tally man who appears to
have worked the most round ups was named __________.
Documents Group #3---Matador
Land and Cattle Company, Headquarters Correspondence, Letter Press Book, Dundee
Correspondence, Letter, Alexander Mackay to Murdo Mackenzie, Trinidad, Colorado, USA, May
4, 1900. Read this letter from headquarters in Scotland to ranch operations in Colorado,
and answer the questions.
- Mackay thought that Mackenzie could expect
an unusual supply of water and grass. Why?
- How deep was the water well drilled on the
Documents Group #4---Espuela
Land and Cattle Company (Ltd.) Correspondence, 1886-1907
The documents in this group are letters
between Espuela headquarters in London, England and the ranch manager here in the United
States. Read through the documents, then answer the following questions.
- How many cattle did the Espuela Land and
Cattle Companys secretary mention for branding?
- Where did the letter originate?
- Which United States President did Secretary
Hodges mention in his letter?
- There is a paragraph entitled, "fencing
the shinnery." Find out what a shinnery is, and write the definition.
- Hodges mentions that the Directors of the
Espuela Land and Cattle Company "will be very interested to hear anything [Johnston
could] tell them in regard to
- This letter was copied and mailed by John F.
Lasater and Sons in Guthrie, Texas.. When was it mailed?
- Why was the London office unable to send a
cablegram directly to Dickens, Texas?
- Large ranches such as the Spur and Matador
used code to hide the meanings of their messages. What are some of the code words which do
not make any sense in this letter?
- Besides being part owner of a general
merchandise store in Guthrie, Texas, what King County office did R. E. Lasater hold?
- How many water wells was Johnston supposed
to "put in" on the ranch?
Documents Group #5---Matador Ranch
Standard Diaries, 1898 and 1899. These diaries or journals were kept by a Matador Ranch
foreman in 1898. Read through the entries for details, then answer the following
- What gave the foreman the blues on August
- From the same entry, what can you tell about
the foremana attitude toward his visitors?
- What was the foreman looking forward to
after his guests left on the 26th of August?
- What activities were taking place on
Tuesday, August 23, 1898?
- What was the weather like on April 21, 1899?
What happened to the birds in S. Hollow pasture?
- What happened to Tom Bailey on Wednesday,
April 26, 1899?
- How many cows were found dead on Thursday,
April 27, 1899? Where?
- On Tuesday, June 6, 1899, whose outfit came
in from the Turtle Hole Pasture?
- Search the entries. Who received a contract
to deliver fence posts to Jacksons place? What kind of posts were to be delivered?
All together, how much were the posts going to cost the ranch?
- The entry for July 28, 1899 mentions the
foreman going to a trial in Dickens. What was the trial about? The entry also discusses an
"other man" accused by Bolt who was in gaol. What does the term gaol mean? Why
was the accused man in jail?
- On November 9, 1899, a man named Sager and a
boy were found cutting ________ on section 43 of the ranch.
Documents Group #6---Espuela
Land and Cattle Company (Ltd.) Accounts Ledger XXXVIII. Read through the items mentioned
in this accounts ledger to see how much cowboys got paid and how much they spent on items
such as tobacco. See if you can answer the following questions.
- For what task were Massingale, Johnson, and
Scott paid under Trail Herd No. 1 Account?
- Whose wages in October were higher than the
other cowboys wages? How can you explain this?
Matador Land and Cattle Company
Ledger-Personal Accounts with Men, 1885 and 1886. This is a ledger of accounts showing
what cowboys purchased from the ranch store. Skim through the ledger and answer the
- How many times did John Sternow purchase
tobacco in March, April, May and June? On which dates? How much money did Sternow spend on
- Do you think Lon Bean wrote letters to
anyone? Why or why not?
- How much money did it cost to have someone
wash your clothes? How do you know?
- How much money did Bean get in wages for
Documents Group #7---Matador Land
and Cattle Company Tally Books, 1905-1921. Tally books contain the combined total number
of cattle branded in each round up. Skim through the document, then answer the following
- On page 45, what tally mans name
appears most often?
- According to the information on page 45,
where were the most cattle branded? How many?
- Based on the information shown on page 84
for calves branded in 1912, which division appears to be the largest calf producer?
- Which division in 1912 sold off all of its
- Where and when were the most steers branded
from January 1 through July 18, 1913?
Documents Group # 8---19th
Century Maps. Maps hold a great deal of information as a primary source. Examining an old
map can tell you how man has changed the land by building railroads, highways, towns and
by farming and running cattle. Examine each map, then answer the following questions.
The Range and Ranch Cattle Area of the
United States, 1884.
- Remember that quarantines were set up to
keep Texas cattle carrying ticks out of certain areas. Examine the map. Where were
quarantine lines drawn? To protect which states?
- Look at the southern portion of Texas. There
you will find another line designating the limits of Texas fever. What is the complete
name of this line or boundary?
Texas, New Mexico & Indian Territory,
- Find Indian Territory above Texas. List as
many Native American nations or groups you can find in Indian Territory.
- Look very closely at far West Texas. Find
Pecos County. Next, find the Pecos River which begins in New Mexico and is called the Rio
Pecos. Follow the river into Texas until you reach Horsehead Crossing, the famous Comanche
and cattle crossing. From there, which direction is Fort Stockton?
- Find Lubbock and other counties in northwest
Texas. This is the land called the Llano Estacado or___________ _____________.
Revised Map of the State of Texas, 1876.
- Examine the Panhandle region and the South
Plains where Lubbock is located. What is the name of the territory given to this region
before counties were created here?
- Find Camp Stockton on the far southwestern
edge of the map. This would later be named Fort Stockton. Notice how many springs are
located nearby. Name three of these.
County Map of the State of Texas, 1877.
- Locate Corpus Christi along the southeast
coast of Texas. Nearby you will find the King Ranch, which is labeled Kings Rancho.
Which direction must you travel from Corpus Christi in order to reach Kings Rancho?
- Find Tarrant County in the northern part of
the state. What major cow town is located there?