The Land Report

Winter 2010

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UNDERONE FENCE: THEWAGGONER The Waggoner D-71 was one of the most recognizable brands in North Texas, but in 1881 it was changed to the now legendary three reverse Ds, because the latter was less easily modified by cattle thieves. RANCHLEGACY An exclusive excerpt from the brand-new book featuring an unprecedented look inside the largest ranch in the U.S. under one fence, the historic 535,000-acre Waggoner Ranch. THE LAND that now makes up the Waggoner Ranch lies near the heart of former Comanche territory: Comanchería. More particularly, the sandhills and plains of the southeast- ern corner of the Texas Panhandle, south to the Pease and Wichita rivers, belonged to a Comanche band called The Wanderers, an unusually wide-ranging band among an unusually wide-ranging people. By the end of the Civil War, cattlemen were pushing into the eastern edge of Comanchería, a howling prairie wilderness of vast bison herds, lanky plains lobos, and a fierce people who took a dim view of encroachers. A few years prior, in 1854, a twenty-six-year-old widower named Dan Waggoner moved from Hopkins County, Texas, to the Catlett Creek area of Wise County, about two miles from present-day Decatur. He had saved enough money to buy 242 head of longhorn cattle and six horses. After Dan married Scylly Ann Halsell in 1859 and established his Cactus Hill headquarters on the West Fork of the Trinity River, he sent for his six-year-old son, William Thomas, who had stayed behind in the care of Sarah Yarbrough, Dan’s sister. For the next eleven years, Dan Waggoner expanded his cattle operation on the open range of western Wise County and Parker County despite the Comanche threat and the disruptions of the Civil War, during which the Confederate Army, his only market, bought steers for ten dollars a head. In 1866, the Waggoners, along with Dan’s brother-in-law George Halsell, drove a herd of longhorns from Wise County to the free range along the Wichita River—and deeper into Comanche territory. Comanche raiders killed Halsell later that year. Beginning in the late 1860s, a teenaged William Thomas (W.T.) Waggoner, with the help of seasoned cowboys, drove herds Photography by Wyman Meinzer Text by Henry Chappell 34 TheLandReport | WINTER 2010 LANDREPORT.COM

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