KING RANCH OF TEXAS
Alyssa Rundell 6th period
The beginning of the King Ranch. What was so big about it?
In 1852, Captain Richard King purchased a creek-fed oasis in the Wild Horse Desert of South Texas, sparking generations of integrity, preservation, and innovation called King Ranch.
The Ranch now covers 825,000 acres—more land than the state of Rhode Island. Over the course of 150 years, King Ranch has led some of the first cattle drives, developed the Santa Gertrudis and Santa Cruz breeds of cattle, bred the finest quarter horses, and produced champion thoroughbreds—all under its iconic Running W® brand.
Today’s King Ranch has diversified into a major agribusiness with interests in cattle ranching and feedlot operations, farming (citrus, cotton, grain, sugar cane, and turfgrass), pecan processing and sales, commodity marketing and processing, luxury retail goods, and recreational hunting.
King Ranch continues to foster a culture of uncompromising quality, stewardship, and authenticity—a true testament to Captain King’s commitment and integrity.
The jeweler was a difficult man and the boy, practically enslaved by him, was chafing under the man’s mistreatment. Nascent greatness would not be shackled or ever satisfied with such circumstances. At this tender age, the restless and adventuresome young Richard King made contacts on the Manhattan wharves and soon stowed away on a ship heading south – south toward his destiny.
Young Richard distinguished himself as a tireless worker and a fast learner with an ever-keen eye for opportunity. He rose quickly in the steam boating business on the Alabama and Florida rivers, becoming a captain. After moving to South Texas, he founded a steam boat line with his lifelong friend Mifflin Kenedy – setting up ports and moving goods and people along the lower Rio Grande River.
In the middle of the 19th century, Captain King traveled north from the Rio Grande to Corpus Christi. He traversed a region then known as the Wild Horse Desert and was captivated by it. His eye for an opportunity was at its sharpest when, after well over a hundred miles of riding over the wild lands, he and his party came to the cool, refreshing waters of Santa Gertrudis Creek. King saw that this place that nourished so much wildlife could also sustain domestic stock, and King’s vision for a great cattle ranch began to take shape.He and business partner Gideon “Legs” Lewis purchased the 15,500-acre Mexican land grant then known as the Rincon de Santa Gertrudis – the first foothold of what would become the legendary King Ranch of Texas.
The 1860s were busy, challenging years for Richard King and his new bride Henrietta, the refined daughter of Presbyterian minister from back East. This refinement would become a hallmark of the remote ranch as weary wayfarers found, over the years, not only an impressive ranching operation, but an oasis of gentility and warm hospitality in the very midst of an otherwise wild and often hostile country.
The Civil War years found the resourceful Captain King thriving in his steamboat business by running the Union blockade, but his long-term vision was for the new ranch he was building. His bride Henrietta played an important role in guiding daily activities on the ranch when the Captain was away on business.