Cattle Ranching to Cotton Farming

The last Indians of the Texas Panhandle were on the reservation in Indian Territory by 1875. Very few buffalo roamed the eastern Panhandle in the late 1870s. Collingsworth County was established by the Texas Legislature in 1876 but not organized until 1890.

Large ranchers began bringing cattle to open range Collingsworth County in 1880s. Within a few years three ranches had control of about seventy percent of Collingsworth County. The Diamond Tails Ranch operated in the south part of the county. Rocking Chair Ranche was in the north and eastern part of the county. Rowe Ranch, headquartered in Donley County, ran cattle in the western part of Collingsworth County.

Settlers were moving into the county and filing on state land by the mid-1880s, causing problems for the ranchers. Settlers that came to Collingsworth County in the 1880s did not know how to farm in the rolling plains. Farming was experimental for several years. Until the beginning of the twentieth century farming was primarily growing food for the family and feed for livestock.

The first cotton harvested in the county was in 1893. Two bales were grown in the Buck Creek Community and ginned at Memphis, Texas. The gin was a new one-stand gin. Records show that 53 bales were produced in the county in 1900. In 1904 the cotton gin in Wellington burned. A new five-stand steam-powered gin was built in 1905 in Wellington. Cotton gins in the area were powered by mules up until this time. Ten thousand bales were produced in the county in 1910.

During the next decade cotton became the money crop for the county. Twenty-five thousand bales were produced in 1920. During the 1920s cotton production expanded. Some of the ranchers were experiencing financial problems and brought share-croppers into the county, plowed their grassland, planted cotton, and paid their debts. Cotton production in 1930 was 34,966 bales in Collingsworth County. Clyde Brown in his 1934 master thesis titled, History of Collingsworth County, stated: Ranching is not at the present time one of the leading industries of Collingsworth County.

Production increased in the 1940s and cotton has remained the main crop. In 2014 153,841 bales of cotton were ginned in the county; however, not all of this was grown in the county.

Cattle Ranching started Collingsworth County—Cotton Farming Built the County!