For fifty years the progressive Coleman-Fulton Pasture Company, popularly known as the Taft Ranch, led in the development of South Texas, and in the early twentieth century achieved national and international repute for its contributions to agriculture. The story of the ranch reaches its climax as the firm is absorbed into the community growing up around it—the same community the ranch had nurtured to an unprecedented prosperity.
In 1961 A. Ray Stephens visited Taft, Texas, and received permission to use the dust-covered records, which for thirty years had been closed to historians. These records, plus the valuable supplementary material in the Fulton Collection at the University of Texas, have enabled the author to tell the complete story of the ranch from its inception in 1880 to its dissolution in 1930.
In 1880, with a fifty-year charter, the Coleman-Fulton Pasture Company was legally born as a private corporation. For the duration of its history this company aided the advancement of South Texas through effective utilization of the fertile land, through development of agriculture and related industries, and through encouragement of settlers and curious visitors to the Coastal Bend region. Its history is a long, determined fight against severe drought, cattle disease, and financial insolvency. Guided by farsighted men who believed in experimentation in agriculture—and who also promoted the establishment of stores, schools, colleges, churches, and industrial plants—the company not only survived but prospered, and by 1920 its owners could survey their vast properties with well-earned satisfaction. The struggling cattle firm of 1880 had expanded into a multi-interest, profitable corporation that had established and supervised most of the industries in Taft, Texas.
Stephens' well-documented 1964 study had been long needed. During the three decades preceding it, the ranch had been well-nigh forgotten; only the handful of people, then still living, who had worked on the ranch had kept its memory fresh, while the voluminous company records remained inaccessible. The author supplemented his study of company records and newspapers with archival material, government records, and information obtained during hours of interviewing. His book will insure for the Taft Ranch its deservedly prominent position in Texas history.
The lively introduction was written by Joe B. Frantz (1917–1993) who, in his role of Professor of History at the University of Texas, encouraged the study and watched its development.
A. Ray Stephens is retired as Professor of History at the University of North Texas, Denton, and Director of the Texas History Institute.
I. Live Oak Peninsula—Emporium of the Southwest
II. Longhorns and Acres
III. The Great Plains Bubble
IV. Readjustment in Range Practices
V. New Means to New Markets
VI. Land Boom and New Opportunities
VII. Progress under Administrative Reorganization
VIII. From Branding Irons to Plowshares
IX. New Phase in Industry
X. Bigness in South Texas Agriculture
XI. The Final Years
Appendix. Extent of the Coleman-Fulton Pasture Company Range in 1894
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