Created by award-winning broadcast producer Jon Lindgren, the Texas Cowmen documentary series and the AKA Rancher video game focus on ranching families that founded Texas.
The COWMEN documentary, with a focus on Texas founding ranching families, reveals the rancher’s past and current role and influence in our nation’s development of land, resources, communities, and the cattle industry. Its underlying theme communicates their ability to feed America through the years despite wars, family feuds, property taxes, water rights and other present day limitations.
The program combines the grit and hard working efforts of the American Cowboy with the insight and drive of the business professional rancher. Ranchers, known as “Cowmen”, have endured much to lead the way for community and national development. Told by historians and Texas ranchers, discover the truth of men and women who believed the American Dream of new beginnings, spiritual freedom and what hard work can accomplish.
Our video production team is lead by Jon Lindgren. He has garnered industry awards for his creative accomplishments including a 2005 Tribeca Short Film Festival for his short film, An Everyday Hero, won first place. He has a proven track-record of mixing entertainment with education to increase viewership. He has received special recognition for broadcast education from a FOX affiliate station for producing over 100 educational vignettes geared toward children 6 to 12 years of age. His program received a local 20 rating and 2nd in national ratings for weekday afternoons. His clients have included the national networks, ABC, CBS, NBC, A&E, ESPN, Fox Southwest Sports, PBS and The Discovery Channel.
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Read through Family Archives
Swante Magnus Swenson (1816-1896)
Swante Magnus Swenson, a Swedish immigrant with an entrepreneurial spirit, migrated to New York City in 1836 before arriving in Texas to eventually establish SMS Ranches in West Texas. As a man of many pursuits, he introduced a friend’s invention, the Colt revolver, to the Texas Navy. He began shipping pecans to the north and east before becoming successful in merchandise and banking in Austin, Texas. Swante built his fortune from his trading post and by acquiring over 600,000 acres of unclaimed land throughout Texas, eventually establishing several cattle ranches for the Swenson family. During the 1930s, the family founded the first annual Texas Cowboy Reunion that is still held today in Stamford, Texas.
Captain Samuel “Burk” Burnett (1849-1922)
Samuel “Burk” Burnett moved from Missouri to Denton County, Texas when he was ten years old. The family soon found the cattle business which Burk learned from watching his father work. By the time he was nineteen years old he bought his first herd of cattle, but soon saw the need to own the land where he drove the cattle so he began buying the land. After a drought, Burk, like many other ranchers, negotiated with Comanche Indians for leasing their lands, establishing a friendship with Comanche Chief Quanah Parker. As the open range era came to a close, he bought more than 300,000 acres creating the present day 6666 Ranches in the Texas Panhandle.
Daniel Waggoner (1828-1903)
After leaving Tennessee, Daniel “Dan” Waggoner settled in Hopkins County Texas in the 1840s with his family. He began his cattle career near Decatur, Texas. With his son, Tom, they continued to increase their land and cattle until his death in 1903 in Colorado. Dan Waggoner was one of the original inductees in 1960 to the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City. Descendants of Dan Waggoner raise Quarter Horses, including winning race horse, Poco Bueno, who was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame. Today, the 535,000 acres of the W.T Waggoner Ranch near Vernon, Texas, established by Dan Waggoner in 1849, continues its cattle and quarter horse traditions.
Captain George Washington Arrington (1844-1923)
George Washington Arrington began life in Alabama as John C. Orrick, Jr. At sixteen, he joined the Confederate Army working as a spy. He moved to Central America after murdering a black businessman in 1867. When he moved to Texas in 1970, he changed his name. Throughout his life he trailed cattle across the state, worked for the Houston and Texas Central Railway, he was a Mason, a Shriner and Sheriff of Wheeler County in North Texas. He even became a successful Texas Ranger, establishing Camp Roberts for training rangers in the Panhandle. Arrington filed for land on the Washita River in Hemphill County, Texas, where he established Arrington Ranch which is still operated today by the Arrington family, including a Bed and Breakfast that was used in the Tom Hanks movie, “Cast Away.”
Lee Bivins (1862-1929)
Lee Bivins was born in Farmington, Texas. He watched his father operate a mercantile store, ranch, and the county’s first mill. By the time he was twenty, he had his own herd of cattle and two general stores. He eventually settled in Amarillo, Texas, pursuing multiple business interests including a grocery store, a wheat mill, and JA Ranch later known as the Mulberry Ranch. Bivins was involved in a feud with Skid Ellis which began as embezzlement, murder of Dick Bivins (Lee’s brother) involving a woman, and ended in attempted murder charges and an acquittal. By the end of his life, Lee Bivins had purchased additional ranches including LX Ranch, LIT Ranch, and Coldwater Ranch. Legend states that he once rode a horse for ninety miles from Dalhart to Amarillo and never left his property. He became involved in beef market, helped establish Amarillo’s first airport, struck oil and gas on his land and even became mayor of Amarillo in 1925 remaining until his death in 1929. His land was then divided into separate ranches for his sons with part of the land serving as a donation for establishing the Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch in 1939.
James Andrew Whittenburg (1862-1936)
Legend states James Andrew Whittenburg, at the age of twelve, went to get firewood for his mom but instead hopped a train from Missouri to make his way to Texas to be with his brothers, working cattle on Ben Slaughter’s ranch in Parker County, Texas. He trailed cattle for years until he had a heatstroke that left him almost blind for the rest of his life. By then, married a woman who would become his shotgun-bearing partner in peddling supplies and groceries to the Indian Tribes in Western Oklahoma and was even offered a trade for his son by Big Bow, a Comanche Chief. John Andrew Whittenburg filed for land in Hutchinson County, Texas, paving the way for the family’s MM Ranch, which was estimated to have accumulated 25,000 acres by 1920 and eventually struck oil by 1924. He moved to Amarillo after his wife’s death, living in the Amarillo Hotel. He died in 1936 after suffering from injuries he received from a car collision with a freight train. His descendants founded the Amarillo Times and continued ranching with the family’s MM Cattle Company.
George Washington Littlefield (1842-1920)
George Washington Littlefield moved to Texas in 1850 from Mississippi. He grew up on the family plantation in Gonzales County, Texas, before attending Baylor University, and later enlisting in the Texas Calvary at the outbreak of the Civil War. He bought ranches in Caldwell and Hays counties, and later other ranches in Texas, while continuing his work with his family’s plantation. In 1887 he purchased land establishing the LIT Ranch in North Texas, which he later sold. In 1901, George Washington Littlefield purchased The Yellow House Ranch consisting of over 300,000 acres in Lamb, Hockley, Bailey, and Cochran counties of Texas, from the XIT Ranch, where he also bought cattle before making his headquarters in 1905 in Hockley County. Despite his land holdings in North Texas, he moved to Austin, Texas becoming involved in banking, which he designed his buildings to depict his ranches. He owned many businesses in Austin, including the famed Driskill Hotel for a short while. Though he was against the prohibition, he did not consume alcohol. George Washington Littlefield became involved in the University of Texas because of his passion in American History, establishing a fund that is still recognized today.
In 1852, Gideon K. Lewis and Richard King settled a cattle camp on Santa Gertrudis Creek in South Texas. The two men began purchasing Spanish land grants, eventually accumulating 825,000 acres known now as King Ranch. The ranch began as a cattle ranch, but over time it has also produced grain, cotton, and other cultivations, horse breeding, craftsman saddlery, and hunting but King Ranch has also been a successful oil and gas producer with over $1 billion in royalties. Since its beginnings, King Ranch has held ranches in other states and countries such as Cuba, Australia, Brazil, and Argentina. The ranch has supported Texas A&M University agricultural programs. Among many of the business ventures are licensing with Ford Motor Company and Beretta, and the King Ranch Saddle Shop. King Ranch continues to operate from the foundation that Richard King began.
Richard King (1824-1885)
As a child, Richard King was an indentured servant to a jeweler in New York City before stowing away on a ship headed south. He worked in the steam boat business, rising to Captain before founding a steam boat line with his friend, Mifflin Kenedy, along the Rio Grande River. Captain King became business partners with Gideon “Legs” Lewis and purchased land that would become King Ranch. After Gideon Lewis died in 1855, Captain King purchased his share of the ranch. In 1860, Mifflin Kenedy shares into the ranch but sold dissolved the partnership in 1868. King Ranch has continued to grow into the multifaceted empire that it is today.
Gideon K. “Legs” Lewis (1823-1855)
Born in Ohio, Gideon K. “Legs Lewis was a soldier, newspaperman, and Texas Mounted Ranger in the Mexican War before settling in Corpus Christi where he partnered with Richard King running cattle. He was shot and killed by Dr. J.T. Yarrington after it was discovered Gideon Lewis was having an affair with Dr. Yarrington’s wife. After his death, Richard King purchased his share of the land, transforming it into King Ranch.
Mifflin Kenedy (1818-1895)
From a Pennsylvania Quaker family, Mifflin Kenedy began his working career at the age of sixteen as a teacher and cabin boy. He was working on steam boats where he met Richard King. Mifflin Kenedy and Richard King became partners in a steamship business and King Ranch. After dissolving his ranch partnership with Richard King, Mifflin Kenedy purchased and sold the 242,000 acres Laureles Ranch in South Texas later becoming Texas Land and Cattle Company. Kenedy then bought 400,000 acres naming it La Parra Ranch. Mifflin Kenedy was successful in many business ventures when he decided to help the construction of the railroad funding 700 miles of the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway before his death in 1852.
John Barclay Armstrong (1850-1913)
In 1871, John Barclay Armstrong settled in Austin, Texas, to become a Texas Ranger known as “McNelly’s Bulldog” and a member of the Travis Rifles. He was involved in the capture or killing of gunmen such as John Wesley Hardin and his men, John King Fisher, John Mayfield, and Sam Bass. He was named second lieutenant of the Special Force of Texas Rangers in 1877 and later appointed as United States Marshall. He married Mollie Durst and had seven children. He bought approximately 50,000 acres that would become Armstrong Ranch, located in South Texas’ Kenedy County, land that previously belonged to his father-in-law. Since John Barclay Armstrong’s death in 1913, his descendants have continued to operate Armstrong Ranch.
The Cowden Ranch is also known as the JAL Ranch after the original cattle brand. In 1882, the Cowden brothers George, John M. and William Henry brought their cattle from New Mexico to Texas. Around 1883, they settled around Midland, Texas. After successfully running the ranch together, John Cowden, the oldest brother bought his brothers’ land shares and sold the land until it was gone. William Henry and George continued on as independent ranchers and business men in West Texas and New Mexico.
William Henry Cowden (1853-1933)
Along with his brothers, John M. and George, William Henry Cowden is known for establishing Cowden Ranch in 1882 in Midland, Texas. He married Mary Salvage and had eleven children. William Cowden was one of the founders of the First National Bank of Midland where he remained as president for thirty-six years. During that time he bought cattle and thousands of acres, establishing himself as a successful rancher with the assistance of his sons.
Clarence Scharbauer (1879-1942)
Clarence Scharbauer moved to Midland, Texas with his family in 1889 to work for his uncle’s cattle ranch. When he was only sixteen, he bought his first herd of cattle. He attended a business school in Waco in 1998 and Baylor University in 1899. Clarence joined his father and uncle in the Scharbauer Cattle Company at the age of twenty-two. Clarence successfully ran several cattle, horse and sheep ranches and built the Scharbauer Hotel in Midland, Texas in 1927. His son, Clarence Scharbauer Jr. continues the family traditions of ranching and Thoroughbred racing. He and his late wife, Dorothy, are generous contributors to such organization as the American Quarter Horse Foundation and the Midland Memorial Hospital.
LINK: For Clarence Scharbauer II http://texasthoroughbred.com/catching-up-with-clarence-scharbauer/
In 1886, O.B. Holt became known as the first person to file for county land in Andrews County, Texas. He was among some of the earliest settlers in West Texas, such as the Cowden and Holebeke families.
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