The Hashknife Ranch was begun in 1875 by J. R. Couts and John N. Simpson when they drove a herd of longhorn cattle from Weatherford to Elm Creek in Taylor County near the site of present Abilene. The ranch established its headquarters in a dugout on the creek bank near a high hill. It was named for the peculiar brand, which resembled a hash knife, a common kitchen tool used to chop meat and vegetables. Couts was said to have originated the brand as early as 1872, and when he formed his partnership with Simpson, who married his niece, they chose that brand. By 1879 a more comfortable wooden cabin had replaced the dugout headquarters on Elm Creek. The Hashknife range was gradually extended west into Nolan County, and in 1880 additional free rangeland was acquired on the southwest bank of the Pecos River; the range ran from the New Mexico line 100 miles downstream to Grand Falls and twenty-five to thirty miles out from that river. Charles W. Buster, another investor, was put in charge of this range, which branded 10,000 calves annually for the next five years. Each spring, some 5,000 Hashknife steer yearlings were trailed north to Montana. By 1885 the Pecos range was running over 34,000 cattle. That summer Buster and the Hashknife owners sold the herd to Henry Warren, manager of the Aztec Land and Cattle Company. Warren trailed these longhorns to his ranch, which he had established the year before, between Holbrook and Flagstaff, Arizona. This was the "Hashknife Outfit," immortalized in the novels of Zane Grey, whose employees became involved, to some extent, in the Graham-Tewksbury feud during the 1880s and 1890s. Later, in 1901, this ranch was sold to the Babbitt brothers of Flagstaff.
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- [Hashknife Ranch]
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