J A Ranch

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Promotion: Nearby Map of Armstrong County

The JA Ranch is the oldest privately owned cattle operation in the Panhandle. Its beginning may be traced back to the summer and fall of 1876, when Charles Goodnight drove 1,600 longhorn cattle from Pueblo, Colorado, to the Palo Duro Canyon, where he established his "Home Ranch" near the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River in southwestern Armstrong County. After getting his men and cattle settled in for the winter, Goodnight returned to Colorado to make arrangements to bring his wife, Mary Ann (Molly) Goodnight, to the new homestead. In Denver he met John G. Adair, an English aristocrat who was interested in going into the cattle business himself. As a result of their meeting, Adair agreed to furnish the capital Goodnight needed to build up the ranch. In May 1877 the Goodnights and Adair, along with four cowboys, arrived at the Home Ranch with 100 Durham bulls and four wagons loaded with provisions. On June 18, before the Adairs left for Ireland, the partners drew up a five-year contract under which two-thirds of the property and profits were to go to Adair and one-third to Goodnight. There were to be as many as 1,500 cattle and 2,500 acres of land. Goodnight, who borrowed his third of the investment from Adair at 10 percent interest, was to receive an annual salary of $2,500. At Goodnight's suggestion the ranch was named Adair's initials. The letters of the JA brand at first were separated; three years later the present connected design was adopted.

After the money was made available, Goodnight bought the first 12,000 acres from Jot Gunter and William B. Munson, Sr., who agreed that he could pick the land wherever he pleased. Over the next two years he continued buying choice pieces of property crazy-quilt fashion in and around a seventy-five-mile stretch of Palo Duro Canyon, carefully selecting areas with good grazing land and water, until the ranch was solidified. In 1878 he drove the first JA trail herd, led by his famous bell ox Old Blue, north to Dodge City, Kansas, then the nearest railhead. In 1879, desiring a more central location for the ranch headquarters, Goodnight moved it to a choice site at the foot of the Caprock, twenty-five miles east of the old Home Ranch. There he built a new four-room house of cedar logs and supervised the construction of several other buildings, including a bunkhouse, a bookkeeper's house, a wagon boss's house, a blacksmith shop, a wagonyard, and an ingenious milk and meat cooler. Later on, the two-story, nineteen-room main house was added. The old Home Ranch house was used as a line camp until it burned down on Christmas Eve, 1904.

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H. Allen Anderson | © TSHA

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Adapted from the official Handbook of Texas, a state encyclopedia developed by Texas State Historical Association (TSHA). It is an authoritative source of trusted historical records.

Belongs to

J A Ranch is part of or belongs to the following places:

Currently Exists


Place type

J A Ranch is classified as a Town

Associated Names

  • (Paloduro)


Latitude: 34.81783210
Longitude: -101.18543510

Has Post Office


Is Incorporated