The XIT Ranch in the Panhandle of Texas (1885-1912) contained over 3,000,047 acres and was once the largest working cattle ranch in the world. It stretched from the Oklahoma state line all the way down thru the middle of Hockley County, was nearly 200 miles long and 30 miles wide; when entirely fenced in the late 1890's it contained over 18,000 miles of barbwire. The ranch was located in ten counties through out the Panhandle, thus the name, and the brand, XIT.
The entire ranch was once public land owned by the State of Texas and in 1879 was sold, rather traded, to a group of business men from Chicago and England in return for the building of the State Capital of Texas in Austin. These city folk did not know squat about ranching but they built the most beautiful capital in the country.
The XIT's headquarters were located in Channing, Texas, in Hartley County. Its a beautiful building that is well cared for by the community and decedents of cowboys that worked the ranch. There is a wonderful museum in Dalhart about the rich and colorful history of the ranch and I strongly urge any proud Texan to read some history about the XIT. We visited one summer on the way to Colorado and I remember vividly a crows nest in a windmill on display in the museum, as big as trash can, made completely out of pieces of barbwire because the Dust Bowl blew away all vegetation, completely.
The southernmost part of the XIT Ranch, in Lamb and Hockley counties, was called the Yellow House Division, named after clay washouts in a bluff along the Canadian River that looked like yellow houses from a distance. In 1901 when the XIT was beginning to be liquidated a total of 312,000 acres was sold to a fella name George Washington Littlefield who formed the Yellow House Ranch and the nearby town of Littlefield.
It was only in the early 1940's, long after the ranch had been broken up, that oil was discovered in the North Shelf overlying the Midland Basin and most of that oil production came from stratigraphic pinch outs, or facies changes in Oligocene San Andreas and Clear Fork formations.
In 1944, Amoco discovered lower San Andreas oil production on the Yellow House Ranch. It began injecting water into the field in 1957 and it was unitized in 1967. Apache now operates Yellow House Field and it still makes about 225 BOPD.
There are smaller San Andreas strat traps on the south end of the old XIT Ranch but none of them are very large, nor accumulated much production; Whitharral, Petit, Pep, Littlefield, Illusion Lake, Billy and Anton Fields, to name most of them. The areal extent of these little fields are not great, just a few hundred acres each.
A typical San Andreas waterflood in Northern Hockley. Photo by John Wark
I estimate that of the 3,000,047 total acres in the great XIT Ranch there is less than 2,500 acres that is oil and, or gas productive; indeed almost the entire western portion of the Texas Panhandle is void of basin characteristics that would contain sediments, nor source rock to supply those sediments with hydrocarbons.
The extreme NE portion of the Panhandle, on the other hand, part of the Palo Duro Basin and the Anadarko Basin, have prolific reservoirs in them like the Atoka, Houghton, Hunton, Morrow, the great, Granite Wash and my favorite, the Hogshooter.
By comparison, over one third of the famous 825,000 acre King Ranch in South Texas, southwest of Corpus Christi, is oil and or natural gas productive.
What God taketh away He also giveth and all of the old XIT Ranch sat on top of the great Ogallala groundwater aquifer and this part of Texas, today, is some of the most productive crop land in the State. Irrigated corn in this area can stand ten feet high in summer time and has yields almost as great as those in Iowa and Illinois.
The XIT Ranch boundaries are easily seen on a TRRC GIS map; all the survey's within the old ranch are titled, State Capital Lands. If you happen to look into the GIS map try not to blink or you will slide right past the XIT communities of Lezbuddie, Friendship, Oklahoma Flat and Earth, Texas.
The staked plains of the Texas Panhandle, also called El Llano Estacado, in the late 1800's was tough country with blazingly hot summers, drought, and grass fires that burned hundreds of thousands of acres of land at a time. The winters were brutal. A wonderful book about the XIT Ranch by J. Evetts Haley described an incident in the winter of 1892 when, after a very strong, January norther,' cowboys found several thousand head of cattle frozen to death, still standing up.
I roughnecked as a kid in Wyoming for a couple of months in the winter. Nothing, however, was colder than a winter I spent in a derrick in the eastern Panhandle of Texas. If it was in the low 30's and a front came in howling 40 MPH, the sleet and freezing rain blowing sideways, it was unbearable up on the racking board. These were deep Granite wash wells and I remember the pipe coming out the hole at about 135 degrees and radiating heat. When I'd cut the elevators lose I would hug that drill pipe as long as I possibly could to stay warm.
Texans sometime refer to it being so cold that "there ain't nothing between us and the North Pole 'cept a barb wire fence." I am almost certain this phrase was coined in the beautiful Texas Panhandle, one of my many favorite places in the entire world.
God Bless Texas.
"No place like Texas would I ever roam, no place like Texas, home, sweet, home."