Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Columns

June 12, 2010

STRINGER: Burk Burnett: Oil and Cattle Baron

Corsicana — Samuel  Burk Burnett was born on New Years Day 1849 in Missouri, and came as a child with his family to Texas. They settled in Denton County and operated a successful ranch. At age 17 Burnett made his first trip up the Chisholm Trail, working as a trail hand, and the following year he was the trail boss driving a herd of his father’s cattle to the Kansas railheads. In 1870 Burnett acquired the 6666 ranch in Denton County. Legend has it that the name came from a winning hand he had drawn in a poker game, but it likely came from the fact that the first cattle he bought to begin his own herds bore the 6666 brand.  

Caught by the economic downturn of the Panic of 1873 while driving his cattle north to Kansas that year, he pastured them on the Osage reservation in Indian Territory (Oklahoma). When the crisis passed, he sold the herd at a $10,000 profit. The following year he moved his operations to the Wichita Falls area. Through an agreement he made with Comanche chief Quanah Parker, Burnett leased 300,000 acres of Kiowa and Comanche land for six cents and acre. He grazed 10,000 cattle on the land until new federal regulations ended such agreements to allow opening Oklahoma to homesteaders. He called on his personal friend, President Theodore Roosevelt for an extension of time so he could acquire additional lands to relocate his vast herds. Consequently, he purchased the Old Eight Ranch in King County east of Lubbock as well as an additional 107,000 acres north of Amarillo, bringing his total holding to more than 206,000 acres. He later acquired ranches in New Mexico and Oklahoma. In return for his assistance, Burnett hosted President Roosevelt for a wolf hunt.

About 1900 Burnett made his permanent residence in Fort Worth. He leased the 6666 to his son Tom and began directing his attention to other business interests, namely banking and oil. He was the principal stockholder in the First National Bank and president of Ardmore Oil Milling and Gin Company. He maintained his interested in the cattle industry as a charter member of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and the Fort Worth Fat Stock Show. His already sizable wealth increased dramatically when oil was discovered on his lands near Wichita Falls in 1921. Burnett died the following year at his home in Fort Worth, but his memory lives on in a west Texas town that bears his name. That community will be the topic of next week’s article.

—————

Dr. Tommy Stringer is executive director of the Navarro College Foundation. He may be reached by e-mail at tommy.stringer@navarrocollege.edu. Want to “Soundoff” on this column? E-mail: soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com     

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