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Kings of Texas: The 150-Year Saga of an American Ranching Empire Paperback – March 1, 2004
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""Kings of Texas is a fresh and very welcome history of the great King Ranch. It's concise but thorough, crisply written, meticulous, and very readable. It should find a wide audience.""
-Larry McMurtry, author of Sin Killer and the Pulitzer Prize--winning Lonesome Dove
""This book is about the King Ranch, but it is about much more than that. A compelling chronicle of war, peace, love, betrayal, birth, and death in the region where the Texas-Mexico border blurs in the haze of the Wild Horse Desert, it is also an intriguing detective story with links to the present-and a first-rate read.""
-H.W. Brands, author of The Age of Gold and the bestselling Pulitzer Prize finalist The First American
From the Back Cover
Kings of Texas is the sprawling saga of the larger-than-life characters who founded, built, and expanded the most famous cattle ranch in American history. Renowned Texas scholar, writer, and storyteller Don Graham weaves a compelling multigenerational family drama into the complex social history of South Texas. The result is an intricate tapestry laced with thrilling tales drawn from decades of conflict arising from the Mexican War, the Civil War, and countless skirmishes between Texas Rangers and border bandits. From humble frontier jacales to the sleek offices of a multinational corporation, Kings of Texas tells an unforgettable story of vision, violence, greed, loyalty, and betrayal, set on a stage as vast as the American dream.
"A crisp history of the King Ranch . . . a good read about an era long gone."
"This book is about the King Ranch, but it is about much more than that. A compelling chronicle of war, peace, love, betrayal, birth, and death in the region where the Texas-Mexico border blurs in the haze of the Wild Horse Desert, it is also an intriguing detective story with links to the present-and a first-rate read."
-H. W. Brands, author of The Age of Gold and the bestselling Pulitzer Prize finalist The First American
About the Author
- Publisher : Wiley; 1st edition (March 1, 2004)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 304 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0471589055
- ISBN-13 : 978-0471589051
- Item Weight : 15.4 ounces
- Dimensions : 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.22 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #573,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #939 in Company Business Profiles (Books)
- #9,626 in U.S. State & Local History
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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Much of the book is not so much about the ranch as about Richard King. Beginning as a riverboat captain on the unpredictable Rio Grande, he appears as a colorful, feisty Irishman who helps tame wild, hot, inhospitable South Texas. He weathers great setbacks, fights the Mexicans stealing his cattle, rebuilds his torched home (33,000 sq. ft. now), sells his agricultural products by running the Yankee blockades during the Civil War, and builds a great cattle ranch using Texas Longhorns.
Don Graham does an excellent job describing early South Texas conditions: 65,000 Mexican citizens lived along both sides of the Rio Grande at the time of the Texas Revolution! They were part of Mexico and wanted to remain part of Mexico. It was split literally in two when Texas drew the Rio Grande as its southern border rather than the Neches. The level of economic activity and the length of settlement in the valley give it a unique identity.
South Texas' significant to the South during the American Civil war is another important story. Many desperate Southern farm families and their slaves made the long trek south with their cotton. Captain King manages to run cotton and still be forgiven after the war. What would a history book about Texas be without the appearance of the Texas Rangers! Whose side was whose was not always clear, but Capt. King did always end up on the right one. His ingenuity shines when he recruit an entire town from south Texas - the Kinenos - to move up to the ranch.
In the 1880s cattlemen made the trek north with the cattle and the stuff of legends become cattle drives, Longhorn breeding, and barbed wire. When King dies in 1884 his heirs through daughter Alice take over the ranch. Alice's husband Robert Kleburg and son Robert Kleburg Jr. carry the ranch to new highs. Oil finds in 1939 fund new projects in addition to cattle breeding. King Ranch even has a Thoroughbred Horse Assault that wins the 1943 Triple Crown.
Towards the end the book gets tangled in the "partnership" lawsuit. The book was released when the issue was still open and much (too much) detail is included. A Mr. Chapman made an early verbal partnership contract with Richard King on a large piece of land. Chapman moves away, appears to forget about the property, then dies. His heirs, 140 years later, sue for a hunk of the now successful ranch. After pages of lawyers, mad people, and an initial ruling in favor of the Chapmans, the Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of the King Ranch. After the book went to press, the Texas Supreme Court and then United States Supreme Court refused to hear the case and the matter mercifully ends in 2004.
King Ranch is now run professionally for the benefit of the heirs and stockholders. One's heart has to twang with Uncle Tio is asked to step down in 1998. Just a few pages are given to describing ventures into hunting leases (800 deer and $3M annually), St. Augustine grass, and new properties in Florida and internationally.
The author seems to spend an undue amount of time telling the other side of the story and focusing on parts of the history that were not previously told. This is fine for someone that has already read about the King Ranch. But for a first read on the King Ranch, I suspect that there are better books out there such as Tom Lea's book "The King Ranch" that the author cites and references numerous times.
Top reviews from other countries
the start of the ranch until modern times.