This Land Is Their Land

by William P. Barrett

Worth magazine, February 1997

SEE ALSO:
This Land Is My Land,
by Monte Burke and William P. Barrett,
Forbes, October 6, 2003

Some are rich, some are powerful, many are old. These are the 100 individuals and families who own the biggest chunks of the nation [not including publicly-held corporations]. Taken as a group, with number one owning 1.3 million acres and number 100 owning 95,000, they hold more than 1 percent of the country, a landmass the size of Kentucky.

Most of America's biggest spreads are in the West. Here are the storied dynastic ranches owned by heirs of the Kings, Waggoners, and Burnetts. This is also where corporate chiefs like Ted Turner and Henry Singleton have staked their claims (together Turner and Singleton own nearly 3 percent of New Mexico) and where people like timber baron Red Emmerson and "Potato King" J. R. Simplot bought the land that helped them make their money and their mark.

To these people, land has intrinsic meaning and merit. "I like land. I like to look at it," says one. "It's something you can count on," says another. "Whatever you own will be worth more in the future," says a third.

But there's concern behind the confidence and contentment. It has to do with the future, with whether the next generation will keep these vast tracts intact or allow them to dissipate through squabbling or poor management. Within the next 10 to 20 years, many of the country's great holdings will pass to a new group of people, through inheritance or sale. What happens to much of the West, with its powerful hold on the American imagination, will be up to them.

1. R. E. "TED" TURNER

Roswell, Georgia

1.3 million acres in New Mexico, Montana, Nebraska, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina

Ted Turner, 58, has a taste for land that's as expansive as his public persona. Among his holdings: 1.15 million acres in New Mexico, amounting to 1.5 percent of the state. What drives his purchases? Turn to "Number One: In His Newest Field."

2. ARCHIE ALDIS "RED" EMMERSON

Anderson, California

1.2 million acres in California

Sierra Pacific Industries was a small, family-run forest operation until the 1970s, when Red Emmerson began aggressively buying timberland. See "Number 2: His Heart Is in His Trees."

3. HENRY E. SINGLETON

Beverly Hills, California

1.15 million acres in New Mexico and California

Henry Singleton -- wheeler-dealer, co-founder of Teledyne, trustee of Ronald Reagan's blind trust -- started buying cattle ranches across a 250-mile-long belt in central and southeastern New Mexico in the 1980s. Land specialists say he now owns about 1.4 percent of the state (1.1 million acres), plus a 45,000-acre spread in California's Salinas Valley. Singleton, 79, declined to comment, but he once told an Albuquerque newspaper: "I'm dedicated to the improvement of the land. I think everyone who owns property has the same feeling."

4. PINGREE HEIRS

Bangor, Maine, and elsewhere

975,000 acres in Maine

The Pingree holdings date back to 1820, when Maine became a state. That's when Salem, Massachusetts, businessman David Pingree, correctly believing that his city would cease to be a major port, started purchasing vast tracts of softwoods and hardwoods as an investment hedge. Over the next 150 years, the Pingree holdings would top a million acres before being scaled back. There are now about 70 Pingree descendants. The holdings are overseen by two family entities, Pingree Associates and Seven Islands Land. Steve Schley, a sixth-generation Pingree and president of Pingree Associates, says timber is a slow but steady investment. "It's something you can count on," he says. "If the markets are terrible, you can store your product on the stump and wait a year."

5. KING RANCH HEIRS

Kingsville, Texas, and elsewhere

860,000 acres in Texas, Florida, and Kentucky

Ownership of America's most storied ranch is shared by dozens of the descendants of steamboat captain Richard King, who began assembling the big spread in South Texas In 1853, paying just two cents an acre for his first 15,500 acres. The present, noncontiguous agricultural operation includes cattle, farming, oil and gas, and a visitor's center for the thousands of tourists and hunters the ranch attracts. Other family holdings include a 16,000-acre farm in Florida and a 680-acre horse ranch in Kentucky, plus some foreign operations. Says Jack Hunt, a non-descendant who is president of King Ranch Inc., "The family feels strongly about staying true to the ranches in South Texas."

6. HUBER FAMILY

Rumson, New Jersey

800,000 acres in Maine, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, and West Virginia

Based in Edison, New Jersey, the 113-year-old family-owned J. M. Huber Corporation (1995 revenues: $1.5 billion) is best known for a broad line of chemical and electronic products. But it's also a player in timberland.

7. REED FAMILY

Seattle

770,000 acres in Washington, Oregon, and California

This century-old holding got its start in 1890 when Sol Simpson founded Simpson Timber amid the lush forests of the Northwest. Now called Simpson Investment, the organization has grown steadily over the years, using its cash flow to acquire more holdings, including some choice California redwoods. William Reed Jr., a great-grandson of the founder, ran the company for a quarter century, until his nephew Colin Moseley, 36, took over early last year. In 1987, all non-family shareholders were bought out.

8. KENNETH W. FORD

Roseburg, Oregon

740,000 acres in Oregon and California

In 1935, young Kenneth Ford bought used machinery and some bargain-basement timberland at two dollars an acre and opened up a sawmill. Where possible, Ford cut trees on leased federal land, allowing trees on his own land to grow back. Today, his family-owned Roseburg Forest Products owns more than 1,000 square miles. Ford, 88, is still acquiring, although a deal to buy 600,000 acres from Weyerhaeuser Corporation fell apart last year.

9. LYKES FAMILY

Tampa and elsewhere

640,000 acres in Florida and Texas

This Florida-based family is famous for its shipping operations, but the fortune actually began with land. In the 1870s, Howell T. Lykes gave up a career as a doctor to run cattle across 500 acres he had inherited in Florida. Eventually, he established a shipping line to transport the beef he produced to other countries. Lykes Brothers -- Howell's sons -- later expanded into citrus and other agricultural production. The Lykeses acquired the 265,000-acre 02 Ranch in far-west Texas from a distressed depression-era seller. The company is now owned by 200-plus descendants and headed by Thompson Lykes Rankin. Spokesperson Chris Ward wouldn't confirm land-holdings, but says, "I wouldn't be surprised" if the family acreage ranked within the top ten.

10. DOLPH BRISCOE JR.

Uvalde, Texas

600,000 acres in Texas

During his two-term Texas governorship in the 1970s, Dolph Briscoe was routinely described as the Lone Star State's biggest individual landowner. Nothing much has changed. The Briscoe family began buying in the 1820s (one of Texas's 254 counties is named Briscoe), and Dolph steadily added to the 180,000-acre Catarina Ranch he had inherited from his father in 1954. Briscoe is credited with helping to rid Texas cattle herds of a perennial pest, the screwworm. Long retired from public life, Briscoe, 73, did not return phone calls. He works from his base in Uvalde, where he also owns a bank.

11. IRVING FAMILY

Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada

550,000 acres in Maine

The Irving family of Saint John, New Brunswick, might be the continent's biggest private landowner. When billionaire family patriarch Kenneth Colin Irving died in 1992 at age 93, obituaries said the family business, Irving Corporation, owned four million acres of timberland. About 550,000 of those acres are across the border in Maine. Over 70 years, K.C. had built up a formidable conglomerate: oil, gas stations, media, shipyards, retail, manufacturing, and paper mills, to name a few. His sons -- James, Jack, and Arthur -- all in their 60s, now run the operation.

12. ELECTRA WAGGONER BIGGS & ALBERT B. WHARTON III

Vernon, Texas

525,000 acres in Texas

In the 1870s, W. T. Waggoner started buying land at a dollar an acre near the Red River in Texas. "I don't aim to buy it all," he once commented, "just what joins me." By the time of his death in 1934, he had amassed the nation's largest non-leased ranch surrounded by a single fence. Ownership of the cattle-and-oil operation has fallen to two family branches. One is headed by Electra Waggoner Biggs, 84, a legendary beauty for whom the Buick Electra was named (manufacturing executives were taken with her first name), and the other by her cousin Albert Wharton, 49, whose Philadelphia ancestors endowed the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. The two live in separate homes on the giant ranch and have feuded over its economic future, in what looks like a 50-50 standoff. Each declined to comment.

13. EAST FAMILY

Zapata, Texas

500,000 acres in Texas

A century after the creation of the King Ranch, the Alice Kleberg East branch of the family decided to forgo horse breeding and foreign diversification to focus on cattle. In a division of the estate, East, a grandchild of Captain King of the King Ranch, was given the Santa Fe Ranch, which adjoins the original spread to the west. The land has been divided again but is still owned by East descendants.

14. ROBERT EARL HOLDING

Salt Lake City

500,000 acres in Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Idaho, and

other western states

Starting in 1952 with a 10 percent interest in a single gas station/motel in Little America, Wyoming, Robert Earl Holding has built up a diverse energy-land-and-recreation operation across the West. He is said to own 450,000 acres of ranchland in Wyoming and Montana, as well as Idaho's famous Sun Valley ski resort and the Snow Basin resort in Utah, which will be one of the sites for the Winter Olympics in 2002. According to his secretary, Holding, 69, "doesn't give interviews."

15. O'CONNOR FAMILY

Victoria, Texas

375,000 acres in Texas and elsewhere

Thomas O'Connor had it both ways. After emigrating from Ireland to Texas in the 1830s, he obtained a Spanish land grant in South Texas around what is now Victoria. He then fought against Mexico in the Texas revolution and, while retaining his Spanish rights, won rights to even more acreage from the winning Texans. "Land does not blow away," O'Connor once commented. "Dollars do." He eventually established a 500,000-acre cattle ranch just north of the King Ranch and acquired another 200,000 acres in various other states. The big money, though, started rolling in during the 1930s when a gigantic oil field was discovered. Some of the land was sold off; the several branches of the O'Connor family later diversified into other endeavors, including banking. No one would comment.

16. CLARENCE SCHARBAUER JR.

Midland, Texas

355,000 acres in Texas and New Mexico

In 1889, John Scharbauer moved from New York to West Texas to pursue a frontier life. He bought sheep, cattle, and lots of land. Some of the land lay in Texas's Permian Basin, which in 1935 became the site of one of the richest oil fields ever found in the United States. While pocketing the energy royalties of the still-producing field, grandson Clarence, 71, oversees the Scharbauer Cattle Company. He dabbles in horses and owned Alysheba, winner of the 1987 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. He didn't return our calls.

17. ANNE BURNETT MARION

Fort Worth, Texas, and Santa Fe, New Mexico

350,000 acres in Texas

Anne Burnett Marion is the owner of one of Texas's most famous spreads, the 6666 Ranch, which is near the tiny panhandle town of Guthrie. Her great-grandfather Samuel Burk Burnett acquired the cattle ranch in the 1870s -- the winnings, legend has it, of a poker hand containing four sixes. A savvy businessman, Burnett later successfully lobbied for grazing rights on federal land by inviting President Theodore Roosevelt to go wolf hunting with him. The 6666 Ranch (or Four Sixes, as the locals call it) and some later acquisitions have remained intact due to several factors: the way Burnett, who died in 1922, structured his will; the discovery of oil; and a paucity of descendants. The present owner, Marion, 58, is a noted art collector and philanthropist. She has one child and is married to John Marion, a former chairman of Sotheby's. John Marion says of his wife, "Land is really in her blood."

18. J. R. SIMPLOT

Boise, Idaho

310,000 acres in Idaho, California, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, and Utah

The "Potato King," as billionaire J. R. Simplot is known because of his huge frozen-french-fry operations, controls the giant 1.3-million-acre ZX Ranch near Paisley, Oregon -- mainly for cattle, not potatoes. But he owns only about 73,000 acres, with the rest leased from the federal government. That's typical of his holdings; overall, he leases an estimated 2.25 million acres from Uncle Sam. The 88-year-old Simplot was recently in Australia looking to buy a million acres there. His philosophy, as described by a spokesman: "Whatever you own will be worth more in the future."

19. BASS FAMILY

Fort Worth, Texas

300,000 acres in Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska, California, New Mexico, Kansas, Hawaii, and Colorado

With a rich father, Perry Bass, and his four rich sons -- Sid, Robert, Lee, and Edward -- it's hard to keep track of all that's owned by Fort Worth's $6 billion family. Among their holdings: an island off Texas, farms in the Midwest, California acreage, Hawaiian cattle spreads, and urban real estate. The Basses, who are notoriously closemouthed, would not comment.

20. COLLINS FAMILY

Portland, Oregon, and elsewhere

300,000 acres in Pennsylvania, California, Oregon, and Washington

In 1855, railroad engineer Truman Collins dramatically changed careers, buying 320 acres of forest plus a sawmill near Kane, Pennsylvania. After his death in 1914, the family expanded Collins Pine Company to the West Coast. The result is a bicoastal timber operation that has drawn acclaim from environmentalists for its efforts to conserve its three major forests. Though the top operating officers of parent company Collins Holding are generally hired from the outside, the current chairperson is Maribeth Collins, the widow of Truman's grandson. Says company spokesman Wade Mosby, "We've replaced every tree we've ever cut."

21. LEE FAMILY

San Mateo, New Mexico

300,000 acres in New Mexico

The tallest mountain in New Mexico south of Santa Fe is 11,301-foot-high Mount Taylor. A good chunk of it and the surrounding countryside has been owned for three generations by the Lee family. It's been a hardscrabble existence: some coal mining and cattle in a rocky area that gets only a few inches of rain a year. Says Harry Lee, "Three hundred thousand acres -- that's what we pay taxes on."

22. REYNOLDS FAMILY

Fort Davis, Texas

300,000 acres in Texas

In 1880, William D. Reynolds was already a second-generation Texas rancher, working with various siblings and in-laws to build up a cattle spread -- first near Abilene and then, in search of cheaper land, in the scenic but arid Davis Mountains of West Texas. His descendants still own and operate the Reynolds Cattle Company.

23. SUGG FAMILY

San Angelo, Texas

295,000 acres in Texas

After two decades of running cattle on leased land in Indian Territory (what is now Oklahoma), E. C. Sugg and his brothers relocated their operation to Texas in the early 1900s. And as luck would have it, oil was discovered on their new land. Today, nearly a century later, the acreage is still owned by Sugg descendants but is largely leased to other ranch operators. This extremely low profile family, however, has held on to the mineral royalties. "I don't think he's going to want to talk to you," said the wife of heir Calvin Sugg Jr. when we called. She was right.

24. LANE FAMILY

Chicago and Tucumcari, New Mexico

290,000 acres in New Mexico

Named for the shape of an adjoining mountain, the Bell Ranch near Tucumcari has been a cattle operation since 1824 when the Mexican government awarded a 655,000-acre land grant to former army captain Pablo Montoya. Over the decades, financial distresses forced division of the spread into a half-dozen smaller sections. In 1970, the Chicago-area Lane family, using profits from its publicly traded General Binding (an office-supplies maker and seller), acquired nearly half the original land grant. Some members of the family live on the ranch, which is managed by an outside professional. The Lanes had no comment.

25. COGDELL FAMILY

Tulia, Texas, and Floydada, Texas

285,000 acres in Texas

The son of a Methodist minister who moved to West Texas during the Civil War, David Muncy Cogdell quit school at age 12 to help collect debts for his father's side business -- running a general store. By age 19, Cogdell had bought the first of what would become a string of Texas panhandle ranches that stretches for 150 miles northeast and southeast of Lubbock. After Texaco discovered oil on his land, Cogdell became a philanthropist, endowing hospitals, churches, and colleges before his death in 1964. Today, sons Billy, 64, and D. M. junior, 74, have divided much of the large holdings. Why keep so much land? Says Billy, "They're not going to make any more of it."

These 25 landholders round out the top 50**

26. COLLIER FAMILY

Naples, Florida

280,000 acres in Florida and Arizona

Early in this century, Barron Gift Collier became rich by selling streetcar advertising. Then, in 1911, he started plowing money into Florida land, buying so much -- a million acres at one point -- that the county containing his home base of Naples was named after him. His descendants still have an estimated 275,000 acres of farm, ranch, and citrus land in Florida plus valuable acreage in downtown Phoenix. The family is involved in the lengthy process of giving the federal government 108,000 acres of environmentally sensitive wetlands in Florida as well as $35 million in exchange for more than 15 acres in Phoenix.

27. JONES HEIRS

Corpus Christi, Texas

280,000 acres in Texas

Sitting largely unheralded in South Texas for a century have been the descendants of William Whitby Jones, a second-generation rancher who arrived after the Civil War and started buying ranchland. Today, the heirs have a spread midway between Corpus Christi and Laredo -- not too far west of the King Ranch.

28. TRUE FAMILY

Casper, Wyoming

255,000 acres in Wyoming

About 255,000 acres of eastern and southeastern Wyoming are deeded in the name of True Ranches. That's the business run out of Casper by David True, who is a second-generation rancher. The family has oil interests as well. "Land ownership, I believe, is a good investment," True comments. "It certainly is something that is very tangible."

29. WEBBER FAMILY

Bangor, Maine

250,000 acres in Maine

In the 1880s, John Prescott Webber became a land player in his native Maine when he acquired 30,000 acres of timberland from a defaulting borrower. He died in 1911 owning 200,000 acres. The next two generations doubled the holding. But his great-grandson G. Pierce Webber, who took the helm of Webber Timberlands in 1958, has had to sell off approximately 40 percent of the stake over the years to pay various estate taxes connected with the 40 Webber descendants.

Webber, who turns 87 this month, is not optimistic that the next generation will keep the lands intact. "For me there's a sentimental value," he says. "But some would like to liquidate the whole damn thing."

30. DAVID L. WALKER

Fort Pierce, Florida

245,000 acres in Nevada

The Winecup-Gamble Ranch in the northeastern corner of Nevada has changed hands a number of times since the days Bing Crosby owned a part of it. At one point during the early 1980s, a utility company acquired the cattle spread as a site for a coal-fuel electric power plant, but the company's plans were later scrapped. Since 1993, the owner has been David L. Walker, a citrus broker in Fort Pierce, Florida. Walker bought the ranch for $7 million with his proceeds from some small but well-situated acreage near Disney World. He declined to comment.

31. ELLWOOD HEIRS

Colorado City, Texas; Chicago; and Waterford, Connecticut

240,000 acres in Texas and New Mexico

How to keep the damn cattle from running away? Barbed wire. Isaac Ellwood was a co-holder of the patent for barbed wire -- a factor that was as important in the development of the West as the railroads. He was also a landowner and bought his first ranch -- at a dollar an acre -- in 1889 near Colorado City, Texas, 220 miles west of Dallas. His holdings became known as the Spade Ranches, one of Texas's legendary cattle operations. Ellwood's far-flung descendants, with last names like Keeney, Chappell, and Bassham, still own the show, which embraces four ranches in Texas and one in eastern New Mexico near Tucumcari. "We feel an obligation for husbanding the land," says Frank Chappell, board chairman of the parent company, Renderbrook Spade. "And it's not too bad a commodity."

32. LANGDALE FAMILY

Valdosta, Georgia

240,000 acres in Georgia

In the woody terrain of south Georgia near the Florida line, J. W. Langdale opened up a business in 1894, concentrating on pine lumber and pine products, such as turpentine. To ensure a constant supply of raw materials, he acquired a lot of timberland. Since then, the Langdales have diversified into banking and even car dealerships.

33. GERALD LYDA SR.

San Antonio

235,000 acres in Texas and Oklahoma

A well-known general contractor in Texas, Gerald Lyda has been buying and selling ranches for decades. In 1985, he acquired the scenic Ladder Ranch near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. He sold it in 1992 to Ted Turner, then bought the century-old 186,000-acre Elsinore Ranch near Fort Stockton, Texas. Lyda promptly renamed it La Escalera, Spanish for "the ladder." That deal, however, has landed the 74-year-old Lyda in U.S. tax court. The IRS claims -- improperly, he says -- that Lyda understated profits and overstated allowable expenses. The case is pending. In any event, says Lyda, "I've never lost a dollar on a piece of land."

34. KOCH FAMILY

Wichita, Kansas

220,000 acres in Texas, Kansas, and Montana

With revenues topping $20 billion, Koch Industries is the country's second-largest privately owned business. In the 1920s, founder Fred Koch invented the thermal-cracking process to refine extra gas from crude oil. But he also got the company into the cattle business by buying ranches and leasing additional acreage. Its Matador Cattle subsidiary has become one of the country's largest beef producers. Fred died in 1967. His sons Charles and David run the enterprise. No one from the company would comment.

35. JOHN IRWIN

New York

215,000 acres in Arizona and California

The ORO Ranch, north of Prescott, Arizona, is one of those legendary spreads. It runs for hundreds of thousands of acres, an area so big that the cowboys use chuck wagons in the field because a network of roads would be too expensive to maintain. According to Arizona records, the ORORanch's deeded portion -- 165,000 or so acres -- belongs to John N. Irwin III, 42, a New York venture capitalist who is a managing director of Hillside Capital. His grandfather was Thomas Watson, the founder of IBM. In San Benito County, California, according to local officials, Irwin also owns two cattle ranches near Hollister that total 60,000 deeded acres. He did not return our calls.

36. FORBES FAMILY

New York and New Jersey

205,000 acres in Colorado and Missouri

The late Malcolm Forbes Sr., the flamboyant proprietor of Forbes magazine, sure knew how to parlay his products. Starting in 1969, he acquired -- for about $22 an acre -- 256,000 acres around the historic Trinchera Ranch in southeastern Colorado. Over the years, he sold off a portion for $700 an acre through ads in his magazine. He used the same technique with a 12,800-acre parcel near Warsaw, Missouri. Landholdings, which include foreign properties, are held in the name of Forbes Inc., the company owned by his four sons and run by one of them, former presidential hopeful Steve.

37. HEARST FAMILY

New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco

205,000 acres in California

Over a period of 50 years, newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst expanded a big family inheritance into vast wealth, then almost lost it all in the depression. He did, however, manage to hold on to much of his land, including his legendary California coastal retreat, San Simeon. After Hearst's death in 1951, San Simeon was given to the state of California, excluding the surrounding 80,000 acres. Other properties include acreage near Redding, California. It's all titled under the name of the New York Citybased Hearst Corporation, which is owned by his descendants but controlled by non-family executives. According to historians, this was the old man's way of keeping the assets out of the hands of his five oft married sons.

38. PHILIP ANSCHUTZ

Denver

200,000 acres in Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado

During the 1950s, oilman Fred Anschutz bought a 75,000-acre ranch straddling the Utah-Wyoming line. In 1978, it proved to be atop one of the country's largest gas fields. The profits allowed him and his son, Philip, who had taken over the operation, to retire debt and expand. Better known in recent years as a railroad tycoon, Anschutz fils, 56, appears to be selling mineral land and buying cattle-grazing land in Wyoming, including the 140,000-acre Bolton Ranch near Rawlins. The media-shy Anschutz, who wouldn't comment, is also a player in downtown-Denver real estate.

39. LESTER CLARK

Breckenridge, Texas

200,000 acres in Texas and South Dakota

Lester Clark, a teacher turned oil-field worker, has built a fair-sized land empire through shrewd trading. Now 80, he is always buying and selling ranches. The former Texas state legislator sometimes picks up portions of a famous spread that are for sale due to financial distress or some other reason. "I move in and out depending on conditions," he says. "But I like land. I like to look at it."

40. JOE FINLEY JR.

Encinal, Texas

200,000 acres in Texas

Joe Finley owns the sprawling Callaghan Ranch in South Texas, which was originally a sheep ranch founded in the 1860s by a Civil War captain. Finley grew up on the ranch because his father was the ranch manager. Following World War II, a combination of financial problems and the deaths of two of the ranch's three owners eventually provided a buying opportunity. Finley and his father, who had switched into cattle because of coyote attacks on the sheep, purchased the spread for something like three dollars an acre. Finley had no comment.

41. GARVEY FAMILY

Wichita, Kansas, and elsewhere

200,000 acres in Nevada

From a base in Wichita, entrepreneur Willard Garvey has put together real-estate and agricultural businesses under the umbrella of Garvey Industries. The company's 200,000-acre holding located north of Winnemucca, Nevada, folds nicely into almost two million additional acres leased from the federal government.

42. KILLAM FAMILY

Laredo, Texas

200,000 acres in Texas

In 1920, after serving in the Oklahoma legislature, O. W. Killam moved to South Texas on a wildcatter's hunch about what lay under the fabled streets of Laredo. His hunch turned out to be prescient. Killam ushered in the area's first oil strike and the beginnings of a family land dynasty. The Killam family has since diversified into ranching, banking, and philanthropy (Texas A&M International University's new campus is on land that was donated by the Killam family). O. W.'s son, Radcliffe Killam, ran the bulk of the show for decades but has handed over the reins to David, one of his three children.

43. GAGE FAMILY

San Antonio and Marathon, Texas

190,000 acres in Texas

Sometime before 1890, E. L. Gage and his brother A. S. Gage took up cattle ranching in the Big Bend area of West Texas. Within 15 years, A. S. had emerged as the dominant player, acquiring nearly 400,000 acres. According to tax records, his decendants still hold nearly half of that, and they continue to run cattle on the land, although the business office has been moved 300 miles east to San Antonio.

44. JAMES G. BOSWELL II

Los Angeles

185,000 acres in California and Arizona

James G. Boswell left Georgia and headed west in the 1920s, settling in the tiny town of Corcoran in California's fertile San Joaquin Valley. Thanks partly to the shrewd acquisition of federally subsidized water, Boswell developed the world's largest cotton operation and a fair-sized cattle feedlot in Arizona, too. He married into the Chandler family, then as now the owners of the Los Angeles Times. Boswell died in 1952. Since then his nephew James II, now 74, and grandnephew, James W., 44, have expanded J. G. Boswell Company into a marvel of agribusiness. In 1995, the Boswells bought out their local farming arch-rival, Fred Sayler, adding 25,000 acres to the family homestead. The family declined to comment.

45. YETTA & PHIlLIP BIDEGAIN

Tucumcari, New Mexico

180,000 acres in New Mexico

In 1947, the owners of two-thirds of the huge, historic eastern New Mexico land grant given a century earlier to Pablo Montoya (see the Lane family, number 24) decided to cash out. They created six cattle ranches and put them up for sale at seven dollars an acre. A 117,000-acre section in the southwestern corner, informally known as Mesa Rica Country, was bought by Dr. Thomas Hoover and his wife, Clara, who already owned the adjacent spread, the T-4. The expanded T-4 is now owned by a family limited partnership headed by the Hoovers' daughter, Yetta Bidegain, and her college-sweetheart husband, Phillip. They live on the land, and their son, Phillip, now heads the cattle operation. "We are stewards of the land," says Yetta. "This land belongs to a superior being."

46. JOHN HAMPTON

Portland, Oregon

180,000 acres in Oregon and Washington

Call it upstreaming. Lester Hampton was running a retail lumberyard in Tacoma when his supply was cut off because of World War II. So he decided to switch sides, buying a mill and, later, timber acreage. His son John, 70, has aggressively expanded the family business, which is now called Hampton Affiliates. In less than three years, he has more than doubled the acreage Hampton owns, sometimes paying $4,000 an acre -- pricey for timber.

47. M. H. W. "MONTIE" RITCHIE

Clarendon, Texas

180,000 acres in Texas

In 1876, legendary cattleman Charles Goodnight established a sprawling ranch in the middle of Indian country, in Texas's majestic Palo Duro Canyon (Goodnight's story was the inspiration for Larry McMurtry's novel Lonesome Dove). It was named the JA Ranch, after Jerry Adair, a Colorado investor who had put up two-thirds of the money. Adair's heirs eventually came to own what at one point was a million-acre spread. What remains of that spread is now owned by Adair's English-born grandson, Montie Ritchie, who studied at Cambridge University, moved to the ranch in 1931 "looking for adventure," as he once put it, and never left. He didn't return our calls.

48. BROADBENT FAMILY

El Centro, California, and Salt Lake City

170,000 acres in Wyoming, Utah, and California

Utah native Joseph Ray Broadbent learned ranching in the 1930s while working for a trade group in California, then started out on his own in the lamb-feeding business in California's Imperial Valley. From this developed Broadbent Brothers Sheep, which has extensive operations in three states. Broadbent died last year at age 86. His widow, Lorna, is president of the operation. Their son Ray Broadbent oversees the California end. The family declined to comment.

49. EMMETT F. McCOY

San Marcos, Texas

170,000 acres in Texas

Emmett McCoy's day job is chief executive officer of McCoy Corporation, a successful 106-store chain of building-supplies stores. Starting in 1987, McCoy used some of his profits from McCoy Corporation to acquire cattle ranchland around Balmorhea, in far-west Texas near the scenic Davis Mountains. Acquisitions have been made in both his name and the name of McCoy Land & Cattle. Says the 73-year-old ex-roofer, "You can look at land -- you can't look at a stock."

50. WILLIAMS FAMILY

Saint Louis

170,000 acres in Texas and Kansas

In 1883, three Saint Louis businessmen and three cattlemen from Texas incorporated as Pitchfork Land and Cattle and began operating a 100,000-acre spread east of Lubbock, Texas. One of the Missourians, Eugene Williams, was a shoe manufacturer who had reportedly bought into the project sight unseen. Over the years, the Pitchfork expanded at every opportunity -- no small task considering that neither oil nor gas was ever found under the ranch. The operation now includes ranches in Kansas. Technically, the Pitchfork's main office is still in Saint Louis and is overseen by retired banker Eugene Williams Jr., 72, grandson of the founder.

 

More Baron Lands: The Next Fifty

Rank
Owner
Home
Location
Acreage
Land use

An asterisk indicates that the total acreage is indistinguishable from the previous listing.
In such cases, the landowners are listed alphabetically.

 

51
Eddy family
Seattle
WA
160,000
Development, timber

52
Whittenburg heirs
Amarillo, TX
NM, TX
155,000
Cattle, oil

 

53
Gary Boyce
Moffat, CO
CO
150,000
Farm, mountains

 

54*
L. R. "Bobby" French Jr.
Midland, TX
TX
150,000
Cattle, oil

 

55*
A. W. Moursund
Round Mtn., TX
NE, OK, TX, SD
150,000
Cattle, farm

 

56*
Robert Rebholtz
Boise, ID
ID, KS, NV, WA
150,000
Cattle, sheep

 

57*
Scott family
Ranchester, WY
MT, WY
150,000
Cattle

 

58*
Yturria heirs
Brownsville, TX
TX
150,000
Cattle, oil

 

59
Campbell family
Pampa, TX
AZ, TX
140,000
Cattle

 

60*
Bruce & Dan Harrison
Houston,TX
TX
140,000
Cattle

 

61*
Wells family
Ft. Lauderdale, FL
NE
140,000
Cattle

 

62
Kokernot family
Ft. Davis, TX
TX
135,000
Cattle

 

63
Victor Eldred
Alliance, NE
NE
130,000
Cattle, fishing

 

64
Gary Booth
Greeley, CO
CO, MT, WY
125,000
Cattle

 

65*
Joe Kirk Fulton
Lubbock, TX
TX
125,000
Cattle

 

66
Damon family
Hawaii
CA, HI
120,000
Cattle, farm

 

67
Duda family
Oviedo, FL
FL
115,000
Citrus, farm

 

68*
Dunn family
Ashland, ME
ME
115,000
Timber

 

69*
Peter Taggares
Othello, WA
NE, OR, WA
115,000
Farm

 

70
Cassidy heirs
Bangor, ME
ME
110,000
Timber

 

71*
Ellison family
Salt Lake City
NV
110,000
Sheep

 

72*
Milliken family
Bangor, ME
ME
110,000
Timber

 

73*
Mike Smith
Amarillo, TX
TX
110,000
Cattle

 

74
Bogle family
Dexter, NM
AZ, NM
105,000
Cttl., Development, farm

 

75*
Combs family
Marathon, TX
TX
105,000
Cattle

 

76
Bo Adams
Leachville, AR
AR
100,000
Farm

 

77*
Wes Adams
Las Vegas, NV
NM, TX
100,000
Cattle

 

78*
Leslie & Linda Davis
Cimarron, NM
NM
100,000
Cattle

 

79*
Drummond family
Pawhuska, OK
OK
100,000
Cattle

 

80*
Eshleman family
Hebbronville, TX
TX
100,000
Cattle

 

81*
Fasken heirs
Midland, TX
TX
100,000
Cattle, oil

 

82*
Griffin family
Avon Park, FL
FL
100,000
Cattle, citrus

 

83*
Leon & Tori Hirsch
Greenwich, CT
MT, WY
100,000
Cattle, fishing

 

84*
Jack Huning
Los Lunas, NM
NM
100,000
Cattle, Development

 

85*
Peter Jackson
Santa Barbara, CA
ID, NV
100,000
Cattle

 

86*
Gaylon Lawrence
Sikeston, MO
AR, MO
100,000
Farm

 

87*
Linnebur family
Denver
CO
100,000
Development, farm

 

88*
Monahan family
Hyannis, NE
NE
100,000
Farm

 

89*
Morrison family
Hastings, NE
LA, NE
100,000
Cattle, farm

 

90*
Steve Page
Glasglow, MT
MT, NE
100,000
Cattle

 

91*
Pope family
Midland, TX
TX
100,000
Cattle

 

92*
Powell heirs
Eldorado, TX
NE, TX
100,000
Cattle

 

93*
Robinson family
Makaweli, HI
HI
100,000
Cattle

 

94*
Scully family
Beatrice, NE
NE
100,000
Farm

 

95*
Sun family
Casper, WY
WY
100,000
Cattle

 

96*
Taylor family
New Bern, NC
CO, NC
100,000
Cattle, farm

 

97*
Dennis Washington
Missoula, MT
MT, OR
100,000
Ranch, timber

 

98
Binion family
Las Vegas, NV
MT
95,000
Cattle

 

99*
Dunigan family
Abilene, TX
NM
95,000
Cattle, mountns.

 

100*
Taylor family
Amarillo, TX
NM, TX
95,000
Cattle