Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wednesday Western- Andrea Downing


Writing my book, Loveland, involved a great deal of research into the British ownership of large cattle companies in the American West.  One company that kept cropping up was the Matador, and I became very intrigued by this enterprise that existed into the 1950s.
Down in Texas in the late 1870s, two men established a ranch together—Henry Campbell, a cattleman, and A.M. Britton, a banker—just below the Llano Estacado in the northwest of the state.  It was an area cleared of both Indians and buffalo and the men chose an area that was well watered, near the Pease Rivers, despite its proximity to the Staked Plain.  The ranch was organized as the Matador Cattle Company and had working capital of $50,000; their brands were '50M' and a Flying V (although Ike Blasingame, in Dakota Cowboy, refers to a Drag V).   However, in the years after the Civil War, American banks were not lending money for venture capital while the British were actively seeking investments in cattle, land, mining and other interests and so, in order to expand the company, the men went to Scotland to pursue investment money.  The Scottish view of investment in cattle was somewhat different from that of the English.  While the English saw open range as a way of getting something for nothing, the canny Scots sought to buy as much land for ownership as possible; this would prove crucial at a later date.  In 1882, Campbell and Britton therefore sold the ranch to a consortium of Dundee merchants for the sum of $1,250,000, some of which they took in shares in the new company.  Campbell stayed on as Superintendent of the new ranch which at that time held sway over 100,000 acres and over a million acres of open range with 40,000 head of cattle.  It was named The Matador Land and Cattle Company.
Over the years the Matador expanded.  Campbell left the company in 1891 and Murdo McKenzie became manager.  Thought by Theodore Roosevelt to be one of the most experienced and farsighted cattlemen, McKenzie oversaw the expansion of the ranch, the construction of water tanks, windmills and reservoir, and the purchase and leasing of further lands.  He increased the value of the herd as well by the purchase of purebred bulls.  It was McKenzie’s stewardship that saw the company through the terrible winter of 1886 when 60-75% of herds were lost.  Had it not been for investments in land, the company might have folded.
In 1912, the Matador leased out rights to the Quanah, Acme and Pacific Railroad.  This permitted the railroad 100 ft either side of tracks through lands owned by the Matador and brought settlers to the new town of Roaring Springs, partially owned by the Matador as well.  While there were lean years in which no dividends were paid to shareholders, the well-managed company did pay 15-20% in other years, a dividend we can only wonder at in today’s market.  McKenzie’s dabbling in local politics to prevent a high increase in taxes certainly would have helped this cause.
The Matador’s expansion continued well into the 20th Century with leasing of northern pastures.  In Ike Blasingame’s Dakota Cowboy, one gets a good idea of how leasing from the Lakota Sioux was handled, and it would have been similar on the Canadian and Montana reservations. There would be sorting of cattle by Reps during round-up as well as throw-back drives to keep cattle on their own range. In the 1920s, the Matador leased out some of its own Texan holdings to oil companies for drilling rights, but nothing was ever found.
Despite that, land proved to be the Matador’s most valuable asset.  High beef prices through two World Wars did not compare with the increase in land values.  In 1951, a consortium headed by Lazard Bros. offered the shareholders $23.70 a share for stock which had once been valued at 70 cents a share.  Then holding more than 800,000 acres and 50,000 head of cattle, the takeover went ahead.  Ostensibly a corporate raid, it resulted in liquidating the company into no less than 15 separate units.  The last of the old-time British cattle companies became American in 1952 when Fred Koch of Koch Industries bought three parcels of the original Texas ranch along with the headquarters near the town of Matador.  Forming the new Matador Cattle Company, Koch also bought the two original brands of the company, the Flying V and the “50M”.  The ranch continues today as a subsidiary of Koch Industries and is involved in the breeding of horses, Hereford, Angus and Akaushi cattle, as well as running a guest lodge and hunting operation.

Blurb for Loveland:
When Lady Alexandra Calthorpe returns to the Loveland, Colorado, ranch owned by her father, the Duke, she has little idea of how the experience will alter her future. Headstrong and willful, Alex tries to overcome a disastrous marriage in England and be free of the strictures of Victorian society --and become independent of men. That is, until Jesse Makepeace saunters back into her life...
Hot-tempered and hot-blooded cowpuncher Jesse Makepeace can’t seem to accept that the child he once knew is now the ravishing yet determined woman before him. Fighting rustlers proves a whole lot easier than fighting Alex when he’s got to keep more than his temper under control.
Arguments abound as Alex pursues her career as an artist and Jesse faces the prejudice of the English social order. The question is, will Loveland live up to its name?

He watched as she sat on a stool and pulled first one boot, then the other off and kicked them aside, then she stood and put her leg on the stool to roll down her stockings one by one.

He marveled at her wantonness, her lack of propriety. “Alex, stop,” he said, laying his hand on hers. “Stop. You know…”

But he was lost; she took his face in her hands and pulled him to her, kissing him so any resistance he had had was now shattered. His heart was beating faster at the sweetness of her mouth, the softness of her tongue, the lack of air as they sought each other. His hands moved over her feeling the outline of her body, knowing its curves, its gentleness, its yielding. “Are you sure?” he asked at last.

“I want you so much, Jesse, I want you so much, I’m not waiting three years. And if…if anything happens, so what? We’ll get married, that’ll be it.”

“Yes, but Alex, you can’t…I mean it’d be a shotgun wedding, it’s not how—”

“Shh.” She put her finger to his mouth and then turned for him to unhook her gown. He ran his hands gently down her exposed back, feeling each scar, then kissed her neck.

“You have nothing on under...”

“It’s how the gown is made. Monsieur Worth builds the undergarments into the gown.” Her voice was at barely a whisper, a tremor showing her nerves. She turned and still held the gown up to her, then, looking at Jesse, let it drop to the floor.


Andrea Downing has spent most of her life in the UK where she received an M.A. from the University of Keele in Staffordshire.  She married and raised a beautiful daughter and  stayed on in England to teach and write, living in the Derbyshire Peak District, the English Lake District and the Chiltern Hills before finally moving into London. During this time, family vacations were often on guest ranches in the American West, where she and her daughter have clocked up some 17 ranches to date. In addition, she has traveled widely throughout Europe, South America, and Africa, living briefly in Nigeria. In 2008 she returned to the city of her birth, NYC, but frequently exchanges the canyons of city streets for the wide open spaces of the West.  Her love of horses, ranches, rodeo and just about anything else western is reflected in her writing.  Loveland, a western historical romance published by The Wild Rose Press, is her first book.  She is a member of Romance Writers of America and Women Writing the West. My website is


Jerrie Alexander said...
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Jerrie Alexander said...

Andrea, I love that you do the research needed to bring your reader into the story! The excerpt was hot and intriguing.

Andrea Downing said...

Thanks so much Jerrie. That's very encouraging. And good luck with The Green Eyed Doll!

Anonymous said...
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Andrea Downing said...

Well this certainly has been an interesting visit with you, Paty!!! Thanks so much for having me here!

Paty Jager said...

Thanks for hanging out with me, Andrea!

Eunice Boeve said...

Interesting Andrea. I knew little if nothing about these cattle companies until I started reading your blogs and guest blogs. Wow! That's all I've got to say about the excerpt. :-)