King Ranch

The Founding of King Ranch

Captain Richard King

The resourceful and driven Captain Richard King

The story starts in the mid-1830s with an eleven-year-old boy indentured by his destitute family to a jeweler in New York City.

The jeweler was a difficult man, and the boy was chafing under the man’s mistreatment. Nascent greatness would not be shackled or ever satisfied with such circumstances. At this tender age, the restless and adventuresome young Richard King made contacts on the Manhattan wharves and soon stowed away on a ship heading south.  King was allowed to prove his worth by working as a cabin cub for the remainder of the journey south.

Young Richard spent the next several years learning the steamboat trade.  He distinguished himself as a tireless worker and a fast learner with an ever-keen eye for opportunity. He rose quickly in the steam boating business on the Alabama and Florida rivers, becoming a captain in 1847. After moving to South Texas, he founded a steamboat line with his long time friend Mifflin Kenedy – setting up ports and moving goods and people along the lower Rio Grande.

In the middle of the 19th century, Captain King traveled north from the Rio Grande to Corpus Christi. He traversed a region then known as the Wild Horse Desert and was captivated by it. His eye for opportunity was at its sharpest when, after well over a hundred miles of riding over the wild lands, he and his party came to the cool, refreshing waters of the Santa Gertrudis Creek. King saw that this place nourished abundant wildlife and thought that it could also sustain domestic stock.  King’s vision for a great cattle ranch began to take shape.

The 1860s were busy, challenging years for Richard King and his new bride Henrietta, the refined daughter of a Presbyterian minister from back East. This refinement would become a hallmark of the remote ranch as weary wayfarers found, over the years, not only an impressive ranching operation, but an oasis of gentility and warm hospitality in the very midst of an otherwise wild and often hostile country.

The Civil War years found the resourceful Captain King thriving in his steamboat business by running the Union blockade, but his long-term vision was for the new ranch he was building. His bride Henrietta played an important role in guiding daily activities on the Ranch when the Captain was away on business.

Captain King, ever the innovator, did a new thing on the land he was taming.