A Guide to the Morris Ranch Papers, 1893-1929
Francis Morris, a New York broker, formed the Morris Ranch in southwestern Gillespie and northeastern Kerr counties when he purchased 23,000 acres in the area. He passed away two years later in 1886 and the land passed to his son John A. Morris, who turned the Ranch into one of the country’s leading centers for breeding, raising, and training racehorses. The ranch quickly became a self-contained community, with its own hotel, cotton gin, mill, school church, and post office.
John A. Morris kept about 200 mares and ten stallions at the ranch, and his cousin and manager Charles Morris, usually sent thirty yearling colts to his stables in Winchester Park, Maryland each year and sold the remaining 170. By 1895, future Kentucky Derby winner Max Hirsch was one of the jockeys who lived and worked at the ranch.
The 1897 New York anti-racing laws caused the once-prosperous ranch community to decline. In 1902, new manager, Clayton Morris, divided the land into approximately seventy tenant farms, whose primary crop was cotton. The new owner Captain Morris donated the school on the ranch property (originally used by the children of the ranch hands and owners) to Gillespie County; by 1946, it was the largest rural school in the county.
When Clayton Morris passed on, his son Reginald inherited what little was left. The town of Morris Ranch grew up around the old ranch headquarters, housing the Morris family, jockeys, schoolhouse and church, hold, cotton gin, cotton mill, and post office.
Kohout, Martin Donell. Handbook of Texas Online. “Morris Ranch.” Accessed May 25, 2010. http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/apm03.
Kohout, Martin Donell. Handbook of Texas Online. “Morris Ranch, TX.” Accessed June 11, 2010. http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hrm51.
The Morris Ranch Papers, 1893-1929, document the operation of the Morris Ranch in Gillespie and Kerr Counties. The papers include checkbooks, stubs, bills of lading, account books, shipping orders, freight bills, letter books, inventories, receipts post cards), drafts, cashbooks, invoices, ledgers, and assorted materials.
This collection is open for research use.
Morris Ranch Papers, 1893-1929, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
Detailed Description of the Papers