When people think of legendary Texas cattle ranches the images that first come to mind are iconic, open-range operations like King Ranch of South Texas. In Henry C. “Hank” Smith and the Cross B Ranch, historian M. Scott Sosebee tells the story of one pioneer settler’s small but significant ranch in West Texas. The Cross B Ranch of Blanco Canyon struggled but endured to become quite successful, even while surrounded by big ranching empires. Founder Hank Smith went on to become one of the region’s most prominent, civic-minded citizens.
Born in Bavaria, Smith left Germany in 1851 at the age of fourteen and traveled to Ohio to live with a sister. Less than two years later, he left Ohio to seek better opportunities in the American West. In the course of his westering life he worked as a teamster on the Santa Fe Trail, searched for gold in Arizona and New Mexico, served in both the Confederate and Union armies during the Civil War, operated a freighting business, owned a hotel, and eventually moved to Blanco Canyon and became a stock raiser. Although he did raise cattle, for most of his life as a stockman he raised twice as many sheep as he did cows, yet was one of the first in West Texas to upgrade his cattle stock with purebred bloodlines.
In Henry C. “Hank” Smith and the Cross B Ranch, M. Scott Sosebee enriches our understanding of western heritage and ranching in America through a compelling and lively biography set on the small stage of an unassuming but important ranch.
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Published by Texas A&M University Press