Our History

Lucas Charles Brite first arrived at the base of Capote Peak on October 12, 1885. Mr. Brite’s own account states, “ Before me was a new and untried country-an experiment. I wondered what the future held in store for me. I fully realized whether successful or unsuccessful that I would necessarily have to endure many hardships.”

Luke Brite was born in 1860 in Caldwell County, Texas. When he was 3 years old, his father died. As a young boy he learned to ride the ranges. At the age of 25 young Luke began trailing a herd of common cattle belonging to a half-dozen friends; Brite’s herd was a part of it. The men went from Caldwell County, Texas to the North Fork of the Concho where they spent the winter. The following Spring , they headed for Presidio County. All the ground was taken around Marfa so Brite continued trailing his herd southwest and finally settled in the Capote Mountain Area in Presidio County, Texas.

Nature severely the mettle of young Luke Brite. All who settled that area quickly learned that it was unrelenting- a harsh land for tough men. The first year, that part of Texas was drought-stricken, and Brite lost one-fourth of his herd. But he was no quitter; he accepted hardships and trials as part of the game.

Brite registered the Bar-Cross brand in 1904, the year he established the foundation for the present herd. He purchased 300 registered heifers from the Wyoming Hereford Ranch in Cheyenne and 135 head from William Powell at Channing, Texas. Sires of outstanding breeding and individuality were bought from the registered herds of Gudgell and Simpson and other quality bulls from outside herds. He never bought bulls from the same ranch two years in a row. The Bar-Cross cattle were in demand by breeders because of their outstanding uniformity, their adaptability to the range and their natural instinct to rustle for themselves, plus their desirable beef characteristics. In 1910, Brite began his annual sale of 1,000 bulls a year for 14 years. Luke’s wit is reflected by an advertisement he ran in various publications:

“Big- Bones, Broad- Backed, Bald- Faced Beauties- Buy Bar- Cross Bulls- Brite’s Best.”

In 1914, Mr. Brite purchased his last bulls. At that time Mr. Brite bought bulls from W.H. Curtis of Kentucky, and from the original Gudgell-Simpson herd. Following that time he took breeding principals to another level believing that the bulls bred on his own ranch were up to the standard and better adapted to range use.

“As I remember, it was about the year 1915 that the foot and mouth disease broke out in Missouri and Kansas. I was afraid to go there for bulls, as had been my custom. In fact the disease was spreading so rapidly that I considered it unsafe to ship in bulls from any source. I saved bull calves of my breeding that I kept in a pasture separated from my other cattle. The result was so gratifying that I continue using bulls from my own herd. It is through line-breeding that the most satisfactory results are obtained.”Mr. Brite

What Luke Brite accomplished has endured through the management of Van Neil, Oscar Wells, J.E.White, Jr. and now Jim White, III, a 4th generation grandson,who manages the Brite Ranch today.

Line-breeding has been the most successful means for establishing uniform quality and breeding in the Brite cattle. The ranch continues their operation paying strict attention to high ethical standards and business principles which contribute mightily to the ranch’s economic success.

Christmas Raid

On Dec. 25 I917, the Brite was raided by about 45 Mexican bandits – outlaws -believed to be supporters of Francisco “Pancho” Villa. Villa needed funds and supplies to carry on his revolution in Mexico. As a result of this and other Mexican revolutions, there continued to be a stream of bandits from the south surging along the Rio Grande. Scant means of livelihood in the rough mountainous country south of the border made thieving, raiding, banditry, and murder an attractive avenue to “ easy money.” Thus the Brite Store, its goods and the ranch horses became a target for the bandits.

Pancho Villa was not at this raid. The leader of the bandits who some said was the brother-in-law of Pancho Villa, was shot from his horse. At any rate the body was taken to Marfa that afternoon and later claimed by friends and shipped to Mexico.

The ranch’s telephone lines had been cut to prevent any call for help in what proved to be a well-planned raid.

Most of the Brite ranch people, including the Brite family were away for Christmas except for the ranch foreman, T.T. Van Neill, his family, a few household employees and a couple of cowboys.

The raiders rode in from the south riding up the old Mail Hack trail. They dismounted their horses in the yard and scattered for cover and a gunfight broke out. The two men who were doing their chores in the barn, were captured. One of the men was sent to the house with a demand to surrender. Neill returned the reply, ”We will never surrender! We will die here first!”

Outnumbered, Neill gave the raiders the key to the Brite Store. The bandits gathered up clothes, canned goods and cash from inside the store while other raiders rounded up the best horses and stole all the saddles.

It was during the store looting when Mickey Welch, a postman, arrived at the ranch in his mail stage with two Mexican passengers. The raiders shot the passengers and hanged Welch in the store. One passenger is buried here a short distance from the Headquarters.

When Rev. H.M. Bandy and his family arrived at the ranch for Christmas dinner, the raiders were still at the headquarters.

They allowed the Bandy’s to reach the Neill home. After a prayer, Brother Bandy took a rifle in hand to help defend the ranch.

Neighbor James L. Cobb heard all the shooting and came to investigate. He then drove 12 miles to telephone Luke Brite in Marfa who called Col. George Langhorne of the Eighth Calvary for help.

The families at the Brite Ranch were finally rescued when Cobb returned with armed neighbors and soldiers.

By the time the posse arrived in automobiles, the raiders mounted on fresh Brite horses fled west toward the Rough Rimrock country. They led the pack horses loaded heavily with goods from the Brite store; escaping down the narrow pass on the Rim Rock. Colonel Langhorne from Camp Marfa and fellow soldiers borrowed horses from neighboring ranchers and joined troops meeting at the Brite Headquarters. There were no horses left at the ranch and no trails that cars could take. So the pursuers lit out on foot hoping to get within range of the fleeing bandits with their high powered rifles.

Smoke of battle cleared. It was Christmas afternoon. The idea of peace on earth among men of good will never seemed quite so important. A terrible memory lingered in the minds of all.

In 1918, Luke Brite built a small block-house fort at the ranch, equipping it with a searchlight, machine guns, and long-range rifles, One young Brite cowboy named Lee Trimble joined the Texas Rangers – and was soon stationed in a camp high on the Rim overlooking the old Knight Trail. His job was to watch the trail for bandits, telegraph the fort at the Brite headquarters and thus protect the ranch and its familys from any future attacks.