Range rights, a right to the water which a ranchman had appropriated and the surrounding range was, to quote Walter Prescott Webb, the sine qua non of the cattle country. Thus, the land along the Cimarron River Valley extending to the Beaver River was destined for this use of the land for cattle grazing in the High Plains today.

History of the XIT Ranch

Ranches developed in the 1800s as the days of open range ended and cattleman began buying out the claims of settlers and fencing the land into pastures with the introduction of barbed wire in 1874. The location of what is now the XIT West Ranch Headquarters was an early headquarters of the XI Ranch.

XI Ranch barn, interior framing in same Location and still XIT Ranch horsebarn

Early history of the ranch

The ranch was first known as the X-I-11 Ranch and was originally established by J. W. Summers of Keokuk, Iowa, and operated by McCoy Brothers.

In 1890, William Robert who came to America from Germany by way of Anton Chico, New Mexico, moved to the ranch on the Cimarron River where he entered into a partnership with Mr. Summers. He had become familiar with the land and realized the opportunity to graze year round after superintending a shipment of stock to Kansas City under employment of John Chisum, a famous cattleman in New Mexico. Roberts was married to Chisum's niece, Sally.

Maple Hill Settlement

Maple Hill is located on the Kaw River in Wabaunsee County, Kansas. The settlement of Maple Hill was originally a part of the Potawatomi Indian Reserve. In 1861 the treaty for breaking up the Reserve was ratified, allotments of land were made to the Indians, and the surplus lands opened for sale by the Santa Fe Railroad Company. In 1873 there was a large influx of early settlers from Massachusetts who were the children and relatives of Santa Fe officials. The roots were in place for the subsequent "Beef Bonanza" of the 1880s as people anticipated the arrival of the railroad and interest in land and prices soared with Maple Hill establishing itself as a solid settlement of ranching and farming. Two important men from cattle history chose to buy land, and own their own ranches in this picturesque and fertile area. William J. Tod, general manager of the Prairie Cattle company, "mother of British Cattle Companies" and George Fowler, son of the Fowler Brothers family, who had packing houses in Liverpool, New York and Chicago who built a beef and pork plant and lard refinery at Kansas City, Kansas, in 1881.

H. G. Adams

Horace Greeley Adams, born to Alexander and Mary Jane Porter Adams in 1862 in Mendota, Illinois, came to Maple Hill in 1879 with his family. By then, Maple Hill was an established community of easterners with Scotch-English descent.

Adams, the son of a banker, was a businessman and stockman looking for a western Kansas ranch to complement his Flint Hills operation in Maple Hill. In 1902, H. G. Adams bought the interest belonging to the widow of James Summers going into partnership with William Robert. Adams had the required capital for investment in fencing and windmills, and purchase of land and quality cattle.

Photo of the towering Maple Hill silos taken July 4, 1912
Photo of the towering Maple Hill silos taken July 4, 1912

Growing, Storing, and Feeding Corn To Cattle Expands H. G. Adams Landholdings

H. G. Adams continued to live in Maple Hill and build his business. His silos, built in 1906, were some of the first upright structures built in the state to store feed for his cattle operation which came under the name Adams Cattle Company in the teens. He was one of the first stockmen to begin feeding corn to cattle and constructed one of the earliest feedlots in Kansas in the early 20s. It is success in these ventures that enabled H. G. Adams and his three sons to continue building his ranch operations in Wabaunsee, Seward, and Meade County, Kansas and Beaver County, Oklahoma.

The partners, William Robert and H. G. Adams, Sr. posed for this photograph circa 1920. H. G. Adams was one of the first commercial cattle feeders in Kansas, and a director of the Rock Island Railroad. He was posthumously inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Great Westerners in 1997.

Upbred Cattle In West Supply Flint Hills Ranch, Grazing Bluestem In Summer

Adams and Roberts were in business together for 20 years and engaged in upbreeding their stock concentrating on Hereford Cattle utilizing Gudgell & Simpson stock, followed by Hazlett bulls, and bulls from the Turner Ranch in Oklahoma. In 1923, Roberts sold his share to Adams and returned to Germany.

The XIT Ranches

Upon his death in 1933, the ranches in southwest Kansas, holdings in Maple Hill and the cattle were divided among the three sons. The story is that Raymond, the youngest, lost the flip for the brand, easily changing the simple bar brand on the cattle with a "T". Raymond purchased the remainder of H. G. Adams landholdings in Maple Hill from his brothers and continued to operate the Adams Cattle Company. He built three adobe dwellings with skilled labor from New Mexico on the east ranch in Beaver County, Oklahoma establishing the XIT East Ranch Headquarters.

The William Roberts House, currently the home of Paula and John Adams
The William Roberts House, current home of Paula and John Adams

Raymond And Son, Raymond, Jr. Continued To Operate The Adams Cattle Company

Raymond and his son, Raymond Adams, Jr. supplied their Flint Hills pasturing and feeding operation with calves raised on the east ranch in southwest Kansas and the Oklahoma panhandle. Their success enabled them to purchase the third interest of the original ranch from the widow of Raymond Adams' brother, Helen Adams in 1960.

These two ranches are now the XIT East and West Ranches, the West Ranch being the former XI Ranch Headquarters.

Foundation Quarterhorse Breeding

The foundation of the Adams Cattle Company horses can be traced to a mare named Adams' Sugar, foaled in 1936 and sired by Sheik (double bred to Peter McCue) and out of a Matador Mare. R. E. Adams, Sr. was very progressive in his breeding and marketing programs. R. E. Adams, Jr. was more focused on producing sound ranch horses that would watch a cow, travel well, and cover a lot of miles.

Raymond Adams Continued To Operate With His Three sons, Eddy, John, And Clay At The Three Respective Ranches Until His Death In 2009.

The XIT Ranches and Adams Cattle Company are now operated by John C. Adams, Plains, and Clay S. Adams, Forgan, Oklahoma where they reside on the ranches with their families who are the fifth generation of Adams ranchers. Eddy Adams and his son Pete operate the Flint Hills Ranch and farming operation.

The Adams Cattle Company Today

The Adams Cattle Company is a family business which includes the commercial English-cross cow-calf operation along with a stocker program in southwest Kansas and the Oklahoma panhandle. They continue to advance in raising quality Hereford cattle with a focus on superior Angus genetics from bulls off the Gardiner Angus Ranch. They hold the philosophy that a black baldy cow is the most efficient beef factory that walks. Responsible stewardship, sustainable practices, conservative spending and implementation of proven, affordable new technologies continue to guide their business of producing quality cattle.

XIT Branding lineup, everyone on horseback lined up
XIT Branding 2009: (l to r) Pete Adams, Corey Rickard, Kell Adams, John Adams, Justin Reikowsky, Lacy Adams, Cooper Adams, Will Adams, Clay Adams, Katie Adams, John Doe, Austin Schmidt, Eddy Adams, Luke Atkins, Kevin Lewis, Raymond Adams, Jack Adams

Quarterhorse Breeding Program in 2010

The Adams Cattle Company of today is crossing the foundation horses dating back to 1936 with Adams' Sugar with the stallions Royale CD (out of CD Olena and Miss Royale Dry) and Fajita Bueno. These bloodlines introduce excellent cow instinct and a gentle disposition.

U.S. Premium Beef

The Adams Cattle Company is a founding member of U.S. Premium Beef, a producer owned company who is majority owner of National Beef Packing Plants. U.S. Premium Beef is heralded throughout the industry as the innovator of price discovery for quality cattle. Raymond Adams, Jr. was instrumental in the inception of the organization and was a founding Board member. John Adams served on the Board of Directors for six years and continues to serve the organization.

H. G. Adams Landholdings today

The original H. G. Adams landholdings in Maple Hill and on the Cimarron River have stayed in continuous operation for farming and ranching practices by family descendents of H. G. Adams. The XI Brand is still in use with headquarters NE of the XIT Ranch Headquarters. Now separate ranches, the extended family members neighbor to get the job done.