“A Resilient Symbol of West Texas: The Texas Tech Dairy Barn” – An Exhibit from Our University Archives

title shotFor the first few months of 2015, the University Archives at the Southwest Collection is hosting “A Resilient Symbol of West Texas: The Texas Tech Dairy Barn,” an exhibit about the almost 90-year-old structure that has weathered storms and near-endless nearby construction to become a symbol of Texas Tech’s history.long shot ttuFinished in 1927, the original Dairy Barn could accommodate up to 40 cattle, and had three miles of wire fencing surrounding it for grazing animals paired with a 120-ton concrete silo. Equipped to sanitarily produce whole milk and cream, it soon saw the Department of Dairy Manufactures extend the milking room at the south end of the building due to proceeds from its sales. It then added butter, ice cream and cheese to its product line. But take a look at the photo above: this was all happening on the Texas Tech campus back when cattle grazed a few hundred yards in front of the Administration Building, Agricultural Pavilion, Agriculture Building, and in the far distance the Home Economics Building!dairy truckWhen the new college opened, agriculture students were allowed to bring their dairy cattle to reside in the barn. The money earned by selling the milk to others and by working in the dairy facility helped pay for these students’ education. The Student Dairy was organized by six students in the summer of 1926 and, until it was dissolved in 1935, delivered milk and other dairy products by a horse-drawn wagon and a truck.1A fire on January 29, 1930, and a lightning strike in 1958 both resulted in the deaths of some of the cows and damage to the building, but operations continued until 1965, when the barn closed its doors. From then on it was used only as storage, and even then the section for the Dairy Manufacturing Department was removed in 1966 to make room for the construction of the Foreign Language Building. The young men above, observing the final stages of processing, bottling, and inspecting the milk products in the 1950s, had to find lactose-based educational opportunities elsewhere.goes with 1[All the milk bottles and cheese produced at Texas Tech also sported a proud Double T.] (ca. 1950)

The Dairy Barn has been a part of the Texas Tech landscape for 89 years. It weathered tornadoes, dust storms, encroaching buildings, and heavy foot traffic as the campus continued to grow, and as its useful functionality was placed on hold. Yet although it experienced periods of neglect, it has ultimately received its share of recognition. The Barn was even registered in the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic places on April 2, 1992, after extensive campaigns of support by various alumni and campus organizations. Some still lobby diligently for the barn’s restoration and repurposing so that it may remain a part of the TTU landscape for decades to come.

– by Lynn Whitfield & our Texas Tech University Archives

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When the Matador Ranch Came to the Southwest Collection

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The Matador Ranch was established in 1879 by Alfred Britton, Henry Campbell, and their associates. It covered one and a half million acres in Motley, Cottle, Floyd, and Dickens counties of Texas. In 1882 the founders sold their cattle and range rights to a syndicate based in Dundee, Scotland. And it is there that the story of one of the Southwest Collection’s first and greatest collections begins.

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With rare exceptions, such as during periods of drought, Matador stockholders received substantial dividends. In 1951, however, they sold their shares to Lazard Brothers and Company. Many of the ranch records that were now no longer needed were quickly given into the care of the Southwest Collection. The Matador Land Book, pages of which can be seen above and below (and here!) was one such item. Another was a Payroll Ledger that names every cowboy in the employment of the ranch. These are only 2 among thousands of treasures that were donated.

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But one thing continued to plague Dr. Seymour V. Connor, the director of the SWC when the records arrived. Although many items of interest to researchers–such as the map of Matador lands provided to the Texas Pacific Railroad (below)–were now housed at Texas Tech, the remaining records remained in Dundee, Scotland, home of the ranch’s international administrators. As long as these documents lay overseas, they remained out of the hands of eager researchers. And so Dr. Connor set out to bring them back to Texas. Years of heartfelt, patient negotiations with past and present Matador investors and their families paid off in 1957 when, at long last, boxes full of Dundee records rejoined their brothers in our archive.

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Some at the time hailed the now-complete Matador Records as “one of the most valuable collections ever received by a college in Texas.” Its contents back up this assertion: reams of legal documents, payroll records, herd books, range diaries, and international correspondence can be found alongside mile-by-mile accounts of herds driven north. Detailed outlines of time-tested methods used by ranch superintendents to manage herds are also present. How much money would a top hand (or significantly lesser hands) receive in wages? The Records can tell you. They even noted the location of lands set aside for community projects, such as the Lee County School Lands shown below. As the news program “Texas in Review” declared, the Southwest Collection could now boast “a complete portrait of one of the most fascinating ranch stories in history.” We may be a little biased, but it’s hard not to agree!

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Folks interested in the Matador Ranch’s history should contact our Reference Staff who are always eager to help get these items into curious hands. Also, The Handbook of Texas has published more in-depth online biographies of the Matador Ranch and the Matador Land and Cattle Company.