A TRUE TEXAS LOVE STORY—Robert and Henrietta King
In 1853, Captain Richard King purchased 68,500 acres that had been Spanish and Mexican land grants called Santa Gertrudis. The now-famous Santa Gertrudis breed, first strain of cattle originating in the Western Hemisphere, was developed in The Wild Horse Desert area of South Texas. The ranch sprawls across 825,000 acres, an area larger than the state of Rhode Island.
Henrietta Maria Morse Chamberlain was born in Missouri in 1832. She was the only daughter of a Presbyterian missionary, and she was only three when her mother died. She was often left with relatives when she was young and alone when she was older. After college, she moved with her father to Brownsville, Texas, where in 1849 he established a Presbyterian mission. Henrietta was a tall, lovely young woman, and her heart went out to the lonely, the sick, the poor, and especially, needy children.
Robert and Henrietta married in 1854, forming a most perfect union. Together, side-by-side, they ran the King Ranch. Their first home was a hut on the cattle ranch. She wrote in her memoirs:
"When I came as a bride in 1854, a little ranch home then — a mere jacal as Mexicans would call it — was our abode for many months until our main ranch dwelling was completed. But I doubt if it falls to the lot of any a bride to have had so happy a honeymoon. On horseback we roamed the broad prairies. When I grew tired my husband would spread a Mexican blanket for me and then I would take my siesta under the shade of the mesquite tree. ... I remember that my pantry was so small my platters were fastened to the walls outside. In those days, large venison roasts were our favorite viands. ... At first our cattle were longhorns from Mexico. We had no fences and branding was hard work" -Henrietta King
Richard died in 1885, leaving his wife of 31 years alone to run the ranch. Henrietta King lived until 1925, and she made the ranch profitable. She further developed their cattle breed which became the popular cattle variety across Texas. During her years alone, she built a public high school, a Presbyterian Church, and she supported local colleges and hospitals. She created the town of Kingsville by donating land when “Captain” died. She became the sole owner of the world’s largest ranch, and she ultimately created an empire of over one million acres.
“I doubt if any bride had so happy a honeymoon.” Henrietta King
Romance…and a little bit o' Texas
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Published by: The Wild Rose Press