A Sister's Get Back: From Poverty to Riches
The Story Behind the Tale
Editor’s Note: If you tied Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Fort Griffin, cowboys, bar girls and a shoot ‘em-up Wild West adventure together with two wildcat oil men and a broken-down truck, you’d get the unbelievable tale of Stasney’s Cook Ranch in Albany, Texas. The Stasney’s Cook Ranch, once one of the largest shallow-well oilfields in the world, produces some of the finest hunting in the nation today. Every hunting and fishing trip I make to Stasney’s Cook Ranch always produces a trophy, which is often not the animals I take or the fish I catch, but rather the stories I hear, the people I meet, and the photography I shoot. Recently, I took a hunting trip to the Stasney’s Cook Ranch. For the next two weeks, you’ll read one of the wildest tales ever told and find out about this fine hunting spot in the Lone Star State. Full of betrayal, luck and riches, this tale is one of the most-fascinating tales to come out of the Old West.
Today, Stasney’s Cook Ranch consists of 25,000 acres of wildlife and oil wells. However, the history of the ranch begins at Fort Griffin, 7-miles north of Stasney’s Cook Ranch. Fort Griffin was set up by the federal government to protect the settlers from the Indians and the lawlessness of the Old West. But just outside the walls of the old fort was the town known as “The Flat” with its doublebar doors, brass spittoons, pistol-toting cowboys and ladies of the evening who also worked as barmaids. The town functioned as the main supply point for buffalo hunters. Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp and many of the legends of the Old West passed through The Flat, and many even stayed for a while. At its peak, the town may have had as many as 10,000 citizens. But in May, 1881, with the frontier extending westward, and the outlaws and the Indians no longer posing a threat to the townspeople, there was no longer a need for the protection from Fort Griffin. So, the U.S. government closed up the gates of the fort, sealing the fate for the small, rural town. Today, what’s left of Fort Griffin is preserved at the Fort Griffin State Park, where each year a musical, “The Fort Griffin Fandangle,” is performed to keep the memory of the old town alive.
In keeping with the preservation of The Flat, some of the buildings from the old town are currently being used at the Stasney’s Cook Ranch. The bunkhouse at Stasney’s Cook Ranch was formerly the ranch house, and the three buildings that make up what is now the bunkhouse are more than 102-years old. “It’s really older than that,” Johnny Hudman, ranch manager, explains. “The Flat had saloons, cowboys and everything else you’ve seen in Wild West TV shows and movies. But when Albany came into existence in 1882 and 1883, most of the good people in the town moved to Albany, causing The Flat and Fort Griffin to become an abandoned Wild West town with empty, old buildings. The Flat was once the haunts of western legends. In 1906, three of the buildings from the old town were moved here to the Cook Ranch by W.I. and Matilda Cook to create a big ranch house. Logistically, moving a building in 1906 must have been a nightmare.Once the three buildings were connected, a common roof was put over them to form the ranch house.”
The ranch was in the Cook estate from the late 1890s to 1985, when the Stasney family bought the ranch. At one time, the Cook Ranch was part of the 100, 000-acre Nail Ranch, one of the bigger ranches in this part of Texas, purchased by James H. Nail in the 1880s just up the road from the town and the fort. In 1897, after a dispute between Nail and his sister, Matilda Cook, he reluctantly sold her 17,760 acres of his ranchlands.
To learn more about Stasney’s Cook Ranch, write P.O. Box 1826, Albany, Texas, 76430, or call (325) 762-2999, or visit www.stasneyscookranch.com.
Tomorrow: From Starvation to Salvation