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The Sycamore Creek Ranch and Dexter Texas

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James Russell Washington—Sycamore Creek Ranch—His Legacy

James Russell Washington (Russ) built the house that sits on Sycamore Creek Ranch near Dexter, Texas, in 1867. Russ hauled the lumber for his house from Jefferson, Texas, by oxen. The location of this ranch on Delaware Bend on the Red River made for the best cattle ranching operations, and many a trail boss used the ranch as a staging place for cattle before the long drives to Missouri due to the abundance of natural springs and the Red River. (1) Sycamore Creek Ranch is still family owned and operated.

Darling Washington, Russ’s father, moved his family to Texas after independence from Mexico, and they lived in Cooke and Parker Counties. Darling died in Parker County. (2) Russ was born in St. Clair County, Alabama. (3) Russ married a southern belle named Sarah Jones, the daughter of Jeremiah Jones from Rusk County, Texas. They had a daughter named Mary Elizabeth, and three sons, Jeremiah Calvin., William E., and John David III. Mary married Edward Albright and their daughter, Mary, married a Mr. Holmes. Tyler County,* Texas records show that Russ married Sarah on Jan. 15, 1854.

Sarah died in 1862 or 1863 and they buried her in the family graveyard at Delaware Bend. Russ then married Emma Lucille Spence on Sep. 27, 1865 in Cooke County, Texas, and they had six children. I found four of Russ’s children by Emma named James Russell, Martha, Francis, and Lillie Mae. (3) Emma’s’s page says that she also had five daughters. (5) Russ died during a visit to one of his son’s ranches, the Black River Ranch, on Feb. 17, 1899, in Carlsbad, New Mexico. The family reports that both Sarah and Russ are buried on their homeland ranch.

All of the most important Texas cattlemen of Russ’s era visited and worked with Russ at his Sycamore Creek Ranch including Charles Goodnight and J.C Loving. It is safe to assume that John Chisholm also associated with Russ since Chisholm moved his present-day Denton County, Texas, ranching operations to New Mexico because of Indian raids where he became even more successful, and one of Russ’s sons operated a ranch in New Mexico.

Russ bought his first tract of land in Cooke County sometime before 1843. After the Civil War, he established a ranch in Indian Nation across the Red River. He called Sycamore Creek Ranch his home from 1843 until his death in 1899. A beautiful creek winds through the Sycamore Creek Ranch. Russ usually ran 10,000 to 12,000 head of cattle at Sycamore Creek, and he branded his herds with I.S. He sold this brand to the Sugg brothers shortly before he died and used the O.L. brand until his death.

One of his granddaughters, Teresa Washington Baker, wrote this description of Russ in a family history, “. . .he was a handsome, aristocratic man, an intense lover of the frontier and the south, and served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. . .”

Russ served in the Confederate Army under Lieutenant Colonel Bourland in 1863 in the Texas Calvary Battalion (later named the Border Texas Calvary).** Bourland eventually rose to the rank of colonel and also owned a ranch in Delaware Bend. Sometime in the 1850s, Col. Bourland blazed a trail named the Whiskey Trail from his ranch at Delaware Bend up through Love County and all the way to Fort Arbuckle. 

Natural springs still generously feed the region of Cooke County today. Ideal conditions for holding and ranching cattle because of the ample supply of water in that area led many pioneers to build their homes and raise their families there. Teresa also recorded that, “My grandfather, J. R. Washington, often remarked how impressive the line of covered wagons was standing in line to haul water from the springs of Dexter...” (2)

Today, the Sycamore Creek Ranch maintains a low profile and family members are highly involved in its day to day operation. A meteor crashed on this ranch years ago on an unknown date and left remains that are still visible today. Darling and Russ Washington built a proud and long-living heritage in Texomaland which is still going strong that is now raising their 7th and 8th generations.

Dexter, Cooke County, Texas

Dexter lies north of Callisburg on County Road 678. If you drive through Dexter, Texas, in Cooke County today, you won’t know that you are even there unless you pay attention to the few hard-to-see street signs. There are two cemeteries in Dexter; one on the north side and one on the south side. One active church in Dexter sits at the intersection of CR 678 and CR 106.

Dexter is the namesake of a once-famous racehorse. Dick Collum, S.E. Collum, Jesse Morris, and Bill Munday founded Dexter around 1870 three miles east of where it sits today near the natural spring that drew the many wagons and travelers to the area, but Dexter was a thriving community before the Civil War and its official charter. (6)

From before the Civil War through the 1860s and possibly beyond, and at any given time during this period, many records indicate that Dexter sported at least eight saloons and bawdy houses at the most and four at the least. Many gunfights and illegal operations planning occurred in Dexter during its formative years. (7) Dexter seemed to have outgrown its wild days by the 1920s, but so did most of north Texas.

In 1880, Dexter’s population had risen to 300. Dexter had a district school, four blacksmith shops, four doctors, three hotels, cotton gins, steam grist mills, a barber shop, and one church. Dexter became a supply point for cowboys heading north to Kansas with the cattle drives. When the railroad built tracks 20 miles south in Woodbine, Dexter’s prosperity began to decline and a criminal element began to take hold.

Dexter's businesses began moving to Ardmore. The section of the Red River from Gainesville to Dennison became known as Thief Neck. The City of Dexter continued to operate until around 1900, but it is thought that the post office closed in 1925.

The brick walls of an old school auditorium still stand, and ten years ago its sloped wooden floor and stage were still somewhat intact when I first discovered Dexter. You could make out what was left of the barber shop next to it which was a small shack, but 17 years ago it finally crumbled to ruins. (7)

I recently visited the cemetery on the north side and found some impressive names there plus two well-kept graves of Vietnam Veterans. If you have family buried in either of the Dexter cemeteries, please shoot me an email about them.

Other Notes

Bill of Sale

Love, County Oklahoma is named for the Chickasaw family with the sir name of Love, and Russ sold his ranch in Indian Nation to Overton Love in 1876.

Here is the copy of the bill of sale to Overton Love of Russ’s land in Indian Nation:

Pg. 190 Bill of Sale
Chickasaw Nation, Pickens County
May 28th, 1876

Know all men by these present that I, J.R. Washington of the County of Cooke and State of Texas have this day bargained sold and conveyed and by these presents, do bargain, sell and convey to Overton Love, of said County and Nation, all my stock of cattle, including both stock $ beef cattle to be delivered by the said Washington, at or near the residence of the said Love, in the Nation. To be received by the said Love as delivered and counted for the consideration of which the said Love agrees and binds himself to pay to the said Washington, eight dollars per head. The said Washington is to control and ? the stock until paid for. Testimony, where I have hereunto set my hand this 28th day May 1876.

J.R. Washington X

A. B. Manium (ed: Manion)

T.C. Thomas

J. C. Washington

I herby certify the above is a true copy; of a bill of sale of cattle handed me for Record, By T. C. Thomas, this July 16 1874

[whoever transcribed this for the book has 1876 and 1874--correct date?]
Wm P Worthington, Clerk (2)

Historical Marker

The Sycamore Creek Ranch Texas Historical Commission marker sits on the ranch which is private property, unable for viewing, described as medallion and plate, and reads:

Washington, with lumber hauled by oxen from Jefferson, Texas. Architecture is Queen Anne Period; gingerbread trim. Excellent water facilities made ranch a collection center for cattle prior to trail drives. As home of a cattle industry leader, attracted distinguished visitors, including ranchers Chas. Goodnight and J. C. Loving, and statesman Sam Rayburn. Property in one family five generations. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, 1967. Incise in base: Owned by K. B. and Neva McCain Yost, and By Lynda Yost Lindh, and Beverly Yost Lindh, (Mrs. Yost a grand-daughter of J. R. Washington).

Sycamore Creek Ranch Dexter, Texas

Cooke County

Year Erected: 1967 (1)

*The City of Tyler, Texas, is in Smith County, Texas

** Texas Calvary Battalion is reported to have been involved in the “Great Hanging of Gainesville”


(2) Almost all of the information on Russ Washington and the Sycamore Creek Ranch comes from:, and its ID # on Ancestry’s Roots Web is I00174. The home page to this page is:








1. James Russell Washington

2. Emma Lucille Spence Washington

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Lake Texoma Fishing Report from TPWD (Jun. 20)

Water lightly stained; 83–86 degrees; 1.07’ high. Black bass are good on Texas rigged craws, weightless Senkos and soft plastic jerkbaits. Crappie are fair on minnows and jigs. Striped bass are good on slabs and topwaters. Catfish are good on trotlines.