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The Ross S. Sterling Collection, no. 10 - Chupadera Ranch

Sterling Miller

Silent | 1920s

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  •  Do you recognize any of these men? 
  •  Ross Sterling (middle) 
  •  Do you recognize any of these men? 
  •  Dolph Briscoe, Sr. 
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This home movie captures scenes of friends and business partners, Ross S. Sterling and Dolph Briscoe Sr., driving their cattle across the Rio Grande river in Southwest Texas. The two men co-owned several thousand head of cattle and the Chupadera Ranch that spread across Maverick and Dimmit counties. Prominent Texan men often hunted on the ranch as guests of Sterling and Briscoe throughout the late 1920s. Do you recognize any of these men? Please let us know!
Ross Sterling was the 31st Governor of Texas from 1931-1933. He was born in Chambers County’s Anahuac, Texas on a farm and moved to Sour Lake in 1903. Sterling married Maud Abbie Gage in 1898; they were the parents of five children - Walter, Mildred, Ruth, Ross Jr., and Norma. At the age of 36, Sterling developed his two oil wells into Humble Oil and Refining Company, which later became part of Exxon-Mobil. He was also involved in banking and owner of the Dayton-Goose Creek Railway Company. After moving to Houston in 1925, he began working in real estate and bought two newspapers, the Houston Dispatch and the Houston Post. He was elected to office in 1931. During his term as governor, he made several controversial decisions, including declaring martial law in 4 East Texas counties, in an effort to save the oil industry from self-destruction during the Depression. He was defeated for a second term by Miriam “Ma” Ferguson and returned to Houston where he continued to work in several industries, including serving as president of the Sterling Oil and Refining Company from 1933 to 1946. Sterling died in Ft. Worth, Texas in 1949. 
Dolph Briscoe, Sr. was a Texas cattleman born in Fulshear, Texas in 1890 to Judge Lee Adolphus and Lucy Wade Briscoe. Briscoe began tending cattle at an early age, and his natural ability with cattle, as well as his entrepreneurial talents, quickly became evident. Despite his father's wishes, Briscoe decided not to attend college, instead entering the field of horse trading. In 1913, Briscoe married his cousin, Georgie Briscoe, and the couple moved to Uvalde the following year. Briscoe began his career selling mules and horses to farmers in coastal communities, then expanded his operations to Arkansas and Missouri, then into cattle trading. By 1919, Briscoe was selling cattle by the thousand. Despite going bankrupt in 1921 and again in 1932 after buying Chupadera Ranch with Ross Sterling, Briscoe continued to ranch in South Texas, and eventually became one of the state's largest landholders. At one point it was estimated that Briscoe controlled a million acres in five counties and was worth $40 million. Briscoe gained recognition among the cattle industry for his successful crossbreeding programs that increased the weight of cattle. At age 41, Briscoe was the youngest president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. He also served on the Uvalde City Council, as director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, the vice president of the National Finance Credit Corporation of Texas, and vice president of the Texas Livestock Marketing Association. Briscoe's son, Dolph Briscoe, Jr., became the 40th governor of the state of Texas. In addition to Sterling, Briscoe was also close friends with Jesse H. Jones, R.M. Farrar, W.P. Hobby, Walter W. Fondren, John Mobley, Duval West, Judge C.A. Goeth, and Edward W. Kilman, among others. These and other prominent men often hunted at his ranches, particularly Chupadera Ranch. Briscoe died in Uvalde on July 19, 1954.