Washington Ranch Oklahoma: Among the array of colorful Oklahoma characters, few equal the stature of William “Billy” Washington of Love County fame, whose story is worthy of a Hollywood movie. For 40 years, from about 1880 until 1920, Washington was a dominating force from Red River to the Arbuckle Mountains, as he amassed a huge herd of cattle, a great fortune, and not a few enemies. Today, the heart of his great empire is on the market as the 1180-acre Historic Washington Ranch, the centerpiece of which is an 8500-square foot mansion known as “The Cattleman’s Castle,” built in 1888 and now on the National Register of Historic Places.
William Washington came to the Red River country from north Texas about 1880 and promptly married a Chickasaw woman, which gave him the right to graze as much land as he needed for his cattle herd, which ultimately amounted to 150,000 acres. By the time Washington left for New Mexico about 1920, it was estimated that his herd numbered 115,000 head. Washington’s shrewd dealings made him a millionaire by age 38, and a political force so powerful that he even issued his own scrip, which passed for currency in this part of the world.
Greatly respected but not greatly loved, Washington also accumulated his share of enemies. It was rumored that he employed 100 gunmen for self-protection, and the massive home that he built included 6 inches of bullet-resistant gravel in the walls. When fencing became common after Oklahoma statehood, Washington’s cattle empire collapsed and he relocated to New Mexico, where he died penniless, but he had definitely left his mark on southern Oklahoma.
Today, the Historic Washington Ranch is 1180 acres of lovely rolling grasslands dotted with hundreds of mature pecan and oak trees. A live creek winds through the property, and about a dozen ponds dot the landscape, some of which can support fish. The habitat is attractive to whitetail and turkey, which are commonly seen and can be hunted here.
The Historic Washington Ranch is well equipped as either a cattle or horse ranch, or some combination thereof. Its equestrian capabilities are particularly impressive. The outbuildings are outstanding, including a new 27-stall horse barn and a 40-stall horse barn, a 125×200 foot covered riding arena, and the historic barn. In addition, a 125×200 foot outdoor arena and breaking pen add to the exceptional equestrian qualities of this ranch. The ranch is fully fenced, with 12 pastures. It has historically supported 250 to 300 cows or up to 600 yearlings.
The “Cattleman’s Castle” itself is a fully remodeled, 8500 square foot home built on three levels and offers four bedrooms and 6 baths. It has Pennsylvania barn wood floors and high ceilings and many large windows. Its kitchen is particularly impressive, with commercial fixtures, two large islands and a 16-door pantry cabinet. With classic 19th century opulence, the mansion include a large foyer, two grand parlors, dining area, and a large office and den. Even the basement is impressive, with its slate floors and an additional bedroom. A large covered porch surrounds the house on three sides and is perfect for enjoying balmy Oklahoma evenings.
The nearby Stone Guest House has three cathedral-ceilinged bedroom, four baths, and its own kitchen. The Stone Pool House has two baths, an exercise room and a kitchen, and serves the large outdoor swimming pool. Finally, the Garage building has a four-bay garage, a large carport and two efficiency apartments.
The Historic Washington Ranch features the best of rural Oklahoma, yet is remarkably accessible. It lies only two miles from Interstate 35, and is 90 miles from Fort Worth and 120 miles from Oklahoma City. The boating and fishing magnet of Lake Texoma is only minutes away to the east.
Billy Washington may be long gone, but his memory lives at the Historic Washington Ranch. Those with a love for history, cattle and horses would need to look far and wide to find a place that better captures the spirit of the West than here. The memory of an epic Western figure and his far-flung cattle empire is very much alive among the green meadows and within the walls of the Cattleman’s Castle of the Historic Washington Ranch.