Three generations of ranchers have raised cattle and crops on the same plot of land west of Archer City since 1917. On November 7, the Ray family ranch was honored with a ceremony in Austin by Sid Miller, Commissioner of the Texas Department of Agriculture. The Family Land Heritage award recognizes ranches that have been in continuous agricultural operation by the same family for 100 years or more.
Monteville Blanton Ray Sr. was the first owner and he was born March 3, 1871 in Jackson, TN, the oldest son of Wade Hampton and Queen Victoria (Herring) Ray, who had 3 sons and 6 daughters. The Ray ancestors originally immigrated to America in 1685 from Scotland as Quakers. Mont claimed that he came to Bell County TX from Tennessee around 1880 in a covered wagon that traveled about eight miles a day which made the trip last two to three months. In 1886 when he was fifteen years old, his father died and he had to grow up quickly to help take care of the family. Mont was known as a man of a “strong constitution” and could go all day and night with only thirty minutes of sleep.
On December 15, 1892 Mont married May Saludie Ranne in Bell County TX. She was the daughter of William and Lucy (Wills) Ranne, both born in Texas in the 1850s and William’s mother was descended from William B. Bridgers, a member of Stephen F. Austin’s “Old 300” Texas colony which settled Texas in 1824. May was also the granddaughter of William Riley Wills, a Texas Ranger who served in both the Mexican and Civil Wars patrolling the Texas frontier.
In November 1917, Mont purchased land in Archer County from Joseph and Edith Allen of Killeen. This acreage was part of the Club Ranch lands that were formerly known as the OX Ranch whose original patent was signed by Gov. O.M. Roberts on March 14, 1881. After securing the property, Mont loaded a freight train in Killeen with his bulldog named Ranger, paint horse named Cotton Eye, five sons, several head of cattle and horses and made the trip by rail to Archer City, Texas.
Upon arrival, he put his son, Wayne, on a horse and told him to head west and set up camp at the new place. Mont said Wayne (then 15 years old) would know the new homestead when he saw it. The rest of the family and livestock followed after resting a few days. On January 6, 1918 Mont went back for his wife and three daughters and all their household goods and moved them to the “place” 12 miles west of Archer City. The Ray family ran stocker yearling cattle and farmed cotton and wheat. In the ranch business, Mont was the livestock trader-stockman and May was the bookkeeper. Each day May documented expenses, income, weather, daily activities, and recipes in handwritten diaries which she diligently journaled for many years. She also enjoyed going back to Bell County to attend revival camp tent meetings every year.
In January 1938 May died from a heart attack sustained while preparing Christmas dinner for her family. Then in March 1941 Mont’s Mother Q.V. died. Mont was treated for a heart condition by a doctor in Wichita Falls, but dismissed himself from the hospital and lived another three years in Archer City before selling his ranch in 1939 to his son, Wayne Bacon Ray.
Mont eventually purchased 466 acres and several town lots in Mayes County OK and moved there where he tended to 160 yearling calves. On March 3, 1951, he “died with his boots on” while driving a team of horses hitched to his feed wagon and was found by a neighbor. He was buried in the Archer City cemetery with all those family who had gone before him. Both Mont and May died not knowing what happened to their son, John Dillard Ray who enlisted with the Army Air Corp in 1941. He was reported missing in 1942 and was found 12 years later still buckled in the engineer’s rear seat in the Type B aircraft that went down in the jungle of Panama.
Their son, Wayne, was educated at Tyler Commercial College in 1920, worked in banking in California, then became an entrepreneur starting in the ice business because he was adept at driving a team of horses to haul freight. He also worked with Panhandle Refining Company as a wholesale fuel distributor. Wayne was a founding member of the Archer City Rodeo Association and served on the Local School Board as Treasurer. After purchasing his father’s land, he ran stockers and a Hereford cow-calf operation, as well as, farmed wheat and oats. He was an intentional steward of the land acquiring additional acreage, implementing terraces, building stock tanks, and avoiding overstocking. He served several years on the Little Wichita Soil and Water Conservation Board. In 1957 Wayne was awarded the Grand Champion Conservation Farmer of Archer, Clay, and Wichita Counties.
Wayne was married to Flossye Lee Pettit on July 31, 1927 in Nolanville, TX. Flossye attended college at Mary Hardin Baylor University and was an art teacher as well as an award-winning artist. She served in the First Baptist Church of Archer City teaching the five-year-old class for over thirty years and started the first Vacation Bible School there. She was also a lifetime member of both the Delphian and Amity Clubs which were Federated Womens’ Clubs. The couple had two daughters, Robbie Lee and Billie Jean and seven grandchildren. On October 30, 1987 after sixty years of marriage, Wayne passed away due to a chronic spleen condition. Flossye and her daughters operated the ranch together until she passed June 30, 2000.
Robbie Gage Prideaux has continued the cow-calf operation for over thirty years while practicing soil conservation and stewardship of the ranch with sustainable stocking rates, pasture rotation, mesquite control, and stock tank building. Robbie has always had a great love for horses, cattle, and ranch work. She vividly remembers being on horseback to help drive her dad’s cattle the 12 miles to the Archer City railroad pens and putting them on the train which took them to the stockyard market in Fort Worth in the 1940s. Robbie is a proud lifelong resident of Archer County for over eighty years and a sixth generation Texan. She has three daughters, seven grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.