Star Brand Ranch History
In North Texas, the Wynne name needs no introduction, but, even for such a storied family, Toddie Lee Wynne Sr. left indelible marks on Texas history—AMLICO, the Dallas Cowboys, Six Flags Over Texas, Wynnewood, and the Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas, to name a few. Yet, for all the prestige and influence he and his wife Imogen may have enjoyed, their hearts remained tied to the rolling woods and still pastures they knew as children in East Texas, and, while their retreat on Matagorda Island’s long shores may have been fit for kings, it was always their home at Star Brand Ranch that put Toddie Lee and Imogen most at ease.
However, the beginnings of Star Brand Ranch are as old as Texas. When the state’s settlers took up arms to win their freedom from Mexico, the nascent Republic called on William Nash to raise a militia from volunteers, and for that support and his service fighting, Nash was awarded land in St. Augustine County. In 1850, he swapped his grant for better land to the northwest, and it was there Nash and his family would quickly become a driving force in the new Kaufman County, founding both its First National Bank and its oil mill. Over the next few generations, the ranch would be home to statesmen like James Young—a U.S. Representative for Texas and husband of Nash’s granddaughter Allie—host the outlaws Bonnie and Clyde—who hid out on the ranch before being arrested and penning “The Story of Suicide Sal” in the Kaufman jail—and develop one of the most distinctive and important cattle brands in the state—a crescent moon over the star, the Star Brand.
But it was when Congressman Young’s daughter, Imogen, married Toddie Lee, who was the scion of another sprawling East Texas family, that Star Brand Ranch would seize its full potential and become a quintessential Texas institution, primed for cattle, hunting, and relaxation. “Fat Dad” and “Big Mimi”, as they were called by their grandchildren, added onto and modernized the old, elegant homestead, built a new complex of spacious barns, improved the pastures and planted new grasses, constructed an extensive private network of levees and irrigation, stocked all the ponds with fish, and even created a new 26 acre lake on the edge of the ranch’s southern rise. Their son-in-law planted a stand of pine trees around the shore; duck hunting there was strictly prohibited; and the Big Lake would dispense serenity and laughter to all their family and friends through those hectic years of the American midcentury.
The Wynne family didn’t keep Star Brand Ranch to themselves either. Toddie Lee’s son and daughter-in-law hosted the first Cattle Baron’s Ball on the lawn behind the Big House. Johnny Cash and Charlie Pride sang that night beneath those tall oak trees, and Cattle Baron’s Ball has gone on to become one of the leading fundraisers for cancer research in the world. Cattle Baron’s returned twice more: to the Big Lake in 1996 with Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings; then to the front pasture in 2009 with Julianne Hough and Montgomery Gentry. In 1992, Toddie Lee’s grandsons built the new Main Lodge and two wings of guest rooms and opened the Star Brand Ranch to executive retreats, private parties, and weddings, and for over two decades the brothers shared with new friends the great hospitality and relaxation their family had enjoyed for a century.
Today, the Main Lodge has been converted back to a family retreat, outlaws no longer stop by on their way to infamy, and the world’s perhaps even more hectic than it was when the Big Lake was new. But the Big House still stands proudly at the site of William Nash’s first cabin, the evening shadows are still cool and long like they were in the early days of Texas, the pines still bend in the breeze above the Big Lake, and slow herds of cattle still graze in the pastures as always. Members of the same family have been born, married, and buried on the land for the better part of 2 centuries, but history isn’t the past at Star Brand Ranch. History still lives there. The times change outside the white gates but never so quickly within.
Now, with 7 generations of fond memories and gratitude, the descendants of Toddie Lee Wynne are offering their historic ranch to the marketplace for the first time in 160 years, and they are excited to see the next owners write their own history there and add new chapters to the long legacy of an exceptional and beloved place—Star Brand Ranch.
Star Brand Ranch is approximately 30 minutes from downtown Dallas on US Highway 175. From downtown, travel southeast on US Highway 175 for ±28 miles and exit at FM 2578. Star Brand signs will identify the exit. Continue east along the frontage road for just over 1 mile and arrive at the ranch’s iconic front gate on the south (right). As they have for most of the last century, a line of ancient live oak and pecan trees above white pipe fencing will escort you down Star Brand Drive (a private asphalt road) to the ranch’s storied homestead.
Less than 30 miles southeast of Dallas, Star Brand Ranch is located in Texas’s Blackland Prairie region. Though conveniently close to the Metroplex, this territory is renowned for its highly productive black clay soils along the riparian creeks and gently rolling prairies with prolific grasses, perfect for cattle grazing. With nearly 8 miles of creeks traversing the ranch and thousands of acres of upland pastures, Star Brand Ranch is ideally positioned for dynamic agricultural production.
Presbyterian Hospital Kaufman, great local restaurants, and modern retail stores are only minutes east of the ranch in Kaufman, Texas.
While Star Brand Ranch is less than an hour from DFW, Dallas Love Field, and Addison airports, Terrell Municipal Airport is also only ±12 miles north of the ranch and features a 5,000’ runway.
Access and Road Frontage
Star Brand Ranch is divided by 3 miles of US Highway 175 frontage immediately west of Kaufman, Texas. The southern branch is 3,460+/- acres featuring all of the ranch’s historical improvements and facilities. The northern border of this branch is ±1.25 miles of the US Hwy 175 south frontage; the eastern border is a ±1.5 mile stretch of FM 34; and the western boundary is ±0.6/mile of FM 1390.
The northern branch of Star Brand Ranch is 1,360+/- acres. The southern boundary of this branch is a 2 mile stretch of US Hwy 175. The eastern border is ±0.7/mile frontage on FM 987 and ±0.6/mile of access along Kaufman CR 293.
Star Brand Ranch features nearly 75 feet of relief change, with the southernmost 1,000 acres of the ranch presenting frequent changes in elevations. The highest point at ±454’ is near the property’s southwest corner overlooking the Big Lake. The panoramic views from these hilltops looking north showcase the working ranch’s diversity and offer numerous fantastic build sites for future homes. The lowest elevations on the ranch are ±380’ and located near the center of the property along Big Brushy Creek and King’s Creek. This region of the ranch is relatively flat and ideal for its current use, cultivation. All of the ranch’s homes and improvements are located at higher elevations with a critical focus on offering owners and guests memorable views of the ranch.
From a cover perspective, Star Brand Ranch has ±1,600 acres of highly improved grazing pastures, ±600 acres of improved mesquite pastures, ±1,550 acres of wooded pastures with native grasses and ±920 acres of cultivated farm land.
Pastures and Cultivation
Improved Pastures: The lush improved grass pastures are primarily dense coastal Bermuda grass, ryegrass, arrow leaf clover, and vetch. These pastures are cautiously grazed rotationally and meticulously maintained for aesthetic appeal; denser stocking rates are achievable, if desired. Burleson and Heiden Clay soil types comprise most of the improved pasture soils. These dark soil types drain very well and are considered Prime by the USDA.
Cultivated Land: The cultivated acreage estimate is ±920 acres, all of which is located along or near Big Brushy and King’s Creeks. This farm land is highly developed, productive, and fertile. Being primarily flat and lower in elevation, it benefits from runoff with a contour irrigation system that feeds a trenched farming grid with interconnected irrigations cells. These farming cells range from 12 to 30 acres in size. The major soil types in the cultivated areas are Kaufman and Trinity Clay, ideal for crop production. The current farming practices utilize shallow harrowing and no-till drilling to maximize the soil’s biology and mitigate erosion. The typical crops are sorghums (currently Sudan grass) in the spring and wheat in the winter. The crop yields are extremely impressive and discussed further, below.
Mesquite Pasture with Improved Grasses / Hardwood Pastures with Native Grasses: Approximately 2,150 acres of Star Brand Ranch offers a combination of improved grasses with denser mesquite trees and dense hardwood tree cover with native grasses. These belts of tree cover are spatially attractive to the overall landscape and provide an outstanding buffer for wildlife habitat. The soils in these areas are quite diverse with mixed Kaufman and Trinity Clays and a variety of lighter sandy loam soils such as Wilson, Crockett, and Ferris loams. The current pasture operator reports excellent weight gains during early spring grazing in these pastures.
Private Levee System and Irrigation Contours
Unique to Star Brand Ranch is a privately developed levee and contour irrigation system (no government easements or programs) located in the low-lying areas and along all of the creeks traversing the ranch. The family’s desire in creating these land improvements was to navigate runoff through and off of the ranch and redirect just enough water to maximize the pasture and cultivated land’s potential.
The large levees are located along Big Brushy Creek and King’s Creek and are approximately 6.2 miles in length. They are designed to contain and vacate flood water if the creeks should swell during heavy rainfall events. The contour irrigation system directs runoff from higher elevations into the farming irrigation grid and a series of management channels.
The primary ranch roads in these areas are elevated and feature miles of all-weather surfacing and numerous diversionary culverts.
Having a private water management and irrigation system such as this is extremely rare. Typically, systems of this magnitude involve cost sharing with the government. The landowner grants the government a long-term or perpetual easement on the property, the government foots most or all of development costs, and retains control of the land and rights of ingress and egress into the property. This is a privately developed system, free of any easements or access rights for anyone except those permitted at the owner’s discretion. The cost to build and recreate a comparable system would be millions of dollars.
Livestock and Crop Production
The owners have a long-term relationship with a renowned cattleman and agriculture educator who manages, leases, and operates the pastures on the ranch. Currently, his cow-calf program runs approximately 600 pairs of Santa Gertrudis cattle through rotational grazing. The current estimated stocking rate in the more improved pastures is ±1 unit per 3.5 acres. Denser stocking rates are achievable, if desired.
The crop production estimates for Sudan grass on the ±920 acres of cultivated land ranges from 7 to 10 large round bales per acre, per cutting. There are typically two cutting per year. Below are quick Sudan crop estimates:
Bales per Acre Acres Estimated Totals
7 920 ( x 2 Cuttings) 12,880 bales
10 920 ( x 2 Cuttings) 18,400 bales
*For historical planting schedules and detailed crop or livestock numbers, please contact our office.
Working Pens: The ranch’s modern pipe working pens have 10 sorting and separating pens, a large gravity gate that feeds a covered hydraulic livestock chute, turn out pens, and an elevated loading ramp. These facilities are in very good condition and built to handle large roundups.
Historical Management / Ranch Brand
Toddie Lee Wynne Sr.’s passion was ranching. With the help of engineers and range management experts he created one of the finest cattle ranches in all of East Texas. His legacy has been maintained by ranch managers and experts that are among the best in world. The following list of names are a few of the previous ranch managers or operators at Star Brand Ranch.
Bill Shepherd – Star Brand Ranch, Kaufman.
A. J. Kupper – Star Brand Ranch, Kaufman and Matagorda Island.
Bob Kinnan – Star Brand Ranch, Kaufman and Matagorda Island. Bob is currently the house pasture manager at The King Ranch.
Wylie Taliaferro – Star Brand Ranch, Kaufman. Wylie is the current lessee who manages the range on the
ranch. A renowned agricultural educator and stockman, Wylie would love to continue his current lease and role on Star Brand.
Brand: The “Star Brand” livestock brand is one of the oldest registered brands in the State of Texas. The distinct star with a half moon that rotates clock wise indicates each cow’s birth year.
Private Fishing Lakes / Stock Ponds / Creeks
Big Lake: Over a mile south of Star Brand’s homestead compound is the ±26 acre Big Lake. Specially constructed by Toddie Lee and Imogen on a rise overlooking the middle pastures, the Big Lake was stocked with Florida Bass by Texas Parks and Wildlife; this fishery continues to support both a high population and trophy caliber bass. A strong forage base of copper nose bluegill, red ear bream and fathead minnows support the lake’s food chain and produce legendary fishing. The lake record for bass is over 16lbs, and numerous other fish over 13 lbs. have been recorded. The park-like, clear water lake features a ±4 acre settling pond and nearly 1,100 foot dam with a pipe spillway. (Interestingly, the bricks from Kaufman County’s old courthouse were used to reinforce the lake’s dam structure.) A boat house with a metal roof provides sheltered boat storage. The lake has numerous points and depth contours that give the shoreline character and make the bass easier to locate. The lake’s width and shape make it possible to water ski and to enjoy small personal watercrafts. Elevated just above the boat house is an outdoor cooking area with a fire pit and giant stone picnic tables, all surrounded by mature pine trees. At nighttime you can almost view the skyline of Dallas yet still enjoy quiet evening solitude under a dark, star-studded sky.
Nearby is a 2,400 SF pavilion with a concrete floor for entertaining large groups lakeside. This facility has hosted numerous family events and outdoor concerts. Features include: men’s and women’s restrooms, running water, ample electricity, a covered kitchen area, a large storage room and an elevated entertainment stage.
Other Lakes and Ponds: There are approximately 55 lakes and ponds on the ranch. In addition to the Big Lake, there are 7 lakes over ±3 surface acres, including a ±9 and ±7 acre lake. Each lake over ±3 acres is stocked with Florida Bass giving the owner nearly endless options of high quality bass fishing. The smaller lakes vary in size, but most are over ±1 surface acre. Small tanks were also created for livestock purposes, ensuring each pasture has ample water.
King’s Creek / Big Brushy Creek / Little Brushy Creek: King’s Creek becomes a perennial creek just northeast of the ranch and crosses the ranch’s northeast pastures. Big Brushy Creek and Little Brushy Creek are seasonal creeks that cross onto the ranch and merge with King’s Creek near the southeast corner of the ranch. These managed riparian features are the backbone of Star Brand Ranch’s land plan. Lined with majestic hardwood trees, these creeks provide the ranch’s fertile soils and generous water resources for irrigation and wildlife.
Dove: The ranch’s farming component creates remarkable dove hunting each fall. Doves migrate annually to the ranch, and the hunting is excellent in the grain fields and around stock tanks in the late afternoon.
Waterfowl: The creek systems, farming, and location of Star Brand Ranch fuse to create spectacular waterfowl hunting. The ranch is located just east of the John Bunker Sands Wetlands, north of the George W. Shannon Wetlands, and just west of Cedar Creek Lake. There are several larger lakes and tanks with flat, shallow water areas and water control devices that can be drawn down, planted with millet or other fall waterfowl crops, and then filled to create remarkable waterfowl hunting. In addition to ducks, snow geese and Canadian geese visit the ranch’s winter wheat fields every year.
Deer: The whitetail deer at Star Brand Ranch have never been hunted. Their numbers in this region have increased dramatically in the last 30 years due in part to restocking efforts by the Texas Parks and Wildlife. The ranch has a good number of deer in the wooded areas and near cultivation. Wylie has observed a strong population on the ranch with excellent trophy characteristics for many of the bucks. From a deer hunting perspective, Star Brand Ranch’s size, creeks, cover, soils, lack of pressure and the availability of food present a great outlook for the next landowner.
Other Wildlife: The ranch is also home to numerous songbirds, feral hogs, coyotes, and other varmints.
Homes and other Improvements
Situated on a rise above the creeks and pastures and surrounded with giant, mature, manicured oak and pecan trees that provide a visual and sound buffer, the ±20 acre homestead complex stands like an island—undisturbed by time, noise, or anxiety— enduring, nourishing, and at peace.
Star Brand Ranch’s living and entertainment improvements are all located within the homestead complex, south of the front gate on the south size of US Hwy 175.
Original Wynne Residence – the “Big House”: Past the gate and down Star Brand Drive’s stately oaks, you’ll arrive at the Big House. Built at the turn of the last century on the site of the original 1850 log cabin, this 3,460 SF two-story ranch house still richly evokes the grace and repose of Texas’s past. Renovated extensively in the 1960s by Toddie and Imogen, it has been preserved, updated, and enjoyed as a retreat for four generations of Wynnes. Inside, there are four bedrooms—each with its own theme—three bathrooms, a spacious kitchen, a formal living / dining room, a parlor, a bar, and a large trophy room with a giant, antique brick, wood burning fireplace that has a grill and pot holders for cooking. A wide lawn with thick St. Augustine and a tall canopy of trees sits behind the Big House and has hosted weddings, concerts, and the very first Cattle Baron’s Ball. Together, the Big House and its grounds not only sit at the approximate center of Star Brand Ranch, but they’re also the ranch’s heart. When there the short miles to Dallas grow long, the long-ago past is still alive, and the din and stress of modern life starts to seem much less relevant.
House Lane – the Trail House and ranch hand homes: Stretching out West from the front of the Wynne Family Residence, House Lane is an adjoining private road fronting several houses historically used by Star Brand Ranch staff. The 3,000 SF two-story Trail House sits next door to the Big House. With a large living room and several bedrooms, the Trail House is ideal for a family, and has been home to several of Star Brand Ranch’s managers. The style of the Trail house, with its white wood exterior, expansive porch, and large lawns, matches the Big House perfectly.
Further to the west along House Lane, in a long sweeping bend, are five matching ranch-hand homes in various conditions. They are located far enough from the other homes for privacy, yet close enough to the barns that anyone late to work better have a good excuse. The charming white cabins, sitting among their own row of oaks, provide the perfect frame for the Big House’s setting, and walking past them down House Lane, one quickly steps back in time and finds themselves in a quieter, more relaxed frame of mind.
Main Lodge, Guest Rooms, Patio, Tennis Courts, and Swimming Pool: Across Star Brand Drive from the back lawn of the Big House is the ranch’s modern Main Lodge. This separate facility, built in a matching style with a wrap-around porch, offers nearly 10,000 SF of entertaining space. Backed by a commercial-style kitchen and butler’s pantry, the long, high-ceiling main dining room sits up to 50 guests for meals, and the adjoining Island Room, with its sweeping bank of windows and open layout, makes for an ideal space to mingle before or after dinner. A dedicated bar opens to both rooms and has a connected, secure liquor closet. The Main Lodge also features a game room, a large room with a projector that has doubled as both a dance-floor and a theater, several other rooms for meeting and socializing, a caterer’s entrance, and an attached ranch office. Together, these facilities make it possible to host large groups for the holidays, meetings, or other private parties.
South of the Main Lodge are two connected single-story wings of guest rooms with 26 individual rooms and en-suite bathrooms. Together these lodges can sleep over 50 guests or family members and also include a workout room, small sauna, and commercial-style laundry room. With their long porches facing both a shaded lawn on Star Brand Drive and the wide, gentle slope down into the pastures along King’s Creek, guests staying in the rooms are wrapped in the stillness and beautiful isolation of the ranch from morning to night each day.
Connecting the Main Lodge and the guest rooms is a 3,500 SF flagstone patio with fountain and landscaped pergola, perfect for outdoor dining and entertaining, that also captures a panoramic vista of the pastures, creek, and tree-lined frontier of Kaufman stretching out below.
Back across Star Brand Drive, opposite the Guest Lodges, are a lighted tennis court, swimming pool with a hot tub, and paved parking lot for guests.
Family Office: The family office is located in its own secure and private ±4,800 SF building located just west of the homestead compound with a separate entry gate and driveway along US Hwy 175. This building was built in 1994 and has 8 offices, 8 bathrooms, a large conference room, library, reception area, and a break room. The exterior offices each have their own unique view of the ranch and a private patio and bathroom. Created to capitalize on exterior lighting, the building has oversized windows and 25’ ceilings. The office is secured by a modern alarm system and a secure electric entry gate. The drive-up appeal is similar to the main ranch entry with a tree-lined driveway and exterior landscaping. There is a private parking lot for approximately 15 vehicles.
Shops / Barns: The main ranch barn and shop are enclosed by the same metal roof. Nearly 23,000 SF, these structures can accommodate projects of any size and a fleet of vehicles or ranching implements. In the past, Star Brand Ranch produced its own cattle feed and grain, and the historic massive steel grainery and processing facility, which remains intact but of an unknown working condition, exemplifies both the authentic, inimitable character and showcase appeal of the property.
A 50’x100’ pole barn shares a driveway with the main ranch barn and shop for storing additional ranch equipment and vehicles.
The ranch’s horse barn with a metal roof is ±2,500 SF. The barn has 12 watered stalls, a concrete floor, a tack and saddle room and feed room. Horse turnout is easy and there are 5 separate paddocks with watering troughs and feed bins.
At the south end of the ranch and next to the main ranch road is a 50’x100’ steel tractor storage barn for storing vehicles in the field.
Water is provided to Star Brand Ranch by Gastonia-Scurry Special Utility District. Electricity is furnished by Trinity Valley Electric Co-op. Natural gas is provided to by Atmos. Trash services are provided Progressive Waste Removal. All of the ranch’s improvements utilize septic systems.
The owner owns a controlling interest in the ranch’s mineral estate. There are no active leases or production on the ranch.
Excluding the headquarters and improvements, Star Brand Ranch is agriculturally exempt. The taxes are estimated to be ±$34,740.77 for 2017.
Please Contact for Information
(214) 794-1475 mobile
Hortenstine Ranch Company, LLC
Burwell Thompson, Jr
(903) 654-8990 mobile
*Star Brand Ranch is Exclusively Listed by Hortenstine Ranch Company, LLC and is Co-marketed by Property Tech
Features and Activities
1148-1218 Star Brand Dr, Kaufman, TX 75142, USA