Who Owns The Most Land In Oklahoma?
If you've driven anywhere in Oklahoma, it's hard not to notice the sheer amount of farm and ranch land lining every highway in this state. Even though the Sooner State is thought of mostly as a crop-producing farm state, we appear on a few top-5 lists for animal production.
While horse culture isn't as prevalent in everyday life, Oklahoma is a top-4 horse-producing state. We're oddly enough a top-5 meat goat producer as well, but both of those benchmarks pale in comparison to our beef production.
Oklahoma is the second-highest beef producer in the country falling only behind the expanse of Texas. We produced enough beef in just one year, 2021, to provide more than half a cow to each man, woman, and child living in the state... but where are these cows and why don't you see more of them along the roadways?
By far it's the independent family farmer/rancher that provides a bulk of the cattle for the state beef industry, but that's not to say big ranches don't exist in the state. In fact, one of those ranches represents the biggest landowning family in the state, the Drummond Ranch.
If the name sounds familiar, Oklahoma's "Pioneer Woman" celebrity chef Ree Drummond is married into that family. In fact, her entire tv production takes place on the ranch outside of Pawhuska.
Located in our biggest county, the Drummond Ranch sprawls across 433,000-ish acres in the rolling hills of the Osage Nation in Northern Oklahoma... That's roughly four and a half times the size of Fort Sill, privately owned by one working family, but it's not without its own curiosity in 2022.
According to Land Report, the Drummond Ranch has long been the largest privately-held parcel of land in Oklahoma, but the name disappeared from the report in 2021. As we roll through 2022, a different name has yet to take Drummond's place, so what gives?
Since information is so scarce, I can only hit you with theory. To understand where the story goes, you must first learn where it began.
The story that became Oklahoma's largest landowner is a true American Dream story that began in 1886 in Indian Territory. Frederick Drummond was a Scottish immigrant that spent his first few years in the New World bouncing around before finding a steady job as a mercantile in Pawhuska. After working for someone else, he decided to go at it alone and established his own shop in the town of Hominy.
Frederick got married, had kids, a successful mercantile business and was living his own American Dream. Everything went as well as could be expected. Oklahoma was growing, it became a state, and everything was fine and dandy until his death in 1913. This is when his three sons were pushed into the family business.
Almost immediately, two of the Drummond brothers started their own ranches in Osage County. Their youngest brother Frederick G continued to run the mercantile as well. Being a graduate of Harvard, he had an aptitude for business.
When the Great Depression happened in the 1930s, the economic downturn made land cheap since so many families were fleeing the dustbowl. Seeing the investment potential, Freddy G hopped into the ranching game as well and the collective family land holdings swelled to 25,000 acres by the time he died in 1958.
I can only assume that what happens in every family now likely happened in the Drummond family too. Siblings received their inheritance made up of money and property. Some were only interested in the money, others wanted the property, and the squabbling likely ended up with everyone eventually agreeing to acceptable terms. It really is crazy to see how death makes a family fight over the smallest stuff.
Even though most of this part of the story is missing from public record, Frederick G's son Frederick Ford gained control of his family ranch from his two sisters. If it was like my family, he had to buy out his sisters' portions. Regardless, by the time the 1980s rolled around, the collective Drummond ranches accounted for 200,000 acres in Oklahoma and Kansas.
At some point between then and now, the Drummond family ranches became simply the Drummond Ranch. Likely still made up of a collective of lands between the numerous branches of the family, a massive 433,000 acres in 2020 when the landowning apparently fell off the land owner report... but why?
Frederick Ford, the man credited with building the Drummond cattle empire, died in 2020. Perhaps that's why he and the Drummond Ranch were removed from the landowner report in 2021 and no other parcel or name has taken its place since.
This was the topic of conversation at lunch not long ago. Logic would suggest the ranch back to being a collective of Drummond owners with different independent deeds across those 675-ish square miles of privately owned land. It's still the biggest ranch in the state and the Drummonds are still the largest Oklahoma landowners, but the title no longer belongs to or is credited to a single person... probably.
Truth be told, only a Drummond would know and as a guy that pays the bills making fart jokes on the radio, I simply don't have those kinds of personal connections at my disposal. In fact, my limit in that circle of people is having once walked through the Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska half a dozen years ago.
So who owns the most land in Oklahoma? I think you'll agree, it's complicated. If not the Drummond family as a whole, the next two down the list are a couple of Texan oil barons from Fort Worth and San Antonio. Since we'll gladly accept technicalities to keep it all in the Oklahoma family, the Drummond Ranch it shall be.