Clerk brand records reveal history of county and state

By Phil Major
publisher@wood.cm
Posted 7/15/21

When registration of marks and brands for Wood County citizens opens in the county clerk’s office Aug. 31, County Clerk Kelley Price is likely to be first in line.

The clerk has her own new …

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Clerk brand records reveal history of county and state

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When registration of marks and brands for Wood County citizens opens in the county clerk’s office Aug. 31, County Clerk Kelley Price is likely to be first in line.

The clerk has her own new brand and can’t wait to put it to good use.

Registration for marks and brands must be renewed every 10 years by state law. There is no statewide registration; it is done in each county, and livestock owners who have animals in multiple counties must register their brands in every such county.

Price has not used her brand yet. Using an unregistered brand is a misdemeanor crime.

The registration period lasts for six months until the end of February 2022, so residents have plenty of time to take care of their business.

Once the sign up period expires, any brands not registered will be open for anyone who wants to claim it.

Price’s office has brand records dating to 1879, when Gaines W. Greer registered his ear notch on Jan. 13. His location was listed as six miles east from Mineola.

Those first brand records were hand written, all the way through 1971.

That’s when the clerk’s office began its second recording book, this time with the entries typed. (They still use typewriters.)

That was also the year the state legislature approved rules making brands eligible for registration every 10 years.

Otherwise, there was no good way to know when brands went out of use.

A sketch of each brand is also included. Brands are also designated by their placement.

Two identical brands could actually be registered if each is on a different place on the animal, Price explained.

Some producers register brands in multiple locations, such as left hip and right hip.

Many of the early brands or marks were ear-notches, Price noted, with not as many actual brands.

The brand books contain family history and some Texas history as well.

The famed King Ranch in South Texas was once known for having its brands registered in all 254 counties in the state, including the well-known Running W.

Price found the last such King Ranch entry in 1971. It was first registered in Wood County in 1943.

She noted that during the 1950s drought, some King Ranch cattle were moved to the Mt. Pleasant area.

Another famous Texas brand found in the Wood County records is the 6666, headquartered near Guthrie in West Texas.

Some family brands have been passed from generation to generation. One family had its release of brand ownership on file so the brand could pass from father to son.

“It’s an heirloom,” she said, and a family may not even use the brand but just wants to keep it in the family.

Price noted her family’s longtime brand, the Rockin’ R, in the books, which will soon be joined by her personal brand, a take off on the familiar peace sign.

Price said that Collin County has developed an online brand registration system that will be rolled out to other counties at no cost.

But she says she wants to keep the rural feel of Wood County, with many folks preferring to do business in person.

The fee is $26 for each county in which the brand is registered. It can also be mailed to the clerk’s office.

New brands can be registered during the 10-year cycle but will need to be re-registered in 2031.

New brands are also sent to the sheriff’s office, to help track strays, and the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, which keeps a data base used by the association’s cattle rangers, who investigate various crimes from rustling to trailer thefts.

The oldest brand book is showing its age after 142 years. Fortunately the clerk’s office assesses a records management and archiving fee that helps to fund the preservation and restoration of historical county records.

Many of the county deed records have already been preserved and digitized, a practice Price plans to continue.

It’s about preserving the county’s history, she said.