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The 40 Largest Private Landowners in New Mexico


   22. Mitchell family

   23. Colin McMillan &

         Benjamin Rummerfield

   24. Sam Britt

   25. Moise family

   26. Sam Donaldson

   27. William D. Sanders

From CROSSWINDS, New Mexico’s largest alternative newspaper

June 1997


Tequesquite Ranch

55,000 acres in Harding County


     In 1881, Thomas Edward Mitchell, already a veteran cowboy at age 17, moved from his native Colorado to the Tequesquite Valley to manage the Bar T Cross Ranch. By the 1890s he had bought the Bar T and bit by bit added adjoining acreage. He established New Mexico's first herd of registered Hereford cattle on what would be renamed the Tequesquite Ranch. Later Mitchell would serve a term in the State Senate, introducing the bill to establish Harding County. Mitchell died at age 70 in 1934, collapsing while he was walking to get help after his car broke down near Gallegos.

     Son Albert K. Mitchell was running the Tequesquite, but his day job was general manager of Red River Valley Co., operators of the gigantic Bell Ranch (see Lane family) down the road. In 1947, when the Bell was broken up and sold, Albert set out to expand his own holdings, which included extensive horse operations. At one point the Tequesquite contained 180,000 acres. Like his dad, he also served in the state Senate. He died in 1980 at age 86. His daughter, Linda Mitchell, had married into the Springer family, which held the giant CS Ranch (see Leslie and Linda Davis, above). Six years later, Albert K's only son, Albert J. Mitchell, died at age 54 when his plane crashed on the ranch.

     Albert J's four children assumed ownership and management of the ranch, which had dramatically fallen in size ``due to circumstances'' as a family history delicately put it. Three of the kids--Thomas E. Mitchell III and Terry Robert Mitchell and Lynda Mitchell Ray--bought out a fourth sibling, Albert J. (Scooter) Mitchell Jr., who became a lawyer in nearby Tucumcari.

     The three live on the ranch and run it largely with family members reaching into the fifth generation of Mitchell ownership. Says Lynda Ray, ``Our main concern is improving the land, preserving it for future generations.''

     In case you were wondering why you've never heard of Albert NM, it's because it's a ghost town, although the Tequesquite Ranch still uses it as a mailing address. It's not named for any of the Albert Mitchells, but for a deceased brother-in-law of T.E. Mitchell. According to family legend, local residents nominated names and the winner was chosen by lot out of a hat.



Three Rivers Cattle Company

55,000 acres in Otero County


     Former 1994 Republican U.S. Senate candidate Colin McMillan owns a spread near the Mescalero Apache reservation. His partner is Benjamin Rummerfield, a prominent Tulsa OK oilman who is founder and president of GeoData Corp., which stores and sells seismic data for oil companies.

     ``I've owned the land for the last 15 years,'' McMillan said. ``All I'm going to tell you is that it's a really large piece of land.'' He continued, ``I don't want to go into any more detail. I'm just running a private business out here.'' Rummerfield did not return calls to his office.

     The Three Rivers Cattle Company, located on U.S. Route 54 between Tularosa and Carrizozo, is home to a bottle-water business and a cattle operation. The land is about eight miles west of the northwest corner of the Mescalero Apache reservation and reaches the Southern Pacific railroad line near the town of Three Rivers. State and federal land border the north and south sides of the land.

     McMillan also founded elsewhere a 700-acre chile-growing operation in 1987 called Roswell Vegetable Farms.


24. SAM BRITT, Grenville

Pasamonte Ranch, Sandhill Ranch, Zurich Ranch

50,000 acres in Union County


     The roots of Pasamonte Ranch are filled with classic Western history -- even a bloody gunfight.

     In the late 1800s, a European named Gilg traveled west on the Texhoma Trail, which ran from Texhoma TX to Taos. He opened up a general store west of Clayton and built an adobe home on what is now known as the Pasamonte Ranch. (Pasamonte means ``the pass through the mountains'' in Spanish, a reference to the Texhoma Trail.) Upon passage of the Homestead Act, which gave free governmental land to settlers, business started booming, and Gilg opened up a post office in 1898.

     One day in 1905, Gilg traveled 34 miles east to Clayton for supplies. Two quarreling cowboys spilled out of a hotel onto Main Street. One cowboy grabbed Gilg to use him as a shield for a get-away. The other cowboy fired, killing Gilg.

     Gilg's widow sold the cattle ranch to family friend J.J. Heringa. He started buying up the small ranches in the area after the homesteaders moved out. But then Heringa, too, fell on hard times during the Great Depression and was forced to sell. The buyer was Texan Sam E. Britt, grandfather of present owner Sam Britt. "I've lived here for most of my life," he says -- now residing in the same house that the ill-fated Gilg built more than a century ago.


25. MOISE FAMILY, Albuquerque

Pintada Ranch, Juan de Dios Ranch

50,000 acres in Guadalupe County


     In 1898, brothers Julius and Sigmund Moise (pronounced mow-EES) of Tholey, Germany, emigrated to the United States and two years later opened up Moise Brothers Co., a general mercantile store in Santa Rosa. By all accounts they did well. But the real money was in their money-lending business. Their rancher customers depended on them for financing. ``People came into the mercantile and would mortgage land,'' explains Guadalupe County Tax Assessor John Serrano. Historical researcher David Delgado puts it, ``"When years were good, everyone did good, and when times were bad it was bad for everyone--except for the mercantile family who had a stronger long-term support base." Result: While also puchasing land in the open market, the Moise brothers acquired a lot of acreage to satisfy debts.

     Julius died leaving no direct heirs. Sigmund's son, Joseph Moise, grew up in Santa Rosa and for 25 years operated a western clothing business in Lubbock TX. (Another son, Irwin, was a chief justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court.) Joseph eventually returned to New Mexico and assumed management of the ranching business and investments. He died two months ago at the age of 85. During his watch, the family continued to acquire acreage around Santa Rosa. He is survived by a son, Steven Moise, an Albuquerque lawyer turned investment banker.



Chaves Canyon Ranch, Proctor Ranch, Joyce Ranch, Leonard Ranch,

Slaughter Ranch

45,000 acres in Lincoln County


     In 1989 Sam Donaldson--the famous ABC newsman with the combative persona and the bushy eyebrows--started buying Lincoln County ranchland. It was a homecoming of sorts; he grew up on his widowed mother's cotton farm in the Mesilla Valley town of Chamberino, by Las Cruces, and had attended the New Mexico Military Institute in nearby Roswell. Donaldson, 64, has frequently said that he intends to move to his ranches once his Beltway days are over.

     His non-contiguous holdings handle cattle sheep, horses and even goats.

     Over the years Donaldson has taken his lumps from environmentalists  for accepting taxpayer-paid wool subsidies and predator-control benefits when he is obviously quite wealthy. Here's his published response: ``If it's in existence and I am eligible to use it, I'll use it.'' His office says he doesn't discuss acreages.


27. WILLIAM D. SANDERS, Santa Fe and El Paso TX

Canon Blanco Ranch

45,000 acres in San Miguel and Santa Fe Counties


     After an attempt to start a Mexican cattle business bombed in the 1960s, William D. Sanders moved to El Paso TX, where, according to The Wall Street Journal, his dad was in the cotton business. Sanders formed a real-estate brokerage firm along the border. He hit the bigtime after he moved the firm to Chicago in 1970 and renamed it LaSalle Partners Ltd. LaSalle became the city's preeminent manager of real estate investments for well-heeled clients.

     But Sanders didn't forget his Southwest roots. During the 1980s he personally acquired substantial ranch land in southern Santa Fe County near Lamy and U.S. Route 285. In 1991 Sanders, who had ``retired'' from LaSalle the previous year, relocated to Santa Fe. He began creating and assembling a series of REITs--real estate investment trusts under the umbrella of his privately held Security Capital Group Inc., headquartered on Marcy St. in Santa Fe. Last year Crosswinds called Sanders the state's fourth-richest person, with a $200 million net worth. Recently, Security Capital Group asked the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission for permission to sell stock to the public; SEC filings tend to confirm our valuation.

     According to land records, Sanders' land holdings are grouped under Sanders Land and Cattle Co., which, perhaps for tax reasons, is incorporated in Nevada. Curiously, Sanders is not registered to vote in Santa Fe or San Miguel Counties. However, in state-personal-income-tax-free El Paso TX, where a Security Capital affiliate has an office, there is a William D. Sanders on the voting rolls, registering in 1990 after moving from a swank Chicago address. A person answering the phone at the El Paso office, however, says Sanders lives in Santa Fe. His spokesperson, Bob Fippinger, took our request for comment and said someone would get back to us by deadline. We're still waiting.