By Brenda Ritter
Long before Texas became a republic, the seeds of Cinco Ranch were sown.
Its history began in the early 1820s when the Spanish government authorized Moses Austin to settle 300 families in the valleys of the Brazos and Colorado rivers. After Austin's death in 1821, his son Stephen gained confirmation of the original Spanish grants from the newly established Mexican government. Austin established a colony at Fort Bend and each of the 300 families received a league (4000+ acres) of land. Among them was Randolph Foster whose land, an expanse of open range roamed by buffalo, deer, wild horses and Indians, spread over Fort Bend and Waller counties.
Foster's daughter married Thomas Blakeley, a pioneer cattleman and later sheriff of Fort Bend County. Their son, Bassett, began driving cattle as a small boy and developed into a Texas cowboy and cattleman.
Along with his grandfather Foster's farm, Bassett Blakeley owned 15,000 acres of land in several counties and 14,000 head of Brahma cattle. Each year, his cowhands drove 10,000 head of cattle to the railheads in Kansas. The Katy property was known as the Blakeley Ranch. In 1937, Blakeley sold the working ranch to William Wheless, who encouraged his close friends J.S. Abercrombie, W.B. Pryon, H.G. Nelms and L.M. Josey to become partners. The five notable oil families named their joint venture Cinco Ranch.
The Wheless family lived on the ranch and sent their children to Katy schools. All the families used the property as a holiday and weekend retreat, complete with a huge clubhouse with two bedroom wings. Cinco Ranch was a cattle ranch with several acres in rice and peanut production. Neighbors recall that the Cinco Ranch bulls often visited the nearby Ernstes dairy farm and were quite adept at jumping tall fences. In the winter, the property was a haven for migratory geese and wildlife.
In February, 1984, the largest raw land transaction in the history of Houston took place when Cinco Ranch Venture purchased Cinco Ranch for a 5,000 acre master planned development.
In 1823, Stephen F. Austin said, "I am animated by the gratifying hope of providing a home for a number of meritorious citizens and of placing them and their families in a situation to make themselves happy the balance of their lives." Today, the families of the Cinco Ranch area are living out that dream.