In 1835, when citizens of Texas took up arms to win their freedom, the nascent Republic called on William Nash to raise militia from among the settlers in East Texas. For his support and his service fighting among those volunteers, Nash was awarded the land that today forms the heart of Star Brand Ranch. For four more generations of the Nash family, the Ranch played an integral part in Kaufman County life, providing the foundation for the city’s First National Bank and its oil mill, and in time, when it passed to William Nash’s great-granddaughter Imogen and her husband Toddie Lee Wynne, the Ranch would come to play an even larger role across the state and the nation.
Toddie Lee Wynne Sr. was himself a member of a large, sprawling East Texas family, and had built a successful career as an oilman and attorney in Dallas. Together with his friend Clint Murchison, Sr., Toddie Lee owned and operated American Liberty Oil Company (AMLICO) and served as investor or developer in a network of businesses that included the Dallas Cowboys, Six Flags Over Texas, the Daytona International Speedway, and the planned community of Wynnewood. Alongside all these ventures, the Wynnes continued to run cattle on the Ranch, and its 1856 registered “Star Brand” would quickly become synonymous with the family name. For amid all the stresses of their success, it was at the Ranch where Toddie Lee and Imogen—or “Fat Dad” and “Big Mimi” as their children and grandchildren called them—found refuge and peace. The long, unbroken vistas, the pleasant lawns under tall oak trees, the long porch of the stately 19th Century Big House: these served as their cherished retreat and as the setting of many happy memories.
However, even in those days, Star Brand Ranch still enjoyed many guests. Some were politicians, world statesmen, and captains of industry. At least one guest would change the flavor of American cuisine and yet another would become one of the most romantic figures of the history of crime.
In 1926, Mama Adelaida Cuellar began making her soon-to-be famous tamales on the Ranch and selling them at the Kaufman County Fair. Using her profit, Cuellar opened a café in Kaufman, where her sons learned the recipes that would be the foundation of their own restaurant in Dallas called El Chico. By the 1960s, the Cuellar brothers had El Chico restaurants throughout Texas and America and were serving their mother’s tamales at the World Fair and to the Princess Grace of Monaco.
A few years after the Cuellar story began, Bonnie and Clyde made an ill-fated and uninvited stop at Star Brand. In 1932, the two outlaws and their gang hid out on the Ranch before robbing a hardware store in Kaufman where they hoped to steal guns. Unfortunately for them, the burglary went wrong, and Bonnie was captured. While the Kaufman grand jury eventually declined to indict, it was during the intervening months, stuck in the county jail, that Bonnie penned her famous poem “The Story of Suicide Sal”.
Since those heady times of the oil boom and outlaws, new generations of Wynnes have worked to build on the long legacies of their family. Toddie Lee Wynne, Jr. co-founded the real estate company of Wynne Jackson and developed the Plaza of the Americas in Dallas. He and his wife helped organize the first Cattle Baron’s Ball at Star Brand Ranch in 1974 to raise money for the American Cancer Society. That year Charlie Pride headlined the main show for a crowd with Tom Landry in attendance. Cattle Baron’s Ball has since gone on to become the American Cancer Society’s largest fundraiser, raising over $40 million dollars for cancer research, and the Ranch has been happy to host the event two more times with entertainers such as Willie Nelson and, in 2009, Montgomery Gentry and Julianne Hough.
Finally, in 1992, the three sons of Toddie Lee Wynne, Jr., decided to open the Ranch up to additional guests, and they built the Star Brand Ranch Executive Retreat, in the anticipation that many others might enjoy what had made this place special to their family for so long.
So, today, the Big House still stands proudly at the site of William Nash’s first log cabin, the evening shadows are still cool and long like their were in the early days of Texas, and slow herds of cattle still graze in the pastures as always, but the Ranch can now be your retreat as well, a place for business and relaxation, for memories and reflection. Our dedicated and experienced staff strives to provide the tradition of quality, elegance, and hospitality passed down over generations so that you too can become part of the unique and proud history that is Star Brand Ranch.