Opening the History Books on Santa Rita Ranch
Santa Rita Ranch has created a rich legacy for what will one day be 6,000 families living a life by the Ranch Code where they learn from the land, enjoy family bonds, get to know their neighbors and discover natural beauty.
But this enduring legacy started decades prior and its history has impacted millions.
What does Santa Rita mean?
Santa Rita refers to Saint Rita of Cascia — an Italian widow and Augustinian nun who lived from 1381 to 1457. She is known as the Patroness of Impossible Causes and became a nun at age 36 after the death of her husband and her twin sons. When she was around 60 years of age, a small wound appeared on her forehead while she prayed. The wound was considered a partial Stigmata in reference to the crown of thorns that encircled Christ’s head, and she bore the wound until her death at age 76. When her body was prepared for funeral and later exhumed over the years, her forehead wound remained the same with glistening light reflected from the drops of blood. Her body also showed no decomposition and she was declared incorruptible.
Saint Rita forever became associated with a rose. When nearing the end of her life, she asked a visiting cousin to bring her a rose from her old home. Her cousin complied and was surprised to find a single rose blooming in the January garden and brought it back to Saint Rita.
What does an Italian saint have to do with Texas?
In 1919, Rupert P. Ricker applied for leasing rights on 431,360 acres in Texas. Having financing problems, he sold his idea for the land to Frank T. Pickrell and Haymon Krupp. The pair formed the Texon Oil and Land Company and quickly began selling company stock and certificates of interest in sections of land to raise money so they could show drilling progress before Jan. 9, 1921, to keep their lease. They managed to barely meet the deadline by starting drilling on a water well that would service the oil drilling operation and persuading two cowboys to sign an affidavit that work began on Jan. 8 prior to midnight.
Among the investors was a group of nuns from New York. A bit worried about their investment, they prayed to Santa Rita, the Patron Saint of the Impossible, for help. When meeting with Pickrell, two of the nuns gave him an envelope containing a red rose that had been blessed by a priest in the name of the saint. They asked him to take it back to Texas and climb to the top of the derrick and scatter the petals.
Pickrell did just that, throwing a handful of dried rose petals from the top of the derrick during a dedication ceremony naming the well Santa Rita.
How is the gush of oil and public universities linked?
Santa Rita No. 1 roared to life in May of 1923, proving the wealth of oil in West Texas and making the University of Texas at Austin one of the best-endowed universities in the nation. Because the land where the oil well was located was on university land, the university system maintained oil and mineral rights with proceeds going to the Permanent University Fund. Until Santa Rita No. 1 produced oil, the fund only received minimal revenue from grazing leases. All that changed and by 1925, the Permanent University Fund was receiving $2,000 in income daily. Today, the fund aids schools within the University of Texas System and the Texas A&M University System.
The oil well is capped — what now?
Santa Rita No. 1 was capped in 1990, but while it no longer produced “Texas tea” to help fund universities, Santa Rita Ranch is doing its part to support excellence in education. The community master plan has dedicated land for several on-site schools, including two that are now open — Santa Rita Ranch Elementary and Divine Savior Academy. Plus, Developer Ed Horne has pledged that $1,000 be donated for educational endeavors for every home sold in the community. And with 6,000 Santa Rita Ranch homes for sale, that amounts to a lot of money.