Parts of Guitar Ranches stem from the legacy of John Guitar, Sr., who was born in Carrollton, Missouri in 1866. He spent his childhood as a clerk in his father’s mercantile store, which his father had purchased with gold he’d saved in the California Gold Rush. In 1889 he married Laura Hudson and the couple left Missouri to settle in Jefferson, Texas. He shortly became involved in the cotton business. By 1897 he and his family had established themselves in Abilene, TX, seeking out the growing cotton industry in West Texas. He soon became interested in farming and ranching in addition to running over 20 cotton gins in and out of the state.
His first ranch purchase in 1906 was 30 sections of the Bauer & Cockrell Survey near Big Spring, TX, pieces of which are included in Guitar Ranches to this day. In 1918 he bought 53,000 acres comprising the TC Division of the Figure 2 Ranch in Hudspeth County, TX. 13,000 acres eventually went to Dell City for irrigation. John entered into a partnership with Bruce Pardue and the two men purchased land around Carlsbad, NM. One of the ranches to the west of Carlsbad had over 200 sections. Jim White, who discovered the Carlsbad Caverns, worked on this ranch in the early 1920s. His final land acquisition was the Colbert Ranch, made up of 14,000 acres, at Spur, TX in 1934.
John didn’t limit himself to agriculture and ranching, he also invested with Conrad Hilton in Hilton Hotels, and served as vice-president for 5 Hilton Hotels in Dallas and West Texas. His youngest of 8 children, Earl, managed the Abilene Hilton Hotel, and hired Lawrence Welk to play the dining room for two weeks; Welk ended up staying 6 months. Earl continued the tradition of ranching. Earl and his siblings also inherited the mineral interests from all of the land John had purchased over the years, and Earl continued to purchase land and interests during his lifetime.
Earl’s wife, Anita Grissom Guitar, inherited the Hardy Grissom Ranch just east of Abilene from her father Hardy Grissom in 1948. Hardy had purchased the ranch in the 1930s to raise registered Hereford cattle after retiring from the mercantile business. Earl and Anita continued raising Hereford cattle for many years after Hardy’s death, most notably a bull called Noble Sam that they purchased from English Royal in 1957. Earl’s son Phil and his wife Jane are the current owners and operators of Guitar Ranches.
Jane Guitar’s parents were Dickie and Elmo Joy Ferguson from Hamlin, Texas. They were one of the pioneer farming and ranching families in West Texas. They owned numerous farms around Hamlin and were one of the original operators to bring in light stocker cattle for wheat grazing. Later they expanded and purchased part of the Paddle Ranch at Clairemont, Texas, the W.F. Martin Ranch and the Y6 Ranch - both located between Hamlin and Aspermont, Texas. They owned over 50 sections of ranch land in the Hamlin area at their deaths. Jane inherited the W.F. Martin Ranch and continues to operate it today. Jane is also a voice major who produces the Abilene Opera and has sung in many musical events in Abilene.
Phil and Jane Guitar are proud supporters of the Western Heritage Classic, which is held in Abilene, Texas yearly during the second weekend of May. Their ranches have competed in the WHC ranch rodeo since 1985. They have also consigned horses to the annual horse sale. It is one of the best selections of ranch horses for sale in the U.S. Phil Guitar is also very involved in the Ranch Horse Association of America which has their finals every year during the WHC. The WHC is the largest event of its kind in the United States.