With faith leading perseverance, integrity nurturing successful land stewardship, strength stimulating empowerment, and excellence keeping the legendary Four Sixes Ranch alive, the 150-year-old operation carries a legacy like no other.
In 1870, Capt. Samuel “Burk” Burnett was just 19 years old when he purchased 100 head of cattle from a Denton, Texas, gentleman. Through faith, Burnett was able to endure an economic depression to start the Four Sixes Ranch.
Burnett’s dedication to his practice is showcased in the National Ranching Heritage Center at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Jim Bret Campbell, NRHC executive director, said Burnett’s legacy lives on today.
“It’s pretty safe to say that the Four Sixes is one of the preeminent ranches anywhere in the world,” Campbell said. “When you think of prominent ranches that just have a cachet, the Four Sixes are known from Dallas to Beijing.”
The Burnett family tree grew as Burk and his wife, Ruth Loyd, had a son, Thomas “Tom” Loyd Burnett, in 1871. As the single heir to the land after the passing of his siblings, Tom began championing his father’s legacy. From a ranch hand in 1887, to a wagon boss in 1891, to a husband and father in the same year, Tom and his wife, Olive “Ollie” Lake, had yet another single heir to the land – Anne “Miss Anne” Valliant Burnett.
A new legacy was born. Miss Anne and James Goodwin Hall had the third single heir to the historic ranch land in 1938 with the birth of Anne Burnett, often referred to as Mrs. Anne Marion.
“Under Anne’s ownership and management, the Four Sixes Ranch took on the legacy that it holds today,” Campbell said.
With honor to what her father invested in, Mrs. Anne maintained integrity to the stewardship of the land in Guthrie, Texas. Mrs. Anne and her mother dedicated time and money throughout their lives to the ranch’s sustainability.
“In the last two generations, there’s been a huge emphasis on managing land to enable it to be sustainable,” Campbell said. “Mrs. Marion, in particular, has spent millions of dollars controlling brush, improving the ranch’s wildlife management and improving grazing across the ranch.”
With over 260,000 acres of land and over 7,000 mother cows in 2020, Mrs. Anne has always carried the responsibility of mothering the land. Doing what she can for grazing, production, cultivation and watering practices, Mrs. Anne faced what could be the worst drought the ranch had ever seen in 2011. With the help of Joe Leathers, ranch manager and head of the Four Sixes cattle division, the two searched to lease ranches in Wyoming, Montana, Nevada and Nebraska, just to keep the cows safe and maintained.
“They had worked hard to develop the genetics of those cattle, and they didn’t want to lose that genetic potential and have to start all over again,” Campbell said. “That was a huge commitment, financially and emotionally, but it was the right thing to do for the land.”
The noble decision she made to move the cows north, created a necessary fix, but one Mrs. Anne felt was responsible for the future. Now, nearly nine years later, all of the cows are back to the Four Sixes.
Mrs. Anne worked to prove her strength. “She was going to make [the ranch] successful by force of will, if nothing else,” Campbell said.
Knowing she could not do it all alone, Mrs. Anne hired the right people to make the Four Sixes Ranch into what it is today. In doing so, she obtained a remarkable level of respect among her employees and all who lived on the ranch.
“Joe told me one time, he said, ‘I answer to a board of directors of one, and if I need something, I talk to Mrs. Anne. Then we’re able to go on and execute that and I don’t have to go through 37 levels of management.’”
The perception many people have of the ranch today can be attributed to Mrs. Anne Marion. Due to her management, interest in the Four Sixes has grown significantly since the 1940s.
The ranch celebrated its 150-year anniversary in 2020.
“There are other ranches that have been able to stay together for that period of time,” Campbell said. “But not very many of them have risen to the level that the Sixes has.”
The brand has grown more recognizable as the legacy lives on. The legendary “6666” are worn with pride by all who know and love the ranch. Mrs. Anne had a way she wanted to be viewed and she knew how to do it. Campbell said Anne once said she wanted her cowboys to “look like Four Sixes men.” She made sure things were done with a purpose.
Joe Leathers, Four Sixes ranch manager, experiences the ranch first-hand each day.
“Striving for excellence in all aspects of the Four Sixes and our lives means never accepting mediocrity in everything we do,” Leathers said.
The excellence of the ranch reaches from deep within and far and wide, but four identifiers influence the Four Sixes legacy – faith, integrity, strength and excellence.