In North Texas, the Wynne name needs no introduction, but, even for such a storied family, Toddie Lee Wynne Sr. left indelible marks on Texas history—AMLICO, the Dallas Cowboys, Six Flags Over Texas, Wynnewood, and the Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas, to name a few. Yet, for all the prestige and influence he and his wife Imogen may have enjoyed, their hearts remained tied to the rolling woods and still pastures they knew as children in East Texas, and, while their retreat on Matagorda Island’s long shores may have been fit for kings, it was always their home at Star Brand Ranch that put Toddie Lee and Imogen most at ease.
However, the beginnings of Star Brand Ranch are as old as Texas. When the state’s settlers took up arms to win their freedom from Mexico, the nascent Republic called on William Nash to raise a militia from volunteers, and for that support and his service fighting, Nash was awarded land in St. Augustine County. In 1850, he swapped his grant for better land to the northwest, and it was there Nash and his family would quickly become a driving force in the new Kaufman County, founding both its First National Bank and its oil mill. Over the next few generations, the ranch would be home to statesmen like James Young—a U.S. Representative for Texas and husband of Nash’s granddaughter Allie—host the outlaws Bonnie and Clyde—who hid out on the ranch before being arrested and penning “The Story of Suicide Sal” in the Kaufman jail—and develop one of the most distinctive and important cattle brands in the state—a crescent moon over the star, the Star Brand.
But it was when Congressman Young’s daughter, Imogen, married Toddie Lee, who was the scion of another sprawling East Texas family, that Star Brand Ranch would seize its full potential and become a quintessential Texas institution, primed for cattle, hunting, and relaxation. “Fat Dad” and “Big Mimi”, as they were called by their grandchildren, added onto and modernized the old, elegant homestead, built a new complex of spacious barns, improved the pastures and planted new grasses, constructed an extensive private network of levees and irrigation, stocked all the ponds with fish, and even created a new 26 acre lake on the edge of the ranch’s southern rise. Their son-in-law planted a stand of pine trees around the shore; duck hunting there was strictly prohibited; and the Big Lake would dispense serenity and laughter to all their family and friends through those hectic years of the American midcentury.
The Wynne family didn’t keep Star Brand Ranch to themselves either. Toddie Lee’s son and daughter-in-law hosted the first Cattle Baron’s Ball on the lawn behind the Big House. Johnny Cash and Charlie Pride sang that night beneath those tall oak trees, and Cattle Baron’s Ball has gone on to become one of the leading fundraisers for cancer research in the world. Cattle Baron’s returned twice more: to the Big Lake in 1996 with Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings; then to the front pasture in 2009 with Julianne Hough and Montgomery Gentry. In 1992, Toddie Lee’s grandsons built the new Main Lodge and two wings of guest rooms and opened the Star Brand Ranch to executive retreats, private parties, and weddings, and for over two decades the brothers shared with new friends the great hospitality and relaxation their family had enjoyed for a century.
Today, the Main Lodge has been converted back to a family retreat, outlaws no longer stop by on their way to infamy, and the world’s perhaps even more hectic than it was when the Big Lake was new. But the Big House still stands proudly at the site of William Nash’s first cabin, the evening shadows are still cool and long like they were in the early days of Texas, the pines still bend in the breeze above the Big Lake, and slow herds of cattle still graze in the pastures as always. Members of the same family have been born, married, and buried on the land for the better part of 2 centuries, but history isn’t the past at Star Brand Ranch. History still lives there. The times change outside the white gates but never so quickly within.
Now, with 7 generations of fond memories and gratitude, the descendants of Toddie Lee Wynne are offering their historic ranch to the marketplace for the first time in 160 years, and they are excited to see the next owners write their own history there and add new chapters to the long legacy of an exceptional and beloved place—Star Brand Ranch.
Click to view complete details of this exclusive offering including video, maps, and photos: Star Brand Ranch.