In 1925 the iconic rodeo promoter and “King of the Rodeo,” John “Tex” Austin purchased a series of parcels from the Pecos Pueblo Grant and called his new acquisition “Forked Lightning Ranch.” He hired famed architect John Gaw Meem to construct his ranch compound. As the popularity of rodeo grew, Austin capitalized on the urban attraction to rodeo and the eastern curiosity about the newly discovered West and began a dude ranch on his Forked Lightning Ranch. The “dudes” traveled at their own expense, two days by train from Chicago for the chance to trail cattle in the Wild West in Comanche Indian country. He would invite dudes to participate in cattle drives between Forked Lightning Ranch and his ranch near Las Vegas, New Mexico. Austin was widely known for bringing rodeo into mainstream America. His promotion of rodeo across the United States and parts of Europe brought international acclaim. In the 1930s, The Great Depression hit and the King of Rodeo lost his Ranch to the bank.
Click on the Image below to view the promotional brochure for Tex Austin’s Forked Lightning Ranch.
The storied history of Forked Lightning continued when Texas oil tycoon E.E. “Buddy” Fogelson purchased Forked Lightning and expanded it to over 13,000 acres! But it was Fogelson’s marriage to Hollywood heartthrob, Greer Garson in 1949 which truly put the spotlight on the Santa Fe area and Forked Lightning Ranch in particular. Her Academy Award for Best Actress in 1942 for Mrs. Miniver brought her international notoriety. During the World War II era with one of Hollywood’s most popular film stars calling Forked Lightning Ranch home – Santa Fe was put on the map of the Hollywood elite. Garson was one of the first film stars to reside in the Santa Fe area – the beginning of things to come. Greer Garson’s personally engraved saddle which was purchased by Fonda in an auction, hangs over the railing in the galleria and is available for purchase as Personal Property.
Upon the death of Buddy Fogelson in 1987, his empire was divided into several parcels. Greer Garson Fogelson, who inherited part of the Ranch, sold her portion in 1991 to the Conservation Fund who in turn donated the land to the National Park Service as a part of the Pecos National Historical Park.
On a wintery day in 2000, Forked Lightning Ranch drew the attention of yet another iconic Hollywood actress seeking the peace and solitude of the Pecos River and the Tecolote Range.
The moment I stepped on the property I knew I was home – its sheer beauty made my hair stand on end. (Jane Fonda)
Architectural Digest, March 2014, Page 144 .
Upon beholding the trout-rich waters of the Pecos River with the privacy and serenity offered by the surrounding landscape, Fonda had found her personal sanctuary. Her deep appreciation and respect for the historical significance of the area is evident in her tasteful creation of the Spanish colonial-style River House and her authentic restoration to the existing improvements.