Our ancestors arrived in Texas during the Texas Revolution in 1835, and some participated in the fight for freedom and the quest for making Texas larger than life. In 1901, William Wallace Whitley and his wife, Zoe Dixon Whitley, bought 1440 acres of raw ranch land in the Middle Verde Valley in Bandera County, just nine miles west of the small town of Bandera, Texas. The Whitleys, who had eight children, raised horses and Angora goats.
During the wake of the Depression, Whitley's daughter and son-in-law, Billie
and Dee Crowell, approached Whitley with the idea of starting a dude ranch business. He agreed to give it a try, so the Crowells left their careers in California, where Billie was an actress and Dee was a stunt man and traveled with their daughter, Darlene, back to Texas. The name Dixie Dude Ranch refers to their trek from California to “Dixieland.” Once the Crowells arrived, they worked with Whitley to make the ranch suitable for guests. They converted an old bunkhouse to living quarters, fired up a wood-burning stove for cooking and opened for business on July 3, 1937.
Student pilots stationed in San Antonio during World War II for training were among the first guests and contributed greatly to the success of the business during the early years. The young servicemen were in search of a home away from home, and they found it in the serenity of the Texas Hill Country ranch. For a dollar or two they could get a comfortable place to sleep, enjoy plenty of home-cooked food, ride horses during the day and dance to country music at night. Word spread of the ranch owners' warmth and hospitality, and the business was passed on from one generation to the next.
Today, seventh generation Texan, Clay Conoly—Billie and Dee Crowell's grandson—manages the ranch with his wife Diane and their two sons. Guests congregate in the community dining room for family-style meals, or gather in the spacious living room—called the Roundup Room—to read, watch television, dance to songs on the jukebox, chat or stretch out on one of the sofas. An antique piano parked against a side wall is available to any visitors inclined to tickle the ivories, and antique saddles from the Conoly family's collection are proudly displayed for those interested in touching a piece of Texas history.
Dixie Dude Ranch is still a working ranch, raising horses, longhorn cattle, Spanish/Boer goats, and cultivating its own hay for the stock. Experienced ranch hands work and maintain the horses. The ranch's staff includes cooks, front desk clerks, wranglers and housekeepers – all here to extend you and yours our famous Texas hospitality.