The First National Bank

Michael Gray sat with his boys on a soft patch of clover staring back at the newly-finished cabin. It was built on a fine spot below the Animas Mountains, surrounded by endless grasses, and only a day’s-ride to the lucrative silver mines out west. After years as a Texas Ranger, he was looking forward to a more relaxed life ranching and prospecting in the New Mexico Territory.

“Daddy,” his son Dixie asked, “you think more settlers will be coming?”

Michael slid his hand across the Colt in his belt. “I reckon," he mused, "once we push out the last redskin, like in Texas. I might imagine a little town growing here. The grocery and post office would fit in nicely by those oaks... maybe a schoolhouse down by the creek.

Dixie liked the idea of founding a new town. “We’ll need a proper bank, too,” he said, “to manage all the money we’ll be bringing in... won’t have to ride all the way to Tombstone anymore.”

Michael Gray wouldn’t be around to see his daydreams come to life. On August 23, 1881, nineteen-year-old Dixie was murdered by bandits on his way to Tombstone and soon after, Michael sold the ranch.

The reign of the western cattle barons would then begin at the Gray Ranch. The schools, post offices and grocery stores would come and go. After eighty years, with both the land and the cattle-companies bankrupt, Dixie Gray’s dream of a bank would come true too, though not quite in the way he envisioned.

Today’s Gray Ranch is itself a bank, a grass bank, the first of its kind. Through unique environmental agreements, it leases out its 500 square miles of pristine pastureland to independent ranchers, preserving a way of life by preventing grazing land from ever becoming exhausted again.

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