Oscar T. (O. T.) Bassett, businessman and financier, was born in Vermont in 1850 and orphaned early. With little formal education, he drifted in and out of the army before settling in Clinton, Indiana, where he was a contractor and lumber dealer. He married Myrtle Nebeker and in 1879 moved to Fort Worth, Texas, where he started a lumber business. With Charles R. Morehead, he traveled by stagecoach to El Paso in 1880 to buy real estate for the Texas and Pacific Railway and to investigate some Arizona mines. On February 15 of that year he wrote in his diary: "Plenty of room here for a big city, which it will be in time after the railroads come." Bassett returned to Indiana in time for the birth of his son. His wife died soon thereafter, and Bassett returned to El Paso. On the way he stopped in St. Louis to arrange financing for El Paso's first bank. The State National Bank was organized with Morehead as president, Joseph Magoffin, son of El Paso's foremost pioneer James Magoffin, as vice president, and Bassett a major stockholder. In 1991 the bank, called MBank El Paso, had been in continuous operation for ninety years. Bassett also opened a lumber business, for which he took orders until the first train arrived from the Pacific Coast with a supply of California redwood. His business expanded rapidly from Texas to California; he maintained headquarters in El Paso, where he acquired considerable land. He was named president of the first El Paso school board in December 1882, and the first classrooms were opened on March 5, 1883. Bassett also served as city councilman. He died in his office above a lumberyard on January 3, 1898. His son, who had been left with relatives in Indiana, came to El Paso to carry on his father's business and became an officer of the bank. In 1921 he became the bank's president. A downtown building and a shopping center carry the Bassett name.
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Harriot Howze Jones, comp. and ed., El Paso: A Centennial Portrait (El Paso, 1972). Vertical Files, Southwest Collection, El Paso Public Library. Owen P. White, Out of the Desert: The Historical Romance of El Paso (El Paso: McMath, 1924).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Arthur H. Leibson,
“Bassett, Oscar T.,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 22, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
November 1, 1994