Bridwell, Joseph Sterling (1885–1966)

By: Jack O. Loftin

Type: Biography

Published: August 1, 1995

Updated: June 21, 2020

Joseph Sterling Bridwell, oil and cattle man, was born on March 23, 1885, in Northview, Missouri. He completed public school at Marshfield, Missouri, and moved to Wichita Falls, Texas, in January 1909, after a short stay in Oklahoma. He sold a peculiar type of barbed wire stretcher. Not one of the gadgets has ever been found. He became interested in the oil business and in 1921 leased some lands on William T. Waggoner's ranch and a block north of Nocona. At every location on the latter place was a productive well. In 1927 he founded the Bridwell Oil Company, which at one time owned over 700 wells in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Montana. With these as "nest eggs," he became the largest independent oil operator in the state during the 1940s and 1950s. He served with the American Petroleum Institute, the largest association representing the entire petroleum industry. He was a member and president of North Texas Oil and Gas Association and a member of the National Petroleum Council, the Texas Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, and the General Gas Committee. Bridwell purchased ranches in Archer County in 1932 and in Clay County in 1935. His total acres grew to more than 160,000 by 1952, and he had more than 100 employees. These ranches carried 6,000 head of livestock, of which some 1,200 were registered. He had many champion cattle; the most famous was Larry Domino, the 1939 world champion bull. Bridwell established the Bridwell Soil Builders Award program in Wichita, Clay, and Archer counties. He was a founder and president (1940–41) of the West Texas Chamber of Commerce and president (1935) of the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce, and was a member of the boards of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, the Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show, the Texas Research Foundation in Renner, and the Southwest Foundation for Research and Education in San Antonio. He was for a while president of the American Hereford Association and the Independent Producers Equity Association. He was a member of the American Quarter Horse Association, the American National Cattleman's Association, the Archer County Farm Bureau, the Friends of the Land of Columbus, Ohio, and the Wichita Falls Farm and Ranch Club. Bridwell served on the boards of the Methodist Home in Waco, the Texas Research League, and Southern Methodist University. Bridwell was a member of the American Bible Society. He built several homes for the Methodist Orphanage at Waco and financed the construction of the Bridwell Library in the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. He donated the land for Bridwell Park in Wichita Falls. In 1941 he persuaded Gen. Rush B. Lincoln, then commander of the Army Air Corps Technical Training Command, to establish Sheppard Field in Wichita Falls. The field later became Sheppard Air Force Base. He sold the original 300-acre site for the training installation to the government for one dollar. In the 1950s, Bridwell started a nonsmoking plan for his employees, offering them a fifty-dollar bonus each year for both not starting and quitting. This program was heralded worldwide. Birdwell was married and had two daughters. He died may 9, 1966, in Wichita Falls. In 1972 the Archer County Historical Commission placed a historical marker for Bridwell in Bridwell Park, on U.S. highway 281 south of Windthorst.

Cattleman, June 1966. Mary Basham Loggie, Joseph Sterling Bridwell (M.A. thesis, Midwestern University, 1967). Sheep and Goat Raiser, June 1966. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

  • Oil and Gas Industry
  • Oil Entrepreneurs and Wildcatters
  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Ranchers and Cattlemen
  • Religion
  • Methodist
Time Periods:
  • Progressive Era
  • Great Depression
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • World War II
  • Texas Post World War II
  • North Texas
  • Wichita Falls

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Jack O. Loftin, “Bridwell, Joseph Sterling,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 16, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 1, 1995
June 21, 2020