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Halsell, Harry Hurrinden (1860–1957)

Grace Halsell Biography

Harry Hurrinden Halsell, cowboy, trail driver, rancher, and author, was born on October 6, 1860, near Clarksville, Texas, the second son of James Thompson and Maria (Trimbell) Halsell. In 1865 his family settled on a ranch in Wise County near Decatur. Halsell received only four years of formal schooling. According to his autobiography he was riding at age six. In 1871 he and his older brother, Oscar, accompanied their father on a trail drive to Shreveport, Louisiana. Halsell later recalled that he and his brother both carried guns and were expected to take their turns at guarding the cattle. At fourteen, in addition to his regular work as a trail hand, he began hauling freight from Dallas.

In 1877 Halsell bought cattle in Wise, Denton, Tarrant, and Parker counties, drove them to market, and sold them at a profit. He spent the following year hunting game in King and Knox counties. In 1880 he traveled to Colorado and New Mexico, where he worked as a teamster and a railroad laborer. In 1881 he went to Oklahoma and began working at the Cimmaron Ranch,which was owned by his uncle, Glenn Halsell. The next year he left the Cimarron and started ranching in Texas. He later said that "free grass and cheap cattle made it easy to get rich." During his time as a trail driver Halsell traveled throughout Texas and Oklahoma and took his cattle as far north as Kansas City. He settled in Decatur and eventually acquired ranch holdings in Wise, Clay, and Bailey counties. He was president of the Wise County National Bank and supported the local-option movement, which allowed each community to determine if alcohol would be sold there.

In 1922 Halsell moved to Lubbock, where he lived until 1945, when he moved to Fort Worth. In his seventies he began writing histories and fiction based upon his experiences in the Old West. He eventually wrote nine books: Cowboys and Cattleland (1937), Memories of the Old Chisholm Trail (1939), Romance of the West (1939), Ranger (1942), Prairie Flower (1943), The Old Cimarron (1944), Trailing On (1945), The Philosophy of Life (1946), and My Autobiography (1948).

Halsell married his second wife, Ruth Shanks, in 1906. The couple had two sons and four daughters. He served on the board of trustees of Southwestern University and was a member of the Founders Club of Southern Methodist University. Halsell died in Fort Worth on February 7, 1957, and was buried in Decatur.

Harry H. Halsell, My Autobiography (Dallas: Wilkinson Printing, 1948). William Curry Holden, A Ranching Saga: The Lives of William Electious Halsell and Ewing Halsell (2 vols., San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 1976).


  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Ranchers and Cattlemen
  • Trail Drivers and Riders

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

Grace Halsell, “Halsell, Harry Hurrinden,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 26, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.