William Electious (Bill) Halsell, cattleman, banker, and land developer, was born on June 7, 1850, in the vicinity of Decatur, Alabama, the fourth child of Electious and Elizabeth Jane (Mays) Halsell. In 1854 his family moved to Texas; they stopped briefly in Collin County before proceeding to Wise County, where they built a cabin in 1856. There the Halsells engaged in stock raising and farming, and the children received some formal education in a rural elementary school. As a youth Bill gained experience in handling cattle as a trail hand and line rider for a kinsman, Daniel Waggoner, who established the Three D brand on ranches along the headwaters of the Trinity River in Wise County and later extended his holdings into Clay, Wichita, Archer, Wilbarger, and Baylor counties.
In January Halsell married Mary Alice Crutchfield in her home near Decatur, Texas. They had a son, Ewing Halsell, and four daughters. After his first wife's death in 1894 Halsell married her niece, Josie Crutchfield, in Vinita, Oklahoma, on June 7, 1895. No children were born to this couple.
By taking part of his wages from the Waggoners in cattle, Halsell was able to build a herd of his own. He entered into a partnership with his brother, Glenn, to form the Halsell Cattle Company. This new organization obtained grazing rights from the Creek Nation and in 1877 stocked a ranch on lands along the Cimarron River in Indian Territory. This enterprise prospered until 1881, when the range rights and cattle were sold, and the partnership was dissolved.
Since Mary Alice was one-fourth Cherokee, Halsell obtained papers making him an adopted citizen of the Cherokee Nation and moved his family to Vinita, Oklahoma, in 1882. There he secured grazing rights on Cherokee land west of the Verdigris River and paid the nation twenty-five cents a head annually. He stocked his new ranch with cattle purchased in southern Texas and fattened them on the nutritious grasses and well-watered prairies of what is now northeastern Oklahoma. He became a wealthy man through his cattle operations, banking, and real estate. In 1901 he purchased the Spring Lake division of the XIT Ranch in Lamb and Castro counties, Texas. To this acquisition of 185,000 acres he added 100,000 acres of contiguous lands bought during the next two years. The Texas Ranch, as Halsell called his Spring Lake property, was devoted to cattle raising until 1923, when he decided to subdivide the ranch and sell the arable parts to farmers and the nonarable portions to small ranchers. Accordingly, the lands were surveyed, divided into tracts of 1¼ sections, and placed on the market. The towns of Amherst and Earth were platted, lots were sold, businesses were established, and soon the new settlements became the centers of thriving agricultural communities. Amherst had a population of 500 by the end of 1925.
Halsell died at his home in Santa Monica, California, on November 25, 1934. His funeral and burial took place in Vinita.