Marsh, Stanley (1882–1946)

By: H. Allen Anderson

Type: Biography

Published: May 1, 1995

Stanley Marsh, oilman, was born on December 1, 1882, in Cincinnati, Ohio, where his father worked as an attorney. He received his early education in the city's public schools and later attended the University of Cincinnati, where he starred on the football team as a fullback. In 1908 he married Ida Davis, the first woman in Ohio to be awarded the Phi Beta Kappa key. They had a daughter and a son. Shortly before the outbreak of World War I the family moved to Coalgate, Oklahoma, where Marsh was associated with a large coal company and became manager of one of its facilities. However, the more promising oil industry beckoned him, and soon after the war's end he moved to Ardmore, Oklahoma. From there they went to Wichita Falls, Texas, and became involved in the Burkburnett boom. At the beginning of the Panhandle oil boom in 1926 Marsh and his family made their final move west, to Amarillo. There he entered into a partnership with Donald D. Harrington and Lawrence R. Hagy to form an independent firm that developed major oil and gas properties in the Panhandle field. In 1933 Hagy, Harrington, and Marsh constructed a natural gasoline (gasoline produced from natural gas) plant northeast of Amarillo. During World War II the plant, named Cargray for its location on the Carson-Gray county line, became one of the nation's leading producers of natural gasoline.

As the salesman of the firm Marsh became legendary for his uncanny ability to obtain desired oil and gas leases, even if it meant donning old clothes, throwing "a little extra mud" on his car, and spending the day working out the best deal with the landowner. If a rancher or farmer was reluctant to lease his land, Marsh might purposely leave his eyeglasses in a chair or under a table and return for them later, at which time the landowner often would be ready to sign on the dotted line. His shrewdness and genial humor were known throughout the nation's petroleum industry, and his consideration and respect for all people proved a key factor in the firm's early successes. Marsh maintained an avid interest in former employees and liberally assisted a number of young people launching their careers or seeking higher education. Traveling, golfing, hunting, and fishing were his favorite pastimes, and his unassuming, easygoing manner made him a favorite in the Amarillo business community. In the fall of 1946, soon after returning from a fishing trip in Oregon, Marsh fell seriously ill and was taken to St. Anthony's Hospital in Amarillo. There he died on October 28, 1946, after suffering a heart attack. He was buried at Llano Cemetery.

His heirs carried on his oil and gas business and used part of his bequest to branch out into other enterprises, including the Total Television and Marsh Media firms in Amarillo. A granddaughter, Melody McCormick Cooke, became noted as the author of two popular novels and for her invention of a primary reading system based on color. A grandson, Stanley Marsh III, became nationally known during the 1970s for his preoccupation with artistic eccentricities, most notably his Cadillac Ranch, where ten vintage Cadillacs are planted nose-down in a row of concrete slabs in a field near U.S. Interstate 40, west of Amarillo. Marsh Enterprises remains one of Amarillo's largest family businesses.

Amarillo Sunday News-Globe, August 23, 1987. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.


  • Oil and Gas Industry
  • Oil Entrepreneurs and Wildcatters

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

H. Allen Anderson, “Marsh, Stanley,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 27, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995