Mashed O Ranch [#1]

By: H. Allen Anderson

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: September 23, 2020

There are two ranching operations in Texas which, by mere coincidence, adopted a Mashed O brand. In both cases, the reasoning behind the use of this brand was that it was easy to see, it would not blot, and it could not be made upside down or altered easily.

The Mashed O, or Spring Lake, Ranch, in Lamb and Bailey counties, is part of the ranching empire owned by the Halsell Cattle Company of San Antonio, which also has holdings near Vinita, Oklahoma, where the company offices were located before 1945. The brand was started in 1889 by the brothers J. Glenn and William E. Halsell in the Cosweescoowee District of the Cherokee Nation Indian Territory. The story goes that when the Halsells dissolved their partnership, William took one of the circles from their old Three O (linked) brand and flattened it slightly with a hammer on the anvil in their blacksmith shop; the Mashed O resulted. From 1895 to 1898 Halsell used the brand on 20,000 head of cattle on his Oklahoma ranch properties, which totaled some 150,000 acres.

In 1901 Halsell purchased 184,155 acres of the old Spring Lake Division of the XIT Ranch at two dollars an acre. This tract consisted of two large pastures separated by a stretch of shinnery. The south pasture was centered around the old Sod House Camp, so named because the Estes brothers, who were hunting buffalo, had set up camp there in 1885. The north pasture was centered around the old Spring Lake Division headquarters, which Halsell utilized as his own. The headquarters, located in a grove of trees near a spring-fed lake (hence the name), gradually grew to include the main house, an office building, a bunkhouse, and the dining hall, with a basement that was used as a commissary. In 1904 Halsell began buying school land in the sand hills in exchange for farmland to the north, which he sold to buyers from Hereford. His son, Ewing Halsell, was made general manager of the Spring Lake interests about that time and held that position for the remainder of his life.

In 1923, after the Santa Fe Railroad had built across the Sod House pasture and platted the town of Amherst, the Halsells decided to sell that area as farmland at $25 an acre. Two years later land in the ranch's northeastern portion, on which the town of Earth was subsequently located, was likewise parceled off. Will Rogers, a longtime friend of the Halsells, visited them at the Spring Lake headquarters in 1935, shortly before his death with Wiley Post in an airplane crash near Point Barrow, Alaska. At that time some 5,000 head of Hereford cattle carried the Mashed O brand. By 1948 the Halsell Cattle Company, which had moved its offices to San Antonio, held nearly 75,000 acres, mostly in Lamb County. By the time of Ewing Halsell's death in December 1965, the Mashed O holdings consisted of around 80,000 acres of farmlands. John L. Murrell, a longtime Halsell employee, served as foreman of the ranch for many years. In 1990 the Spring Lake headquarters continued to function as the nucleus for the Mashed O operations, sometimes jokingly called the "Mashed Toe" by old cowhands.

Gus L. Ford, ed., Texas Cattle Brands (Dallas: Cockrell, 1936). William Curry Holden, A Ranching Saga: The Lives of William Electious Halsell and Ewing Halsell (2 vols., San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 1976). Mondel Rogers, Old Ranches of the Texas Plains (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1976). Evalyn Parrott Scott, A History of Lamb County (Sudan, Texas: Lamb County Historical Commission, 1968). Jesse Wallace Williams, The Big Ranch Country (Wichita Falls: Terry, 1954; 2d ed., Wichita Falls: Nortex, 1971).


  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Ranches Established After 1835

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

H. Allen Anderson, “Mashed O Ranch [#1],” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 01, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 23, 2020