Joseph Sterling Bridwell
|Joseph Sterling Bridwell|
March 23, 1885|
Northview, Webster County
|Died||May 8, 1966
Wichita Falls, Texas
|Resting place||Riverside Cemetery in Wichita Falls|
|Residence||Wichita Falls, Texas|
|Occupation||Oilman; rancher; philanthropist|
|Spouse(s)||Thora Jones Bridwell (died 1941)|
|Children||Two daughters, Leslie and Margaret|
Bridwell was born in Northview in Webster County in southern Missouri and attended public school in nearby Marshfield, Missouri. After a short time in Oklahoma, Bridwell relocated in 1909 to Wichita Falls. First involved in the barbed wire and real estate business, he first drilled for oil in 1917 and formed the Cashion Oil Company. In 1921, Bridwell leased ranchland near Nocona, Texas, from the large landholder William T. Waggoner. He found this land rich in petroleum and drilled there in 1921. In 1927, his newly established Bridwell Oil Company owned more than seven hundred wells in Texas, Oklahoma, and four other western states. During the 1940s and 1950s, Bridwell was the largest independent oil operator in Texas. Bridwell was affiliated with most of the interest groups created to support the oil industry, such as the American Petroleum Institute and the Texas Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association (now the Texas Oil & Gas Association). In 1933, Bridwell was among those who developed the business code for the oil industry under U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's since defunct New Deal agency, the National Recovery Administration.
During the 1930s, Bridwell purchased ranches near Wichita Falls in adjacent Archer and Clay counties near the communities of Archer City and Henrietta, Texas. By 1952, Bridwell had in excess of 160,000 acres, 100 ranch employees, and 6,000 head of livestock, some 20 percent of which was registered. Among Bridwell's many prize specimens was "Larry Domino", the world champion bull of 1939. He established the Bridwell Soil Builders Award program for Archer, Clay, and Wichita counties. In 1935, Bridwell was the president of the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce; in 1940, he was the founding president of the West Texas Chamber of Commerce. He was a board member of various ranching organizations, including the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and the Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show, both in Fort Worth, the American Quarter Horse Association in Amarillo, and the Wichita Falls Farm and Ranch Club.
The philanthropist Bridwell served on the board of the Methodist orphanage in Waco, Texas, for which he constructed several residential homes. He was a board member of Southern Methodist University in Dallas and financed the construction of Bridwell Library (1950) specifically for the SMU Perkins School of Theology. The Perkins School is named for Joe and Lois Perkins, two of Bridwell's neighbors. The library holds a large collection of theological manuscripts and rare books. Bridwell began the collection in 1963, three years before his death. Citing his work in rural conservation, SMU awarded Bridwell an honorary doctor of humane letters degree in 1965, a year before his death.
The Methodist Bridwell was active in the nondenominational American Bible Society, with the goal of spreading worldwide Bibles translated into many languages; one of the society's early presidents was John Jay, first Chief Justice of the United States. He donated the land for his namesake Bridwell Park in Wichita Falls. A driving force behind the establishment of Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, he donated—he actually sold for $1 -- three hundred acres to the military installation. In the 1950s, Bridwell encouraged his employees either to quit smoking or not to start the habit, with a $50 annual bonus as an incentive.
The Bridwell Botany Research Laboratory at the University of Kansas at Lawrence, Kansas, is named in his honor as well. Bridwell financed research into the development of better strains of grasses and legumes for cattle feed.
In 1972, the Archer County Historical Commission placed an historical marker in his honor at another Bridwell Park located on U.S. Route 281 south of Windthorst, Texas. The J.S. Bridwell Agriculture Center, a multi-purpose exhibit hall which often features farm and ranch exhibits, is located near the Kay Yeager Coliseum in Wichita Falls and named in his honor. There is another historical marker in his honor at the center, which seats some 1,200 persons.
Bridwell and his wife, the former Thora Jones, had two daughters. In 1937, the Bridwells purchased what is still known as the Cline-Bridwell House at 3100 Hamilton Blvd. in Wichita Falls, where they resided for the remainder of their lives. The house is designed after the White House in Washington, D.C. The "Cline" was Walter Cline, the original owner who had been a rice farmer in Crowley in south Louisiana, before he relocated to Wichita Falls.
Thora Bridwell died in June 1941. The couple is entombed at the large Riverside Cemetery in Wichita Falls. Their infant child, L. H. Bridwell, presumably a son, died after birth in 1916. Leslie Irvin Bridwell, presumably one of the daughters, died in 1985. It appears from the cemetery records that Bridwell remarried after Thora's death and that the second wife, whose first name is not given, died in 1944, twenty-two years before Bridwell's passing. The infant son, daughter Leslie, and second wife are all interred at the Bridwell plot. The second Bridwell daughter, Margaret Thora Bridwell, was born in Wichita Falls in 1927, when her father was forty-two.
- Texas historical marker at J. S. Bridwell Agriculture Center in Wichita Falls, Texas
- "Jack O. Loftin, "Joseph Sterling Bridwell"". Texas State Historical Association online. Retrieved April 30, 2013.
- The Texas State Historical Association article is based on the 1967 294-page thesis, Joseph Sterling Bridwell, by Mary Basham Loggie, completed through Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls. Other sources include the periodicals Sheep and Goat Raiser and Cattleman (both June 1966), and vertical files from the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin, established by the former Governor Dolph Briscoe, a wealthy landowner, rancher, and banker from Uvalde.
- "Bridwell Library". tshaonline.org. Retrieved April 30, 2013.
- "Selwyn Crawford, "SMU's Bridwell Library only improving with age", March 29, 2001". Amarillo.com. Retrieved April 30, 2013.
- "Joseph Sterling Bridwell". smu.edu. Retrieved April 30, 2013.
- "Bridwell Botany Research Laboratory". admissions.ku.edu. Retrieved April 30, 2013.
- "Bridwell Park - Windthorst, Archer County, Texas". 9key.com. Retrieved April 30, 2013.
- "J. S. Bridwell Agriculture Center". wfmpec.com. Retrieved April 30, 2013.
- "Wichita Falls' own White House". Times Record News, March 28, 2010. Retrieved April 30, 2013.
- "Riverside Cemetery burial records". wichitafallstx.gov. Retrieved April 30, 2013.
- "Wichita County, Texas - Births 1927, A-K". files.usgwarchives.net. Retrieved April 30, 2013.