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Charles M. O'Donel Papers

Identifier: MSS-495-BC

Scope and Content

The collection contains correspondence relating to the personal and business affairs of Charles O'Donel. It also contains genealogical and biographical information about the O'Donel, Kearny and Harral families. There are also some samples of Mexican pesos and Confederate dollars (1861-1914). Photographs have been transferred to CSWR Photoarchives.


  • 1860-1978
  • Majority of material found in 1919-1935

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of CSWR material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws. Permission is required for publication or distribution.

Biographical Information

Charles M. O'Donel, ranch manager, was born in County Mayo, Ireland in 1860. Following his education "on the continent, he graduated from Sandhurst Military College, Britains "West Point. O'Donel resigned a position as captain in the British army to come to the United States with his brother, Manus. They arrived in New Orleans; Charles continued on to Texas, where he started working as a cowboy in 1885.

O'Donel arrived at the Bell Ranch on June 2, 1898 as general manager, succeeding Arthur J. Tisdall who had died 2 months earlier. Shortly after O'Donels arrival, the Bell Ranch was bought by the Red River Valley Company. O'Donel operated the ranch primarily as a cow and calf ranch, with the priority of continually improving the quality of the herd. For most of his tenure, O'Donel had the opportunity to shape policy and develop his own interests, essentially molding the operations of the Bell Ranch. He is credited with using technology and science to turn the Bell into a forward-looking, well-planned modern cattle operation.

Charles M. O'Donel was active in local and national livestock related organizations. He served as president of the New Mexico Cattle and Horse Growers Association from 1924-1926. He was a member of the American Cattle Growers Association, the National Live Stock Association, and the American National Live Stock Association (ANLSA). O'Donel was elected president of ANLSA in 1926, but had to step down in 1927 because of failing health (O'Donel suffered from sciatica).

O'Donel was married three times. His first wife died of complications related to childbirth shortly after he began work at the Bell Ranch. In 1908, he married Louise Harral of New Orleans. They had two daughters, Nuala and Bette. The family maintained a second house in Denver, where his wife and children would live during the school year. After Louises death, he married Bettie Ellerbe of Denver, CO.

In 1932, Charles O'Donel retired from the Bell Ranch, but stayed on as vice president of the Red River Valley Company. Philip C. Garrett replaced him as manager, under an unwritten arrangement in which O'Donel would run the office and Garret would manage the outdoor operations. Garretts tenure was short. He was succeeded by Albert Mitchell, who managed the Bell Ranch from January 1, 1933, until the Red River Valley Company sold it in 1946. O'Donel died at the headquarters of the Bell Ranch on Dec. 20, 1933.


1 box (1 cu. ft.), plus 1 oversize folder

Related Archival Material

Red River Valley Company Records. Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico. George F. Ellis Papers. Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico. David A. Remley Papers, Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico. Vertical File: Bell Ranch. Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico.

Separated Material

Photographs have been transferred to Charles M. O'Donel Photograph Collection.
Finding aid of the Charles M. O'Donel Papers, 1860-1978 (bulk 1919-1935)
For Approval
Processed by PBK
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • June 28, 2004: PUBLIC "-//University of New Mexico::Center for Southwest Research//TEXT (US::NmU::MSS 495 BC::Charles M. O'Donel Papers)//EN" "nmu1mss495bc.sgml" converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • Monday, 20210524: Attribute normal is missing or blank.

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131