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Red River Valley Company Records

Identifier: MSS-86-BC

Scope and Content

The Red River Valley Company collection contains the records of the daily activities of the Bell Ranch. It contains the legal records of the Pablo Montoya Grant, and the correspondence of Bell Ranch managers Arthur J. Tisdall, Charles M. O'Donel, and Albert K. Mitchell, covering the years 1894 to 1943. There are monthly employee lists, payrolls, business books and annual reports, tax records, receipts for equipment and supplies, maps, surveys, cattle and horse breeding records, marketing and transportation records, details on drilling wells and installing windmills, and records of road building, fencing, and improving buildings, corrals, and shipping pens at the Bell Ranch.

The collection also contains a great deal of miscellaneous material, including the notes of manager Tisdall and his assistant Jack Culley as they moved Hispano settlers off the Bell in the 1890's. The Red River Valley Company collection is one of the largest collections of ranch records in existence.

The above information was taken from the book Bell Ranch: Cattle Ranching in the Southwest, 1824-1947, by David Remley, who used the collection to write his book.


  • 1865-1947

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.

Organizational History

The Red River Valley Company, formerly the Bell Ranch, was a three quarters-of-a-million-acre ranch lying along the Canadian River in northeastern New Mexico. Bell Ranch was originally two Mexican land grants, the Baca Location No. 2 and the vast Pablo Montoya Grant of 1824. After the war with Mexico in 1846-1847, the Pablo Montoya heirs applied for confirmation of their grant. John S. Watts who led the confirmation process took a large part of the grant as his legal fee; he later acquired the adjoining Baca Location No. 2. Watts later sold a major part of this huge property to Wilson Waddingham. Waddingham invested in gold and silver mines in the West as well as land grants in the Southwest. He had a part in the sale of the Maxwell Land Grant to British investors. Waddingham registered the Bell brand for livestock on his property in 1875.

By 1885, Waddingham and his ranch manager, Michael Slattery were running large herds of cattle on the range with little regard to sustainability of the land. By 1893, overstocking combined with drought, and also with the presence of other men's sheep and cattle left the range severely overgrazed. At this same time, a new manager on the Bell, Arthur J. Tisdall, would become the first modern ranch manager, using legal institutions, personal diplomacy, and land awareness to meet the needs of modern cattle ranching.

In 1898, E.G. Stoddard, president of the New Haven Bank, founded the Red River Valley Company to buy the Bell Ranch. From then until 1946, this company, headed first by Stoddard and after 1923, by Julius G. Day, survived the ups and downs of the cattle markets of the 1920's and 1930's. Building on Tisdall's new awareness of modern ranching practice, Bell managers Charles M. O'Donel (1898-1933) and Albert K. Mitchell (1933-1947), viewed land very differently from the way Waddingham and Slattery had. These modern cattlemen saw land and grass as resources that must be kept in balance with the size and distribution of the herd in order to produce beef cattle successfully over the long haul. In 1947, the Bell Ranch was broken up and sold. Albert K. Mitchell, the retiring general manager, gave the ranch records to the University of New Mexico.


144 boxes and 77 journals, ledgers, invoices and receipt books, plus 1 oversize folder.

Related Archival Material

Charles M. O'Donel Papers, Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico. George F. Ellis Papers, Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico. David A. Remley Papers, Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico.

Separated Material

Photographs have been transferred to Red River Valley Company Photograph Collection.

Relevant Secondary Sources

  • Remley, David. Bell Ranch: Cattle Ranching in the Southwest, 1824-1947. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1993.

Processing Information

The material was reboxed during the summer of 1970 into standard archive boxes. The following is the numbering and identification. A complete new identification from the old original gift list has not been made.
Finding Aid of the Red River Valley Company Records, 1865-1947
Processed by D. Trujillo
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 86 BC::Red River Valley Company Records)//EN" "nmu1mss86bc.sgml" converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).

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