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George F. Ellis Papers

Identifier: MSS-694-BC

Scope and Content

The collection contains papers of two Bell Ranch managers, as well as records of the Bell Ranch. It is divided into four series: George F. Ellis Papers, Albert K. Mitchell Papers, Bell Ranch Records, and Oversize Material.

The Ellis series is divided into three sub-series: General Correspondence, Subject Correspondence, and Personal Papers. Ellis' general correspondence is grouped by date and then alphabetically. General correspondence covers topics pertinent to running a large ranch including items such as marketing and transportation records, pest control, details on drilling wells, fencing, and improving buildings at the Bell Ranch. The letters about supplies for the ranch cover everyday items like coffee pots, shingles, barn paint, saddle blankets, corral posts, knives, and feed. Correspondence with ranch owners, the Keeneys, concern quail and antelope hunting, visits to the ranch, health and family events, and rainfall. In letters to J. H. Knox, Head of Department of Animal Husbandry at New Mexico State University, Ellis asks for advice, discusses bulls and weaning calves. There are also letters from people seeking employment, people asking for breeding certificates for horses, flyers and brochures for equipment, letters about cattle breeding and livestock nutrition, scattered issues of New Mexico Tax Bulletin (1948-1949), and materials related to the various groups Ellis was involved with such as New Mexico Cattle Growers' Association, Taxpayers' Association of New Mexico, and New Mexico Quarter Horse Association.

In the Ellis subject correspondence, are letters to organizations Ellis was involved with such as the New Mexico Cattle Grower's Association, American Society of Animal Science Research Committee, San Miguel County Rural Areas Development Program Committee, U. S. Forest Service, the New Mexico Wool Growers Association, Eastern New Mexico Weather Research Association and letters to Irving P. Krick regarding rainmaking (1950-1951). Ellis' personal papers cover his tenure as Regent at New Mexico State University and some of his speeches. Some topics covered in his regent files are change of the school name, athletics in college, student housing, and inequitable state funding for various state universities.

The Mitchell series is divided into two sub-series, General Correspondence and Subject Correspondence. The general correspondence is arranged alphabetically and then by date (latest to earliest). Sometimes Mitchell's reply is copied onto the backs of the original letters sent. General correspondence contains letters from applicants looking for work, various invitations to ranching events such as Ranch Improvement Field Day in Oklahoma, letters about Mitchell using an airplane in his ranching operations, his charitable donations, including the Washington Cathedral Building Fund, and the New Mexico Boys Ranch, his western art collection, buying and selling hereford cattle, hunting, and various items concerning World War II including letters from employees in the service.

Mitchell's correspondence reflects the concerns of New Mexico cattlemen in the 1940s and 1950s. Problems with the federal government over administration of the public lands, particularly Forest Service lands, reflect the general fear of extensive federal regulation of the livestock industry. His subject correspondence covers the various organizations Mitchell was involved with such as American National Live Stock Association, National Live Stock and Meat Board, and New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. There is correspondence to, from, and about Clinton P. Anderson, Secretary of Agriculture, regarding beef subsidies and the Price Control Act, meat rationing, and food shortages. There is also correspondence discussing preparing for peace-time covering such issues as nutrition, food production, boom in land prices, soldiers needing jobs, and tax issues. The New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (NMSU) Regent correspondence concerns the KOB radio station controversy, and some budget items. Regarding politics, there is material from the Republican National Committee, and the New Mexico State Central Committee about fund raising, women in the Republican Party, and letters from Rose Wilder Lane. Another real problem faced by New Mexico cattlemen during this era was the threat of foot and mouth disease being brought into this county from Mexico.

The Bell Ranch records are divided into three sub-series: Paid Bill File, Subject Files, and Payroll. Records for the Bell Ranch and the Red River Valley Company contain a paid bill file for 1939-1945 (the box was marked April 1, 1943-March 31, 1944), subject files, 1944-1945, and payroll records from 1947-1970. The paid bill file contains paid receipts from companies in and out-of-state covering such items as cutlery, feed and fertilizer, lawyers, printing, insurance, coffee, supplies, dry goods, and clothing.

Bell Ranch subject files contain cattle and horse breeding records, weather data observations, 1947-1949, inventories, phone and gas line right-of-way on the Bell Ranch, and livestock statistics. The payroll records are arranged alphabetically by employee name, 1947-1970. Information given on employees includes job title such as cowboy, maid, truck driver, bunk house cook, fence builder, windmill repair man, horse wrangler, and calf flanker. They also document when the employee started with the ranch, pay rate, Christmas bonuses, and deductions for store goods or gas.

The oversize series contains newspaper clippings, magazine articles, maps, posters, an architectural drawing of a barn, and statistical data sheets.

The Ellis and Mitchell correspondence contain some material in Spanish.


  • 1929-1970


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

Bell Ranch was a ranch of more than 700, 000 acres located in eastern San Miguel County about 50 miles northwest of Tucumcari, New Mexico. It was originally two Mexican land grants, the Baca Location No. 2 and the 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 also acquired the adjoining Baca Location No. 2. Watts later sold a major part of this property to Wilson Waddingham. 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 and grazing of stock from other ranches combined with drought to leave the range severely overgrazed. Waddingham had to sell the land due to financial problems. 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 1920s and 1930s. In 1932, Bell Ranch manager Charles ODonel retired, but stayed on as vice president of the Red River Valley Company. Philip C. Garrett replaced him as ranch manager. Garretts tenure was short. He was succeeded by Albert K. Mitchell, who managed the Bell Ranch from January 1, 1933, until the Red River Valley Company sold it in 1947. The Bell Ranch was broken up into seven smaller ranches. Mrs. Harriet E. Keeney bought the headquarters unit consisting of 130,855 acres and acquired the rights to the Bell brand. She asked George F. Ellis to manage the "Old Bell Headquarters" unit.

George Forbes Ellis managed the Bell Ranch 1947-1970. He was born in Portales, New Mexico on May 11, 1903. In 1925, he graduated from Kansas State Agricultural College (Kansas State College) at Manhattan with a degree in animal husbandry. He had worked for 20 years in the ranching field and in agricultural extension work before joining the Bell organization as an assistant manager to Albert K. Mitchell in 1944. He also operated a personal cattle ranch near the Bell Ranch. In 1947 he became manager of the Bell Ranch. As manager for the next 23 years he did pioneering work in the field of production testing in commercial cattle operations. In 1948 he inaugurated the ranch's testing program working with John H. Knox and others at the New Mexico State University Animal Husbandry Department. He was interested in increasing the weight-gaining potential of the annual calf crops and improving the type, quality and conformation of the ranch's output. He adopted sound range and water conservation practices, extended and improved the network of ranch roads and maintenance of fences and corrals and earthen tanks, and developed the "Perra Corrals." For his work he was selected New Mexico "Cattleman of the Year" in 1952. Ellis was a member of the Cattle Sanitary Board of New Mexico and a Director of the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association and New Mexico Wool Growers Association. He wrote articles for various publications such as New Mexico Stockman and American Hereford Journal, and gave presentations at various meetings such as the Hereford Congress in August 1954 in Colorado Springs. He served on the Board of Regents for New Mexico State University of Agriculture, Engineering, and Science, 1956-1958. When William N. Lane bought the Bell Ranch in April 1970, Ellis retired and Don D. Hofman became manager. Ellis died in 1972.

Albert K. Mitchell was manager of the Bell Ranch from 1933-1947. He was born in Clayton, New Mexico. He graduated from Cornell University (Ithaca, N.Y.) in 1917 with a degree in animal husbandry. Mitchell had a ranch in Mosquero, formerly the Roy Smith estate ranch, and renamed the Tequesquite Ranch. Mitchell served as president of the American Hereford Cattle Breeders Association, a member of the New Mexico House of Representatives, president of the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association (1932-1934) and was selected as the New Mexico "Cattleman of the Year" in 1963 by the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association. Mitchell was on the Board of Directors of the Foundation for American Agriculture, the National Live Stock and Meat Board, and the American Quarter Horse Association, president of the American National Live Stock Association, chairman of the National Livestock and Meat Board, Republican National Committeeman, one of the founders of the New Mexico Boys Ranch and Regent for New Mexico State University (1940-1946). He was a founder of the Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage in Oklahoma City in 1975. Mitchell died in May 1980 at age 86.


8 boxes (7.1 cu. ft.)


This collection contains correspondence and personal papers of George F. Ellis, manager of the Bell Ranch from 1947-1970, general and subject correspondence files (1944-1945) of former manager Albert K. Mitchell, and records from the Bell Ranch, 1929-1970.

Related Archival Material

Red River Valley Co. Records Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico. Charles M. O'Donel Papers Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico. Red River Valley Company Records Rio Grande Historical Collections. New Mexico State University Library. George Amos Godfrey Papers Rio Grande Historical Collections. New Mexico State University Library. David A. Remley Papers, Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico.

Separated Material

One photo album, loose photographs and postcard from correspondence transferred to the George F. Ellis Pictorial Collection
Finding Aid of the George F. Ellis Papers, 1929-1970
For Approval
Processed by T.S. Reinig
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 694 BC::George F. Ellis Papers)//EN" "nmu1mss694bc.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