From the Editors 29 (2011)Engineer and Editor Juan Hart Moved El Paso Forward 29 (2011)Elizabeth Garrett: Songbird of the Southwest 29 (2011)A Passionate Life: Josephine Clardy Fox 29 (2011)Forgotten No More: Korean War POW Tells Story of Survival 29 (2011)Janice Woods Windle Treasures Family History 29 (2011)Andy and Syd Cohen: The Men Behind the Name 29 (2011)Leona Ford Washington Preserved Black History 29(2011)Ingeborg Heuser Brought Professional Ballet to City 29 (2011)Lee and Beulah Moor Left Legacy of Love 29 (2011)
From the Editors 28 (2010)Chasin’ Away the Blues: Texas Sunday Legislation 28 (2010)Simeon Hart Pioneered Local Industry 28 (2010)Felix Martinez: Southwestern Renaissance Man 28 (2010)Teresa Urrea: La Santa de Cabora Inspired Mexican Revolution 28 (2010)Utopia in Mesilla: The Shalam Colony 28 (2010)Stahmann Farms Produce Pecans on Two Hemispheres 28 (2010)Betty Mary Goetting Brought Birth Control to El Paso 28 (2010)Maud Sullivan Made El Paso Public Library a Cultural Center 28 (2010)Lucy Acosta’s Legacy Continues in LULAC 28 (2010)Belen Robles: Voice for the Latino Community 28 (2010)Toltec Club: Of Ghosts and Guests 28 (2010)
Strong Women Building a Strong City -- From the Editors 27(2008)Notable Women of El Paso 27(2009)The Chew Legacy: The Story of Herlinda Wong Chew 27(2009)Desert Nightingale: Louise Dietrich 27(2009)1909-2009: YWCA Celebrates 100 Years in El Paso 27(2009)Mabel Welch: El Paso’s First Female Architect 27(2009)Myrna Deckert Remains Modest About Achievements 27(2009)Suzie Azar Still Reaches for the Sky 27 (2009)The Moocher: Callie Fairley, First Woman Vice Detective in El Paso 27(2009)Alicia R. Chacón Came to Politics Naturally 27 (2009)Rosa Guerrero: Cultural Dynamo 27 (2009)
From the Past to the Present -- From the Editor 26 (2007/08)Yandell Boulevard Named for Prominent El Paso Physician 26 (2007/08)Japanese Immigrants Came Slowly to Borderland 26 (2007/08)World War II Affected Japanese Immigrants 26 (2007/08)Living, Breathing New Mexico Ghost Town: Hillsboro 26 (2007/08)Canutillo Developed from Land Grant 26 (2007/08)Rómulo Escobar Zerman: Juárez Agronomist and Teacher 26 (2007/08)El Paso Mayor: Tom Lea Jr. 26 (2007/08)Ted Karam: Lebanese Immigrant Lived American Dream 26 (2007/08)Publication Credits 26 (2007/08)
From the Director 25 (2006)First El Paso Protestant Church: St. Clement's 25 (2006)Bowie High School: Always a Bear 25 (2006)Golden Gloves Grew Out of El Paso's Love of Boxing 25 (2006)LULAC Fought Hard to Guarantee Rights 25 (2006)El Paso Women Gained Power in LULAC 25 (2006)McKelligon Canyon: From Cattle to Culture 25 (2006)Tortugas Celebrates Virgen de Guadalupe, San Juan 25 (2006)Bataan Death March and POW Camps 25 (2006)Bataan Survivors Recall Horrors 25 (2006)Anthony Family Had Five Sons in World War II 25 (2006)Sober on the Border 25 (2006)Clyde W. Tombaugh: Farm Boy Reached for the Stars 25 (2006)A Taste of Southwest Wine 25 (2006)
From the Director 24 (2005)From the Editors 24 (2005)Gypsie Davenport and May Palmer Ran Infamous Brothels 24 (2005)Pioneer Attorney William Burges Tackled Unpopular Issues 24 (2005)Richard Fenner Burges: Renaissance Man 24 (2005)Charles Kelly Wielded Power with Political 'Ring' 24 (2005)Tom Charles Wanted World to Know White Sands 24 (2005)Dripping Springs has Rich History 24 (2005)Thomas B. White Directed Innovative La Tuna for 19 Years 24 (2005)Cowboys on the Range --- Missile Range, That Is 24 (2005)Ranchers vs. the Feds: The McNew Saga 24 (2005)Mexican Repatriation in 1930s 24 (2005)White House Department Store 24 (2005)Thomason Hospital Celebrates 90 Years 24 (2005)R.E. Thomason Shaped City, State, Nation 24 (2005)
Postcards from the Past Editor's Column 23 (2004)From the Editors 23 (2004)Solomon C. Schutz Helped Bring Law and Order to El Paso 23 (2004)James Gillett Showed Courage in El Paso 23 (2004)Jim White Explored Carlsbad Caverns for Years 23 (2004)Ben Lilly: Mountain Man of the Southwest 23 (2004)Aldo Leopold Proposed Land Ethics 23 (2004)Escontrias Ranch: A Link to Hueco Tanks Park 23 (2004)Hueco Tanks is Site of Controversy 23 (2004)Marcelino Serna Became World War I Hero 23 (2004)Sam Dreben Soldiered All Over the World 23 (2004)Kern Place Neighborhood: The Man Behind the Name 23 (2004)Farah Manufacturing Now Just a Memory 23 (2004)Texas Knights of Columbus Began in El Paso 23 (2004)
Look for Us on the Web - Editor's Column 22 (2003)From the Editors 22 (2003)Victorio Fought to the Death for Homeland 22 (2003)O. T. Bassett and Charles R. Morehead 22 (2003)S. H. Newman: Pioneer Newspaperman Fought Vice 22 (2003)Elfego Baca Lived More Than Nine Lives 22 (2003)Woman's Club Has Long Served City 22 (2003)Cathedral's Beauty Pleases 22 (2003)Albert J. Fountain's Achievements Eclipsed by Mysterious Death 22 (2003)Albert B. Fall's Career Ended in Disgrace 22 (2003)Cloudcroft Baby Sanatorium Saved Many 22 (2003)Dale Resler Worked Hard for El Paso 22 (2003)Price's Dairy Still Family Owned 22 (2003)Woodlawn Bottling Brought Pepsi to Town 22 (2003)Union Depot Witnessed Growth of El Paso 22 (2003)
We're Now on the Web --From the Editor 21(2002)From the Editors 21(2002)Downtown Opium Dens Attracted Many 21(2002)Juneteenth Celebrates Freedom for Texas Slaves 21(2002)Black Cowboys Rode the Trails, Too 21(2002)Ku Klux Klan Had Short Life in El Paso 21(2002)Mining Became Big Business in Southwest 21(2002)Smeltertown Still Exists in Memories 21 (2002)El Paso Played Important Role in the Mexican Revolution 21 (2002)Pancho Villa Led Northern Forces in Revolution 21 (2002)Soldaderas Played Important Roles in Revolution 21 (2002)Pershing, Villa Forever Linked to Columbus 21 (2002)Cristeros Became Mexican Martyrs 1926-1929 -- 21 (2002)Houchen Settlement House Helped New Arrivals 21 (2002)Otis A. Aultman Captured Border History in Pictures 21 (2002)
Hot Springs Have Long HistoryThe Building of a City -- From the Editor 20 (2001)From the Staff (Volume 20)Pat Garrett Enjoyed Controversy 20 (2001)Marshal Dallas Stoudenmire Terrorized Town 20 (2001)History Reveals Rivalry of Madams Etta Clark and Alice Abbott 20 (2001)Kohlberg, Krupp, Zielonka Became Business and Civic Leaders 20 (2001)Olga Kohlberg Pioneered Many Local Organizations 20 (2001)Henry Trost's Architectural Legacy Lives On 20 (2001)Sunset Heights Preserves History 20 (2001)Adolph Schwartz Built Local Retail Dynasty 20 (2001)Zach T. White Brought Progress to El Paso 20 (2001)Masons Became Leaders in Texas, El Paso 20 (2001)Smallpox Epidemic Showed Need for Hospitals20 (2001)El Paso High School Remains Classic 20 (2001)Bhutanese Architecture Distinguishes UTEP Campus 20 (2001)Elephant Butte Dam Solved Early Water Problems 20 (2001)
Pioneer Ranch became Concordia Cemetery 19 (2000)El Paso Grows Up 19 (2000)From the Staff 19 (2000)Chinese Immigrants Helped Build Railroad in El Paso 19 (2000)Volunteer Fire Department Grew into Professional Company 19 (2000)1880s Brought First Theaters to Town 19 (2000)Sisters of Charity Began Hotel Dieu Hospital 19 (2000)Tuberculosis Turned El Paso Into a Health Center 19 (2000)First Public School Built in 1884 19 (2000)Enigmatic Olivas Aoy Began School for Mexican Children 19 (2000)El Paso Public Library Began Modestly 19 (2000)Jesuits Continue to Influence Area 19 (2000)Sisters of Loretto Have Long Tradition in Southwest 19 (2000)Mormons Found Sanctuary in Mexico in 1880s 19 (2000)Mennonite Colonies in Mexico Accept Change Slowly 19 (2000)Flu Epidemic of 1918 Hit El Paso Hard 19 (2000)Early City Planners Saw Future in Scenic Drive 19 (2000)Prohibition Stimulated Economies of El Paso, Juárez 19 (2000)
The Editor's Column : The Building of a City 18 (1999)From the Editors 18 (1999)Magoffinsville Had Lasting Influence on El Paso 18 (1999)Town of El Paso Grew from Pioneer Settlements 18 (1999)Downtown El Paso Is Monument to Anson Mills 18 (1999)1848 War With Mexico Created Southwest 18 (1999)Colonel Doniphan and Volunteers Won Battle of Brazito 18 (1999)Gadsden Purchase Clarified U.S. Boundaries 18 (1999)Early Fort Bliss Occupied Pioneer Sites 18 (1999)Henry O. Flipper Paved Way for Integration of Military 18 (1999)Buffalo Soldiers Defended Western Frontier 18 (1999)El Paso Was Midpoint of Overland Mail Service 18 (1999)Salt War of 1877 Divided Southwest Residents 18 (1999)Geronimo Led Final Fight 18 (1999)Apache Indians Defended Homelands in Southwest 18 (1999)Texas Rangers Helped Keep Order on Frontier 18 (1999)Sarah Bowman and Tillie Howard: Madams of the 1800s 18 (1999)El Paso Grew Up with Arrival of Railroad 18 (1999)
Aztecs Ruled Complex, Rich Society 17 (1998)From the Editor 17 (1998)Aztec Beliefs Helped Conquer Mexico 17 (1998)Cortés Created New Order in Mexico 17 (1998)La Malinche Remains Controversial 17 (1998)Cabeza de Vaca: Travels in Texas 17 (1998)Estebán Furthered Legend of Cíbola 17 (1998)Coronado Searched for Cities of Gold 17 (1998)Oñate Conquered Desert to Explore Southwest 17 (1998)Festival Celebrates Oñate's Historic Arrival 17 (1998)Fray Garcia Left Great Legacy 17 (1998)Franciscans Brought Catholicism to Area 17 (1998)America's First Highway: El Camino Real 17 (1998)Pueblo Revolt Brought Tiguas South 17 (1998)Tigua Indians Survive 300 Years of Ordeals 17 (1998)Area Missions are Part of Living History 17 (1998)San Elizario Presidio Protected Settlers 17 (1998)Ethnic Terms Can Cause Confusion 17 (1998)
Oasis Restaurants Symbolized ‘50s Teen Scene 13 (1995)‘50s Cars Changed American Lifestyle And Image 13 (1995)Chevy Bel Air Charmed 1950 Car Buyers 13 (1995)San Jacinto Plaza Remains Heart Of Downtown El Paso 13 (1995)Smokey Bear: A Legend Is Made 13 (1995)El Paso's Company E Survivors Remember Rapido River Assaults 13 (1995)Company E Survivor Recalls Days As Prisoner Of War 13 (1995)El Paso Red Cross Essential to War Effort 13 (1995)World War II Took its Toll On The Home Front 13 (1995)Civil Air Patrol Protected Border During World War II -- 13 (1995)Quickie Divorces Granted in Juárez 13 (1995)Atomic Bomb Developed In Southwest 13 (1995)Former Crew Members On B-17s Remember Tough Times 13 (1995)Vintage Warplanes Keep Past Alive 13 (1995)The Cavalry Bugler: Essential To Horse and Man 13 (1995)Sun Carnival 1936 Style 13 (1995)H. Arthur Brown: El Paso Symphony Guru Of The ‘30s -- 13 (1995)Swing Music Helped Dispel The Blues Of The ‘30s and ‘40s -- 13 (1995)The General Store: A Hidden Treasure Of The Past 13 (1995)
Change on the Border 15 (1997)From the Editor 15 (1997)Latinos Work To Change Stereotypes In Hollywood 15 (1997)Cesar Chávez: Simple Man, People’s Hero 15 (1997)Shelter For Farm Workers Becomes Reality 15 (1997)Women’s Shelter Helps To Heal The Pain 15 (1997)Home Schools Become Popular Alternative 15 (1997)Renovation May Revive Downtown El Paso 15 (1997)Title IX Changed Women's Sports 15 (1997)Special Olympics Shine In El Paso 15 (1997)La Fe Clinic Serves South El Paso 15 (1997)ASARCO Works To Clean Up Its Act 15 (1997)A Growing Phenomenon: Single Fathers 15 (1997)Stepfamilies Become More Numerous 15 (1997)Teens Rebel Against Authority 15 (1997)Comics Retain Popularity 15 (1997)Tom Moore And Archie Have Timeless Appeal 15 (1997)
Life on the Border: 1950s & 1960s --14 (1996)From The Editors 14 (1996)A Baseball Team By Any Other Name 14 (1996)Drive-In Theaters Appealed to all Ages 14 (1996)El Paso Trolley First to Connect Two Nations 14 (1996)Barbie Doll Revolutionized Toy Industry 14 (1996)Rabies Took Bite of Sun City 14 (1996)Rabies: A Deadly Virus 14 (1996)Border Patrol Used Variety of Methods to Control Immigration 14 (1996)L. A. Nixon Fought Texas Voting Law 14 (1996)Douglass School Served Black Community Well 14 (1996)Thelma White Case Forced College Integration 14 (1996)Steve Crosno: An El Paso Original 14 (1996)Rock 'N' Roll Defined Teen Culture 14 (1996)A Shopping Mall by the People for the People 14 (1996)Chamizal Dispute Settled Peacefully 14 (1996)Turney Mansion Becomes Work of Art 14 (1996)First Hispanic Mayor Elected in 1957 -- 14 (1996)Flower Children Chose Alternative Lifestyle 14 (1996)
Three Decades of History 12 (1994)From the Editors 12 (1994)The Plaza Theater…Here to Stay!? 12 (1994)El Paso Broadcasting: The Stories Behind the Call Letters 12 (1994)Alphabet Agencies: FDR's Brainstorm 12 (1994)Chihuahuita in the 1930s: Tough Times in the Barrio 12 (1994)Hobo Sign Language Targeted El Paso 12 (1994)Self- Sufficiency Key to Farmers' Survival During Depression 12 (1994)Hanna's Story A Holocaust Survivor Remembers 12 (1994)Former Members Recall Life in Hitler Youth 12 (1994)German Prisoners of War Interned at Fort Bliss During World War II -- 12 (1994)German POWs Remembered at Fort Bliss 12 (1994)One German POW's Story 12 (1994)Ration Books and Victory Gardens: Coping with Shortages 12 (1994)Women Changed Wartime Work Patterns 12 (1994)Bracero Program Hurt Domestic Farm Workers 12 (1994)San Pedro Pharmacy Retains Look of the Past 12 (1994)Teenage Fashions of the Nifty Fifties 12 (1994)Rebel Image of Motorcyclists Set in 1950s -- 12 (1994)
Border Customs and Crafts From the Editor 10 (1992)From the Editors 10 (1992)King on the Mountain 10 (1992)Piñatas! 10 (1992)How to Play the Piñata Game 10 (1992)Out of a Cotton Boll Bloom Beautiful Crafts 10 (1992)Cotton Boll Entertains Too 10 (1992)Hands That Create Art and Soul 10 (1992)La Charreada - Mexican Horsemanship 10 (1992)Boots - A Family Tradition 10 (1992)Some Boys Still Grow Up to be Cowboys 10 (1992)Boot Capital of the World 10 (1992)The Magic of Mariachis 10 (1992)Ballet Folklorico - High School Style 10 (1992)New Generation of Mariachis 10 (1992)The Lady is a Bullfighter 10 (1992)The Midwife: Choices for Border Women 10 (1992)Retablos: Echoes of Faith 10 (1992)Tigua Indians: Dancing for St. Anthony 10 (1992)The Aztec and the Miracle 10 (1992)A Hispanic Girl's Coming of Age 10 (1992)Art - Low and Slow 10 (1992)Wedding Traditions on the Border 10 (1992)
Border Food Folkways From the Editor 9 (1991)From the Staff 9 (1991)Tortillas: Border Staff of Life 9 (1991)The Booming Tortilla Industry in Mexico 9 (1991)Where's The Beef? In El Paso! 9 (1991)How Do I Love Thee, Piggy? Let Me Count the Ways! 9 (1991)Tamales By Any Other Name Remain The Same 9 (1991)Rio Grande Thanksgiving 9 (1991)The Tigua Indians: Food for Thought 9 (1991)Corn: The Golden Gift from Our Ancestors 9 (1991)Border Pottery - Function and Beauty 9 (1991)Holy Hot Mole! 9 (1991)Looking Back at the Chile Pepper 9 (1991)Men Behind the Chile Pepper 9 (1991)Hot Peppers : They're Not Just for Eating 9 (1991)Food, Spices Double as Folk Cures 9 (1991)Weeds or Edible Desert Plants? 9 (1991)Cactus: It's Good for You! 9 (1991)Day of the Dead Celebrates Spiritual Tradition 9 (1991)Nutricious, Delicious Beans 9 (1991)Menudo Makes The Big Time 9 (1991)Mediterranean Cuisine: Old Tradition, Fresh Idea 9 (1991)Lenten Foods: From Fasting to Fabulous 9 (1991)Tarahumaras Rely on Nature for Food 9 (1991)Tempting Sweet Breads : Pan de Dulce 9 (1991)
Border Customs and Crafts II From the Editor -- 11 (1993)From the Editors 11 (1993)The Best Little Asaderos in Texas 11 (1993)Glass Work Disappearing on Border 11 (1993)Cockfights Legal in Surrounding Areas 11 (1993)Local Craftsmen Keep Art of Saddlery Alive 11 (1993)James and Joseph Magoffin: El Paso Pioneers 11 (1993)Chile Ristras Brighten Border Homes 11 (1993)Magoffin Home Preserves El Paso's Past 11 (1993)Bavarian Custom Celebrated in El Paso: Oktoberfest 11 (1993)Munich on the Border 11 (1993)Santo Niño de Atocha Called Miracle Worker 11 (1993)Lenten Customs Vary 11 (1993)To Ask is to Receive 11 (1993)Border Maintains Tradition of Posadas 11 (1993)A Visit from Three Kings 11 (1993)Matachines: Soldiers of the Virgin 11 (1993)Dichos Are an Intricate Part of Mexican Culture 11 (1993)Cultural Superstitions Affect Behavior 11 (1993)Que Onda Homeboy! Why Do We Talk Like This? 11 (1993)Traditional Hispanic Children's Games Disappear 11 (1993)
El Paso Women to ResearchEl Paso Women to Research (by name)El Paso Men to ResearchEl Paso Men to Research (by name)
From the Editors 30 (2012)From the Editor, Credits and Contents 30 (2012)Jessie Hawkins and Jenna Welch: Love, Loss and Laughter 30 (2012)Woodrow Wilson Bean: One in a Million 30 (2012)David L. Carrasco Gave Back to Hometown 30 (2012)Cleofas Calleros Made Local History Important 30 (2012)Robert E. McKee: From Rags to Riches to Philanthropy 30 (2012)Kate Moore Brown: A Woman of Many Firsts 30 (2012)Fun in the 1890s: The McGinty Club 30 (2012)
Borderlands Web Issue From the Editor 31(2013/14)Acknowledgements 31(2013/14)Mother Praxedes Carty: Serving God by Serving Others 31(2013/14)Carrie Tingley Hospital and the Couple Behind It 31 (2013/14)Harvey Girls Changed the West 31(2013/14)Jake Erlich: A Big Man in Many Ways 31(2013/14)Vernus Carey: Mr. YMCA 31(2013/14)
Borderlands 32 Tolerance. From the Editors and Acknowledgements 32(2014/15)Henry Kellen Created El Paso Holocaust Museum 32(2014/15)Bicycle Padre Still Working 32(2014/15)El Paso Connections: Ambrose Bierce: writer 32(2014/15)Mysterious Deaths: Bobby Fuller, Rock Icon 32(2014/15)Mysterious Deaths: Tom Ogle, Inventor 32(2014/15)Jake Erlich: A Big Man in Many Ways 32(2014)Harvey Girls Changed the West 32(2014)
Borderlands 33 Service. From the Editors and Acknowledgements 33(2015)Nothing Is Impossible: Major General Heidi V. Brown 33 (2015)Local Latino Soldiers Receive Medal of Honor Decades after Heroism 33 (2015)Vernus Carey: Mr. YMCA 33 (2015)Will the Real Leon Blevins Please stand up? 33 (2015)Carrie Tingley Hospital and the Couple Behind It 33 (2015)Mother Praxedes Carty: Serving God by Serving Others 33 (2015)
Borderlands 34 Inspiration. From the Editors and Acknowledgements 34(2016/17)Building Bridges Instead of Walls: Temple Mount Sinai 34 (2016/17)Ruben Salazar: A Bridge Between Two Societies 34 (2016/17)Luis Jimenez: Art Creates Dialogue 34 (2016/17)Richard "Tuff" Hedeman: The Michael Jordan of Professional Bull Riding 34 (2016/17)Rescue Mission of El Paso Provides Food and Opportunity 34 (2016/17)
35 From the EditorsArea Missions Are Part of Living History (with 2017 update)Downtown El Paso is Monument to Anson Mills (with 2017 update)Chihuahuita in the 1930s: Tough Times in the Barrio (with 2017 update)The Magic of Mariachis (with 2017 update)New Generation of Mariachis (with 2017 update)Looking Back at the Chile PepperMen Behind the Chile Pepper (with 2017 update)Hot Peppers: They're Not Just for EatingEl Paso Trolley First to Connect Two Nations (with 2017 update)Centro De Salud Familiar La Fe Serves El Paso County (with 2017 update)Tuberculosis Turned El Paso into a Health Center (with 2017 update)El Paso's Company E Survivors Remember Rapido River Assault (with 2017 update)Company E Survivor Recalls Days as Prisoner of War (with 2017 update)James and Joseph Magoffin: El Paso Pioneers (with 2017 update)
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O. T. Bassett and Charles R. Morehead Left Mark on City

Article first published in Vol. 22, 2003.

By Veronica Moreno, Will Daugherty, Ashley Harris, Larry Aguirre & Michael Phillips

Oscar T. Bassett, El Paso pioneerMore than 150 years ago, two men risked Indian country and traveled across Texas on a mission that would change their destiny as well as that of the West Texas town of El Paso.  O. T. Bassett and Charles R. Morehead found a desert and built a financial empire, helping to turn the small town into a prosperous city.

Image caption: O. T. Bassett helped launched the State National Bank in 1881.  Photo courtesy of Wells Fargo

Oscar T.  Bassett’s early years were rough.  He was born in Vermont in 1850 and orphaned early. With little formal education, he enlisted in the Army at 14, desiring to join Union forces and fight in the Civil War. However, not long after he enlisted, officers evaluating his capabilities sent Bassett home.

Bassett decided to settle in the quiet town of Clinton, Indiana. He learned to use tools and became a contractor. Although he achieved success, Bassett quit the contracting business and moved on to become a lumber dealer, something he would continue for life.

Despite his lack of education and earlier disappointments with the military, he proved to have a keen sense of knowing how to make money.  By 30, Bassett was already an accomplished entrepreneur. He had matured into a stocky, quiet-natured man sporting a heavy mustache.

While in Clinton, Bassett met his future wife, Myrtle Nebeker, a beautiful charismatic blonde of Dutch descent.  Intelligent and ambitious, she was one of the first women to graduate from the University of Indiana, as well as one of the first members of Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority. Her natural cheerfulness contrasted with the less social Bassett.

O. T. and Myrtle soon wed, but she fell ill early in their marriage, a victim of tuberculosis.  Even though she was weak, she gave birth to their only child, a son named Charles.  Her health remained poor, and she chose to stay in Indiana.  However, Bassett decided to go to Fort Worth, Texas, to look for new business opportunities, forcing him to travel back and forth between Indiana and Texas.

After only a year in Fort Worth, Bassett decided to go further west to El Paso to start a new lumberyard.  Fate was about to take him on an adventure that he could not have imagined. Bassett’s fellow passenger on the stagecoach would be a man named Charles R. Morehead. These two visionaries would change forever the lives of those living in the dusty town of El Paso.

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Charles Morehead, El Paso pioneerCharles Robert Morehead was born in Richmond, Missouri, on Feb. 28, 1836, to Fanny Warden and Charles R. Morehead, Sr. The elder Morehead owned a bank and store where his son experienced the practical side of business. He received his education in public schools and at the Masonic College in Lexington, Missouri. In 1855, he began work in the freight business with the Russell, Majors and Waddell Company.

This freight company supplied frontier Army posts west of Fort Leavenworth in Indian country. As assistant wagon master of the company, Morehead witnessed and survived many Indian attacks. William Connolley’s book “Doniphan’s Expedition,” quotes a portion of Morehead’s diary in which he stated, “Nothing unusual happened in this trip, except that we were ‘held-up’ by a band of Indians. They demanded some flour, sugar and coffee, which was given them, and they moved on.”

Image caption: Charles Morehead ran the State National Bank for 40 years.    Photo courtesy of the El Paso Public Library

Because of Morehead’s experience as wagon master across the Midwest, he was called to Washington, D. C., to serve on a national panel for the postal service. In 1858, he met with President James Buchanan, Secretary of War John B. Floyd and postal authorities. He sat on a planning commission discussing the feasibility of a fast mail service across the middle of the country. Upon the recommendation of Morehead and his employer, William H. Russell, the Pony Express was formed.

Morehead eventually left the freight company to move to Leavenworth, Kansas, where he opened his own mercantile and cattle company and later served as mayor. While delivering cattle to Forts Larned and Lyons in, Kansas, Moorhead almost lost his life in another Indian attack.

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In 1859, he married Lemire Morris, a distant relative. Her family was related to William Morris, the financier of the American Revolution. Two of Lemire’s sisters married the Newman brothers, H. L. (Henry) and E. S. (Zeke), cattle kings and frontier capitalists. Morehead brought the Newman brothers to El Paso, where they would become major stockholders of the State National Bank.

Historians C. L. Sonnichsen and M. G. McKinney described Morehead as  “a small, wiry, intense man with a Kentucky-Colonel goatee.” By the age of 42, Morehead had experienced more than most men twice his age. Known for his expertise on the frontier and his acute business sense, the Texas and Pacific Railroad commissioned him in 1880 to investigate the feasibility of bringing the railroad to El Paso.

If indeed a railroad connecting Fort Worth to El Paso turned out to be valuable to the Texas and Pacific, the plan was to send a road building crew to El Paso to work toward another crew starting from Fort Worth. The railroad would make its decision based on Morehead’s advice.

The stage was now set for O. T. Bassett and Charles R. Moorhead to begin an adventure that would set them on a path to riches and forge a lasting friendship. It is not known whether they knew each other prior to the ride, but by the time the Southern Overland Stagecoach came to a halt, Bassett and Morehead had become friends.  Morehead wrote in his diary when the trip was over, “We never passed a cross word and remained friends until the end.”

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The trip to El Paso in February 1880 took nine days. Shortly after the stage left Fort Worth, a sandstorm slowed the travelers’ progress considerably. Then the stage happened on a band of Apaches, led by Victorio, one of the most cunning leaders of his tribe. Some 3,000 soldiers, both American and Mexican, would chase Victorio before his capture in Tres Castillos, north of Chihuahua in October, 1880.  Bassett and Morehead were on the same route between Fort Davis and the first settlements in the Rio Grande Valley where frequent ambushes occurred.

After their driver spotted some moccasin tracks and a smoldering campfire, the men held their breath, their hands on their guns, ready to give their best fight. Morehead had endured greater challenges with the Indians back in his wagon master days, but it must have been an unsettling experience for Bassett. The stage passed the encampment without incident.

On February 13, 1880, the men arrived in El Paso and stayed at Mrs. Rohman’s adobe hotel where the Mills Building presently stands. The first night they had dinner with Mayor Joseph Magoffin, one of the largest landowners in El Paso.  A longtime resident, Magoffin saw the potential that his fledgling town had. It didn’t take much to convince Morehead of the town’s promise. He knew that as soon as the railroads were completed in and around El Paso, business opportunities would be plenty.

After dinner they drove out to look at land for sale. They mingled with people on the streets and listened to their excitement about the day the railroad would finally arrive and make everyone rich. Morehead wrote in his diary, “Plenty of room here for a big city, which it will be in time after the railroads come. It is a natural pass from east to west, north to south, and it may become a mining center".”

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Bassett and Morehead bought 400 acres of land from Joseph Magoffin, and sent the deed back to the Texas and Pacific with a letter giving the go to start the project. After Morehead completed railroad business, the men continued on to Arizona. Morehead had been asked by a group of men in St. Louis to determine whether investments in the Arizona mines would be profitable. After traveling on to California, the two returned East, Morehead to St. Louis and Bassett to Indiana to be with his ailing wife. The two men made plans to meet in St. Louis and then to move to El Paso permanently within the year.

In St. Louis, Morehead and Bassett convinced a group of capitalists to reject the mining idea and consider investing in a bank in El Paso instead. The group agreed with the two adventurers and drew up an application to begin the establishment of a national bank.

In January 1881, the two men, along with Morehead’s wife and daughter Ida, left St. Louis by train and began their momentous trip to El Paso, which proved to be uneventful until they arrived in San Marcial, New Mexico, 150 miles north of their destination. There, the porter came to their sleeping car to tell them that eight dead men lay on the depot platform, having been killed by Indians. Morehead told his wife to take the train back home, but she told him she would not return without him. After a brief discussion among the family, they continued south to Rincon, north of Las Cruces, and caught the stage to El Paso.

The pioneers arrived on Feb. 2, 1881, and were received at the home of the Magoffins.  Because houses for rent or sale did not exist, and rooms were scarce, the Moreheads lived with the Magoffins for three years, and a very strong friendship formed between the families.

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On the day after their arrival in El Paso, the men began organizing the bank. On March 23, 1981, stockholders met for the first time. Fifteen stockholders with a combined 550 shares at $100 each voted on a board of directors and officers, electing Morehead President, Joseph Magoffin, Vice President, and Bassett one of the directors.  Morehead and Magoffin would maintain their offices for 40 years.

The bank opened its doors for business on April 23, 1881. The first home of the State National Bank was a small, one-story rented building on the corner of San Antonio and El Paso Streets. The bricks had been made in Zach White’s factory, and it was either the first or second brick building in town.  The adobe village soon would give way to brick and wood construction ― a lot of it.

The year 1881 was a milestone in El Paso’s history. The first banks, the first railroads, two new newspapers and the first Catholic and Protestant Churches were all established. As El Paso grew, so did its premiere bank. When the State National first opened in1881, the bank’s original capital was $55,000 and by the early 1900s, its capital had soared to $408,433.

It did not take long for the bank to outgrow its original one-story home. In September 1882, the bank built a two-story building on the corner of Oregon and San Antonio, with second floor offices rented to doctors, lawyers and insurance companies. This building had a few elegant touches such as oil lamp chandeliers and wooden floors later covered with marble mosaic.

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As the State National prospered, so did Bassett’s biggest investment: his lumberyard, located on the corner of North Mills and Stanton Streets. For a period of 18 months, he could not keep enough lumber or hardware in his yard to supply the fast-growing city. Once the trains were running, Bassett’s business and clientele grew rapidly from Texas to California. It was Bassett’s lumber that built El Paso in the great railroad expansion of the late 1800s.

While his business prospered, Bassett would suffer a personal loss. His wife Myrtle died in Indiana on September 26, 1882, of tuberculosis. Their son Charles was only 18 months old. After her death, Bassett would focus his attention on his business and the town he loved. He never remarried.

Bassett became very active in the community. In December 1882, when the El Paso Independent School District came into being, Bassett became President of the board of trustees. The newly elected board’s first act was to purchase land to build Central School, El Paso’s first public school. Bassett also served as city councilman. He was an active director of the State National until 1888 when he resigned, most likely because he detested attending bank meetings, according to early historian Owen White.

Bassett participated in other business adventures as well. He was one of the original investors of the early newspaper called the Times. He was also appointed to a “hotel committee,” looking into the need for public lodging since the arrival of the railroad. Bassett would remain active up until his untimely death.

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By the late 1890s, Bassett was having heart problems. As his health deteriorated, Bassett had his son promise to finish college before he took over the family business.  Bassett also arranged for his good friend Charles R. Morehead to act as his son’s guardian. On January 3, 1898, O. T. Bassett went to bed in his quarters located above his lumberyard and never awoke.  He was only 48 years old.

Charles Bassett arrived in El Paso in 1901. After fulfilling his promise to his father, he carried on the family’s lumberyard business and became the Vice President of the State National Bank in 1908.  He also inherited the Bassett desire and reputation for community service.  As for Morehead, his influence would continue not only in young Charles Bassett but in the city of El Paso as well.

Morehead’s bank would become one of the three most important banks in El Paso. In a history of the State National, Sonnichsen and McKinney wrote that Morehead would become known as the “unofficial boss” of El Paso, a leading force in the community. One of Morehead’s biggest desires was to bring good water to El Paso. In 1882, the El Paso Water Company was established, and Morehead continued working to make sure the city had a permanent supply of potable water.

Morehead also cared deeply about educating El Pasoans. Like Bassett, he served on the school board, often as chairman, and did much to establish and support the public school system. He worked so tirelessly for El Paso public schools that the local system has always maintained a school with his name. In 1901, the first Morehead School was located on Arizona Street between Kansas and Campbell, and when that had to be torn down in 1966, the board named Morehead Middle School in West El Paso in his honor.

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As a bank president and community leader, it was natural that Morehead would also turn to politics, at one time the most powerful person in the Democratic Party. For many years, the Democrats wanted to preserve the status quo and the Republicans were the reformers. The reformers took a stand against the evils that infiltrated the city while the Democrats tolerated the gamblers and saloonkeepers.

Sonnichsen and McKinney wrote that Morehead had always been suspicious of reformers and “do-gooders.”  In 1889, Morehead ran for mayor against Adolph Krakauer.  Republican alderman James P. Hague called the Democratic party the “Morehead Bank Gang.” Both parties were guilty of dirty politics, however. Morehead lost this election, but in 1903, Morehead was elected mayor and served until 1905.< p />

Morehead continued to run the bank until 1920 when he was asked to leave after 40 years as its President. The bank was stagnating, Morehead refused to change with the times, and he was suffering from the infirmities of old age. The bank directors relieved him of his duties at the annual stockholders’ meeting, ironically presided over by O. T. Bassett’s son, Charles. He would take over as bank president.

Charles R. Morehead, 86, died soon after at his residence at 1119 Myrtle Avenue, a street named after his best friend’s wife. He is buried in the Masonic section of Concordia Cemetery. In his book “City at the Pass,” Leon Metz wrote, “Morehead, the Father of El Paso’s schools, died leaving a legacy of improved education, better water service, and better banking.” Besides Morehead Middle School, a street also bears his name.

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The bank that Bassett and Morehead built saw many changes. In 1922, the bank moved into its third home, a Henry Trost design based on Roman and Italian Renaissance styles, located on the corner of East San Antonio and South Oregon Streets. In 1980, this building was entered in the National Register of Historic Places. The State National financed the development of El Paso into a real city and survived World War I, the Great Depression and World War II.  In 1971, the State National built a stunning 22-story building on the block where Bassett had begun his lumberyard. The State National Bank conducted business for almost a century before it was sold to M Corp of Dallas in 1984.

In 1929, as a tribute to his father, Charles Bassett built the O. T. Bassett Tower, a 15-story skyscraper, and another of Henry Trost’s designs. The building today is known simply as Bassett Tower and is still a work of art, albeit overshadowed by much taller buildings downtown.

Charles would continue as a civic leader and President of the State National Bank until 1943 when ill health prevented him from actively directing the bank. He died five months after his resignation in Santa Monica, California. El Paso’s first shopping mall, Bassett Center, would be named in his honor.

O. T. Bassett and Charles R. Morehead stepped out of the stagecoach one cold February day in 1881 and saw the potential of a little adobe village, and helped realize it. They became important architects and builders of the West. Their story is preserved in the bricks and mortar of the buildings that have remained long after their deaths.

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