Ector County was marked off in 1887 from land previously assigned to Tom Green County, and was attached to Midland, Crane, and Upton counties for judicial purposes. As early as 1881 promoters of the Texas and Pacific Railway encouraged immigration by offering to haul farm machinery and household goods for prospective settlers at no charge; they ignored the limited rainfall and predicted a splendid agricultural potential for the area. Pointing to the county's supposed resemblance to the steppes of Russia, a railroad official named the first settlement in the county Odessa; in 1882 the town became one of nine stopping places on the railroad's route through West Texas. In 1886 the Odessa Land and Townsite Company was formed in Zanesville, Ohio, to sell farmland in Ector County; the company's exaggerated promises and bi-monthly excursion trains failed to attract enough buyers, however, and by 1889 the company was bankrupt. In fact the region was most suitable for ranching, and for many years Ector County was known mainly for its fine Hereford cattle. Much of the land in the county was owned by the University of Texas.