THE BENNETT / REYNOLDS FAMILY
by Lillian R. (Bennett) Hooks


 E. Tom Bennett 1882 - Museum Photo

Eli Loren Reynolds immigrated to the New Mexico Territory the middle of 1882, first buying some land north of Lincoln, in Lincoln County. He was born in Kentucky and had lived in Indiana and Illinois. He was still single when he came to the New Mexico Territory.

E.T. "Tom" and Virginia "Jennie" (Woodruff) Bennett emigrated from Monroe County, Missouri right after their marriage in Paris, Missouri on July 13, 1883.

Tom and Jennie’s first son, Joshuway "Joe" Cranberry, was born in Lincoln on April 25, 1884. Their second son, Earnest Thurber, was born near what is now the town of Capitan, New Mexico on May 2, 1885.

The Bennett family and Eli Reynolds moved on down into the Alamogordo area right after Thurber was born. At that time, the 1885 tax records called it "government lands" in Dona Ana County, New Mexico territory. Eli settled on the old Alamo Canyon Ranch. Tom and Jennie went on up into the Sacramento Mountains to establish their ranch in Devil’s Canyon (Lincoln County at that time). Their third son, Clayton Alexander, was born on that ranch on April 22, 1887.

It must have been beautiful there, but it was wild territory. A wintry day early in 1888, Tom thought that rustlers were after his cattle. He went out to protect them and was found lying in the snow, dead, out behind his barn. He was buried in the High Rolls area, possibly in the old Haynes Canyon Cemetery, but there are no old markers left to tell their stories.

Virginia and her three sons were taken down to Eli Reynolds’ home for protection. Eli and Virginia were married in El Paso, Texas on November 19, 1888. They lived on the old Alamo Canyon Ranch, where their daughter, Emma Loren, was born in September, 1892. Eli sold that ranch in 1896 and they moved to La Luz, where their son, Walter Albert "W.A." was born on March 13, 1898.

At that time, besides a ranch and orchard, they had a hotel (advertised as The Reynolds House, board by day, week, or month). In September of that year, "a man named Parker" checked into the hotel with smallpox. With the help of Eli and Virginia, Dr. George C. Bryan (a railroad doctor) "was able to limit the epidemic of smallpox to only four cases" (which included their two younger children), and "the people of" that "section of the county were saved from a horrible epidemic" (These quotes were taken from an old district court record kept in the NM State Archives.).

The older boys all worked out on the ranch. Around that period, the cattle ranged far and wide on rough range land. Clayton’s horse tripped and fell, pinning and crushing the young boy’s left foot. The horse died and Clayton had only old Charlie (his dog) to help him. Charlie not only helped him to keep warm during the cold night, but took Clayton’s hat home the next day to bring help. Clayton was lame after that, but was still very strong; a good drover and dairy farmer. (As Mrs. Bessie [Wooten] Walker said, "He just didn’t get around as fast as others.")

Later, Eli and Virginia owned various other properties which included a dairy ranch, six to seven miles south of Alamogordo, and a house on Tenth Street in Alamogordo, New Mexico.

Mrs. Bessie Walker said that Virginia was the first lady to befriend her mother when the Wootens moved into the territory. Bessie’s sister, Virgie, was named after Virginia Reynolds. Mrs. Walker also said that she was a close friend of Emma’s (who later preferred to be called Loren). The young folks used to gather at the Reynolds’ home to listen to the music on the gramophone-"the first in the area." She said that Eli was not too well, so he did the "indoor work", and Virginia and her sons did the "outdoor work." Mrs. Walker said that she had eaten at their home occasionally, and Eli was a good cook. Virginia loved to sing, and was also always offering fruit from their orchard to all of their friends.

Joe and Thurber went out to work on their own very early; they married young. Clayton also went out to work on his own for awhile. At one time, around 1905-06, he was hired as a cook. (We thought that he said "for the rangers" but it may have been the New Mexico Mounted Police.) He told of how he had been allowed to go along to help "clean out" a saloon that was too close to town (which may have been Alamogordo). "Clean out" meant literally riding their horses into the saloon and using clubs to totally wreck the interior.

Clayton enjoyed talking about the good old days in his beloved Otero County. I know life must have been hard and rough, which was the reason his parents died early, but, in Los Angeles, he still rode the range in his dreams at night. He talked in his sleep, and sometimes he’d wake us up, shouting as he rounded up the cattle. His stories never dwelled on the miseries. He told of when he was working as a drover (after his mother had died) and nearly died twice of sunstroke. The second time "they" thought that he was dead. He came to in the mortuary. When he told that story, he laughed so hard that his false teeth fell as he described the look on "their faces." He said, "I really surprised everyone that time!" After that, he had indoor work for awhile.

When Eli was very ill, Clayton went back home to help his mother and W.A. run the dairy ranch. Their dairy supplied milk to people in Alamogordo. It was delivered in a horse-drawn wagon. Daddy said that the old horse knew all the stops.

Eli Loren Reynolds died at his ranch home, south of Alamogordo, November 11, 1911. He was buried in the old section of the Alamogordo Cemetery. His obituary reads, in part, "He was a man who treated everybody right, and attended strictly to his own affairs . . . a good man has gone to his reward."

Virginia had been a strong and hard-working lady all of her life until she became ill sometime in 1914. Clayton took care of her, but in those days the doctors couldn’t do much for her. Toward the end, she sat with her swollen feet and legs propped up on pillows, but still enjoying visits from her family and friends. Even though it was difficult to recall his mother’s miseries, he always cherished the time that he had spent with her. When Tom Bennett died, Virginia had not wanted to frighten her boys by telling them how he died. During the time of her illness, out came the pictures and the story. Virginia (Woodruff) Bennett Reynolds died in her ranch home on January 7, 1916, and was buried beside Eli. Although two of her granddaughters, Verna and Mabel, said the children were not allowed to go along, they can remember all the people going off down the road in their horse drawn buggies on their way to the cemetery.