Penasco Pioneers, Part IV Carrie Green of Cox Canyon  by Jim Mason, Sunspot

Since writing the articles on the Davis family I have had the pleasure of meeting Carrie Green of Cox Canyon and that led me into the Green and Bonnell families’ histories. From the "Otero County Pioneer Family Histories" (OCPFH) came information about the paths that brought the families to New Mexico and the Penasco; from the census a few milestones that located them in time and place and from Carrie came many details about the individual people as she knew them.

Carrie Green was a Bonnell; born Carrie Belle, July 16, 1917 in Pierce Canyon to Frank Melvin Bonnell and Lulu Mae Hitchcock (see OCPFH, Vol 2, p.47 for more about Lulu). In 1934 she married Leon Green, the son of Jesse Filmore Green and Fannie Westmoreland. The Green’s path to New Mexico started in Alabama; the Bonnell’s in Missouri.

In 1897 Benjamin Frank Bonnell of Buck Grove MO, came with his sons Charles, 17 and Frank Melvin, 15, to New Mexico in search of horses and mules to ship back to Missouri. Since the end of the Civil War that had been a common practice due to the loss of stock in the war and to the devastated economy in the Southern states. (This is what brought the Lees, Altmans, Coes and many others to New Mexico.) Frank found horses, and more than that, he found the Sacramentos and liked them so much that he sold his interest in the family farm to his brother Mark, returned with his wife Carrie (Booth) and children in the Spring of 1899 and leased a sawmill in Russia Canyon. With sons Charles and Frank he operated the sawmill and Carrie Booth ran the boarding house. Carrie Booth was the namesake for Carrie Green who says that she used to claim lineage to both John Wilkes Booth and Abraham Lincoln. While she was cook in the Russia railroad camp she witnessed a boiler explosion.

They operated the sawmill until 1905 when they decided, for reasons unstated (perhaps the moratorium on logging imposed by the Forest Service), to return to Missouri and the family farm. However, four years later Benjamin Frank suffered a severe stroke from which he never recovered. Carrie (Booth) and sons Charles and Frank now both married, decided to return to New Mexico where Grace, Charles’ wife, had gone a few months earlier because of the failing health of her parents (William Harkness and Estelle Wescott in Russia Canyon). It is here that we pick up their trail. (for more Bonnell history see OCPFH, Vol 1, p.25)

Charles Bonnell had married Grace Harkness in November, 1903 and they filed on a homestead in Kerr Canyon, a small tributary to Russia Canyon. In the census of 1910 we find the household of Charles and Grace Bonnell in precinct 6 (High Rolls). Besides their son Thirkield (Kiel) and daughter Ruby there are brother Frank, 21 his wife Lulu, 20 and mother Carrie (Booth), 53. Since there were only six families between their place and the Fennimores (see this column in May’s Mountain Times) and only twelve between them and the Talleys in Pierce Canyon, they may have been on their homestead in Kerr Canyon but more probably they were at the Harkness place in Russia Canyon where Grace’s father had passed away the year before. Grace’s mother may also have passed away by the time of the census for she is not listed.

Shortly after their return to New Mexico and Russia Canyon Charles and Grace moved their family to Cloudcroft where he became a junior partner in the Meyers Company. Frank and Lulu stayed at the Harkness place.

The Bonnells were Methodist and Carrie says that family lore tells of a Baptist revival meeting in which her father Frank, uncle Charles and aunt Grace were all converted. Lulu, whose story is a remarkable one, was apparently already Baptist. They moved over to the Baptist church and from then on were all active in their church and community.

In 1910 or 1911 Frank and Lulu moved to the ‘Smith place’ in Cox Canyon, and in 1915 to the ‘Jones place’ with its large two story house. Frank’s goal was to be a rancher and while he built up his herd he worked for the Forest Service and ran a dairy business. In 1917 they bought the Pierce place from Jesse Green. Originally it had been built by Robert Pierce (brother-in-law to Jesse and uncle to Leon Green) and it was he for whom the canyon was named. The Yellow House as Carrie calls it is described by Sallie Green Thomason (OCPFH, vol 2 p. 167) as two rooms on one side and three on the other with a hall in the center at the end of which was the cook stove. One of the ‘two rooms’ had a big fireplace and there the family mostly lived. The other was mama’s and papa’s bedroom. The ‘three rooms’ were not heated and very cold in the Winter; one was the pantry, one the girls’ room and one the boys’.

While the Jesse and Fannie Green lived in the Yellow House their last son Leon was born (1909). In 1917 very soon after Frank and Lulu moved in, their daughter Carrie Belle was born in the same room, hence the remarkable coincidence of future husband and wife born in the same room eight years apart. There Frank and Lulu remained, raising five of six children, until 1946. They continued in the dairy business at least until 1930 because Carrie remembers making rounds with her dad as a girl of thirteen. She says he used a Model A truck first, then got a Dodge, then bought a Whippet touring car from Mr. Hiller, the manager of the depot in Cloudcroft.

In 1934 Carrie Bonnell and Leon Green were married. Carrie had just started her last year of high school and her teacher tried to persuade her to stay and finish, but Carrie knew what she wanted and as she puts it "wasn’t going to let him get away". Two weeks before the wedding Leon said they needed to go to town (Alamogordo) for some shopping. There he took her to Holloman Brothers and spent $90.69 on things for her kitchen. (this in 1934 during the Depression) There were a Wedgewood Gray table and chairs, $18.50, a gold band set of dishes, $9.50 (she protested that another set was cheaper but he insisted) and a long list of pots, pans and other items. Carrie still has the receipt. Each one always said they got the best deal.

They spent the first two years in a little shack that you can still see today in a field across from her house in Cox Canyon. There were cracks between the wall boards that the snow would blow through, but, Carrie says, "we didn’t care". While they lived there Leon farmed the Begley place down the canyon with hopes of buying it, but in the end Begley got enough money together to pay it off and kept it.

Being only seventeen Carrie had some things to learn. For instance Leon soon told her that it "didn’t take near as much water to make coffee as she thought". Another time he asked Carrie to bake him a cherry pie and she said she had never done that before to which he replied that in the next two years until they could build enough to make a start she would have to do a lot of things she had never done before.

The third year Leon farmed the ‘Old Jones Place’ (present Waterfall subdivision). In earlier times there had been a mill (Culbertson’s Mill) at the falls there and they moved into the old mill shack. It proved to be infested with bed bugs. The bugs didn’t seem to care for Leon but really liked Carrie. She spent the first week scrubbing the floors, walls and ceiling with coal oil which she applied with a fly spray. Then by setting the legs of the bed in cans of coal oil they finally had the problem in hand.

Carrie’s diary gives us a window into life on a mountain farm in the late thirties; it had been April 5 when they move into the mill shack and Leon started plowing. On the 18th Carrie went to Mrs. Brownfield’s and the next day Arnold was born. On the first of May Leon began bringing the cattle up from winter pasture and three days later was finished. On May 9 they took Mother’s Day off and then on the tenth put in their garden. Most of the rest of May and early June were spent bringing up cabbage plants and setting them out. (During the Winter while Leon and Clay (Thomason) had looked after their stock in winter pasture and Carrie had tended hot beds of cabbage that would provide their spring plants.) Much of July was spent branding calves and dusting cabbage. Much of late August and early September were spent picking worms off the cabbage and there were always weeds to pull.

During harvest it seems Paul Hattstleder would make the rounds of the farms in his truck buying produce. While Leon tended cattle Carrie used an old burro named Jake to pack cabbage out for the truck. The first cabbage was sold on August 25; at its peak in mid September the harvest was 10,000lbs a week and Carrie probably had some help. By early October cabbage harvest was done, hay was being cut and shocked and it was time to start the cows down again.

Few days passed that someone did not drop in or they would be at someone’s house. Many of the neighbors were also kinfolks. Visiting was usually accompanied by sewing or mending fence or some other task. The main event of the year was the rodeo in Cloudcroft, but there were calf ropings and brandings too and once in a while fights in town.

It was Leon’s intention from the beginning to build up his herd and buy a ranch and to that end he had applied for a grazing permit with the Forest Service. When it was approved it was for 42 head and it was on the Sacramento River below the Moss Ranch (present Timberon) a distance of more than twenty miles. It took two or three days to make the drive and they stopped for the first night at the Davis ranch. Bill and Jean Davis were newlyweds (1939) and the meeting was the beginning of a lifelong friendship. Every year Carrie and Leon together would trail the cattle down the Sacramento and back and it was something that Carrie grew to look forward to.

Today at 84 Carrie still has about fifty cows that she takes care of (by name) and is often seen driving around her ranch in her Suburu Forester. She doesn’t like to miss a Sunday in the Baptist Church or a branding.