RUSH TO THE PENASCO

As the immigrant rush to the Penasco in the ‘80s can best be told by one of the old settlers, here is an interview with Mr. R.E. Bates, told to Mr. Fred M. Griffin on September 5, 1937 where in part he said -

"I was born in Tupelo, Mississippi and was four years old when my father, James T. Bates, moved to Texas in 1869. Moving further west every few years, the late ‘70s found us preparing to move on into New Mexico from Concho County, Texas. We drove our cattle to Seven Rivers in ’79. In June of ’81 we disposed of our land in Texas, loaded our ox-wagons with household goods, farming implements, etc… and moved to Seven Rivers. While father looked over the Guadalupe and Sacramento Mountains for a ranch location, I helped hold our cattle, along with those of Buck Powell, Gordon, Nash and a man named Williams, in the country from Seven Rivers to below where Carlsbad is now. My station was Rat Nest Line Camp, at the mouth of Dark Canyon."

"After looking over most of southeastern New Mexico, father bought a claim from Buck Brevins, just below Lower Penasco Spring. I was 16 years old when we reached our new home in September of ’81. The first night there, we necked our work steers together and turned them out to graze. The next morning one yoke of oxen was gone. I saddled my pony and overtook them at Buck Powell Spring; they were headed for their old range at Seven Rivers. The Cottonwood switch with which I whipped them back up the trail was worn to a short stub when I got home. I stuck the frayed stub in the mud of the ditch bank, where it took root and grew. It is growing there today - the big Cottonwood just west of the house at the Cleve Farm."

"When we came to this country there were two Penasco settlements - Upper and Lower Penasco. From Lower Penasco Spring (at the mouth of what is now Mathew Canyon) to the sinks of the Upper Penasco (where the Marvin jackson farm is now) the canyon was dry. The settlers living on the Penasco when we came were - Bob Dixon below Walnut Grove, Buck Powell, ‘Widow’ Copeland (her husband, John Copeland, was living on the Hondo), Jim Walters, Bledsoe, John Preston (half brother of Buck Powell), Bill Henton, George and Walker Paul, and Tom Tillotson. We settled just west of Tillotson, who was a bachelor, with the Widow Kepler and her sons farming his place. Mr. Tillotson was very fond of corn-on-the-cob, and the old timers used to joke him about it. They said if you passed his dug-out at mealtime during the roasting-ear season, you would see a steady stream of empty cobs coming out the window, always one in the air. John Meadows, also Bryant and Gunter, who established the T.O. came shortly after we did."

"At the sinks of the Upper Penasco were Jimmy and Albert Warren and their father (Miles Bros. bought out the Warrens and established the J MIL Ranch), Robert McGee, Al Coe, Grandpa Mahill, John James (fought with Sutton and nixon), Grandpa Curtis and Old Man White (father-in-law of Curtis)."

Billy Mathews

"When J.B. (Billy) Mathews and my sister, Dora, were married in ’83, Billy moved from Feliz to his claim at Lower Penasco Spring. He had Carley Bartlett and Dad Peppin come down from Lincoln and build him an adobe residence. When the house was finished, Billy and I took two wagons and went to Las Cruces for furniture for his new home. We went up Elk Canyon and down past the Agency to Tularosa, where we stopped to buy some provisions. Billy paid for his purchase from a big roll of bills. The storekeeper said ‘Be careful, Billy. That tough looking customer who just went outside saw your roll. He is one of a gang of cut-throats who are hanging out at Coghlin’s Well, at the point of the White Sands. It will be late when you get there, but don’t camp near the well - those fellows are bad."

"Billy cleaned his 45 and greased it thoroughly with butter from our chuck box. He said ‘ When we get to Coghlin’s Well, if those tough eggs are there, you water both teams and I’ll stay on my wagon and watch them.’ When we came in sight of the well we saw the gang roosting on the corral, waiting for us to drive up. Billy slipped his gun from the holster and held it cocked under his coat while I watered the horses. One of the men said ‘ Where you goin’, buddy?’ I told him we were on our way to Cruces. ‘What’s the matter with that feller on the wagon - Why don’t he help you water the horses?’ I told him my partner was sick and didn’t feel like helping. The man said ‘If your partner is sick, you better stay the night here with us. Plenty room. Be glad to have you."

"I thanked him and told him we would drive on. ‘Going on, eh? Well, I know that feller. Maybe he’s sick and maybe he ain’t.’ We drove until after dark and pulled away off the road and camped that night without a fire. The tough hombres failed to find us."

"During the fall roundup on the Penasco in ’83, stray men came from other communities to get heir strays and drive them back to their home range. Among the Seven Rivers men who came to our wagon that year were Corn, Fanning, Nelson, Woods and Burdette."

"Sub-Chief Three Fingered Charlie and his band of Mescaleros had come down from the reservation to gather mescal, and were camped in front of our house. In those days when Indians got permission to leave the reservation, they were usually accompanied by a white man named Brannigan. Brannigan was not along that time, but Three Fingered Charlie carried a written permit from the Agent saying that he was in the custody and under protection of Billy Mathews until he returned to the reservation."

"The Seven Rivers men were sore at the Apaches because of Indian depredations in the Seven Rivers country a short while before. The cow-men formed a skirmish line and prepared to attack the Indians, who retreated to the top of a knoll just west of where Elk school house is now. Billy talked the men out of attacking, and if he hadn’t interfered there would surely have been a fight."

"In ’84 my Father and I started ditching the upper creek past the sinks. The Warrens were helping us. In 1884, out from Texas cam Harrison, Frank, Meredith and Bill York; Jim Dockray; Bart Keith; and Charles and Emma Arthur. These folk helped finish the ditch, and we soon had the waters of the Upper Penasco running into the lower creek."

"From ’84 to about ’88 covered wagons, sometimes 20 and 30 to a caravan, brought settlers to the Sacramentos. The Penasco filled up and the overflow settled the tributary canyons. Among these settlers were Hunters, Bairds, Hendersons, Poseys, Walkers, Campbells, Joys, Reeves’, and Hendixs. To name them all would be like taking a census of the Sacramentos."

"In the fall of ’85 J.F. Hinkle came into the country to help organize the Penasco Cattle Company and establish the CA Bar outfit. My father was one of several settlers who put his holdings into the company. George M. Casey was president and J.F. Hinkle was resident manager."

"I helped trail a CA Bar herd to Las Vegas in the fall of ’88. Buck Powell was trail boss. Jim Smith was cook. Joe Medina was horse wrangler. The punchers were Dal Berry, Will Smith, Henry von Bosse, George Reeves, Will Taylor, another whose name I can’t recall, and myself."

"Being a stockholder in a big corporation, I felt that my future was assured. On July 25, 1886 I married Miss. Ada York. Our future looked rosy until the panic of the early ‘90s put a crump in the cow business. The CA Bar borrowed heavily to try and weather the depression, and when the company went out of business in the late ‘90s, Strahn-Hutton-Evans Commission Company held notes against the company totaling $177,973.34, with 8% interest and 10% attorney’s fees. In settling the affairs of the company, the CA Bar holdings were sold. Bud Cleve later bought the upper CA Bar farms."

"Since retiring from the cattle business, Mr. Hinkle and the institution of which he is now president have done much to develop this section. They have financed, at one time or another, practically every man that has lived in the Penasco country since the turn of the century."

"The people of this section are proud of the fact that one of the Penasco Pioneers became one of New Mexico’s long line of illustrious Governors."

"When Bud Cleve quit professional baseball and gave up his job as crack first baseman with the old Saint Louis Browns, he came west and arrived at the CA Bar ranch with 35 cents in his pocket. He amassed a small fortune in the 27 years he lived on the Penasco. He died in 1913. Mrs. Cleve and the first Mrs. Tillotson were daughters of George Hendrix, who came to the Pe3nasco in ’87, along with Pick Riley and others."

When Mr. Bates finished talking, I asked him what were the most striking changes that had taken place during the 56 years that he had lived on the Penasco. His answer was - "I came here driving a team of steers, now I drive to Roswell in about 2 hours, loaf around town until late in the afternoon and drive home and turn on the radio and listen to voices in Washington, Denver, Dallas, Los Angeles…"

"Yes, I expect to attend the carnival in Roswell this fall. Fifty six years ago I road a cow pony down a dusty road that became Roswell’s main street. I expect to ride the same route again in the Old-timers Parade in October. I hope to ride a horse down that street next year and the next and the next…" And he did, untill he was 90 years old and he passed on, on the sixth of June, 1955.

Taken from a 1937 edition of the Roswell Record, corrections made by Glynn Dockray Tunnel (the granddaughter of Jim & Mary Dockray and Charles & Emma Arthur). From the Museum.