ORPHA MILLER WINGFIELD
On Saturday, May 13, 2000, four people who at least 84 years old and have spent the greatest part of their lives in the Sacramento Mountains will be honored at the 23rd Annual Old Timers Reunion - The four honorees this year are Tempie Reeves Cox, Gladys Posey Hadley, Zella Meador Hill and Orpha Miller Wingfield.
Orpha Miller Wingfield was born near Mayhill, New Mexico on October 9, 1909, the first child of Ollie Miller and Josie Parker Miller.
Her father was the son of Zone Lewis Miller, and grandson of George W. and Mary Elizabeth McPeeters Lewis. George Lewis and his family arrived in the Weed, New Mexico area before it was Weed, on August 19, 1884. A great many descendants of George and Mary Lewis still live in this area.
Her mother was a daughter of John and Josie Potter Parker. They came to the Weed area with Potter and VanWinkle relatives by wagon train in 1889. There were eleven Parker sons and daughters, all born in New Mexico.
Sometime after Orpha was born, her parents moved back to Weed, where they lived in the log house that George Lewis built when he came there. Ollie had practically grown up in that house with his grandparents. He had lived with them instead of with his mother and stepfather.
In 1913, the family moved to a homestead place on Perk Canyon that Ollie had bought. There the family lived in a two-room lumber house until a whirlwind blew it all to pieces in May of 1913. They were very fortunate that none of them were injured. There were many "what-ifs" that could have happened to any or all of them in the middle of nowhere, alone.
Some of Orpha's earliest memories are of things that happened at her grandfather's log house. The first memory in her life is Christmas morning in December of 1912. When she and her brother got out of bed that morning, there was a chair on each side of the fireplace with toys on it - one for each of them. She doesn't remember the toys, but remembers the occasion.
During a period of several years, Orpha lived all over Otero County - from the Sacramento Mountains to the San Andres Mountains, and from Cornudas Mountain to White Mountain.
Because of the Depression, she was unable to go to college. For the school year 1929-1930, she returned to Tularosa School for a post-graduate year. She then went to El Paso where she worked for a time. She returned home in the summer of 1931 and stayed with her parents on their farm near Bent, New Mexico. Her grandfather Parker had an adjoining farm, and she helped him pick his apple crop.
In November of 1931, Orpha married Walker Wingfield, someone she had known since school days. He was a grandson of the Wingfield family that came to the Ruidoso area in 1884.
They moved to Cloudcroft in 1940, and Walker began working for the Rural Electric Co-op. It was a government sponsored project begun in 1940 with two mobile generators in Cloudcroft. During the war, Orpha read electric meters for the co-op.
In 1946, Orpha set up the local switchboard in her home, and worked for Mountain States Telephone Company, which was beginning to build a telephone system in the area.
For entertainment in Cloudcroft in the 1940's, they organized a Roper's Club that sponsored rodeos and dances. They charged a small entrance fee, and sold sandwiches and coffee for money to put in the pot for the Club. Rodeo entrance fees also went into the pot.
The Roper's Club also sponsored a horseback square dance team. There were four dance couples on horseback, and there was music and a caller. Walker and Orpha were one of the couples. The dance team performed in Cloudcroft and at county and state fairs in Alamogordo, Albuquerque and Roswell. They also performed at Fort Bliss and at the El Paso Cowboys' Championship Rodeo.
In 1951, Walker quit his job with the R.E.A. and Orpha quit her job with the telephone company. They moved to Tularosa, where Walker spent twenty-three years with Land-Air Corporation and with his own electrical service business. Orpha spent those years taking care of family and home.
Walker died in 1984, and Orpha continues to live in their home in Tularosa.
Their eldest son Bobby was physically helpless from his birth on January 30, 1940. Orpha cared for him at home until 1986. He now resides at Casa Arena Nursing Home in Alamogordo. Their second son, Melvin Lee, was born on February 2, 1943. He married and had one son, Orpha's only grandson. Melvin died in April of 1973, and his widow and son Melvin moved to Texas. Her grandson has graduated from NMSU in Las Cruces and now lives in Oregon.
Orpha's favorite enjoyments in life have been dancing - she has danced since childhood, reading - as Will Rogers said, "All I know is what I read" - gardening, painting and writing.