John F. Wolford Union County, New Mexico

John F. Wolford, of Clayton, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, October 22, 1844, a son of John and Elizabeth Wolford. He attended the public schools in his native city to the age of fifteen years and some months afterward left Ohio and went to Leavenworth, Kansas, where he located in the spring of 1859. He was first employed in a shingle factors- and afterward went to Fort Scott, Kansas, and subsequently to Carthage, Missouri. Later he was in the Indian Territory and in July. 1859, he made his way to the present site of the city of Denver. He began mining in Grand Gulch. He spent about eight months in Colorado and in the spring of 1860 came to New Mexico, making his way to Taos and afterward to Fort Union, assisting in building the present fort. After about four months there passed he went to Rayado, where he was in charge of government mules and horses belonging to Fort Union that had been brought from California in 1862. There he met many historic characters, including Kit Carson, Abreu, Maxwell, Zan Hichland, and John Boggs, also Richard Hunton and Mr. Moore, who conducted the sutler's store at Fort Union, the only store in that part of the Territory. After remaining in New Mexico for nine years, Mr. Wolford returned to Colorado on what was known as the picket wire and in that state engaged in farming for a short time but was driven away by the Indians. He then returned to Rayado, New Mexico, and shortly afterward moved to a ranch at the head of Dry Cimarron, where he remained for two years, or until 1877, when he went to Fort Bascom and was employed in the government secret service. Previous to that time he had gone with Kit Carson into the Navajo country and helped to bring out the first Navajo Indians that were ever at Fort Sumner. He also made two trips to Independence, Kansas, before the advent of railroads into that state. He saw Independence and Piatt City destroyed by fires kindled by Ouantrell on his raid.

Mr. Wolford witnessed many stirring events connected with the early history of New Mexico and adjoining territories, after which he settled, in 1880, on the Paenes in Mora County, New Mexico. The name of the place, however, has since been changed to Colfax and Union counties. His place of settlement was thirty-five miles south of Clayton. He owns some good city property in the town. He also has a flock of sheep of nineteen thousand head and is one of the heaviest producers of wool in northeastern New Mexico. He was for a time engaged in the cattle business on an extensive scale and is well informed concerning the early history of the cattle industry of the southwest. For six years he was captain of the range, which was at that time an important position, but he at length resigned because of the arduous duty and service imposed thereby. He came empty-handed to the southwest and has made his way unaided, advancing steadily upward until he occupies a foremost position among the substantial residents of the Territory. In 1870 he met with reverses and lost all that he had, but with unfaltering spirit and determined energy he set to work to retrieve his lost possessions and has forged to the front until he is again numbered among the successful and wealthy residents of the Territory.

Mr. Wolford was married in Rayado, New Mexico, December 17, 1862, to Miss Margaret Moras, a native of the Territory. Seventeen children were born to them, of whom thirteen are living, and there are also forty-three grandchildren and one great-grandchild. All but six of the grandchildren reside in New Mexico and those are living at Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

In his political views Mr. Wolford is a stalwart Republican, active in the affairs and work of the party, and at the present writing, in 1906, is serving as collector and treasurer of Union county, to which office he was elected in January. 1905, for a two years' term. In 1860 he surveyed the Maxwell grant for Messrs. Maxwell and Beaubien, since which time no change has been made. During the survey they were harassed considerably by the Apache Indians, who, however, were held in check by a body of soldiers known as the home guard. Mr. Wolford also subdivided most of Colfax County and all of Union county and located all the big stock ranches in the latter. He was an eye-witness of the fight at Albuquerque between the southern and northern forces and also witnessed the destruction of the commissary at Santa Fe and saw the battle at Pigeon Ranch in the canyon, which was fought between the northern and southern forces. Mr. Wolford has seen the great transformation that has taken place in the southwest, particularly in Texas, New Mexico and Colorado. He is a Knight Templar Mason and is a -man of enterprising and resolute spirit, as manifest in his business career and in all life's relations. He certainly deserves mention in this history, for he belongs to that class of representative pioneer men who have aided in carrying civilization into the southwest and in promoting its development and progress. He has displayed splendid business ability in the control of his private interests and at the same time has manifested a keen recognition of the possibilities of the territory and most effective labor in the substantial development of this part of the country.

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Source: History of New Mexico, Its Resources and People, Volume II, Pacific States Publishing Co., 1907.

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Created 1996 by Charles Barnum & 2016 by Judy White

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