R. L. Pooler Colfax County, New Mexico

R. L. Pooler, who has been identified with many exciting epochal events in the history of New Mexico and is well known as a pioneer and Indian fighter, now makes his home in Gardiner, Colfax County. He was born in Ohio in 1836 and was reared to farming, but finding that pursuit uncongenial he turned his attention to railroading. In 1859 he went to Colorado, attracted by the discoveries of gold on Pike's Peak, and when he found that he could not, as he had anticipated, rapidly realize a fortune there he continued on his westward way to Virginia City, Nevada, where he arrived soon after the famous Comstock vein was opened. He had many trying, exciting and dangerous experiences with the Indians, and the tales, which to the later-day reader seem wildly improbable, were to him matters of actual experience.

In 1850 he was wintering at Genoa and carrying the mail six hundred miles from Salt Lake to Carson City, Nevada, for it was an era prior to the advent of the Pony Express. He was thus engaged on the Major & Russell contract. One of the most difficult Indian experiences which he ever had was at Pyramid Lake, Nevada, in 1860. The Pony Express had just been established when the Indians went upon the warpath and desolation followed in their wake at Williams Station, where they killed four men and ran off six hundred head of stock. A company of one hundred men were raised and started in pursuit with Major Ownesby of Canyon City in command. On the 12th of May they encountered a band of between twelve and fifteen hundred Indians. The Americans charged and the Indians retreated into some timber, the white men following, and sixty-five of the one hundred were there killed in the forest. Ownesby tried to gather the few survivors together to make a stand but this could not be done and the only hope for the living was to escape on their own resources by retreating. Mr. Pooler, after many hair-breadth escapes, succeeded in getting through the surrounding hordes and making his way into the mountains, whence he returned to Carson City, Nevada. Major Ownesby was killed in the retreat. It was never definitely known how many were killed, but this was one of the tragic events in the history of the west, resulting in great slaughter. Air. Pooler also had many other encounters with the Indians in Nevada and other sections of the west, but lived to become a pioneer of New Mexico and leave the impress of his individuality upon the early development and substantial progress of the Territory. For some time he acted as a scout under Captain Payne in Nevada in the vicinity of Kings and Queens rivers and was thus engaged in extremely difficult and arduous warfare, which involved hardships and dangers unknown to the soldier who can meet his foe in open fight.

Mr. Pooler was married in 1869 to a Mrs. Coe, of Nevada, and has a daughter, Cora, now the wife of Frank Hadden, of Catskill. In 1867 he located at Stonewall, Colorado, bought a ranch of one hundred and sixty acres and turned his attention to the cattle business, being thus engaged for many years thereafter. In 1885 or 1886, during the famous trouble with the Maxwell Land Grant people and the settlers, he sold out to the grant and subsequently purchased a hay ranch of three hundred and twenty acres of the grant adjoining the old place. Seven or eight years passed and he then disposed of the ranch and his cattle. In the spring of 1902 he came to Gardiner and entered the employ of the Raton Coal & Coke Company, which he still represents. He is also raising some cattle in the Black Lake region and has extensive gold and silver mining property on Bitter Creek, four miles above Red River city. He belongs to that class of representative pioneer men to whom civilization will ever owe a debt of gratitude, for they blazed the wav into the forests and made the first paths over the wild prairies, leaving in their wake the evidence of civilization and making possible permanent and safe settlement for others.

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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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