Return to Main Page

Return to Family History Index

Family History Stories Paraphrased
Page 2 of 38

Anna Potter Davis
Mrs. Anna Brazel
Annie Laurie Snorf
As I See It, Jack Hill
Mrs. O. C. Story
Katherine Ragsdale
Beecher Lank
Ben Stimmel
Bertha Gusdorf

Begin Family Histories:

Mrs. Anna Potter Davis
By Marie Carter
Paraphrased by C. W. Barnum
Counties: Dona Ana
Surnames mentioned: Davis, Bailey, Morley, Potter

Mrs. Charles F. Davis, the wife of one of Anthony's most successful business men, told me in a confidential manner: Sometimes I close my eyes and visualize the Mesilla Valley as it looked when I moved here with my parents from Weir, Kansas in 1898, but when I open my eyes the vision has vanished. Perhaps it is just as well for at that time there wasn't much to boast about.

The day our family arrived in Anthony R. C. Bailey met us at the station. There were only a few houses and they were so far apart that my brother, Volney, wanted to know where the town was. The Rio Grande was very wide and very high and so strong and swift that the sticks we tossed into it were carried down stream in a twinkling.

When R. C. Bailey, son of old doctor Bailey, told us that he was going to ferry us across the river, we, meaning us kids, thought he meant fairy. I was just dying to ask him about it, but in those days children were trained not to quiz grown up folks. So I held my peace at least for the time being. Anyway we were thrilled when he helped us into his new skiff.

Poor Volney I could see by the way he clutched the sides of the boat he was more scared than us girls. Finally we got out of the boat and got into a buggy and were driven to Chamberino by a Mexican with a large sombrero that tickled us to giggles. At Chamberino we lived in a large red brick house, built by the Morleys, a well to do family from the east. It was the most modern house in the valley. 

Father found farming to be a bigger job than he expected it to be. For he had been a mining man for years and knew very little about agriculture. The first year he worked hard but ran short of making a living to the extent of eight hundred dollars. In the old days land was cheap anywhere from three to ten dollars an acre, but it took lots of time and hard work to clear it as most of the valley was brush or woodland. We used to attend the Methodist church at Berino, the only church, with the exception of the Catholic church, between El Paso and Las Cruces. One of our chief amusements at the church gatherings were candy pulls. The boys never failed to come because they delighted to stick the warm taffy into the girls long hair. And the only way to remove the candy was to cut off some of the hair.

The first school I attended was a one room affair at Chamberino. Miss Helen Morley was the teacher and she taught several grades in one room. The floor was packed dirt and the benches were crude hard seats without a back rest of any kind. We used slates and pencils, too. There was a big tin pail of water with a tin dipper floating in it. The pail set on a box in a corner and when it was empty one of the larger boys took it out to the hand pump and refilled it.

We had lots of picnics, dances, barbecues and horseback riding in the old days. We didn't have a variety of diversions like the young folks have
today, but I am quite sure we enjoyed ourselves just as much. We didn't know very much about such things as dates, for the young men called at the homes of the eligible young ladies. Taking long rides with a young man without a chaperon just wasn't done. Hay rides well chaperoned were included in our amusements, too. Sometimes it took several wagons piled high with hay to accommodate the crowd. Each wagon had two or three older women for chaperons. 

We had lots of fun jogging along in the moonlight with our legs swinging over the sides of the wagon with everybody singing the popular songs of the day, some in tune but most of them out of tune. As a rule the largest and invariably the fattest boy in the party would have a high squeaky tenor, and some little scrawny fellow would have a deep baritone or bass. The boys would always bring their guitars, mandolins, harmonicas and banjos along. There is one thing I was always ashamed of, it was the stolen watermelons. But boys will be boys.

We were always permitted to go with the boy we liked best and sit next to him on a hay ride, but the nearest we ever got to making love or necking as they do now was when some boy, under cover of hay, squeezed a girl's hand. Some of the bolder ones did steal an occasional hug or a kiss but only when the chaperon had gone star gazing. This rarely ever happened, however, for the old time chaperon made it her special duty to watch her charges with an keen eye.

Girls used to take a great deal of pleasure in showing off their cooking to their boy friend, especially their homemade candies, and cakes. Many a boy and prospective husband was entertained in the kitchen while mother and dad and the rest of the family occupied themselves in the parlor. On winter evenings the boy usually helped to pull the candy, and whip the eggs for a cake. And when we made ice cream they always chopped the ice and turned the handle of the ice cream freezer.

The old fashioned Sunday dinner was wonderful. Sometimes two or three families would drive in on Sunday and remain for dinner. There would be several vehicles outside the house. If that happened now days the neighbors would think there was going to be a funeral and want to know who had died.

We were always prepared for company on Sunday, for all of the bread, pies, cakes doughnuts and cookies were baked on Saturday. And if we were going to have a Virginia baked ham that was usually baked the day before, too. we had a long table and on Sunday every seat was occupied. Sometimes we would have baked chicken with dressing and gravy.

We raised our own vegetables and when dinner was served we had a variety of summer squash, mashed potatoes, yellow snap beans, green Kentucky wonders, lettuce with homemade French dressing, Indian relish, fresh tomatoes, sliced cucumbers and candied sweet potatoes. we always had two kinds of pie, white layer cake, yellow loaf cake, cookies and doughnuts. Our country butter, eggs, milk and cream were always fresh.

After dinner the men would go out on the porch to smoke, the children would go outside to play and the women would clear the table, and enjoy a good gossip while they washed and dried the dishes. When we left Chamberino we went to La Mesa to live, in the same house my brother Volney Potter occupies at the present time. My father, Darwin Potter, was a brother to Pearl Bailey's mother, and Pearl Bailey is a son of Dr. Bailey who used to practice at Chamberino.

I have lived in the valley since I was ten years old, consequently I have seen many changes. Some people think that the building of the Elephant Butte dam was the greatest event in the history of the Mesilla Valley. But there is something that meant a great deal more to me, Mrs. Davis said. It was the time they built a bridge strong enough to resist the Rio Grande and to really stay put.

Mrs. Anna Potter Davis was born in Kansas, June 7, 1886. Her father was Darwin Potter and her mother was Annetta Cochran Potter. She attended school at Chamberino and continued her education in the public schools of Dona Ana County, and then attended the New Mexico State College at Mesilla Park, New Mexico. She is the wife of Charles Fields Davis, prominent business man of Anthony, New Mexico. Mr. Davis is the owner and manager of the Valley Implement Company of Anthony.

Mrs. Anna Brazel
By Edith L. Crawford
Paraphrased by C. W. Barnum
Counties: Lincoln
Surnames mentioned: Brazel, Wiggins, Taylor, Jefcoats, Geronimo

My father J.C. Wiggins, mother and four children, two girls and two boys, and Ned Taylor, wife and two children, left Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in September 1886, for Grapevine, Texas, twelve miles north of Dallas. They chartered a railroad emigrant train consisting of a coach and several box cars. The two families lived in the coach which had a cook stove and places for us to sleep. They furnished the wood for the cook stove. Our farming implements, two span of mules, game chickens and some blood hound pups were in the box cars, Ned Taylor was a school teacher in Tennessee and was going to Grapevine to locate as his brother Sam Taylor lived there and owned a big stock farm. When we arrived in Dallas it was raining. We had to cross the Trinity swamp and it was four miles across it. We were in wagons drawn by four large mules and it was all they could do to pull us through the swamp. We went to Sam Taylor's farm where we saw our first cotton and self binding reaper cutting wheat and our first jack rabbits, called mule eared rabbits, in those days. We lived in Grapevine for two years where father ran a stationary engine for a cotton gin. We children attended a subscription school while in Grapevine. We left there in covered wagons for Weatherford, Texas, where Father farmed for two years. He sold this farm and we went to Duck Creek, sixty miles north of Greenville, Texas. While here Father worked as a carpenter, building bridges for the Railroad Construction Company.

Jay Gould was building a new railroad from Greenville to Dallas. It crossed the Santa Fe railroad at Duck Creek. The Santa Fe ran north and south and the Jay Gould road ran east and west. We lived here six months and while father was working in the construction camp they had an epidemic of Grippe and two of the workmen died. Father was one of the men elected to sit up with the bodies of these men who were laid out in tent.

The camp was composed of tents for the laborers and they were very close together. While sitting up with those bodies Father heard some one in the next tent speak of Charlie Jefcoats, who was my mother's brother, whom she had not heard from in twenty years. Father went in to the tent and asked who in there knew Charlie Jefcoats. A man by the name of Red Keith said that he knew him and that he was living in Deming, New Mexico. Father came home the next day and told mother what he had heard, she wrote him a letter but did not hear from him.

In the meantime we moved to Bowie, Texas, where Father farmed and we children went to a subscription school. We left Duck Creek in a covered wagon drawn by two of the mules that we had left Tennessee with. We had sold everything except the mules and wagon. We camped out in the open at night. Father and the two boys did the cooking over the camp fire as Mother was sick and Father was afraid we girls would catch our dresses on fire as we were rather young. We used wood for fuel as we were traveling through a densely wooded country. Mother had us lay a table cloth on the ground and lay stones on the corners to keep it from blowing away. We lived in Bowie two years. While lining in Bowie someone told my Father that Mother's brother, Charlie Jefcoats was living on a farm sixty miles north of Bowie. We got in touch with him and he was getting ready to go back to New Mexico as he liked that country very much. He sold out and went to Little Creek, New Mexico, taking a few head of cattle and some horses with him. He wrote back and told Mother about the beautiful and healthy country and wanted us to come on out as he had a place picked out for us. Father began at once to try to sell his farm but it took sometime to dispose of it. In the meantime we had heard stories of the Indians still being on the warpath in New Mexico, and Mother was afraid to make the trip. 

We started for New Mexico April 10, 1891, leaving Bowie, Texas, in a covered wagon drawn by two horses. Father had hired a man to take us to New Mexico but when we got to Plainview, Texas, he decided that he did not want to go on so he turned back and left us there. Father was determined to go on so he borrowed a saddle horse from the Long S outfit, which was a big cattle company owned by the Slaughter Brothers. He rode his horse to the next side camp and there got another horse and rode on to the next camp. He did this until he reached Roswell, New Mexico. These side camps were about thirty or forty miles apart, each having a sod shack, windmill and watering tanks, with one cowboy in charge to look after the windmills and the immense herds of cattle that would water there.

Father hired an old freighter in Roswell to come to Plainview after us. We were living in a sod house that Father had built for us before he left Plainview. To build this house he had dug down in the ground about six feet, walling this up with boards to the level of the ground, then building up with sod blocks, about the size of a large adobe bricks, out from the ground where there was grass growing. We had two windows in the shack and it had a sod roof. We lived in this house about two weeks and then Father came from Roswell with the freighter for us. We traveled in a covered wagon and camped out. We had to use cow chips for fuel on this last lap of our journey. The old freighter showed how to eat in camp like they did in the west, which was to help your plates from the Dutch oven and pots. Our first stop after leaving Plainview was the Long S cattle ranch, where we saw our first white faced Hereford cattle. The cowboys were burning cow chips for fuel and my brother and I were so embarrassed when we saw them put them in the stove. The next stop was at a X I T side camp and the cowboy there entertained us by singing cowboy songs which we children thought were the grandest songs that we had ever heard. On our third day out we were approaching Fort Sumner, and saw our first view of the Capitan Mountains by field glasses. We camped out in the open in the X I T pasture. The antelopes were so numerous in this pasture that the young ones came up to our camp. The men folks killed one and cooked some in a Dutch oven for our supper that night. The rest of the fresh meat that we had on this trip was given us by the cowboys at the side camps. We crossed the Pecos River just above Roswell, which was not a very big town at that time. We turned north and traveled up the Hondo River and camped that night just below Picacho. The only excitement that night was the howling of the coyotes and wolves. We came on up the Hondo Valley through Lincoln and on to Little Creek, where we found a new two roomed log cabin in a beautiful pine grove awaiting us. Our hearts were filled with delight at our new home. This was in May 1891. Two days after our arrival a beautiful snow fell on the pine trees.

We had left Tennessee on account of my mother's health and that is the reason we lingered along as we did. Mother was very much afraid of the Indians in New Mexico. Geronimo was still on the war path. Source: Mrs. Anna Brazel.

Mrs. Annie Laurie Snorf
By Georgia B. Redfield
Paraphrased by C. W. Barnum
Counties: Chaves, Lincoln
Surnames mentioned: Snorf, O'Brien, Garrett, McCarty, Fitzpatrick, Tumasel, Allen, Straub

Annie Laurie Snorf, daughter of John Snorf and Teresa O'Brian Snorf was born near Niles, Michigan. After completing her education in the Michigan schools, being a graduate of high school and business college  she came west to Roswell, New Mexico, where she has live continuously since 1906. Not strong, as a child Miss Snorf led an active outdoor life on  the  farm where she was born and raised.

On her mother's side Miss Snorf is directly descended from prominent military men of Irish history, of Calway, and the Slorachs of Cork Ireland. The men of her father's family, were pioneer Michigan farmers, doctors and lawyers, she being the first one of the family known to pursue a career as a writer of song and verse. For her own pleasure, Miss Snorf has been writing poetry and stories since she first knew how to read and write. In late years friends and relatives who became interested in her beautiful compositions have encouraged her in the publication of her works, which have received favorable National criticism as well as from the State of New Mexico. Perhaps the most widely appreciated of the many poems and songs written by Miss Snorf is Out In New Mexico, set to music by Miss Elizabeth Garrett in 1938. 

Anthologies in which Miss Snorf has appeared are:
New Mexico in Verse, by William Felter and John L. McCarty.
Poems Of New Mexico, by George Fitzpatrick.
Verse Harvest, by Charles Leon Tumasel, New York City.
Muse, Edgar Allen Poe Memorial, Carlyle Straub, Editor, New York City.

Miss Snorf has also been a contributor to numerous magazines and newspapers. She has frequently appeared in the New Mexico Magazine, and in the Los Angeles Times, her theme always being, on the State of her adoption, New Mexico.

Miss Snorf owns her own house in one of the most beautiful residential districts of Roswell, Lea Avenue and Second Streets, where she is surrounded by friends, who have learned to appreciate her for her lovable disposition and her kindness as a neighbor. She is a member of the Chaves County Archaeological and Historical Society, and as the first secretary, serving until 1938, she rendered valuable assistance to the society during the first years of its organization and building of the Roswell Museum. Miss Annie Laurie Snorf is appreciated as a valuable contributor to the beauty and culture of Roswell and the State of New Mexico.

Mrs. O. C. Story about Anthony
By Marie Carter
Paraphrased by C. W. Barnum
Counties: Dona Ana
Surnames mentioned: Story, Mayhill, Belvins, Coe, Howser, Carpenter, Miller, Alvarez

There is no doubt, that today and not tomorrow, is the propitious time to collect and preserve some of the true stories of this Great Southwest. For there are not many of the early settlers or old timers left. Many, who were the pathfinders for us, have passed away, leaving no records of the heroic parts they played in the historical drama of our country.

Take one old timer for instance, one of the oldest pioneers of our community. Her house is old, too, but it has not withstood the ravage of time near so well as she. When I asked her how long she lived in Anthony, she laughed and replied: Gracious, child! Why don't you ask me how long I've lived in New Mexico? Because if you get any sense out of my story I'll have to start from the beginning, over in Lincoln County, where we located before coming to Dona Ana.

What year was that?

1881. We moved to Anthony in 1897. My first husband had been out in this country before, but as I told you, Lincoln County. Before he went to Lincoln, although he drove a freight train across the plains from Kansas to Colorado.

It was slow travel, too, because they drove ox teams in them days. Besides, if they wasn't watching for Indians, they was a slowing up to let the buffalo go by.

And where were you at that time?

Back in Missouri waiting and when he come back home we was married, and started on our honeymoon. After visiting some of his kin folks at Farmington, Missouri we bought us a covered wagon for the rest of the trip.

That must have been exciting, I said.

Yes, it was. The first thing we run into, after passing the Navajo Indian Reservation a little ways, was about three hundred redskins on horseback, and I guess the only reason they didn't scalp us was the fact that they was too drunk to see us. Them that could still drink was a reeling from side to side, and them that couldn't hold anymore were asleep on their horses' neck. They was the real thing too, feathers, blankets, bare legs and moccasins. Some of them wore little aprons for pants.

What tribe were they?


Were you afraid?

I didn't flinch. And when they passed on my husband patted me on the shoulder. I guess he thought I was pretty brave.

You certainly were, I said.

We had to be in them days. And on the upper Penasco, where we first settled, every man and women faced the same problems. Then we moved a little lower down, to Mayhill, New Mexico, the town my father, Henry Mayhill, homesteaded. I was the first postmaster. Mayhill, is in Otero County. So is the Mescalero Indian Reservation. We had lots of Indian scares and never knew what them wild Apaches were going to do next. I hated the old squaws. Sometimes they'd knock at my door, and when I'd open it, there they'd be, all wrapped up in blankets. They always traveled in pairs. They wanted water but they couldn't understand me, and I couldn't understand them. So they'd grunt away down in their throats, open their mouths, and point at the hole in their faces.

Mary Coe Belvins was the wife of Jim Coe, a man who knew Billy the Kid and liked him. She gave birth to the second white child on the upper Penasco, a creek, sometimes called a river. The upper and the lower Penasco was separated by a dry basin for about twelve miles. The Coes moved to Anthony, New Mexico in the year of 1897. They homesteaded a ranch Northeast of Anthony, where they lived for forty-five years. It was a stock farm, and they pumped their water with a steam engine, which Mrs. Coe ran, while Mr. Coe cut wood to feed it. After their homestead was proved up they moved into town. In 1909 they sold their ranch to the government for a target range. Mary Coe is now Mrs. Blevins, and is seventy-five years old. She was born in Missouri in the year 1837, June the 1st.

The other day I dropped into our local dry goods store to chat with a friend, and old timer, who has lived in our community since the year of 1901. What, I inquired, did Anthony look like when you located here?

Goodness, me! she exclaimed, I wish you could have seen it. All this business section on the highway was jest a wagon road. We drove horses 'n' buggies in them days, 'n' wagons, of course. It took us a whole day to get anywhere south of El Paso, or north of Las Cruces. Excuse, me. She opened the stove door to expectorate, then explained: It's stuff. Bin chewing it for twenty-years, but did not get used to it yet. 

I waited, until my friend had closed the stove door, then resumed my quizzing.

Where was the principal business street when you located here?

West of the Santa Fe Tracks. Guess how many houses was on that street? I see you can't guess, she added quickly, so I'll have to tell you. There was five. I run a little notion store, and Charley Miller run a store next door. He sold whiskey but had to quit, because the Mexicans would get drunk in his place and start fights. One day he got so mad that he took all his whiskey barrels and dumped them in the street. I suppose land was cheap, I said.

I'll say it was. Good valley land ranged from eight to ten dollars an acre, she said. Twenty-five dollars was fancy price.

The street referred to by this old timer, in 1901, was a mere country lane, with narrow trails branching off in different directions. One trail turned north to the town of Mesquite. A second trail turned west to the Rio Grand and Bosque, or low land.

Today, the ranch land known as the Dairy Farm, commands a top price, but in 1901 it was bought by a Mr. Howser for six dollars an acre. Mr. Howser leveled the land and sold it to C.F. Carpenter for twelve dollars an acre. Mr. Carpenter made some improvements and sold it to the El Paso Dairy Farm Company. This company bought the ranch to raise alfalfa and grain to feed their cattle. At the present time the principal crops are cotton and sugar beet seed. The seed is shipped to Colorado to grow sugar beets.

In the early days of this town the chief amusements were picnics and barbecues. The men usually barbecued the beef. Sometimes they remained up all night preparing, cooking, basting, and turning it on the spit. As one old timer commented, ye can't hurry barbecue. Mrs. O. C. Story, who had a sick husband, and two small children, brought them west in a covered wagon. At that time houses were scarce in the little village of Anthony. She had to have a place to live, so bought the house in which Mrs. Coleman lived and kept boarders. After buying the house, which is still a store building, she also kept boarders. At a later date, however, she started a notion store. That same notion store was the nucleus for the dry goods store which she conducts on the new main street today. It seems that the boarding house business flourished in the old days because Anthony was a stopping place for travelers. Mrs. Alvarez kept boarders, too. Charley Miller, who seems to factor in all of the old timers stories, ran the old Valley Mercantile store, adjoining Mrs. Story's place of business.
Mrs. O. C. Story. Came to Anthony, New Mexico in a covered wagon. In the year of 1901. Mrs. Story is a successful business woman.

As I see It, Jack Hull
By Mrs. Belle Kilgore
Paraphrased by C. W. Barnum
Counties: Curry
Surnames mentioned: Hull, 

If I were called upon to recount from the past the incident which stands out most vividly in pioneer days in this region, it would have to resolve to a personal experience at Texico, New Mexico in 1907, when, not much more than a kid, I arrived on my initial voyage into the untamed southwest.

I got off the train about midnight at Texico. Rain was falling in sheets and it was pitch dark. The peg legged night clerk of the little old Robinson hotel net me and carried my grip to his lobby. The place was all aglow from the single burner of an old coal oil lamp. It was a dismal situation for a kid just twenty-four hours removed from the rather timid life of schools.

More or less fascinated by the wide open aspect of the town, with its saloons, dance halls, and gambling places I strolled down the plank sidewalk and dropped into one of the saloons. Frontier night life was in full swing in the place. Men gambled at tables, a dance was in progress in the rear of the place, and around the bar stood booted and spurred cowpunchers evidently in town to celebrate after long weeks on the range.

I stopped just inside the door and was taking in the sight when a big cowhand walked over to the bar and, with a sweeping beckon of his arm, yelled: The drinks are on me. Come on up. Men left the game tables and all strolled to the bar for the courtesy drink which such an offer meant.

Unaccustomed to the etiquette of the west, I remained where I stood near the door, and the host of the drinks  spotted me.

Say, ain't you gonna drink on me? he asked, with his face in a scowl.

No, thanks, I replied, I don't care for anything, and with that I thought the matter was dismissed. But it wasn't.

So you won't drink on me? he asked as he started towards me.

I began to realize that some thing  was about to happen when the bartended came to my rescue. He stepped from behind the bar and taking the tired cowhand by the arm he said: That's just a kid. You don't want to make a kid drink on you.

The irritated cowhand walked a little closer to me for a better appraisal of my age, I suppose, then he turned back to the bar with a wave of his arm that apparently dismissed the incident.

It is needless to say that I left, with my first lesson in frontier etiquette well learned and a wholesome respect for a gentlemen of the range when they turn host at the bar. Jack Hull, Editor of Evening News Journal.

Katherine Ragsdale
By Katherine Ragsdale
Paraphrased by C. W. Barnum
Counties: Eddy
Surnames mentioned: Ragsdale, Beddos

In the town of Bisbee, Arizona on March 11, 1911, at eleven o'clock an eleven pound baby girl, looking very much like her father was born to Marie I. and Thomas H. Ragsdale. They named me Katherine.

For three months we lived in Bisbee, and moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where my father started in business with his brother. After living there some little time we moved to Artesia, New Mexico but it was only a short time until we moved to El Paso, Texas and my father opened a dry goods store. Here we lived for several years and then moved back to Artesia. It was here that I, now seven years of age, started to school, attending for three consecutive years, being neither absent nor tardy.

Our next move was to Roswell, New Mexico and I attended school there for three years. Again we moved, this time going to Douglas, Arizona, where I finished the seventh grade. It was here that I became interested in music. I had been singing in public since I was three years old, and playing the piano since I was seven, but here I enjoyed it more because the people of Douglas gave so many operettas and they always asked me to be in them.

From Douglas, Arizona we moved to Nogales, Arizona only to move again in a few months to Artesia, New Mexico. Here I finished high school. During my senior I studied voice culture, and won several voice and piano contests. After graduation, I entered the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, Cincinnati Ohio, and studied voice with the famous Welsh Tenor, Dan Beddos. Here I won the honor of being the first first year voice pupil to sing in the quartette in the Seventh Presbyterian Church. 

Being unable to return to the Conservatory I moved to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and worked in the stationery departments of a large department store. On December 20, 1934 I returned to Artesia, and worked in an office and then later had a part time work in a department store, and in the month of April I started to work for the the Writer's for Eddy County.

Beecher Lank
By Georgia B. Redfield
Paraphrased by C. W. Barnum
Counties: Chaves
Surnames mentioned: Lank, Amonett, Grant, Chisum, Moore, Tingley, McKinley, 

Beecher Lank, New Mexico cowboy boot maker was born at La Fayette, Indiana on May 11, 1851. He has been making boots sixty-nine of the eighty-seven years of his life. He was seventeen years of age when he first began making his way in the world by selling newspapers. He remembers selling over two hundred and fifty papers on the day, May 19, 1868, that General Grant was unanimously nominated for the presidency.

In 1869, when he was eighteen, he began making boots in Kansas City, Missouri, and while working continuously at boot making he gradually made his way west. He made cowboy boots for many years in Texas and for a while in Arizona before coming to Roswell, New Mexico in 1914. He has made cowboy boots continuously for over twenty-four years, at Amonett's, the oldest saddle and boot shop in Roswell and southeast New Mexico.

For more than an average life time Mr. Lank has bent over machines patiently working out beautiful designs in decorative stitching, and carefully shaping and building sturdy arches for as fine boots as can be made any where in the United States.

When he first began making boots in Kansas City Ulysses S. Grant was president of the United States. There was no Roswell in New Mexico and the Chisums were blazing the trails for the first herds of cattle that were brought from Texas to the Pecos Valley, and John Chisum had not yet established the famous Jingle Bob Ranch at the head of South Spring River, six miles southeast of what is now Roswell. Mr. Lank cannot give even an approximate number of the thousands of boots he turned out during the years when a cowboy was judged by the boots he wore.

Things are different now, he said, since the cattle business is not the most important industry in this part of the country, but I am still making lots of fine boots for the old cattle men who want the real cowboy boots they can be proud of, and that can be worn in comfort.

I don't work as fast as I used to but I will show you I can still do a good job.

The boots, he proudly brought out for inspection, proved indeed, that he not only could do a good job on their construction but that he was a master of the trade of which he has made an art, anyone might be proud of mastering.

I can make all kinds of boots, said Mr. Lank, fancy ones like these or plain ones, and I make shoes too. I don't work as fast though as I used to when I was younger for I am getting old and slowing up. I like to make them, like to think about who will wear them when they are finished, and try to imagine what kinds of places they will be worn in, but I am getting tired. I would like to rest for the years I have left to live if I didn't have to pay for part of my keep. I get a little old age pension but its just enough to pay my landlady. I board with Mrs. Long at 205 E. 7th Street.

When asked if he didn't have any relatives he replied: I don't know. I was married and had a daughter, Pearl. I don't know where she is now, or if she's still living or not. I married a girl named Jennie Moore but she died a long time ago I don't remember when. 

No. He replied, when asked if he could tell any stories of interest that have happened in his life.

I don't remember things very well anymore. I saw Grant and heard him speak in Kansas City in 1880. I saw McKinley there too, and Teddy Roosevelt.

When asked if he liked Roswell he said, Yes, and I like to work for Mr. Amonett. He is always good to me, and all the other workers make it as easy for me as they can. Every body I know is good to me.

His patient kind eyes lighted up in appreciation as he talked of kindness shown him. He was gentle and pleasant and smiled all the time he talked during our interview showing a mouth full of strong white teeth, all his own, which is remarkable for a man of his age. He doesn't wear glasses either except for reading and close up work.

Oh yes, he said, I forgot I did have something interesting happen in my life. Just a month or two ago. I got a letter from Governor Clyde Tingley, a birthday letter. Here it is, he said, read it.

I took it from him and read the few kind words that cheered and made happier the old man who had been alone for many of these last birthdays of his life that should have been made happier.

Now wasn't that a fine thing for our Governor to remember an old man like me on his birthday?

It was indeed! was my reply, and I truly thought it was. The letter dated May 11, 1938, is given below: 

Dear Mr. Lank:
Congratulations on your eighty-seventh  birthday! Mrs. Tingley and I sincerely hope that you may enjoy many more happy birthdays.
Cordially Yours, Clyde Tingley.
The kind birthday wishes of Governor and Mrs. Tingley find an echo in the hearts of the many Roswell friends of Mr. Lank. Source: Mr. Lank

Ben Stimmel
By Edith L. Crawford
Paraphrased by C. W. Barnum
Counties: Lincoln
Surnames mentioned: Stimmel, Hoecradle, Bogard, Mackel, Young,

I was born in Ohio, September 25, 1857. I left Ohio in 1877 and went to Kansas City Missouri. In 1881 a young fellow by the name of Wesley Lewis and I came by train to Las Vegas, New Mexico to work on the Santa Fe Railroad. On our way out to Las Vegas we heard of the rich gold strike at White Oaks, New Mexico and instead of going to work for the railroad we decided to go to the gold fields. We started out to walk to White Oaks and walked for two days and a half without food or water. On the morning of the third day we overtook a oxen train hauling freight to Fort Stanton, New Mexico. They gave us food and water and a ride to Jerry Hoecradle's place at Pines Wells, New Mexico, in the Gallinas Mountains. He gave us directions how to get to White Oaks so we started out again on foot. I do not remember how long it took us to get to White Oaks but it was pouring rain when we got there. We came to a house made of pickets and mud. We went inside and found it was a small store run by Robinson, Bogard and Dick Young. We bought something to eat and while eating our lunch in the store Mr. Bogard asked us if we were rock masons. Wesley Lewis spoke up and said he was. Mr. Bogard told us that he had a job for us at three dollars a day and our board if we could qualify. We went to work on a building which was to be a hotel and assay office, the first to be built in White Oaks. This was in the year 1881 and this building still stands in White Oaks today. It is built of rocks.

After finishing that job I went to work as a miner in the Little Mack gold mine and later became foreman of the mine. I married Miss Anne Mackel in January, 1886. We lived in White Oaks until September 1889, when we set out in a covered wagon drawn by four horses, to go to Oklahoma to buy a farm. We had two children and two hound pups. I found a place I liked in Hennessy, Oklahoma, where we built up a real nice farm and lived for twenty five years.

On April 20, 1912, a cyclone hit our farm. It took the roof off of our house, and destroyed our barn and all out buildings. We had a hundred Indian Runner ducks and after the storm we found them about half a mile from the house in a mud swamp, all dead. The family saw the cyclone coming and all got in the storm cellar. After the storm I salvaged what I could from the farm and left Oklahoma for Lincoln County, New Mexico, where they don't have cyclones. I have lived here ever since. Source: Ben L. Stimmel

Bride's Story
By Bertha Gusdorf
Paraphrased by C. W. Barnum
Counties: Taos
Surnames mentioned: Gusdorf, Ferse, Wylie, Sammons, Hyson, MacMarr, Weimer, McCarthy, Martin

Among the courageous women who accompanied their men to the Southwest in the 1850's and later in the 1880's were the wives, many of them young brides, of German and Jewish merchants and clerks, to whom the country was especially fearful, on account of complete difference in language and customs.

Among these pioneer women who came to New Mexico with the coming of the railroads, was Mrs. Bertha Gusdorf, who came to Santa Fe and a little later to Taos in 1878. At that time an immigrant girl bride of eighteen years, she made the long arduous journey from New York to Trinidad by train, by stage coach to Santa Fe and thence to Taos, over an almost impassable trail, the latter part of the journey taking four days where now an automobile makes the trip in two hours over a non too good road.

Bertha F. Gusdorf (Bertha Ferse) was born of Jewish parents in November, 1860, in the village of Oberlistungen near Cassel, in the Duchy of Hesse-Cassel, in the central part of Germany. She attended school in her native village, similar to our primary and grammar grades. Was married in the spring of 1878, to Alex Gusdorf, who had returned to Germany after fourteen years in America, most of which time was spent in Santa Fe, Penasco and Ranchos de Taos, where he was in business for himself, operating a large flour mill and other mercantile business.

The young couple came to New York, May 1, 1878, and traveled by train to EL Moro, Colorado, about five miles east of Trinidad, which at that time was the terminal of the Santa Fe railroad while the contractors were boring the tunnel through the Raton Range. They then traveled by stage coach to Santa Fe where they lived for a short time and then moved on to Ranchos de Taos to make their future home.

At that time, Ranchos de Taos, even more so than at present, was almost 100% Spanish American. About the only Anglos living at Ranchos were the teachers at the Alice Hyson Mission, a Presbyterian institution. The Anderson brothers with their families came to Ranchos in the same year 1878 to enter the employ of Mr. Gusdorf in his flour mill.

The young German woman under the necessity of learning two languages: Spanish, to be able to talk to her neighbors and maids, and also English to talk to the Andersons and the few other Anglos in the village. This she done mainly by the trial and error method, aided by Mr. Gusdorf, who had already spent about sixteen years in New Mexico. She now reads and writes English and speaks Spanish fluently.

Mrs. Gusdorf's two daughters were born and spent their childhood years in Ranchos de Taos. They are, Elsa, wife of C. D. Weimer of Colorado Springs, born in 1884, and Mrs. Corrine Wylie, also or Colorado Springs, born in 1890. In 1894, after the destruction of Mr. Gusdorf's flour mill at Ranchos, by fire, supposedly of incendiary origin, the family moved to Taos where Mr. Gusdorf went into business with Gerson Gusdorf and J. J. McCarthy. They lived for some time on the lot in the rear of the store building now occupied by MacMarr's and the Taos Variety Store.

In 1909 they erected their new home on the Santa Fe road on the brow of the hill over looking the lower Taos Valley with the north slope of Picuris mountain in the distance. At that time, adobe houses and Pueblo architecture were not customary and the building was sheathed with steel, and the interior finish of hard wood. In later years she had installed steam heat, fired with oil burners. She and Mr. Gusdorf planted trees on the south and west sides of their lot. Also apple and cherry trees, shrubs and flower and vegetable gardens, making a most attractive home site.

Here Mrs. Gusdorf lived and here her two daughters were married and here Mr. Gusdorf died in the fall of 1923, and here she still makes her home, mostly alone except for a woman coming in to help clean house, and a gardener to look after the gardens, the shrubbery, etc. After the death of Mr. Gusdorf in 1923, Mrs. Gusdorf took charge of the business of his estate, consisting of about 12,000 acres of land in the Cristobal de la Serna Land Grant, south of Taos, and surrounding the villages of Ranchos de Taos and Talpa and extending up the timbered north slope of Picuris Mountain to the summit, also other property in Taos and Taos county.

In 1924 she was elected a director of the First State Bank of Taos, of which Mr. Gusdorf had formerly been President, and continued in that capacity until 1935 when she was elected President of the Bank after the death of the late Dr. T. P. Martin. In all these years, she has been anything but a dummy director, visiting the bank almost daily, consulting and advising with the cashier and other officials on loans and other business matters.

She still maintains the same routine as well as her health and advancing age permit. Mrs. Gusdorf is now one of only two women bank presidents in the state of New Mexico, the other being Mrs. H. B. Sammons, of Farmington, New Mexico. In November, 1935, her daughter, Mrs. Wylie, assisted by other ladies of Taos, gave a banquet to celebrate her mother's seventy-fifth birthday. This banquet was attended by about fifty of the prominent women of Taos. 

To the writer, who offered his congratulations, and wished her seventy-five more birthdays, she remarked that she did not care to live that long, that fifteen or twenty-five years would be plenty. So this woman, who came to American in 1878, from Germany, a Jewish girl bride, has lived to see her children's children, and to gain the respect, love and affection of the entire community, which when she came to it was entirely foreign in language, customs, and race prejudices. Mrs. Bertha Gusdorf of Taos, New Mexico.