Texas Park and White Oaks - My Early Memories

By Ben Leslie

Retyped by Janet Barnum

 

My Fond memories of Years gone by in Texas Park and White Oaks, New Mexico. Written by Ben Leslie, Alamogordo New Mexico, ca. 1950.

 

I was born in the Texas Park in 1892, there were several large families living there and most of them were from Texas, that is where it got its name Texas Park. I will give you some of the family names that made their home in Texas Park in the early days, Lacy, Bragg, Bartlett, Palmer, Current, Fewell, Harris, Mahon, Cleghorn, Johnson, Slacks, Glenn, Augayo, and Leslies. Every one of them had big families.

I went to school two terms in Texas Park and my teacher was Daisy Babours. There were some seventy-five children in this school at that time. My family lived about three miles from the school house and we rode burrows to our school. At times we could not find the burrows and we would have to walk back and forth to school. I remember they used to have dances in the school house on Saturday nights and they would come on horse back and in wagons. The Cowboys would come up from the Block Ranch. They would dance until daylight and sometimes until sun-up. 

I went to several dances after I was grown. After I spent two terms in school at Texas Park my folks moved to White Oaks as the schools were much better there and I received the rest of my schooling in White Oaks which was quite a large town at that time, something like 4,000 people. 

White Oaks had two grocery stores, one owned by Zieglers and the other by Jones Telefaro. One dry goods store was run by Sol Weiner. Two saloons were run by Captain Lee and another run by a Spanish guy I don't remember his name. One bank was run by Frank Sager and George Uldrick. There were two hotels operated by Ozanes which was later sold to Fletcher Lurd and the other by Mrs. Jane Gallacher. One butcher shop was run by Mr. Treat, the father of Ralph and Roy Treat. Two drug stores were run by Dr. A. G. Lane and the other by Dr. M. C. Paden. A lumber company was run by the Gumm brothers and a Laundry was operated by two Chinese men. A dance hall was built by Bonnells. There were two blacksmith shops, one run by Charlie Meyer--father of Paul and Berth Mayer, and the other was operated by Taylor and Sons. A livery stable was run by Paul Mayer, brother of Charlie Mayer. White Oaks had two churches and one jail, and two law offices. The attorneys were John Y. Hewitt and A. H. Hudspeth, the other by Col. Prichard. White Oaks also had a fine school house.

White Oaks was quite a town in those days. Lots of men working in the mines and all the houses were full and tents were stretched into the foothills. The four major gold mines were North and South Homestake, Little Mack and Old Abe. A coal mine east of White Oaks was called the Old Abe Coal Mine. White Oaks had a fine school and three or four hundred children went to school. One of the teachers was Mrs. Covington and another was Mr. Davis. 

I remember we used to get to school early in the morning so we could play base ball and we also played at noon hour. I remember so well there were three girls that could really play baseball with us boys. They  were Sally and Ollie Grumbles, a sister of the late Walter Grumbles, and Margaret--Maggie, Gallacher who later married Bill Kelt. These girls could catch and throw a ball just as good as any of us boys. 

Some of my school mates were Roy Grumbles, Paul Mayer, who lives in El Paso, Bill James, Guy Lurd, Carl Anderson who lives in El Paso, Francis Cannon. There were many others, but I can not recall their names. An incident I well remember when I was a small boy was a bunch of boys much older than me that were playing on Rocky Peak jus on the north side of White Oaks and they started a fire and had with them a lot of empty cartridge hulls. They would go off and make a loud report like a gun shot. One of the hulls hit Jim Lee in the cheek and tore a great big gash and they had to rush him to the doctor. It took several stitches to close the cut. I can not remember all the boys’ names, but I believe the Queen boys, Owen boys and Candy Sandoval were in this group of boys.

I remember another terrible thing that happened when I was a small boy. This was on a night shift at the Old Abe Gold Mine about two miles northwest of White Oaks. They used large kerosene oil lamps and were attached to the upright gallows which are right at the top to the main shaft, one lamp on each side. For some unknown reason one of these lamps set one side of the gallows on fire. The top man or trammer had just taken a car of ore to the Old Abe Mill and was coming back toward the main shaft when he saw the fire and it was spreading very fast since all the timbers were dry. 

In a very short time the whole main shaft was on fire. There was no way to fight the fire and the oxygen was burned out of the air. The following men lost their lives since they were working down inside the Old Abe. John Davis, B. Frank Wilson, George W. Baxter, William B. Mitchell, G. L. Conover, Chas H. Sherrick, Frank White, and W. J. Williams died of suffocation. The date of this accident was March 9, 1895. The top man, called a trammer, was thought to be Alfred James. The smoke from the Old Abe fire could be seen from the town of White Oaks. It happened in the early morning hours and continued to burn for some time the next morning. 

My oldest brother Lisha Leslie had come to town the evening before so he jumped on his horse and was the first one to the names. There were eight lives lost by being overcome with smoke which spread through the mine tunnels. The rest of the workers got out alive. I remember so well going down with my mother t see all eight of the men laid out side by side. A large number of women and children were crying and grieving over their love ones.

Back to the school days after we boys got up a little older, we got a little rough on Halloween. We would kinda tear up the town. We would go to Bob Taylor's blacksmith shop and gather up old wagon and anything else we could find and drag the items down to Zieglers and Telefaro's stores and block the front entrance. It would take them a half a day to remove the junk we had stacked up before they could open up for business. Mr. Ziegler got real mad and one Halloween he swore that he could catch us and make our parent pay for the damage. We were all around 15 or 16 years old at this time

We figured Mr. Zielger would be out to catch us. We figured out a way t have some fun and got ourselves some with and stretched it about 8" high from Captain Lee's saloon which was near Ziegler's store. The wire was attached to a hitch rack in front of the saloon t the corner of the store building. We made the wire tight. Later, we went and got some items and started dragging them don the main street of White Oaks right past the Zoegler store and made sure we were making plenty of noise and racket. Mr. Jake Ziellaer was a large fat man and sure enough he was laying down the sidewalk in front of the store. We all knew that the wire was there eight inches off the ground so we jumped and stepped right over the wire. 

Mr. Ziegler caught his foot on the wire and we thought he would never quit rolling. He was real skinned up the next day and naturally he never caught us. There were something like eight of us in this group, two hunt boys, Bill James, Earl Martin, William Current and myself and a few others. Another time on Halloween there were ten or twelve of us turning over old outhouse toilets. That was the only style we had in those early days. We had turned over several already when we came to an extra large one behind Ziegler's Store. It was taking a lot more effort to get it to turn over. Finally, we die get it to start falling over an Earl Martin slipped and fell in the hole. We got him out but it took us the rest of the night to get him cleaned back up. 

When I was about sixteen years old I got stuck on a girl that was in the same grade with me at school. She was the first girl that I had ever went with and I thought a lot of her. Her name was Beulah Brazel and her dad had a ranch down on the flats south of White Oaks. Beulah Brazel was the sister of Mrs. Albert Snow of Carrizozo, New Mexico. Mr. Brazel has some mean horses that had thrown several riders. One day Beulah's father said, "Ben, why don't you go to the ranch with me. I want you to ride a mean horse for me. I know that you Leslie boys are all good riders." So me being stuck on this little gal of his, I had to take hi up on this proposition. Beulah went along to see the action. I managed to ride the horse but it was all I could do. I later rode several more horses for Mr. Brazel but I never did get his daughter.

After I finished school I worked in the coal mine and my brother Rob worked in the Old Abe. Alfred James was his shift boss at that time. They got up a bet as who could win in a foot race. I remember Shorty Dillard run against Ralph Treat. A lot of money was bet on the race. They ran the race on the main street of White Oaks. Ralph Treat won the race by two or three feet. Mrs. Ralph Treat Lives in El Paso, Texas. Shirley Dillard eventually married Myrtle McNew.

I went to work in the North Homestake mine in August of 1913. John Lee was my shift boss. The mining company went by the name of the Wildcat Leasing Company. The partners in this company were Ed Queen, Allen Lane and Dave Jackson. I worked until about the 1oth of January of 1914. Since I had fell in love with a Capitan girl by the name of May Burch, we decided to get married. She was only seventeen and her folks would not agree to it. So, I told Bud Lee, my shift boss, that I wanted to take off for ten days, because I was going to get married.

Mr. Lee told me to go ahead that my job would be waiting for me when I got back. I took off and rode my horse over to where my girl lived on a little ranch close to Capitan. I got her a horse out of the corral that night and we eloped. We rode back to White Oaks which was thirty miles to the north. It was around eleven o'clock at night when we arrived in White Oaks. Nothing was open but Captain Lee's saloon. I left my girl sitting on her horse out front. She was holding the reins to my horse. I went in to talk to Jim Lee who was tending bar. I told him that I wanted to go to Carrizozo and catch the train to El Paso. Jim told me that he would be glad to take us when he closed at twelve.

While I was waiting for him to close up I went over to Mrs. Jane Gallacher's and borrowed a suitcase from her to put our cloths in which we had tied on our saddles in sacks. Then, I took the horses in the corral and we walked back down to the saloon. Jim Lee took us n down to Carrizozo in his model T Ford. We left on the train at 1A.M. I will never forget Les Harmon was on this same train and he teased us all the way to El Paso.

We got married the next morning at 9A.M. at the courthouse in El Paso. Les Harmon was one of the witnesses. We spent our honeymoon in El Paso and were back in White Oaks in about a week. The parents of May, now my wife, got real good and invited us over to see them.  

I went back to the mine. I worked the middle of August of 1914 and was hurt badly. R. D. Armstrong was the hoist man. I had been working on the 1200 foot level and was tramming ore out of the chutes. We ran out of ore about noon. My shift boss moved me after lunch to the 1000 foot level. After I sent up the first bucket, Mr. Armstrong thinking I was still on the 1200 level hooked on to the cable when it got back. I heard something singing and thought it was a big rock falling down the shaft. I made one big jump backwards but I didn't jump far enough, the empty ore bucket hit the loaded bucket and bounced over sticking me on forehead. It caught my hand and arm. The sudden rush of air blew out all the candle lights which we had to use on this day. 

I was in complete darkness. Blood rushed over my face and filled my eyes. My left arm and hand were crushed and cut. I felt the blood run soaking into my clothes. Ralph Treat were working 100 feet above me and heard the noise. They quickly took the man-way ladders and make it to my location. They could only load me in the ore bucket and sent me toward daylight. At the surface Allen Lee saved my life by stopping the blood from flowing out of my worst wounds. He took me to Dr. Paden in Carrizozo. I was glad Allen had a good car to get me to Carrizozo quickly. Dr. Paden closed my wounds with stitches. 

To this day, I know I would be dead if Ralph Treat and Fred Lee. I would not be able to tell this story if they had not been there for me. I was off work for six months while I recovered. I guess the Lord was with me. If I had not made that jump backwards I never would have known what hit me. The heavy bucket would have crushed me to death. There were several other men working in the mine when this happened, Jessie Leslie, my brother, George Current, Ted Reasoner, Pitts and Bive Brookings, Ed, Lee, Bud Lee, and several others. 

I treasure my memories of Texas Park and White Oaks. In this article I have set down the true facts as I remember then.

Signed, Ben Leslie

 

 

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