WPA Rufus H. Dunnahoo
Writer: Georgia B. Redfield
Interview with: RUFUS H. DUNNAHOO
Oldest Living Roswell Pioneer
Established Blacksmith Shop in
Helped Build First
Rufus H. Dunnahoo, Roswell's oldest living pioneer, came from San Antonio, Texas to New Mexico in July 1880, and settled at Seven Rivers -
eighteen miles north of the site on which building of the present City of Carlsbad was started nine
years later, in 1889.
At the time of the coming of Mr.
Dunnahoo, Seven Rivers,
then in Lincoln
and the town of Lincoln
and White Oaks were the only towns of any
consequence in Southeast New Mexico. Roswell - sixty-five
miles north of Seven Rivers - was only a cattle trading Post, having one store
and a post-office. Roswell today, in a modern city of 12,500 population, while
all that remains of Seven Rivers are remnants of adobe walls and what is known
as "Boot Cemetery", where most of the men were buried with boots on,
after numerous shooting escapades.
At that time all the land from
Seven Rivers, on both sides of the Pecos River, as far north as the Bosque
Grande country thirty-five miles northeast of Roswell - a distance of nearly
one hundred and twenty miles - was used as cattle grazing land by John S.
Chisum who brought the first herd of cattle to the Pecos Valley in 1867.
The town site of Seven Rivers
in Eddy County and Roswell in Chaves
were in Lincoln
until Eddy and Chaves
were created by Act of the Territorial Legislature in 1889, going into effect January
When coming to New
Mexico, Mr. Dunnahoo ran across a bunch of immigrants at Pecos, Texas,
who were traveling in a caravan of sixteen covered wagons. They had become
discouraged, because of drouth conditions, and were ready to turn back with
their herd of cattle that had become tired out and weak from lack of food. Mr.
Dunnahoo contracted to assume all responsibility in driving the herd, if they
would continue the journey with him. The immigrants gladly gave their consent
and Mr. Dunnahoo brought the cattle safely through to Seven Rivers. Soon after
their arrival a band of Geronimo's Indians came at night and stole the teams -
thirty-two head - all of the caravan horses, excepting the ones belonging Mr.
Dunnahoo, who had bought the old [beckwith?] Ranche and placed his horses in a
five foot high adobe corral on his ranche.
Besides his ranching interests he
established a blacksmith shop in Seven Rivers, but he soon became dissatisfied
with the lawless conditions of the "Wild and Wooly" town and decided
to seek a more peaceful place to live. Accompanied by some of his men
companions of the caravan, he headed for Las
Traveling a dim trail via Roswell at that place they found the Hondo River
up, and no bridge on which to cross into the town. Captain Joseph C. Lea and
Buck Guice, a friend of his, came down on horseback and gave them advice and
assistance. He sent them three vigas (large beams) these they laid across the
river and covered them with small under brush they cut from the river banks.
Over this hazardous crossing the seven wagons, of the caravan, crossed safely
into the town of Roswell
owned by Captain Lea and his wife, Sally (Wildy) Lea.
Remembering the beautiful country
around the promising town and the kindness of Captain Lea, and Mr. Guice, he
returned a few months later, in 1881 to make Roswell his permanent home. On this second
trip he found the "make-shift" bridge, he helped build, had been
strengthened by Captain Lea, who kept it up, for over three years, for a
crossing for travelers many of them being gold seekers, going to Silver City or
White Oaks during the gold rush days of the seventies and early
During the year of Mr. Dunnahoo's
coming to Roswell, in 1881, he opened a much
needed blacksmith shop on the corner now occupied by the "Green
Lantern" on North Main and Fourth
He was one of Roswell's first musicians. He played the
violin and Will Lumbley the banjo for a Christmas party in [1890?], given at
the nine room adobe ranch house at South Spring, six miles south of Roswell,
which was owned by John Chisum.
Antelope and deer, quail, and
rabbits were plentiful in those days. Buffalo
still roamed the country on the plains east of Roswell,
coming as far west as the Pecos
Mr. Dunnahoo was a good buffalo hunter,
and it is said, by old timers, that he has undoubtedly killed more antelope and
deer than any other man that has lived in New Mexico.
After Mr. Dunnahoo came to Roswell
a band of Indians broke out of the Mescalero Indian Reservation and eluding the
Government officers (who thought they had the Indians trapped in a big cave
three miles east of Fort Stanton) they escaped by coming out [onthe?] opposite
side of El Capitan Mountain where they stole a bunch of horses and bringing
them through this region of the country, camped on wild waste land, which is
now the campus of the New Mexico Military Institute.
Mr. Dunnahoo and his wife Ann
(Hearnly) Dunnahoo, who were married in 1869, had three children when they came
to Roswell to make their home; a boy named George, and two girls, Ruth and
Maude. Another daughter born after they came to Roswell was named Sallie for (Wildy) Lea,
wife of Captain Lea. Only two other white
children lived in Roswell at that time, they were children of Captain and Mrs.
Lea, Wildy, a boy, and Elinor, a baby girl, who was the first one born within
the town of Roswell.
Mr. Dunnahoo makes his home with
his daughter, Mrs. Sallie (Dunnahoo) [?], and her husband Mr. Henry [?], who
lives about three miles east of Roswell, where Mr. Dunnahoo can see from his
front porch the old home of his friend Pat Garrett. One of his most cherished
possessions is a photograph of Mr. Garrett taken about the time he killed the
famous New Mexico
outlaw, Billy the Kid, in July 1881.
Mr. Dunnahoo is the son of R. P.
and Katherine (Atkinson) Dunnahoo. He was born in the State of Mississippi on George
Washington's birthday on February 22, 1849.
At the advanced age of eighty-nine
years, he is still active, and as strong and enjoys as good health as numerous
other men many years younger.
He is highly respected and honored
in the community where he lives and stands high in the affections of the early
settlers of Roswell,
among whom he has lived continuously for nearly sixty years.
Source of Information
Mr. Dunnahoo in person - Roswell
Personal knowledge of writer
Pasted from <http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?wpa:37:./temp/~ammem_DBXg::>