WPA I was born in Grapevine, Texas
Writer: Edith L. Crawford,
Carrizozo, N. Mex.
May 16 1938
NARRATOR: Nellie B. Reily
I was born in Grapevine Texas, in 1877. I was
six years old when we left Grapevine in April 1883. My father, Seaborn T. Gray, mother, four children, two boys and two
girls, my father's two sisters and their husbands, Mr. and Mrs. John Lowery and
Mr. and Mrs. Henry Manning and three cowboys, Henry Pruitt, Jim Carliale and Johnnie Ricker were in our party. [???]
Pat Garrett was a cousin of my
father. He came to Grapevine Texas
to visit us in the early spring of [?]. He had a cattle ranch on Little Creek,
which is now part of the old "V" ranch, near Ruidozo,
in Lincoln County,
New Mexico. He persuaded my
father to move to New Mexico
and bring his cattle where there was lots of good food and water and open
range. Cousin Pat mapped out the trail we were to travel as he had hunted Buffalo out on the plains
and had made the trip several times and knew all the watering places. We
traveled in four covered wagons, drawn by two horses to each wagon. One wagon
was a chuck wagon and carried the provisions and the cow boys bedding. There
was a chuck box in the back of this wagon. The three women did all the cooking.
The chuck wagon would stop at each town and load up with provisions to last
until we got to the next town. The rest of the wagons did not go thro'ugh the towns as we had two hundred head of cattle and
twenty-five head of horses with us. We could only travel about fifteen miles a
day on account of the horses and cattle having to feed on the way. We camped
out in the open each night. The men would take turns standing guard over the
camp and the stock each night as the Indians were bad in those days and father
was afraid they would come by some night and steal all of our horses and
cattle. The families slept in the wagons and the cowboys made their beds on the
ground. We used the lanterns for lighting and cooked over a camp fire in dutch ovens. The only fresh meat
we had were Antelope and Buffalo.
They were very plentiful. I remember when we would sight a herd of Buffalo we would drive
until they could see us, then the wagons would stop and father would hang a red
blanket on the side of one of the wagons. The buffalo would become curious and
keep edging up and when they got in shooting range father would get his winchester
and pick out a nice fat yearling and kill it. They would skin him and all we
took was the hind quarters and the hide. After we reached the plains the only
fuel we had was buffalo and cow chips. Every day when we stopped for dinner and
at night my oldest brother and I had to take tow sacks and gather the chips.
Mother made sour dough biscuits twice a day and corn bread for our noon meal.
She baked it in dutch ovens and
my brother and I would watch to see if she dropped any of the chip ashes in the
bread while baking it, for we thought it was awful to have to use the buffalo
and cow chips to cook with. We never saw any Indians or any traces of any on
the whole trip out here and we were on the road five months. It was awful dry
and hot crossing the plains. We ran out of water one day and the stock suffered
terribly from thirst. The cattle would not let us stop to eat dinner or supper.
They put their heads down and traveled in a trot most all day. It was after
dark when the cattle smelled water and they all struck out in a run for this
watering place. It was just about dry when we reached it and we had to drink
water from cow tracks that night. When we got up the next morning and saw the
kind of water we had been drinking we children all tried to get sick. There was
not enough water left in the holes for us to make coffee the next morning so we
started on our way looking for fresh water. We drove about two miles when we got
to the Canadian river with the nicest clearest
water, so we camped on the bank of this river for three days and rested
ourselves and the stock. Mother and my two aunts did the family washing and the
men folks caught lots of nice fish.
One day while mother was driving
along my two brothers and I were playing in the back
of the wagon and I fell out. My oldest brother called to mother and said
"Mama, Nellie is out." Mother stopped the wagon and looked back and
there I lay in the middle of the road screaming to the top of my lungs. She thought
that I was half killed but I was not hurt at all, just scared half to death.
When we reached Fort Sumner new Mexico the Pecos
river was running bank full of the muddiest water. We had to dip it up in
barrels and tubs and let it settle before we could use it. We had to lay over there ten days waiting for the river to go down. We
camped in an old adobe hut for it was raining when we got there. We got so
tired of waiting to cross the river that one morning father decided that we
could make it so the cowboys rounded up the cattle and horses and jumped them
off in the Pecos river. They swam across with only horns and faces showing but
we lost only one cow in crossing. When it came time for the wagons to cross the
women folks and we children were awfully scared. The wagons crossed one at a
time. One of the cowboys tied a rope to the horn of his saddle and to the
tongue of the wagon and guided us across. The water came up to the bed of the
wagon and some ran into our wagon.
While we were in Fort Sumner
waiting to cross the river we visited Billy the Kid's grave. I remember it had
a board at the head with his name, age and the date he was killed. He had only
been dead two years then.
After leaving Fort Sumner
we found wonderful grass and water for the stock. It was about the middle of
August and was the rainy season in New
Mexico. We were on the road a month from Fort Sumner
to Little Creek New Mexico. We traveled by way of the Jicarilla and Capitan Mountains
and crossed the Salado flat which is about eleven miles west of Capitan, New
Mexico. We arrived at Pat Garrett's ranch at Little
Creek, New Mexico in September [?]. We had been on the road for five months.
Mother was so homesick when we first came for we had to sleep in a tent in Pat
Garrett's back yard and we ate with the Garrett family until we found a place
to live in. When we did find a place to live in it was a log shack and leaked.
Mother had an awful time trying to keep our bedding dry when it rained or
snowed. It was awfully cold the first winter we spent at Little Creek as it is
situated at the foot of the White Mountains. We lived there about a year and in
1884 father filed on a homestead on the Salado
flat and he raised cattle and fine horses until 1900. That year he sold all his
cattle and horses and laid out the town of Capitan,
Father was born in [Coosa?] County Alabama,
October 31, 1851 and died in Capitan New Mexico, July 23, 1915. Mother was
born in Arkansas April 26, 1855 and died in Carrizozo New Mexico, October 16, 1933. Father's
two sisters did not stay very long in New Mexico,
they did not like it here so they moved back to Texas and I do not know what ever became of
them. The three cowboys staid with us for a while and then drifted away and I
do not know where they went. I was married to William M. Reily
October 31, 1894, seven children were born to this
union, five girls and two boys. Mr. Reily died in Carrizozo,
New Mexico, March 9, 1931.
NARRATOR: Nellie B. Reily,
Aged 61 years, Carrizozo, New Mexico.
Pasted from <http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?wpa:33:./temp/~ammem_DBXg::>