“Uncle Bill” Oden Talks About the Old Days

Transcribed from the Pecos Enterprise (Pecos, Texas) – August 19, 1938

B. A. “Uncle Bill” Oden, Authentic Old-Timer, Gives Historical Sketch of Monument Landmark

B. A. “Uncle Bill” Oden, Who’s been in the trans-Pecos country since time began, was asked recently by the Hobbs Chamber of Commerce, to give a historical sketch of the famed Rock House in Monument Springs, New Mexico.

The rock house, subject of a recent story in the Cattleman’s magazine, is one of New Mexico’s oldest land-marks and its origin has been a controversial subject for years.

Uncle Bill was in the New Mexico country in 1884, and is one of the oldest living early settlers of that section. The story he wrote for the Hobbs Chamber of Commerce and also for the Cattleman’s magazine, is reprinted below:

According to promise, I am going to give you a true history of the old rock house at Monument Springs. I, a boy of 18, went to what is now the San Simon ranch in 1884. I, being young and everything being new and of interest to a lad of that age in a country as wild as that was, remember things more vividly than things that happened ten years ago.

Bound for Lincoln!

I hired to Mr. Divers at San Angelo some time about the middle of June of that year when he was passing though there with about 1250 head of cattle bound for Lincoln County, New Mexico. I worked for him nine years at what is now the San Simon ranch and I, as a cowboy, new all the first settlers of the country. These I will give you in the course of this article.

From San Angelo we traveled up the North Concho to somewhere above where Sterling City now is. We turned north and crossed the T and P Railroad Company at Iatan Tank about 15 or 20 miles east of Big Spring. There we turned northwest toward the head waters of the Colorado River. There we camped around two months waiting for it to rain before starting across the Plains. Around the middle of August it began to shower and we started and as luck smiled on us, it rained the second night out and we turned the cattle loose and they all got well watered. The next water we got was in small lakes about where there the town of Hobbs now is. We stayed there for a few days and went on to Monument Spring. There we found Jim Harvey and Dick Wilkerson, two buffalo hunters, who had preempted the spring. In other words, they had what was known as squatters right to spring and so much land. They, Harvey and Wilkerson, had hauled the Monument, of rock the soldiers had built on a hill about three-quarters of a mile west, and built the rock house and a small stock correll [corral] near the spring. The little rock house had port holes in the corners for protection from the Indians and when we passed there about the 27th day of August, they slept in the gate of the correll to protect their horses from the Indians. The place where the San Simon ranch is was known by the soldiers and buffalo hunters was Dug Spring. It was only six feet to water but it had to be pumped with horse power. In the spring of 1885 R. F. Kennedy bought Monument Spring from Harvey and Wilkerson, paying them $5,000 for same, and they moved about 1000 head of cattle there from Gonzales County in Texas.

Ranchers Begin Locating

In the fall of 1885 E. H. Estes located eight or 10 miles west of there at a well he bought from Louis and Guyat Faulkner and started what was known as the 7Z7 ranch, which is operated for several years. In 1886 there were several ranches started in what is Lea County, New Mexico, and Gaines County, Texas. J. M. Daughtery started what was afterward known as the 84 ranch about 15 or 20 miles south of Monument Spring and also Frank and Ed Crowley located along the line of New Mexico and Texas east of the town of Hobbs.

Uncle Henry McClentock started the next ranch about 15 miles east of the New Mexico line in Gaines county. South of the 84 ranch was McKenzie Brothers, J. M. and Gene. Farther down the draw toward the southeast corner of New Mexico was Cowden Brothers, later known as the Jal Ranch.

The W. C. Cochran ranch was where the present town of Jal is, and east of the 84 ranch Bill and Dave Brunson settled. North of Hobbs was the Atwood or Mallet ranch, about five miles south of the present town of Lovington George Causey settled. He was a buffalo hunter and didn’t own any cattle for several years. The above named ranches were started from 1886 to 1888. In 1884 the ranch farthest west was the TJF ranch on the head waters of the Colorado river. With the exception of another old man by the name of Anderson, who had a small bunch of cattle at a weak spring at Cedar Lake in Gaines County, there were no more ranches or cattle between there and the Pecos river. The cattle we had were the first to water at Monument Spring. Harvey and Wilkerson were the only permanent settlers.

Few Buffalo Hunters Left

There were a few other old buffalo hunters in the country but they camped around wherever they could find water and killed antelope in the summer, and buffalo and antelope in the winter. They dried the meat, (which they called jerkey) in winter. Those who were there any length of time after I went there were Louis and Guyat Falkner, Rankin More, Judge and Jon Kink Kuykendall and an old man by the name of McConvill, who dug wells for ranchmen for several years. Rankin Moore never owned any interest in the spring, though he might have helped haul the rock. The house was built in the winter of 1883 and 1884, but it wasn’t quite finished when we passed there. The well was dug about 1888 and might have been dug by Jim Andrews as he was working for Mr. Kenney at the time. Rankin Moore settled in Andrews County, Texas, near the line of New Mexico. He dug wells for McKenzie Brothers for twenty cows and calves and ranched them there a few years and sold out to Uncle Billy Daughtery and left the country.

During the nine years I worked for Mr. Divers, I attended roundups extending from the site of Lubbock to Drockett County and from Black River, New Mexico, to the Live Oak Creek, in Crockett County.

H. E. Cummins, who lives in Midland now, was hired by Jim Harvey in Colorado in the fall of 1884 to skin buffalo and antelope and cook. He cooked for them all winter and caped part of the winter at the ranch where I worked and owned by Frank Divers. He has the honor of being the last of the buffalo skinners, as the winter of 1884 and 1885 was the last of the buffalo in commercial quantities.


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