Robert Florence Love was born April 17, 1870 to John Dillard Love and Nancy Jane M. Austin Love in Palo Pinto County, Texas. John Dillard Love had been born in North Carolina in 1822 while Nancy Jane was a number of years younger having been born in Arkansas in 1837. John Dillard and Nancy Jane had married in 1859 in Arkansas. Their first child, Jefferson A. Love was born in 1862 and he was followed by five more male children, Samuel Oliver (1865), John G. (1867), Robert Florence (1870), James B. (Jim) (1873), and Albert Berry (1877). The first two sons were born in Tennessee and the remaining four were born in Texas.
In the 1880 census, Robert was living with his family in Palo Pinto County, Texas. His father was listed as being a farmer and he and his three older brothers were noted as working on the farm. By the time Robert was twenty, he had begun to move west and was working on the OHO Ranch in Stephens County, in west Texas. Robert continued to work his way further west during the next decade as he neared the Texas-New Mexico border. He is known to have worked on the J96 Ranch, owned by Joe Allen Browning and then on the old Mallet (later known as the Hi-Lonesome) Ranch. For a brief time, he returned to Stephens County, Texas before again turning west near the current town of Plains, Texas. A son, John Leman Love, relates that he worked in Stephens County on the VVN Ranch for a while. He then moved to Stanton, Texas in Martin County, where he met Matilda Anne Glascock whom he married in 1896. By the time the 1900 census was taken, the couple had four of their five children: twins John Leman and Mary Nancy (1897), Grace Elizabeth (1898) and Robert Eugene (1900), all born in Stanton.
In 1900, the young family moved to New Mexico. They came by covered wagon and John Leman recounts that the trip took eight days. After living for a while on Matilda’s parents’ (Leman Pike and Mary Mumford Wilks Glascock) place in Portales, they settled and operated a ranch in what is Lea County. The family persisted despite two memorable winter storms, in 1906 and again in 1917 followed by a drought in 1918. Their youngest son, Florence Warren was born in 1908. For a short time, they built and operated a two story hotel in the Knowles area before selling it and returning to ranching.(1)
The town of Lovington was established in 1908. It was first suggested by the United States Land Commissioner Wesley McAllister that it be named Love, but Robert Florence preferred the name Loving. However, since the town of Loving was already established southeast of Carlsbad, the name request was amended to Lovington. Robert’s brother Jim Love was its first postmaster. (2)
Robert Florence acquired a store from his brother Jim on the west side of the town square and operated it for a few years. In 1911, Robert Florence was elected to the New Mexico State Legislature, serving in the first such session after the territory became a state in 1912. He later served as sheriff from 1921-1924 and returned to the legislature from 1923-1930. His final public office was serving as county assessor from 1931-1934. (1)
Robert Florence died in March, 1944 (his grave stone says 1942) and he was buried in the Lovington Cemetery. Matilda followed him in death some eight years later in 1952, and she is buried in Portales, New Mexico.
(1) Lea County Genealogical Society, “Then and Now, Lea County Families,” Walsworth Publishing Company, 1979.
(2) Julyan, Robert, “The Place Names of New Mexico,” University of New Mexico Press, 1998.