Settlers up to no good at Portales Springs

Courtesy photo Portales Springs’ land dispute ended with Doak Good selling out to Jim Newman and leaving the area. Newman stayed and continued to build his herd.

By Ruth Burns: Special to the CNJ

Editor’s note: This is the third of three articles about two of the area’s earliest settlers, Doak Good and Jim Newman.

Doak Good had settled in comfortably in his rock and adobe house at Portales Springs, but his peaceful existence did not last long. In 1882 Jim Newman began bringing his cattle from Texas to Salt Lake and established the DZ Ranch near Arch, 11 miles east of Good’s place.

Newman’s cattle would drift over to the plentiful water at Portales Springs. Bad feelings developed and violence was bound to follow.

After the fight with Gabe Henson, which he blamed on Newman, Good was afraid to stay by himself and he picked up a transient boy about 14 years old to work for him.

Old-time cowboy Col. Jack Potter had this to say about the new cowhand, “He was a hard-looking kid; had an old Stetson hat with the crown out, thrown away by some cowpuncher. He had long hair and it stuck out through the crown of the hat. He was dubbed by the cowboys as ‘Portales Bill,’ though I learned later his real name was McElmore.”

Good gave him a few dogies or mavericks for his work, and it was commonly believed that he added to his herd by rustling other people’s cattle.

A “dogie” is a calf that has lost its mother and a “maverick” is a full-grown animal that has somehow escaped being branded. It was the accepted custom that all dogies and mavericks belonged to the man on whose range they were found. However, many a cowman added to his herd by branding any unmarked cattle, no matter on whose range they were found.

Not only did outlaws brand mavericks on another rancher’s land, they would also deface brands already on the cattle. With a running iron, a branding iron with only a single bar on it, it was fairly easy to change a brand to another mark entirely.

After leaving Good’s ranch, Portales Bill went from bad to worse. He joined up with the bunch of rustlers who were operating around the Tucumcari area and was involved with the group who were stealing XIT cattle near Mesa Redondo, 15 to 20 miles south of Tucumcari.

A posse of lawmen and ranchers surprised the gang at Mesa Redondo and killed several suspected rustlers. Portales Bill was surrounded at the Francisco de Baca ranch near Endee, New Mexico, and when he refused to surrender, the posse killed him. He is buried in the old Endee cemetery.

When Jim Newman came back from a trip east, he brought with him a reputed bad man named Harry Blocker.

According to DZ cowboy, Dan McFatter, “Blocker knew little or nothing about a cow, but Jim put him in charge of the outfit. Dressed like a movie cowboy, he strutted around in a big hat, fancy vest, and two guns. Not good at riding or roping, there was one thing he could do; he was quick on the draw.

“Harry Blocker was a no-good horse thief. Several times, some fine horses arrived at the DZ. Nobody seemed to know who they belonged to, and no one claimed them. But, in a few days, Blocker would disappear with the horses, and come back with money in his pockets. Once he ended up in jail in east Texas and how he got out of that scrape, I don’t know; I guess Newman went down and bailed him out.”

Disillusioned and tired of all the fighting, out-manned and out-gunned by the larger ranch, Good finally sold out his claim and left the country, complaining bitterly that Newman had crowded him out.

Newman continued to increase his herd up to 10,000 head until 1894 when he sold the DZ rights to W. R. “Bill” Curtis of the Diamond Tail Ranch in Texas.

Ruth Burns has taken her information from the interviews and research of her mother, Rose Powers “Mrs. Eddie” White. She may be contacted at: