New foreman started family at H-Bar Ranch

By Ruth Burns: PNT correspondent

When the Winfreys sold the H-Bar Ranch to Jim Newman and Tom Trammell in 1897, Newman asked his cousin (my grandfather), R. L. “Bob” Wood, to take over the ranch as foreman. Bob had come with Newman to the DZ Ranch near the present town of Arch in 1882 and had worked there as a cowhand ever since.

Bob asked a “widder woman,” my grandmother Ora White, of Sweetwater, Texas, to be his wife. She was willing, and soon she and her two sons, 6-year-old Eddie, and 4-year-old Bill, began packing their things for the long trip to the plains of eastern New Mexico.

The trip from Sweetwater to the New Mexico Ranch was made in the early spring, as soon as the grass was good enough to give the horses food on the way.

“It was a hard trip,” Mrs. Wood recalled. “We were on the trail eleven days. One of the horses got a lame shoulder, and that is why it took us so long.

“We followed the Old Fort Sumner Trail, camping at water holes at night. We passed many herds of antelope and wild mustangs. And there were so many birds around the water holes that their squawking kept us awake at night.”

Ora and Bob were in for a pleasant surprise when they reached the H-Bar. Most of the homes on the plains in the 1890s were either dugouts or sod shacks, but the H-Bar house was adobe with a solid roof of boards, which were brought all the way from Fort Sumner.

The house boasted four rooms: A kitchen, a bunk room for the cowhands, a bedroom, and a living room that could double for another bedroom. There was a fireplace in each of the four rooms and a large iron stove to cook on. A pump brought water right into the kitchen from a well beneath the house.

Connected to the house were three rooms for groceries, meat, and harness. Across a path was an adobe building with separate areas for saddles, grain, a blacksmith shop, and a chicken house. Two windmills and a large tank adjoined the corral, also of adobe.

Another big surprise was a garden behind the house and a peach orchard. Shading the ranch house were large, leafy cottonwood trees brought from Fort Sumner by Dr. Winfrey — the only trees on an otherwise treeless plain.