Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fite Recalls Marriage, The Caboose, Tokay

As the 150th anniversary of the 1862 Homestead Act approaches, the Socorro Bureau of Land Management’s Cultural Resource Program is increasing emphasis on oral history collection, particularly as it relates to homesteading. This interview with Socorro resident Evelyn Fite is a part of that effort.
She was interviewed by BLM Archaeologist Brenda Wilkinson in 2009. This is the second part of that interview.

Evelyn: “Well I married Dean and moved to the ranch in 1937, and we lived in a caboose down on - his father had a homestead down there by the sandhill. Even in the little caboose I had a little radio. Mr. Fite won it in a punchboard in Datil, and it had a six volt battery, and we got a little wind charger and put it up on top of the caboose. And it would blow in the wind and charge that battery and I could have radio
That was my connection with the world. It was wonderful!”

Evelyn: “To me, I wouldn’t even consider, building, living, any where that there wasn’t decent water. I lived with all that - not having water, it’s awful. It was just awful to do laundry. We caught cistern water, you bet. I drank cistern water. We had an old barn when we lived at the caboose and that’s all the drinking water we had, was what we caught off the roof of the barn. And we had a pit in the ground, caught it off the roof and it ran down into that concrete. Before I was married Dean dug a hole and plastered it and covered it, caught rain water. And you had to be very careful with it. It didn’t rain that much. But it was wonderful. But most of the ranchers in that country used cistern water, ‘cause the water’s so bad. But now they got water softeners and things like that. But still, the water on the ranch is terrible, except for that one well at the house and that well under the hill there on the highway. He has that good water. That’s the only good water I know from there to El Paso. It’s terrible water!”

Evelyn: “Well it (Tokay) had, you know - in the 1800s and the twenties there were about 3,000 people lived out there. Because there was Tokay and Carthage and Farley, and they lived in those little canyons, and all mined coal. Then out on the open flat country were ranches. But Tokay was a big coal mining operation. And those mines were operated before we even became a state. And they were underground mines and small - and these Mexican men would have to go down and bend down to go in there and it was dangerous mining, ‘cause it was small veins and they had to tunnel down, way down in there. And it was the coal that they used for smelters. And there was a railroad up there and they hauled coal to El Paso to the smelter, and they used that coal in Socorro to heat the public buildings. All the public buildings, the courthouse and the schoolhouses and Tech. were heated with that coal from Tokay. And it was real black, smoky. You’d see it run down the adobe walls. It was ugly.
And the people that ran that mine then was B. H. Kinney. And they had a brick plant in Albuquerque, and they hauled this coal to Albuquerque. They were still hauling coal to make bricks. Anyway, Tokay was pretty busy in the early - all the twenties and much of the thirties. And then in 1948 they were totally closed down and we bought the area. In 1948 we moved to Tokay. In 1948 we bought the old Kinney house. Mr. and Mrs. Kinney lived there and that’s where their children were born. They had four boys. They still have a Kinney brick plant in Albuquerque.”

Evelyn: “There was a company store and a school. There were several houses, rows of houses. And then under the hill they had a little - there’s just nothing but ruins there when I went there. But Tokay still had several houses there. And that long concrete house was a rooming house that we used mainly for storage and things, because it was just a concrete - 16 rooms with 16 windows and a chimney outlet in every fourth room. That’s the building that’s the Bed and Breakfast now. When I first heard about it they said it had bachelor guys, they had one room with one faucet in it, and that the end room they had a place where they could take baths. So I think it probably was a rooming house.”

Evelyn: “Anyhow, we moved to Tokay and had good, nice soft, water. And I had trees, and I could have a garden, and I had chickens and a milk cow, and…. And we had a little more country, so we could buy more cattle and….. We had to have more country so we could make a living. So that’s how we spent our lifetime, getting little pieces of land together and trying to create a big enough area to raise cattle. Then we leased the Fish and Wildlife for several years and we had lots of cattle on the river. But years later they fenced it, decided they didn’t want cattle down there. Then we had to cut down. And ultimately we lived there ‘til Dean died (Tokay). It was 22 years ago.
He was buried twenty two years ago the day before yesterday [1987]…. But he was born and raised in this country. Worked on ranches and did…..they’re an old family. They were here in the 1800s.”

Next week part three of the Evelyn Fite Oral History.

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