This is part one of a second series resulting from an oral history interview with Catron County rancher Dave Farr conducted in February and March, 2008.
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.
Farr brought in the last herd of cattle on the storied Magdalena Stock Driveway, or Magdalena Trail, in 1970. Just one of countless drives for him, this cattle drive marked the end of the 85-year history of the trail.
Dave Farr’s grandfather (also David Farr) homesteaded at Patterson Cutoff, and his father (also George Farr, with his wife Edith Funk) homesteaded on the Plains of San Agustín, east of Horse Springs, where Dave and Karen Farr still live. They built up the large ranch the family operates today by acquiring additional land over the years. The ranching family tradition continues with Roy Farr, Dave and Karen’s son who also lives on the ranch with his family, and daughter Amy, who lives on another company ranch near Crownpoint, New Mexico.
Collected and transcribed by Brenda Wilkinson, Archaeologist, BLM, Socorro Field Office. The following questions are asked by Wilkinson, BLM Assistant Field Manager Mark Matthews and BLM Rangeland Management Specialist Jeff Fassett.
On the early days in New Mexico
My great-grandmother, a French Canadian, lived in Magdalena. In fact we still own the lots there that she lived on, and she had a garden. And a certain Mexican fella would come into the garden and steal their produce, and when she discovered ‘im she’d cuss ‘im in French, and then she’d cuss ‘im in Mexican, and then she’d cuss ‘im in English, right on the main street there in Magdalena. So anyway, she was definitely French.
When did your family get here (to the ranch)?
Well, nineteen four. And this is that old ranch in Patterson Cutoff. Sheep. Well they had sheep and cattle from the very beginning. They added on here.; there’s two log rooms, and then they built a rock commissary there. Well the rock commissary was much later. They just had two log rooms there for quite a few years.
And that was your grandparents’ homestead?
Yes. But that’s in later years ‘cause they already had a Aeromotor windmill. Originally they had an Eclipse wooden windmill. The Eclipse had a wooden wheel and wooden tails. Lots of bluffs up there, and every time a cow bawls, why it echoes.
[R. C.] Patterson, over [on] other side of Horse Springs, had the contract to furnish beef for the Cavalry at Warm Springs, Ojo Caliente. So he’d either drive or haul the beef all the way up here, over the Divide. This is Patterson Cutoff, you get over the Divide and go down another canyon. Yeah, went by Paddy’s Hole. Went off here and then probably Patterson cutoff here, and that goes on down to Warm Springs.
Where was your grandfather’s homestead?
There should be a pretty good turn in the canyon …. We go up and live in it when we work cattle from there.
So you guys had a place in Albuquerque?
Yeah, meat market. On second street. It was probably started, I would say in the late 1800s. It was before my grandfather ever come back here from California.
When did you close it up?
Before my time. I was never in it, that I know of. But my father worked there. Makin' sausage, and cuttin' up meat. They had a good deal goin'. There was five brothers, you know. And they were in Missouri, and one of 'em stole a mule. And boy, they gathered their belongings and took out for New Orleans, before they hung this one brother you know. They went down across Panama on mules, and back up to California, settled in Chico. Their wives went by boat, I think, and then they all went by mule. Then gradually Bill Farr come back and opened the meat market. And he sent for the other brothers and told 'em “Get out here. Good business and I need help.”
So, couple or three brothers come, worked there for a couple of months, and then they said “Well, we need some wages; we've been here a long time.” Bill said “I didn't tell ya I'd pay ya anything; I just said I need some help!” [laughter]
So they finally made up, and uh, Ed Farr'd buy cattle, Joe Farr had a farm right where the freeway crosses, down at Isleta. He owned that right to the north. He'd hold the cattle there and they'd butcher 'em and take 'em to the meat market. That was three [brothers]. And then my grandfather would stay out here and run this and buy some cattle too.
Then they were in the ranching business other places in New Mexico before here, by the Manzano mountains. My father was born on a ranch there, at a place called Las Moyas, a ranch in the Manzano Mountains. And then they had another ranch by Rosedale … southwest of Magdalena. I don't know the exact place. My grandmother'd tell me, they were a day’s wagon trip out of Magdalena, and everybody’d stop and spend the night, and turn their team loose, same thing going on. They'd buy supplies, and all she did was cook all the time for all these travelers. Yeah, so she didn't like Rosedale. [laughter]
Were there any buildings when you got the ranch? I guess it depends on which piece.
Well, they gradually acquired more country; here there was nothin'. The homesteads, there was an old V Cross T camp over where Roy lives, a two room adobe house. And then maybe, only other place that I can think of would have been Fullerton Ranch, and they bought that in '27. But I think Fullerton, he built his houses out on the flat.
He said that’s so he could see the Indians comin'. So this was back when there was Indian trouble. Did you know that Fullerton was the captain of the first mounted police in New Mexico? I've got a book but it's loaned out now. They formed a mounted police and there was only ten, twelve men that eventually turned into the state police. He was the captain for one year. It was a political deal you know, so somebody else was elected and they kicked him out and got somebody else to run it. They were mainly after cattle thieves.
I didn't realize the V Cross T was running cattle this far north.
That would have been in the V Cross T [now the Adobe Ranch] time, ya know. There's a book tells all about it, but it's hard to find.
A sheep is just like a cow only ten times slower, that’s what my father used to say. We used to have a shearing shed here, and I drew a picture of it, and we sheared here and Hubbles sheared here and Fullerton, and Juan Garcia, and it was really an efficient deal. They had an old Fairbanks Morse engine, and then they had ten troughs or ten shearers. And they’d bring the sheep in here to a sweat shed and - I don’t even know, do sheep sweat?
No, they pant usually.
Well, anyway, they call [where the shearing takes place] a sweat shed, cause they had to call it somthin’ I guess. [laughter] And they they’d take these sheep up on a elevated ramp, and the shearers would be out here