Since it is the beginning of a new school year in Roswell, I am sharing an article written by my friend and contributing author, Donna Ikard who has a long and colorful family history here.
The following is an article about Cecil Bonney, written by Donna. The second is a ‘Roswell Daily Record’ article, dated Sept. 14, 1909, about the first week of school in those days. Wishing all RISD employees and students a great and productive school year, from the Historical Society of Southeastern New Mexico!
The Writer’s Block
I descend from a line of pioneers that arrived in New Mexico in the 1880s. For the last 15 years I have been researching and publishing articles on my family’s history in New Mexico.
No matter how many stories I publish, if I mention the Bonney family from Roswell, I get one question time and again: “Were your Bonney family members related to William Bonney, also known as Billy the Kid who lived in that area?” My answer is always, “No. He’s not in my family, but my great great uncle C. D. Bonney sold Sheriff Pat Garrett the bullets used in the gun that killed Billy the Kid.” Garrett purchased the bullets from the Bonney and Sons Stables & Livery in Roswell. It’s a small, but fascinating fact recorded in a book written by my great-grandmother’s first cousin, Roswell author Cecil Bonney.
Robert Cecil Bonney, the eldest child of C. D. and Sara Lund Bonney, was born in 1890 in Roswell, New Mexico. His mother Sara was the first female teacher in Roswell and his father, C.D., was the owner of the Bonney and Sons Stables & Livery in Roswell.
As a child, my great-grandmother Ethel Lund, an early settler in White Oaks during the gold-mining era of the late 1800s, played with Cecil and his siblings when they travelled to White Oaks with their parents for family visits and to check on their gold mines.
When Ethel Lund passed away in 1984 she left us many books that were special to her. There were antique leather-bound photo albums, old family bibles with small notes tucked inside and a stack of books about New Mexico pioneers including stories about her parents and grandparents.
Two of her special books were hardbacks written by her first cousin Cecil Bonney. Cecil penned two books in his lifetime and both feature life of early settlers in Roswell, Chaves County, New Mexico. The first book, titled “Looking Over My Shoulder — Seventy-Five Years in the Pecos Valley” speaks at length about Bonney’s father who was best friends with famed New Mexico sheriff Pat Garrett. Pat Garrett even stood up as best man at Cecil’s parents’ wedding in the late 1880s. Cecil’s mother Sara boarded in the Garrett family home where she tutored the Garrett children as well as taught at the local school.
Cecil and his siblings, Don, Doris and Elsie, were all born in Roswell where they attended school. Cecil Bonney was a third generation gold miner as well as being involved in all aspects of social and school life. The following archived newspaper articles tell us a bit about Cecil’s activities in his youth.
Roswell Daily Record:
April 7, 1910
CECIL BONNEY WON THE ORATORICAL MEDAL
On Monday evening at the old Majestic Theatre, was held a very interesting Medal Contest, under the direction of Mrs. Wm. Mason, Superintendent of Contest work in the local W.C.T.U.
The contestants were four young men of the High School — Tom Hall, James Williams, Dillard Wyatt and Cecil Bonney. The markings of the judges, Mrs. Baker, Rev. Longfellow, and Mr. R. H. Kemp, were close, but the medal was awarded to Cecil Bonney.
Roswell Daily Record:
May 6, 1910
Sports article excerpt from a Roswell High School baseball game
“The feature play of the game came in the first inning, when Taylor, for the cadets, knocked what seemed to be a sure hit, being a liner between right and center field. Cecil Bonney for the High School, made a long run and beautiful catch, bringing the fans to their feet and robbing Taylor of many points on his batting average.”
Journal: June 10, 1917. CITY EDITION
“News of the marriage of Mr. Cecil Bonney, city editor of the Record, and Miss Amelia Gay, one of the efficient high school teachers, has just come to light. The wedding occurred a month ago in Post City, Texas and was kept secret by these popular young people until the bride had finished her term of summer school. Mr. and Mrs. Bonney will make their home in Roswell.”
Cecil and Amelia had four children that they raised in Roswell.Living all but the last few years of his life in Roswell, Cecil is recognized as a true Chaves County pioneer. He was laid to rest in Roswell’s South Park Cemetery alongside his wife and three generations of family including his parents and grandparents, Robert and Saphrona Lund, Canadian gold miners from White Oaks, New Mexico.
Besides being a novelist, Cecil was a contributing writer to the El Paso Times Newspaper in El Paso, Texas and the editor for the Roswell Daily Record newspaper. In 1957 he was appointed by President Eisenhower as a director of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Little Rock, Arkansas, as a representative from New Mexico. He served for five years on this board which supervises federal savings and loan associations in Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas.
In honor of Cecil’s writing career and love of Roswell history we are pleased to commemorate his work and memory with a heritage paver purchased from the Historical Society of South Eastern New Mexico. The writer’s block will be placed in the historical museum garden along with pavers honoring three generations of our family that we purchased.
As Roswell begins a new school year, we would like to wish all of the students a successful year filled with great memories as they rocket toward their futures. We hope that every student knows they too are capable of becoming a novelist, a business owner, a teacher or even an editor for the Roswell Daily Record newspaper — whatever they dream — they can achieve.
Written by: Donna Ikard family historian
Credits: Nancy Sutherland Hasbrouck & Kathy Richardson family historians
Library of Congress Newspaper Archives
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Roswell Daily Record:
September 14, 1909
The first week of the Roswell Public Schools has been very satisfactory in every way. Notwithstanding the warm weather the pupils have gone to work as if there had been no vacation. On the first morning, Monday, Sept. 6th, the children lined up and marched into the buildings just as orderly as if they had been in school all summer.
The children have started into school with enthusiasm and the very best of interest. In fact, we state without fear of contradiction that there is not a school system in all New Mexico with a more splendid school spirit in its student body than will be found among the pupils of the Roswell Public Schools. This is one of the best criterions of the real worth of any system of schools.
The teachers have entered upon their school duties with the best of enthusiasm and interest. In fact not, a more enthusiastic and interested corps of teachers can be found any where. With all these existing conditions, this coming session of the schools will be by far, the most successful in their history. The teachers realize that these schools are run in the interest of the children of Roswell; they, as true teachers, fell this responsibility and they do not intent to be untrue to this most sacred charge. The pupils realize that these schools are run in their interest, that their teachers are their friends, that they must be thorough in their work. It has required much hard work on the part of the teachers and the Superintendent to secure this kind of school spirit and interest in the schools on the part of the Roswell people, but the fact that this has been accomplished, has well paid us for those two, most strenuous and hard working years.
The large increase in the attendance on the school for the first week has far exceeded the expectation of the Board of Education and the Superintendent. The Board of Education acted most wisely in building the two temporary school buildings. If this had not been done the school would have been completely handicapped for room.
Every department and room has a much larger attendance than was contemplated. The High School has an enrollment of the first week of 143 pupils – 41 pupils more than that of last year –an increase of over 40 percent in the attendance. This speaks more eloquently than any thing else of the high standard and the reputation of the Roswell High School. In fact more than 75 families have moved to Roswell for the benefit of our schools. There is no other enterprise in the city that is of such great importance in its true advancement as the Public Schools. The new High School building is an absolute necessity this coming spring. When this magnificent building has been completed not less than 150 families will move here within 12 months because of the excellent school advantages. We will then have the very best schools in all the West – this is a very broad statement to make, but any, interested person can find out by investigating the present school conditions, that the facts have not been mistated in any way. The present faculty of teachers can not in any respect be surpassed in any section of our country. This can be found out by visiting the school rooms and observing the quality instruction being done in them by the teachers. About 95 percent of these teachers are college, University or Normal graduates, with successful experiences in the best schools of our country, a standard that very few schools in all states have.
The high grade of the Roswell High School and its most excellent school spirit and its most inspiring environments are indicated by the fact that at least 95 percent of the graduates attend the State Universities or some first class college after finishing at the High School. This record is not found in any High School in all the west and achieved by very few of the high schools of the East.
The hope and salvation of our great nation depend upon our public schools, and we must rally around them all the assistance possible.
Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Museum Archives Center