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Spotlight: Denim & Diamonds

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Submitted Photo Pictured from left are Mike Marley, Lauralea Marley, Robert "Bob" Marley, Mark and William "Bill" Marley. The family can trace their roots back to the earliest farmers and ranchers in Chaves and Lincoln County.

Altrusa organizes dinner and dance honoring one of the oldest families in the area

By Christina Stock

Vision Editor

For the first time, Altrusa International of Roswell is in charge of organizing the popular Denim & Diamonds event. The organization itself has a deep-rooted history in town for more than 70 years. The dinner and dance will benefit Altrusa and the Historical Foundation for Southeast New Mexico. The event features a historical tribute to the Robert “Bob” Marley family and will be held on March 15 at 6 p.m. at the newly remodeled Roswell Convention & Civic Center, 912 N. Main St. Music will be provided by the Yarbrough Band.

Kate Groesbeck, Altrusa’s fundraising committee chairman, is looking forward to organizing the event. Her family moved to Roswell seven years ago. Originally she grew up in Happy, Texas, a small community. Groesbeck’s parents were active volunteers in charitable organizations. When she moved to Roswell from Lubbock, she said that she was looking for an organization where she could volunteer. “It was pretty easy here to find a good group to engulf myself into,” she said. “I found Altrusa through a couple of ladies I met. It was really nice to get back to something to give back. I just really enjoy Altrusa.”

“Groesbeck is the current vice president and president-elect of Altrusa for the new year.

“For this year, we are keeping it as it is,” she said about Denim & Diamonds. “It is such a great event, people have been going to it for years. It’s something that people really look forward to. Last year, we weren’t able to do it because of the Civic Center being under construction. People were wondering where Denim & Diamonds was. The community knows what it is — we are not having to try and build it up because the community already likes the event and wants to go to it. This year the Civic Center is in charge of catering.

“This year, we are also going to have a silent auction. We are really excited about that. This is something a little different we are doing this year, we’re doing more big-ticket items, really cool stuff: a Rolling Stones guitar, Mohammed Ali boxing gloves that are signed, a Game of Thrones signed poster and even some trips, a Pinehurst golf trip, a Punta Cana vacation package, a Napa Valley trip, some really cool experiences,” Groesbeck said.

“The Historical Foundation for Southeast New Mexico will still receive some of the funds and then also Altrusa will receive the funds this year, since they are passing the torch on to us. We do a lot of community projects through Altrusa. We support different endeavors in Chaves County. We’ve done a lot of things with the Women’s Shelter; we did an adopt-a-room; we’ve done backpacks for Missouri Avenue School; we’ve done uniform exchanges; there are a bunch of women that work at the community kitchen; we did stockings for the juveniles in the probation center. Just trying to fund some of those community projects. Then, of course, we do a lot for literacy. That’s our main focus. Lots and lots of books, getting books out to different organizations — the mall has a book shelf, that’s Altrusa that did that. We want to keep being able to do these projects and to do that, you got to raise funds. These fundraisers hopefully will be able to help us to continue.”

According to Groesbeck, Altrusa chose to honor the Marley family this year, based on the information they’ve received from HFSENM. “We are basing it on that agricultural community part. To me, the Marley’s have done a ton in the community. They supported a lot of things. They are more background folks. They don’t put themselves forward very often. We just wanted to make sure that they were honored. I was glad that they were willing to take this on with us,” Groesbeck said and laughed. “We appreciate them being willing to be put into that spotlight for a night at least.”

Mike Marley took time to speak to the Vision editor about his family’s history. “The first generation moved here because of opportunity,” he said. “The Southwest was barren, but Roswell was the oasis — it had water.”

There are only a few who can trace their pioneer ancestors back as far as the Marleys can. Most stayed in the northern part of New Mexico — even the monks didn’t want to build monasteries in the remote area.

“Cortinus A. Marley (1875-1946) was the first Marley who moved here in the early 1900s,” Mike Marley said. “He moved here roughly in 1905. He married May Corn (1890-1980). May was Martin V. Corn’s — one of his 20 children. They moved here in 1878.”

Martin V. Corn, and his wife and seven children came to the Territory of New Mexico in 1879. They came in a covered wagon caravan with seven other stockmen and their families. The family’s livelihood was raising high-quality sheep, farming and some cattle.

“Cort and May had two children, Inez Marley French (1907-1935) died 10 days after her son was born,” Mike Marley said. “This happened often at that time. His name was Bert French Marley (1935-2006). The other child was Silas Clyde Marley (1909-1987); that was my grandfather.

“Clyde married Minnie McKnight (1914-1972) and her dad was Thomas Judson McKnight (1881-1974). Right around the turn of the century, he came from Oklahoma with a small band of sheep as a teenager. It was difficult,” Mike Marley said.

“Clyde and Minnie had three children, Gay, my dad, Robert “Bob” Marley (1937-2003) and then Tommy. My dad married my mom who was Lauralea Peters — Frank Peters was her dad. Her granddad was Dr. William Peters — he was an Arkansas country doctor and he had tuberculosis and so they moved here for the dry climate in 1914/’15. The McKnights were here and in Lincoln County and ranched — farmed and ranched. The Corn family was pretty much in Chaves and Lincoln County,” Mike Marley said.

Mike Marley’s mother was a Hobson.

“They came from Illinois,” he said. “My great-great-grandfather was visiting the Whitney family — they were cousins. So the Hobsons moved down from Illinois right around the turn of the century and started farming. We’ve got a lot of family history here. I actually live on a farm that my grandmother used to travel through going to school every day.”

The Marleys can look back on more than 120 years being in the sheep business, six generations. “Sheep was part of this town — the football stadium is called the Wool Bowl for a reason. Roswell was known worldwide for the quality of wool — back in the ‘50s, ‘60s and even in the ‘70s — wool from Roswell was at a premium because it had great color, it was staple length, straight and the fiber quality was excellent; it was well-known,” Mike Marley said.

Staple length in wool determines its use. The longer the fiber, the better to use for knitting and weaving. “We used to run lots of sheep,” he said.

Asked why he was speaking in the past, Mike Marley said, “We are just now getting out of the sheep business. When you are in the sheep business, you want your neighbor being in the sheep business because of predators. West of Roswell was always sheep country. And everybody ran sheep — you controlled the coyotes and you could control the predator population. As ranchers sold, people quit running sheep, then as that nucleus shrunk, it made it harder on everybody else. Then you became the last person standing and you got all the predator problems.”

The Marleys may leave the sheep-era behind, but are staying in the agricultural business. “The ranching is where we had the sheep and that’s converting into cattle,” Mike Marley said. “We’ve always had cattle, too, but we are now slowly working our way out of the sheep and into the cattle.

“I have two brothers, we all three live here. Bill is my oldest brother. Mark and I are twins. My mom’s still alive — she still lives here. My dad passed in 2003. We worked together. I have three daughters. One is back here. She’s working with me and both of my brothers each have a son. They are working with me. I am the fifth generation and the sixth generation is here and the seventh soon on the way,” Mike Marley said and laughed.

In every generation, few have left the area — if it was for education reasons or because of marriages. The core of the family stayed. “My mom had an older sister who moved to Las Cruces; my dad’s older sister got married and moved to Texas. She’s since returned after their father passed away. I have a daughter living in Florida and a daughter in North Carolina. My older brother Bill’s got a son in Fort Worth. My brother Mark’s got a daughter — she’s a veterinarian and she’s down in Austin, Texas, right now,” Mike Marley said.

A big part of the family is investing into the next generation. “Children is the common theme,” Mike Marley said. “You try to help somebody’s burden a little bit.”

The Marleys support Eastern New Mexico State Fair, CASA’s annual Christmas tree auction. Mike Marley is a trustee today for the Assurance Home, which cares for homeless and at-risk youth. He was on the Assurance Home board prior to that. “That’s something that means a lot to us,” Mike Marley said. “We have a partnership with Gandy Marley Inc., another business with the Gandy family out of Lea County. We support the Humphrey House in Hobbs — a private traditional rehab center with programs for children and young adults struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, alcohol and drug abuse and those with serious emotional disturbances — and a Christian children’s home in Portales.”

With such a long history in the area, it is surprising that none of the family went into the gas and oil business.

“We had a small amount of minerals that had a bit of production,” Mike Marley said. “We have a business — the Gandy Marley business is oilfield disposal — we have an oilfield landfill. We dispose of oilfield waste. (From drilling waste — mud or fluids — tank bottoms, hydrocarbon impacted soils.) All the drill cutting and oilfield waste, we dispose of that. That’s as close as we get to being part of the oil and gas industry.

“We’ve been very blessed and our roots are deep here in Chaves and Lincoln County. The unique thing about our family is, we have so much history from so many different families. There are five lines that go back over 100 years. Between the Hobsons, the McKnights, the Corns family and the Marley family, all ag (agricultural) based. The water is what makes Roswell work. The rechargeable basin that we have — that’s what brought everybody here, it’s the water. It is the oasis in the desert. We’ve been here a long time and we are working hard to have something for the next generation to build off of,” Mike Marley said.

Mike Marley’s wife, Dianne, is working on having a presentation of the family’s history ready for Denim & Diamond.

For more information on the Denim & Diamond event or for reservations, call 575-420-1913 or 1-806-662-8254.