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Historically Speaking: They’ve walked here before us

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Photo Courtesy of the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Archives/Kent Taylor The caption reads, "Taylor/Chandler family ranch, back in the day" — date unknown.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

By Janice Dunnahoo

Special to the Daily Record

A couple of years ago, Kent Taylor, a good friend of ours who is also a rancher, asked me about researching a couple of names that had been painted on a rock overhang on their ranch. These names were dated respectively, J.D. Allsup, Sept. 29, 1892 and T.J. Barkley, June 1898. Kent said the names had been there as long as he could remember, and as long as his dad could remember, and as long as his grandfather could remember. Those painted names must have been there roughly 120 to 130 years.

Of course, I was immediately intrigued. Could they have been members of Billy the Kid’s gang? Were they cowboys on a cattle drive? Could they have just been early day pioneers passing through?

The fact that this “overhang” hangs over a draw with a stream running under it, would have most certainly been an appealing place for anyone to stop for a rest, to get a drink and water their livestock. It is a very likely camp spot. The name of the draw is Cherry Draw; wild cherry trees have always grown along it, hence this is most likely where it got its name. Cherry Draw is near Dunken, New Mexico.

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Another interesting fact is that the names look as though they were painted on with black paint. But what paint — even by today’s standards — could survive the elements for that long? It couldn’t have been just campfire ash, as that too would have washed away many years ago. It is also interesting to note that Allsup put his name and the date there, then six years later, Barkley comes along, sees the first guy’s name and date, and adds his name and the date, but apparently used the same mysterious mixture to paint his name. What was it they used?

My research has turned up just little on each person. Following is what I have found on J.D. Allsup: In 1915, J.D. Allsup was listed as a general merchandiser, in Engle, New Mexico. In the U.S. General Land Office records, dated Sept. 29, 1920 it shows a “Joseph Daniel Allsup” living in Sierra, New Mexico, which goes with the location of Engle, New Mexico. Next I found on ancestry.com, ”… When Joseph Daniel Allsup was born on September 11, 1871, in Eden, Texas, his father Henry was 19, and his mother, Sarah, was 17. He married Amanda Van Winkle on January 31, 1894, in New Mexico. They had six children in 14 years.”

The Otero, U.S. Census of 1910 had him listed as stock raiser/rancher. The 1920 Sierra/Hot Springs, U.S. Census lists him as a manager of a dairy. The 1940 Sierra/Hot Springs U.S. Census does not have an occupation listed for him — he was most likely retired by this time. He died on April 25, 1943 in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, at the age of 71, and was buried there. Hence, he would have been 21 years old when he visited the overhang and painted his name on the rock at Cherry Draw.

The only thing I could find on T.J. Barkley was a 1930 Mayhill/Otero County Federal Census which lists a Tomas J. Barkley, age 65, single, living with a brother, street address: “Mayhill town.” His birth year is listed “about 1865, born in Illinois.”

I found his gravesite on Find a Grave website with the following information: Birthdate: 1862; birth place: Effingham County, Illinois; death date: Dec. 31, 1936; death place: High Rolls, Otero County, New Mexico; Mayhill Cemetery.

So, from this we can deduct that at the time of his visit to Cherry Draw, he would have been 36 years old.

Carved in Time

The names are there for all time, decades on a rock.

A bit of history left on stone by men who rode for stock.

Cowboys who spent their lives working, $30 a month was their pay.

Riding horses they didn’t own, they would have it no other way.

These men left a legacy to be honored through the years.

An honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, you trust in God and face your fears.

From the Rio Felix, Eagle, Rio Penasco, Cherry and canyons on down,

Where tough men would ride to build their history renown.

Now all that is left are names carved on a rock,

to be seen for decades on, their lives governed by a clock.

Mike Joy

Dec. 23, 2020

Mike wrote this poem to go with the article as a personal favor to me. He has given exclusive privileges to share it here.

Mike grew up on ranches in the Weed/Penasco areas. His great-grandfather had a ranch adjoining the famed Tunstall Ranch of Lincoln County War days.

Mike loves to talk and write about his life growing up on a ranch. As a small child he was able to get on his horse by using a rope tied to the saddle horn. He was working and helping his dad with chores from the time he was 6 years old.

Mike has been writing poetry since his high school years. He has written one book of poems which is as yet unpublished. He has shared his gift of poetry with the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico, many churches and many cowboy poetry events. Mike has known the Taylor family all his life, has visited Cherry Draw many times, and is personal friends with Kent Taylor.

Janice Dunnahoo is chief archivist at the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Archives. She can be reached at 575-622-1176 or at jdunna@hotmail.com.

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