Home News Vision Historically Speaking: International Women’s History Month, part 1

Historically Speaking: International Women’s History Month, part 1

Photo Courtesy of the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Archives The caption reads, "Elizabeth Garrett, composer of New Mexico State Song, ‘O Fair New Mexico’" — date and location unknown.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Pioneer women of southeastern New Mexico

By Janice Dunnahoo

Special to the Daily Record

In honor of International Women’s History Month, this week I thought it would be fun to highlight a few of our local pioneer women, and the contributions they made to the growth and settlement of our state. They lived and breathed and walked these parts, contributing everything they could for the betterment and building of the “Old West,” adding their grace and caring, wherever and whenever they could.

Barbara Jones

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Barbara (Culp) Jones’ (1838-1905) life as a homesteader in the mountains and prairies of New Mexico was shared in the book by the name of “Ma’am Jones of the Pecos” by Eve Ball. Barbara Jones was the wife of Heiskell Jones (1830-1908) and the mother of 10 children, nine boys and one girl. She lost one of her sons in the Lincoln County War and the following year, she lost her only daughter to appendicitis.

Barbara Jones was a nurse tending to neighbors and the Apaches, helping with everything from contagious diseases, to childbirth, to broken bones. She was an adoptive mother of sorts to Billy the Kid who had walked across the Guadalupes as a young man with no socks, blistered feet and no food for three days. She took him in, fed him, doctored him, and treated him as one of her own. From that point forward, he would be returning many times to visit.

The foreword of Ball’s book mentions that Barbara Jones had a “stern and loving, sometimes humorous management of the family, school, a boarding house for wayfarers, a bar, and the Sunday school all in one.” It also states that she “could use a needle, an axe, a skillet, or a gun with equal competence, she loved to dance, but oftener prayed and tended to the sick, to the groans of the dying in the midst of frontier battles and raging epidemics.”

Barbara Jones was all of this, and so much more. She is buried alongside other family members at Rocky Arroyo.

Sallie Chisum-Robert

Sallie Chisum was the niece to John Chisum. She was born in in Bolivar, Texas on May 26, 1858 to James Chisum and Josephine Wright Chisum. After the deaths of her mother and sister, she moved from Denton County, Texas in the early 1860s with the Chisum men, John, Pitzer, Jeff, and James, when they moved their ranch headquarters to the Concho River section, near San Angelo. Afterward, they moved the headquarters to Coleman County and from there to Lincoln County. John Chisum had set up his ranch headquarters first at the Bosque Grande, then south of Roswell at the Jinglebob where he had built a home, which was the social center of the growing cattle community. This was cattle country and John Chisum was its king. He entertained lavishly at the ranch. Sallie Chisum was known as the blonde, blue-eyed charmer, who was the main hostess and ruler of the household at her uncle’s ranch for all the social functions held there. Her hospitality and graciousness was known far and wide. She was also admired by many cowboys for miles around to include one Billy the Kid, of whom she was very fond, even mentioning him in her diary. One of her diary entries about Billy reads, “He was brimming over with lighthearted gaiety and good humor. He always looked as if he had just stepped out of a band box. In a broad brimmed white hat, dark coat and vest, gray trousers worn over his boots, gray flannel shirt and black for in hand tie, and sometimes, would you believe it? A flower in his lapel and quite the dandy.”

It has been said that Sallie Chisum raised 32 children, including her own two sons, due to her generosity and helping those in need. She had married German immigrant William Robert on Jan. 26, 1880. Surviving her were her brother Will Chisum, and her two sons, John E. Robert, Maple Hill, Kansas, and Fred Robert, of New York City. Sallie Chisum-Robert was the last surviving charter member of one of the oldest Methodist churches in New Mexico in Roswell. She died Sept. 12, 1934, and is buried at South Park Cemetery in Roswell.

Elizabeth Garrett

Elizabeth Garrett was the third of the eight children born to Pat Garrett and his wife Apolinaria Gutierrez Garrett. She was born Oct. 12, 1885 and died Oct. 16, 1947 from a fall she suffered on a city street, after her seeing eye dog was spooked by lightning.

An Oct. 1, 1948 Ruidoso News article states in part, “Elizabeth never distinguished light from shadow. She was a personal friend of Hellen Keller, she could read Braille, she taught music and speech, composed songs, and in addition, did all her own housework. She conversed fluently in English, as well as in a soft, mellifluent Spanish, which she learned from her mother. Her fame as a composer was recognized when New Mexico adopted as its state song, a composition to which she had written the words and music (‘Oh Fair New Mexico.’)

“Blindness did not keep her from enjoying her life replete with activities of all kinds. She was extremely prominent in civic affairs, and her seeing eye dog aided her without fail in getting about many places to which she went. ‘Tinka,’ whom she had gone to New Jersey to train, was sitting faithfully at her side when Miss Garrett was found unconscious from a fall on a street in Roswell, October 16, 1947. She was coming from a meeting of the Kennel Club, where she made apparent her love for dogs.

“Those who knew Elizabeth Garrett regarded her with admiration. She had the kind of bravery about which the world knows little, because it goes on within the soul. It is the sort of heroism found in a Beethoven, a Milton, or a Robert Louis Stevenson, for these great geniuses fought against the odds of physical handicaps.

“Their spirits were invincible and their achievements belong to the great. Thus it was with Elizabeth Garrett, whose name belongs on the roster of the truly heroic people.

“The brief visit I had with the daughter of a famous sheriff of our pioneer days was like a brilliant star that shoots across the firmament and down behind one of the hilltops. The brightness is only momentary, but in its wake, there is the remembrance of the flash of indescribable luminousness.

“In an interview given to the Works Progress Administration writer Georgia Redfield in February 1937, Elizabeth recalled her childhood on the Roswell farm and one of her first musical compositions, showing an early talent for music: ‘My childhood days on the farm near Roswell were happy — neither constricted nor restricted. I lead an active outdoor life, rode horseback and did all things any child loves to do …”

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

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