Home News Vision Historical Anecdotes — Western town Seven Rivers

Historical Anecdotes — Western town Seven Rivers

Historian Jan Dunnahoo.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Stories about the Western town Seven Rivers

By Janice Dunnahoo

Special to the Daily Record

At one time, Seven Rivers, New Mexico, was a bustling little Old West cow town and trading center. Had the railroad taken a turn in its direction, it could have been a Lincoln or Tombstone, Arizona, in the echelons of Old West towns. During its heyday, Seven Rivers had a couple of saloons, a hotel, a church/schoolhouse, a couple of stores and a cemetery.

When Brantley Dam was built in 1988, the cemetery was moved to the backside of Twin Oaks Cemetery in Artesia, New Mexico. Unfortunately, this whole area was then flooded to construct the dam, leading Seven Rivers to be called “the ghost town below Brantley Dam.”

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I am sharing the following fun story, which I took from The Daily Current-Argus, June 5, 1949, Carlsbad. This story leads into a more descriptive daily life history of Seven Rivers and the Jones family, who were some of the first early settlers, arriving there in 1870. I will continue the rest of the story in next week’s article.

“‘Golden Egg’ Created Excitement At Seven Rivers

“Hen’s ‘Message’ Made Old Time Cowboys Join Church

“By Ted Raynor

“One afternoon, more than half a century ago, strange news spread through the Seven Rivers community, and people went hurriedly to Pete Corn’s farmhouse, east of the rock school near the now-vanished town. A school boy, Bob Dow, was riding his paint horse homeward. He saw the people gathered at his kinfolk(‘s) home and he rode into the yard. What he and others witnessed there was the beginning of the incident of the hen that laid the golden egg, or more specifically the egg with the raised gold letters upon it, letters such as might be found in an old family Bible. Mrs. Corn was virtually in hysterics.

“That afternoon she had gathered the eggs in a zinc bucket, and one of the last which she took from a nest had raised, golden letters on it. The message on the egg was:

“‘Prepare to meet your God.’

“Mrs. Corn dispatched runners to notify her neighbors of the miraculous egg. They came and saw, and all agreed that no human hand could have wrote the letters. Dow recalls his fears as he rode the remainder of the way home that afternoon.

“Now, at that time the church was being held in the community. What the circuit riding preachers and the godly had been unable to accomplish, the miraculous egg effected. Old cowboys, who had steadfastly refused to go to church, attended, and some were saved, as the message, or perhaps the warning, on the egg spread religious fervor in the community.

“Among those who were convinced that no human hand could have lettered the message on the egg was Hub Brogdon, range boss for the S-Cross Ranch. He made the remark emphatically at church. Two young chaps, Homer Wilder and one named Allen, heard him.

“Allen bet Brogdon $500 that he could make an egg like it, and the range boss said, ‘I’ll give $500 to anyone who can make one like it.’ By the time the church was over, Allen was back with a duplicate of the egg that had made the church meetings so successful. He and Wilder then admitted that they had lettered the first egg to play a prank on one of the Corn girls.

“Attention from the message on the egg was diverted into indignation against the pranksters. The two young fellows were arrested and brought to Carlsbad about 17 miles from Seven Rivers. But, as Dow recalls, no law against writing on eggs could be found, and the pair was turned loose. …

“How did the prankster’s letter the message on the egg? Mrs. L.D. Clark of 301 N. Eighth St., daughter of 80-year-old Sam Jones who remembers Seven Rivers when there was neither railroad nor barb wire, recalls the incident and that her mother once showed her how the lettering was done: trace the letters in tallow on the egg, and then soak it in old fashioned, strong vinegar. The letters appear to be raised and to be in gold.

“Sam Jones remembers the day, many years ago, that a group of Englishmen in knee breeches, sightseeing on the New Mexico frontier, rode into the town of Seven Rivers. Cowboys were lined up at the bar as the English came into the saloon, but they stepped back as a polite gesture to the strangers. The Englishmen drank, and then one who appeared to be the leader of the group, turned to the cowboys and said: ‘Every son of lord come up and drink with me.’

“The cowpunchers stepped up and drank with the English. Then one of the cowpunchers turned and said to the men in knee breeches and the other cowpunchers: ‘Every son of a lord and every … come up and drink with me.’

“The cowboys and the English drank again, and the strangers rode on.

“Today, the old town Seven Rivers is just memories and dust. It was a frontier town, which had its share of high humor, hardship and suffering, shootings and killings. It also had a large number of substantial citizens.

“Years ago, the stage coach on the road from Roswell to Pecos came out of the dust to the north, crossed old Seven Rivers, then a running stream; lurched down a steep grade, kitty-cornered across running water, then swung uphill and southward. About 1/4 of a mile south of the creek bank, the stage rolled into the one street-town.

“Seven Rivers was never a picturesque town, but it had the aspects of a booming little settlement, for ranchers far and near used it as a trading center.

“Cottonwoods lined one side of the rather wide street, and water ran in a ditch in front of the sidewalk. All the buildings were one-story adobe structures. Dad and Mom Jones, who had nine sons, ran the café in the old town and depended largely on travelers for trade. Sam Jones remembers customers dancing on the café’s dirt floor.

“The two general stores, which sold groceries, dry goods and hardware, were run by R. H. Pierce and a Mr. Seymour. The post office was in the Pierce store. Fred Schermayor, who died in Carlsbad last spring, had a boot shop; Joe Woods, now dead too, ran the blacksmith shop. There were two saloons.

“That was Seven Rivers, ten years before the railroad between Carlsbad and Roswell was completed. The railroad went through Lakewood and by-passed Seven Rivers. That was the beginning of the town’s gradual death.

“After the railroad by-passed the town and it became apparent that it had no economic future, the people began moving to Lakewood, and the businesses moved either to that town or to Carlsbad.

“Dad and Mom Jones arrived at Seven Rivers in 1870, after coming from Virginia by ox wagon. There were only a few Spanish-Americans then living at the settlement Sam Jones said.

“Dee Harkey, who passed through Seven Rivers many times as a peace officer, cannot recall that the town had a hotel. He believes that early day western hospitality, where it was almost impossible for a person to pay for lodging overnight, is the reason that a hotel never went up in Seven Rivers. At one time Harkey said, he knew every man and woman in Eddy County, and among those he remembers in Seven Rivers were the Dows, the Fannings, the Corns, the Larrimores, the Hellyers, W.F. Cochran, Bob Gilbert.”

Historian Janice Dunnahoo can be reached at jdunna@hotmail.com.

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