122621 White Oaks School

Janice Dunnahoo Photo

White Oaks’ old school house is today the town’s museum. The picture was taken July 2020.

By Janice Dunnahoo

Special to the Daily Record

Sarah L. Bonney wrote the following article in 1937 for the Glencoe Women’s Club. In it she remembers growing up in the mining town — now a ghost town — White Oaks. This article was shared with me by Donna K. Ikard, Sarah’s great-grand niece and family historian.

Notable in Sarah’s remembrances is that there were “hotly contested” croquet tournaments in White Oaks in the 1880s. I mention this because of the still-controversial Billy the Kid croquet photo. Part of the controversy over that photo was that many didn’t think the game of croquet would have been in New Mexico during that period.

(The above-mentioned photo was bought by Randy Guijarro in a shop in Fresno, California, in 2010.)

About Sarah Lund Bonney

Sarah Lund Bonney was born on Feb. 2, 1867, in Cannington Brock, Durham, Ontario, Canada. She moved with her family to Greenville, Michigan, where she received her education.

In 1886, Sarah Lund, along with her parents R.E. Lund, Sophronia Lund and her four siblings, moved to White Oaks due to her brother Bert’s health.

Leaving her home in White Oaks to teach school in Roswell, Sarah Lund became the first teacher in the Roswell school district. She boarded with the Pat Garrett family. After a couple of years of teaching, she met and married C.D. Bonney, a very successful entrepreneur, who helped build Roswell. He started out as a grocer with Capt. Joseph C. Lea, had a horse farm, developed the first power plant here and ended up in real estate, developing part of the city.

Sarah Lund Bonney became a popular leader in the social life of Roswell. She was a member of the Presbyterian Church, Roswell Women’s Club, Southwestern History Club, and the Chaves County Archeological and Historical Society. She also was a talented painter, creating many beautiful paintings that graced her home and other Roswell homes.

She was the first person to implant the idea of a Roswell Museum in the mind of the members of the Chaves County Archaeological and Historical Society. She also was the society’s treasurer that sponsored the museum’s building in 1930.

On May 21, 1955, Sarah Lund Bonney passed away in Abilene, Kansas. She was buried next to her husband in Roswell.

Following is her story as it was written down:

“White Oaks (1937)

“By Sarah L. Bonney

“Today, the Old Abe mine at White Oaks is owned by one of the Supreme Court judges of our state, A.H. Hudspeth, whose supreme ambition is to put White Oaks back on the map.

“Many incidents could be told about the mills and the mines — of the secrecy and danger involved in getting the gold bullion to the smelter; of the secret departure in the dead of night of some intrepid horseman with many thousands in gold on his person.

“Many of us have watched the gold gathered on the amalgam plates. One lady tells of a scraping, after the major gold had been caught and removed, of $1,700 — a chunk as large as a baseball. Many a cleanup netted $35,000.

“From 1880 to 1890 were the great boom days of White Oaks. In 1880 there were 1,500 inhabitants. They lived in small rough houses, several in tents. Among these pioneers are names that have added luster to our state:  John Y. Hewitt, Andy Hudspeth and John Brothers, who ran the first hotel and was known never to turn away a hungry man. Emerson Hough describes the dining room of this hotel as hung with firearms, which the recipients of his bounty voluntarily hung there until they could earn enough to redeem them.

“Then old Dr. Lane who always answered calls; E.H. Parker, Rolla Wells, Albert and Jake Ziegler and Dr. Paden, who left for Carrizozo but returned to end his days in his old home. There were many families, the Boltons, Wells, Gumms, Ballards, Bonnells and others.

“We must tell of the club of young men — all state known — Andy Robinson, Jim Brent, Dr. Paden, W.C. McDonald, J.P. Chee. These men did their own cooking and washing. It is said they had only one boiled shirt. They accepted the unwritten law that the user must wash and iron the shirt.

“White Oaks had three churches. The first paper published in Lincoln County was at White Oaks — ‘The Golden Era’ — first edition December 18, 1880. The editor was Jacob A. Wise, now (1937) of Juneau, Alaska.

“The second newspaper was ‘The Leader,’ established October 1, 1882, by L.N. Rudiselle. He edited this paper for 12 years. S.M. Wharton was editor of the ‘White Oaks Eagle’ in 1895. Later this paper was consolidated with the ‘Capitan News.’

“There were social clubs. A literary club met twice a week at the various homes, generally where there was a piano or organ, as musical talent was evident. Lydia Buford Jones and Stanley Taliaferro were prominent as soloists.

“The devotees of musical instruments were headed by our genial host’s father, Ed Bonnell, a talent inherited to a marked degree by his son Bert.

“Many a hotly contested croquet tournaments whiled away the long hours of this community. The town hall was a church, center of civic affairs. Ladies Aid and many a dance enlivened those early days, with sheriffs’ Pat Garrett and Langston swinging the ladies to the old-time music. Billy the Kid and other notables in his line slipped over from Old Lincoln to add luster to these frolics.

“We must not forget Whiteman, the Jew who held a very secure place in the homes and trials of these early days. We hated to leave this old town and these old timers. When we left it was a thriving, bustling town. Main street was lined with business houses — Paul Mayer’s livery, Jones (and) Taliaferro, general merchants, had a two story building, the upper story occupied by lawyers, doctors, and real estate. On to the east we find Weed, Ziegler Co., the Exchange Bank, saloon, laundry, Schwartz Dry Goods, Whiteman, Bond & Stewart grocery with a 50 foot glass front, real estate, land, law office, Gumm Ice Plant and planning mill, Ridgeway grocery, baseball park, White Oaks academy. South, Ed Bonnell insurance and real estate, lumber yard, Paden’s drug store, and many more. Across the arroya to the south were many good homes of brick adobes, etc., the Lunds, Watson, Stewart, Sager, Ziegler, Hewitt, Hoyle, Barber, Parker, Paden, Kempton and Heman. The “Beau Brummels” to the north were the Gumms and the Lanes.

“Today, we are (in) the same beautiful setting, the same hills, the same trees. The sun rises in glory and sets in splendor, but where is the human element?

“All removable houses were taken to Carrizozo. A few miners are still prospecting and panning, keeping the little they make. Old dumps have been reworked, mills have crumbled, the machinery rusted. Roads are washed out; the few remaining windows boarded up or torn out.

“We sigh as we leave this Ghost Town and breathe a prayer, that the dreams of these hopeful, adventuresome pioneers may yet come true.”

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