Too Small to be a Village, Not Large Enough to be a Town
On Highway 55, about 40 miles south of Mountainair, New Mexico, is a charming old one-room schoolhouse. It’s one of those abandoned places that is a sheer pleasure to visit. I even put the above photo on my City of Dust “business” cards. But where exactly are you when you’re at this school? For many years it was a mystery to me as I could find no record of anything besides pinto beans existing in the area. Enter the internet. After a few photos (not even my photos!) of the school showed up on ghost town and history-related Facebook pages, the story of this little dot on the map, which, it turns out, was known as Center Point, finally came to light.
Center Point isn’t in Robert Julyan’s comprehensive The Place Names of New Mexico, but I can still tell you how it got its name: It’s smack dab in the middle of the state, right by Center Point Hill. The only “official” mention of Center Point seems to be in “Mountainair, N.M., Centennial History, 1903-2003” by Bert Herrman (published by Mountainair Public Schools), which includes Center Point in a list of area schools: “Many rural schools were three-month terms and began after New Mexico became a state in January 1912. Teacher’s salary was $25 a month. Many of the teachers were 16 or 17 years old; they boarded at homes until small teacherages could be built for them. Dozens of schools dotted the countryside as the region developed. There was Eastview, Center Point, Piñon, Round Top, Ewing, Cedarvale, to name just a few. Typically, each had one room and one teacher that taught grades one through eight. The teachers often lived in shacks next to the schools.”
Beyond that, the initial bit of first-hand information about Center Point came from S. Smith-Cumiford, who saw a photo of the school on-line and said, “That’s on the road to Gran Quivira. It looks like the school built on land donated by my grandfather-in-law, John Cumiford, who was a land-granted rancher and whose homestead ranch was the last to be sold off, in 1985.”
A short time later, H. Thomas added some poignant history about John Cumiford who, it seems, also built the school: “John Cumiford came to Mountainair from Independence, MO in a covered wagon with nine children, his wife dying en route or shortly after as a result of childbirth. He never remarried but was cared for in the late 1950’s by my mother-in-law, who had some nursing background. He built this schoolhouse which also doubled as the chapel on Sundays.”
(UPDATE MARCH 2022: It has come to light that John Cumiford did not donate the land for the Center Point School, but for another nearby school that was actually known as the Cumiford School. While some local families maintain that the Center Point School was built on land donated by homesteader Lum Fulfer, references in the Mountainair Independent from 1916-1917 attribute the property to William C. Harrison, as do Mr. Harrison’s descendants. The school may also at times have been known as the Harrison School and the Liberty Point School. Whatever name it went by, it was surely constructed by men from the local community, which could’ve included both Mr. Harrison and Mr. Fulfer, and most likely
opened for classes in late 1916 or early 1917. It was closed by 1949, after which time students were bussed to nearby Gran Quivira. However, by then, the area was sparsely populated indeed, and even the school in Gran Quivira closed a short time later, possibly as early as 1950. As a sad aside, Mr. Fulfer was killed in 1935 when a team of mules he was driving bolted and crashed into a gate on his ranch.)
Then came a wonderful account from J.E. Bowers, who grew up in Center Point, and through Facebook comments provided what is likely the most extensive history of the place in existence: “My mother, Florence Drew Tausworth, taught in that schoolhouse. My brother and I went to school there. We lived in that shack across the street. When it snowed we would wake up with snow on our beds. This was in 1946-1947. There was no community. Just the schoolhouse and the shack. There was a cistern where we got our water. We had a pot-bellied stove in the house. The people lived on their farms and brought their kids to the school.
“My mom taught all the grades. There was a wood stove in the schoolhouse and my brother would go over every morning and light a fire. There were three of us. My oldest brother went to school in Mountainair. It was his job to chop the wood. The wood was brought in by the people that lived in the area. My uncle was the preacher in Mountainair so he would come get us once in a while and take my mom grocery shopping as we had no car.
“I thought it was the most wonderful time in my life, but my brothers felt differently because of the hard work they had to do. Oh yes, I forgot, there was an outhouse. I don’t know when the school was abandoned as we moved to Willard the next year. I was quite young. We had enough kids for a baseball team. As you are standing looking at the school, to the back left was where we played baseball. My mom was quite brave to live out there with us three kids.
“The only name I remember that lived close by, maybe a mile or so, was Garrison. One of their sons (Larry, I believe his name was) was a year older than I was. We went back to visit them a year or so later, and Larry had died of food poisoning from home canned green beans.
“The house doesn’t look the same. It has been ‘updated’ since we lived there. LOL. I don’t believe it had the ceiling or the drywall and insulation. There were cracks in the walls and ceiling and the wind, snow, or rain would come through. We had to use pots and pans to catch the rain. We had a rain barrel also and we used the water to wash our hair with. Mama would heat water on the stove for us to take baths in the washtub. We had a chamber pot which my brother had to empty every morning. Being the youngest, I never had to do anything.
“We had no toys. So we went wandering. My brother says he got lost one time and it took him quite a while to find his way home. We looked for birds eggs in the piñon trees. We ate a lot of beans. I do remember buying margarine and mixing the yellow packet that came with it. Mother made a lot of corn bread, so cornbread and beans was our main meal with the margarine on the cornbread.
“It’s been so long ago that it’s taking me a while to think of things. When I said I had no toys, it made me remember. My Aunt Leta Hood cut pictures out of magazines for me. They were my paper dolls. I also had some jacks. I was a whiz at jacks. My mama would get down on the floor and play with me. Years later, when my daughter was that same age and we went to visit my mama, she got down on the floor and played jacks with my daughter.
“My mother was the treasure. I can’t imagine taking three children to a place with no modern convenience. This was where I got my love for reading. I read anything and everything. (Even the Montgomery Ward catalog in the outhouse. LOL.) Wouldn’t it be nice if things still cost the same as they were in that catalog?
“So many people had it much harder that we did, but fortunately for me and my brothers, we had a very determined mother. So, to me, this story is about my mother, who was determined to be a teacher. She’s the one who brought her three children from Texas to New Mexico. And she’s the one who probably gave those children in Center Point one of their most memorable school years, as she loved teaching and she loved children.
“Here’s what my eldest brother said. (Funny, we all have the exact same memories.): ‘Mom taught grades 1 thru 5. I, a 5th grader, was the janitor of the school with a monthly salary of $5.00 which went to mom to help with expenses. During the winter we all slept with a hot rock wrapped in a towel and it went cold too fast. Brother Bob was to keep wood chopped for fire wood and help haul water on wash day. The cistern was always dry and we had to have water hauled in at $10.00 a load. On Christmas eve, the school children put on the Christmas play and we wore bathrobes to be the Three Kings.
“‘On New Year’s Eve there was a group of local men who played instruments and came and put on a “jam session” for the local people. And, yes, we could have all the pinto beans from the fields we wanted, and go pick leftovers after harvest. But at that altitude they took a long, long time to cook. And I hiked to Gran Quivira one time not realizing it was five miles away. Thought I was never going to get back home. But I found a beauty of an arrow head.
“‘Like you, the only names I can remember are the Garrison’s. They lived in the next house north of us, about a mile up the hill, on the east side of the road that was surrounded by trees. There were two boys that I remember, one a senior in high school that year, I believe. I think his name was Glen. He used to supply us with firewood. I don’t remember anyone else that I rode with on the school bus. When I was there, probably 20 years ago, I couldn’t find the house, and the trees were gone. All that land was bean farming and there were lots of piñon trees. When we were there last, both were gone.’”
It’s true. So much of Center Point has slipped quietly into the past that even its memory was hard to find. But it has been found and now if you Google “Center Point, New Mexico,” well, you might wind up here and read just about everything that’s ever been written down about the place. One thing that has not been found is the house that J.E. Bowers grew up in. If it’s still there, it can’t be far from the school. I’ll have to take a closer look next time I’m in the center of New Mexico. (UPDATE: From J.E. Bowers: “The shack the teachers lived in is gone. It was right across the street. It probably fell down. LOL.”)
Information for this post came from people that knew Center Point and that book about schools around Mountainair. And that’s it! I cut-and-pasted the comments of S. Smith-Cumiford, H. Thomas, and J.E. Bowers and her brother from Facebook and with luck they’ll find their way here and give City of Dust their blessing! I thank them for sharing their memories and present them here with the utmost respect, even if I did sort of steal them (for now).
Photos 1-5 were taken in 2009. Photos 6-10 were taken in 2014. Different time of day, different film stock, different time of year.
John Mulhouse moved to Albuquerque in 2009 after spending the previous decade in Minnesota, Georgia, Tennessee, and California. He loves the desert, realizes it doesn’t care too much about him, and thinks that’s all as it should be. More of his documentation of the lost, abandoned, beaten, and beautiful can be found at the City of Dust blog and the City of Dust Facebook page.
Thanks el richiboy. Very nostalgic. My grandma taught at dudley school in alamogorgo for the railroad workers kids. No common core. Just common sense
That’s contributor John Mulhouse from City of Dust.
Thanks, John, and thanks Justathot.
This article is filled with errors. The sources which are cited were people who did not “know” Center Point. John Cumiford did not donate the land on which the Center Point School was built; and he did not “build it”. I’ve never heard of a “land grant rancher”. Land grants were made by the Spanish and Mexican governments and none were made after 1846. The Cumiford family homesteaded 160 acres, just like all the other homestead families around Center Point and their homestead was a mile east and slightly south of the Center Point school. Other homestead families, with many children, lived on the land and immediately surrounding the site of the Center Point school. The school sits on and is surrounded by the Bill Harrison homestead and it was the Harrison family who donated the land. The school was built by men from the Harrison, Garrison, Johnson, Jackson, Connell, Fulfer and Gooch families. John Cumiford might have been one of the workers.
My grandfather James Wesley Garrison homesteaded the land directly across the road from the Center Point school and our Garrison family lived there from 1915 until 1954. The Garrison home was west of the Center Point school and north of the road. Another Garrison home was at the top of the hill (called Garrison Hill) west another quarter mile, also on the north side of the road. The road runs east and west there. In 1947-1949, my father Joseph Woodrow Garrison, mother Mary C. Hobbs Garrison, and their five sons, Larry, Rand, Bill, Ken and Ward, lived across the road from the Center Point school. I am Ken. Larry did not die, as stated. He is living today in Raton, NM.
My father and his nine siblings attended the Center Point school from around 1920 to the early 1940’s. Three of my older brothers attended there from 1944-1949. The school was closed at the end of the 1949-1950 school year and beginning in September 1950 students were bussed to the Grades 1-8 school at Gran Quivira. Ala Jones was the teacher at Gran Quivira. I started 1st grade there in 1950.
I have many old family photos taken around Center Point from the 1920’s – 1960’s: church gatherings (nobody called a church a “chapel”), school gatherings, home and family life, farming, livestock, gospel singing conventions (some under brush arbors built in the area pinyon forests), baseball games, playing in the snow, community gatherings for taffy pulls, school activities at Christmas, church in Gran Quivira, Liberty, Round Top and other area communities… and many other subjects.
I attended high school with two of the Cumiford boys in Albuquerque from 1958-1961. Fred Cumiford was manager of the Springer Electric Co-op in Springer, NM from the mid-1970’s until the mid-1990’s.
It’s too much to write it all when talking about Center Point, the surrounding area and families who lived here.
Get a copy of Torrance County History published by the Torrance County Historical Society in 1980. That is a far and away better source for some of the brief family histories from around Center Point during 1915-1980. Talk to Wayne Connell in Gran Quivira… or Reuben Garrison in Mountainair. Then you’ll see how stories about a place which are written by people who never lived there, using as sources other people who never lived there, or brief visitors with inaccurate memories, can be very inaccurate.
Thanks for your message, Ken Garrison. While you say the piece is “filled with errors” you only mention four:
1.) John Cumiford did not donate the land on which the Center Point school was built;
2.) John Cumiford did not build the school;
3.) No one called a church a “chapel”;
4.) Your brother, Larry Garrison, is alive and living in Raton.
The first point refers to something said by John S. Smith-Cumiford, John Cumiford’s grandson-in-law. (As an aside, Smith-Cumiford certainly meant “homesteaded” when he said “land-granted.” He used “homestead” in the second instance and you noted the location of their homestead yourself.) The statement about John Cumiford building the school (and the use of the word “chapel”) comes from someone whose mother-in-law nursed Mr. Cumiford in his old age. The mention of Larry was made by J.E. Bowers, whose mother, Florence Drew Tausworthe, was a teacher at Center Point in the mid-1940’s. In fact, your older brothers may well have been taught by her.
The comments by Smith-Cumiford and Thomas and my interjections comprise five sentences. Could they be wrong? Sure. Although they would seem to be reasonably credible sources at first glance, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re right. Although, frankly, I don’t care much one way or the other about “church” versus “chapel.”
The entire rest of the piece quotes the personal recollections of J.E. Bowers and her brother, B. Tausworthe. While their memory was clearly inaccurate about your brother, to consider these “stories about a place which are written by people who never lived there, using as sources other people who never lived there, or brief visitors” is simply incorrect. I met B. Tausworthe and spoke with him about his time in Center Point. He told me his sister remembers it as a wonderful time, but it was really quite difficult. Sadly, he passed away not long ago. I am still in touch with his sister and, while she was young when she lived there, she remembers that time fairly vividly. I could even put you in touch with her if you wanted to discuss Center Point further.
I understand that you’re upset about the donation of the land for the school and its construction being attributed to Cumiford and not your family. However, as I pointed out, to say there’s very little information available about Center Point is an understatement. I can only use what I can find. Is there mention of land ownership and the donation for the school in “Torrance County History?” I’m happy to make that change, but that’s not an easy book to track down at a reasonable price. I’ve tried. Your own recollections and family history are important parts of the Center Point story, but I think your criticisms go a little far. And no one gets paid to do this, you know.
I will confirm what Ken Garrison has stated is true and accurate. My grandparents lived about a mile east of the Centerpoint School. My grandma, Annie Mell Connell taught at Centerpoint in the 30’s. It’s amazing how the truth gets twisted these days. Thank you Ken for helping to straighten things up!
Thank you all who wrote and commented on this article. I have driven by that school since the 1980’s and have even taken a few pictures from the road. Have always wondered about it’s history and now I know it. I have fond memories on that road taking my Dad to Albuquerque for doctor appointments from Alamogordo, he preferred that route as it was the chance to see the wildlife. I wish he was still here so I could share this with him. Again Thank You
Thank you for your comment, Connie Porter. It’s hard not to wonder about the place when you drive past, isn’t it? It would be my preferred route to Albuquerque from Alamogordo, as well! It’s a beautiful drive and, indeed, a good place to see wildlife, especially birds. I once had a great encounter with an owl along that road.
Incidentally, after some back and forth with folks in the area, including people who know the families referenced above by Ken Garrison, it seems the land the school was built on was donated by Lum Fulfer. There’s pretty good consensus on that in Torrance County and a local historian said they’d stand behind it, as well. So that’s the most recent info I’ve got on that.
Thanks again! John
My Grandfather, William (Bill) Harrison donated the Centerpoint School property and helped build the original school. His original property was divided upon his death, but I have several cousins that still own the property that the school is located. You can check this out by going to the Torrance County Assessors office property map and records which will show that it is owned by the Ronnie Harrison Trust. Ronnie Harrison (my uncle) was Bill Harrison’s son. My mother went to the school until 4th grade when she got made at the teacher and shot up her mailbox. That ended her school career. My father transferred from Willard to Centerpoint when my other grandfather moved the family to the farm in the early 30’s. He then attended high school in Mountainair via school bus.
Thanks, Powell Underwood, for adding correct information to this article and confirming what I said about Bill Harrison donating the land for the Center Point school. This further corrects the inaccurate statement that Lum Fulfer donated the land. Lum Fulfer was a highly respected man in the Gran Quivira-Center Point-Mountainair communities. He sang in the quartet with my grandfather James Wesley Garrison at meeting of the Torrance County Singing Convention. But he had nothing to do with the land title of the Center Point school. Our Garrison families have known the Fulfer families for over 100 years. One of my cousins is married to a Fulfer, one of Lum’s descendants.
And thanks, Jayson Moore, for affirming that my corrections to the original article are accurate.
I’ll also add that anyone who would say “across the street” when talking about the Center Point community has either never been there or has a poor memory. And any criticisms of distorted history cannot “go to far”. It’s our history, and we can shore bring up short anyone who talks about it without knowing what they’re saying.
Ken, my cousin, Lura Gregory, would have been one of your classmates. Her mother was Esther (Underwood) Gregory. Lura was short with black hair. She attended first and second grade at Gran Quivira around 1951 or 2. Lura wrote me “I attended a school near Gran Quivira for first and second grades. It had one room, eight grades, and about fourteen students. I taught myself to read and read everything available. I went to Mountainair for the first half of third grade; then we moved to California.” Lura in 2021 published a book written by her mother before her mother died about life in Willard and later the farm at Center Point. The book is “Growing up in New Mexico 100 years Ago” by Esther E. Gregory and is presently available at Amazon and Bookbaby.com. Lura also had a brother, Tom, that was almost 6 years older than her that would have attended Center Point. Tom passed away a few years ago.
First, I don’t have a horse in any race between whether Lum Fulfer or Bill Garrison donated the land for the school. Why would I? I’ve only been trying to get the story straight, and to that end I haven’t been asked anything more about where I received my information regarding Lum Fulfer. As I mentioned in my comment above, it was from the local community.
Four years ago, part of the issue was that I believed John S. Smith-Cumiford must be correct when he told me that it was John Cumiford that donated the land for the Center Point school. I’ve spent a lot of time in Torrance County, so I asked a good friend in the area about it, and was told that Cumiford donated land for a different school, east of the Cumiford homestead, on the next corner. So that was obviously an error. Then I was told that Lum Fulfer actually donated the land, and that there would soon be a local party where everyone would be able to discuss it. After that event I received this message (in 2019):
“Unfortunately, none of the Garrison family attended but the Fulfers and Mathews did and they knew all about that…school. The school was on Lum Fulfer’s homestead and he is the one that donated land for the school building and with the help of other community members built it there. Wayne Connell’s mother Annabelle taught there in the 1930s…The school was probably built in 1916 and by 1949 had been closed and the kids went to school in Gran Quivira and Mountainair.”
Next I received this:
“…the 1916 date (is) in the Torrance County History book and Fulfer and others agreed with date. The school section where the school is located was part of the Fulfer Homestead during those days….The Fulfers, Wells and Connells are all really into history–it’s just that no one has ever asked them before.”
“(Connell’s) mom taught at the Center Point School and also in Gran Quivira. He too agrees that the Center Point School was built by Lum Fulfer (with other men). (There is) also…reference in the book ‘The Tale of Three Cities’ by Link (et al.) stating the same.”
There’s more, but it certainly is unfortunate that the Garrison’s weren’t at that get-together so everyone could have discussed this and gotten back to me with the consensus.
I put a lot of time into getting the facts right, and what I was referring to as “too far” was the dismissal of the late Ms. Bowers and the recollections of her admittedly brief time in Center Point when her mother was the teacher. There seems to be the implication that perhaps she was never there at all (now because she used “street” instead of “highway” in her description?).
Is it possible that there is a misunderstanding about land ownership prior to 1916? Clearly. Could there be a subtle distinction between who *built* the school and who donated the land? Possibly. But instead of taking the opportunity for discusson there’s a good deal of belittlement of the effort to tell this history. So after that initial exchange in 2018, I did eventually go elsewhere, to other local sources, as was suggested. After I received the information above I added my comment about Lum Fulfer, and that’s where things have stood for nearly the past two years. There’s a lot of good history being shared here, but maybe it’s time for another party in Torrance County so you all can talk this out.
William (Bill) Harrison homesteaded the property in 1909. The area had just been opened up to homesteading, so no, someone else could not have owned the property when the school was built. Bill owned the property until he passed away in 1977. His youngest son wanted to keep a piece of the property, so a small piece was split off after a negotiation with the rest of the family. Unfortunately, Torrance County Assessor’s office only provides who the current owners of the property are. I would assume that it is possible to do a historical search in person. The parcel that is still owned by Bill’s youngest son’s family is R002354101. You can go to the Torrance County Assessor Office Map viewer at https://portico.mygisonline.com/html5/?viewer=torrancenm, search on the parcel number and it will bring it up on the map along with ownership information. Enlarge the map and you can make out the school along Highway 55. The rest of the original Harrison property containing Bill’s original house built in 1911 is the parcel to west. I had some cousins stop by the schoolhouse a couple of years ago and commented that the porch had been removed and that it was in sad shape. They also got to look at Bill’s original house and said that it also was in sad shape.
Powell, I’m certainly seeing everything on the map that you’re telling me, and perhaps there is a chance there’s a misunderstanding with some folks regarding initial ownership. Also, I was told that Mr. Wells now owned a portion of the old Harrison homestead, and he’s to the east. Was the Harrison property only to the west? No one has doubted that there was Harrison land here, but people could have the orientation off, too. My understanding is that descendants of the Fulfer’s still own a large piece of the nearby land, as well, and that Mr. Wells owns the Garrison house, also to the east. In any case, clearly Mr. Wells doesn’t own the strip encompassing the school.
I’ll pass this along to my friend as I believe they’ve been researching one-room schoolhouses in Torrance County specifically. I don’t know if they’ll visit the assessor, but that would put an end to any question once and for all. It would be certainly good to have this correct if further documentation of area schoolhouses is forthcoming. I’m several hundred miles away these days myself.
You know, I never saw the school with the porch in place, and I bet that’s going back nearly 15 years. I didn’t realize it was simply taken. That’s a shame. I would’ve liked to have seen it intact. You don’t happen to have a photo of the 1911 house, do you?
I also realized that I referred to Bill Harrison as Bill Garrison initially in my last message. I apologize for that mistake.
Thank you for the info. I still don’t know where some of this confusion is arising, but I have to think it’s just about sorted out–or the last step can be taken if it’s desired.
Just to add an update: I did pass along the information offered in the comments above, and further inquiries have been made. However, I’m still hearing from people with equally deep roots in the area that they remain sure Lum Fulfer both donated the land for the school, as well as helped build it.
In my own research I found a listing of Torrance County property owners that were being assessed for their holdings in the January 8, 1920, edition of the Mountainair Independent. Lum Fulfer of Gran Quivira appears on this list, but William Harrison does not. However, W. C. Harrison of Mountainair is listed as a witness for a claim by Myra D. Rogers, who inherited some land and intended to make a three-year proof. I believe that means that Harrison was willing to verify that Rogers was occupying the land, and therefore must’ve been a neighbor. You can find both notices here:
I wouldn’t say that the assessor’s notice provides anything conclusive, but it does raise the question of why Harrison isn’t on the list of landowners. There may be a simple explanation, but I can’t track it down from where I’m sitting.
So at this point, I think all that can be done is for Ken Garrison to speak with his neighbors and relatives and try to figure out why this discrepancy is occurring, and/or someone will have to go to the Torrance County Courthouse–which is in Estancia–and request the property records. I have no guess as to when I’ll be near Estancia again, so if anyone feels inclined to make that trip, please do. I’ll see if anyone with whom I’m in contact is perhaps able to do it, as well. Otherwise, the families that have been mentioned in these comments are not nearing consensus, I am now certain of at least that.
W.C. Harrison would have been Bill Harrison. His middle name was Carroll. I think that you are misinterpreting the assessor’s notice. I believe what it is saying is the assessor was going to be in Gran Quivira at Lum fulfer’s business or place on the date listed so the local property owners could stop by and pay their taxes rather than drive to the county seat.
I thought I had responded back to your previous posting, but it appears that it did not take. So I will try again.
The school house used to be in fair shape as long as my Grandparents lived on the property and was able to keep somewhat of an eye on it. However, once the property became vacate in 1966 or 67, there was no one to keep an eye on it. I do not have any early pictures of the school house.
I ran across Vernie Well’s Obituary at https://www.harris-hanlonmortuary.com/?
action=obituaries.obit_view&o_id=888888). Vernie lived on the property (parcel R001904601) which is located to the east of the Harrison property. You can see his house and buildings on the corner where Hwy 55 turns south. My father and I visited Vernie Wells in 1970 when we cleaned out the Underwood house that had been boarded since 1957. Vernie’s house overlooked the Underwood property to the east which allowed Vernie to keep an eye on it. I remember that Vernie corresponded with my father occasionally and exchange Christmas cards. As to the history of the Well’s, I don’t really recall what my father said. In looking at Vernie’s obituary, it said that he grew up SE of Gran Quivira. He was about two years younger than my father. Interesting that Vernie was in the Army Air Corp in WW2. My father left the farm in 1939 and then joined the Army Air Corp in the 1940. He eventually volunteered as a B17 radio operator in the 8th Air Corp flying over Germany out of England. He returned to take over the farm after being discharged late 1945. He farmed I believe for two years and gave it up when the price of pinto beans fell by 95%. He said the day he planted his crop the price of beans was a dollar a pound. He sold the crop for five cents a pound. It didn’t even pay for the fuel for the tractors. It is possible that my father became friends with Vernie during his return to the farm. On the other hand, everyone in that part of country seem to know each other.
While it is clear to me the location of the original Bill Harrison homestead and the half section of land that the house is located. I have one cousin that said Bill owned another half section. That my Great Grandfather, John Harrison, also homesteaded a half-section of land when he helped build Bill’s house (I have pictures of house taken in about 1914, mid 20s and two years ago). He gave the land to Bill, but at some point, Bill failed to pay taxes on it (probably in the 30’s) and someone else ended up with it. I do recall one of my Uncle Ronnie taking about this. My cousin was unsure as to where this was located. I seem to recall that my father may have said that it was the half section that Vernie’s house was on to the east but I could be completely wrong.
I was also reminded that my Grandparents had the wall mounted Regulator School Clock from when the school closed. I remember seeing it and being told it was from the school when my family visited in 1964. My Aunt Gert Huey end up with the clock.
Oh, yes, I was indeed misinterpreting that table. I also see that people could also come to the courthouse itself anytime during the months of January or February. Thanks for the explanation, and that certainly answers that.
I did realize that W. C. Harrison was probably Bill, and so it was clear that he was definitely living in the area. I should’ve said that directly. In fact, he is also mentioned again on November 4, 1920, as being a witness (with G. C. Fulfer) for a claim by Nathanial F. Anglin of Mountainair. That’s on the middle of page 4 here:
The history of homesteading and property ownership you provided is very interesting. I know the Wells family still holds that and to the east. And the collapse of pinto bean prices was particularly rough. I wonder if you would be willing to email (or even speak) directly with my friend in Torrance County, who is now many, many years into documenting the area. I know they’d like to discuss all this further, and it might help get everyone on the same page. To my understanding the families that are being mentioned have been part of this discussion, and my being the go-between right now probably isn’t the best way to do this. Heck, just knowing where the clock went will be exciting to them.
If you’re interested, just let me know and I’ll get everyone in touch. I’ll be responding to them with an update, as well, and will suggest putting them in direct contact. As I said awhile back, they may intend to publish some of this history, so it would be good to straighten things out. I’m reluctant to post names (or email addresses) directly on the internet for reasons of privacy, but you may know the family name already.
As an aside, my step-grandfather was stationed in Dover Castle during WWII, operating as a lookout for an anticipated German attack coming across the English Channel. That attack never happened–and he would likely not have survived if it had–but if your father ever veered a bit to the south on his flights he might’ve flown over him.
Thanks, and I’ll be in touch here again shortly.
You can pass my name on to them.
I looked at the newspaper years 1916-17. The items below were found under the heading “Liberty Point” in the Mountainair Independent. I only pulled a few of the many items listed. Liberty Hill was about two miles north of Center Point Hill. It appears the paper was calling the two areas (and probably anything should of Liberty Hill) Liberty Point. There are several items labeled “New school at Liberty Point” that I believe means the Center Point School.
Mountainair Independent 2-8-1916
Little Carol (should be Carroll) Harrison created quite an excitement among the neighbors several days since. He attempted to go to his father who was working on a fence nearby, and became lost. He was found by Mr. Fulfer. (Carroll would have been just under 2 years old. Much of the area had a fair amount of brush which made it difficult to see someone)
Mountainair Independent 11-2-1916
Mr. Fuller and son made a business trip to Mountainair Monday
W.H. Harrison (Of course it should have been W.C.) finished threshing beans Saturday, making 48,000 Pounds.
The weather is fine and farmers are busy threshing and working with beans.
Mountainair Independent 12-7-1916
Under the heading of Liberty Point. Several items out of many.
Wednesday- J.W. Garrison and Mr Fulfer are busy hauling beans to town.
School at Liberty is progressing fine, Good attendance.
All the land has been taken up in this community, so far as we know.
We understand W H. Harrison (should be W.C.) from Mr. Waldon near Willard.
W.H. Harrison has added to the looks as well as comfort of his house by an additional room and porch. (I believe what he did was fence in the open porch and an expansion in the back of the house.)
Mountainair Independent 6-7-1917
One of the items under the heading of Liberty Point. One of my cousins that spent summers there, said there were great views from the Harrison house. The Harrison farm was bout five miles north of Gran Quivira.
The editor had an opportunity of driving out south of town this week, almost to La Gran Quivira, stopping among other places at the Garrison and Harrison places. Both of these have splendid lands sloping toward the east with the cedars on the west forming windbreak and shelter. We suggested the name “Large Vista.” (Long View) for the Harrison Farm, as one can look across the country toward the east, picking out a settle here and a camp there, away off to the Gallinas mountains. Off to the southward are the White Mountains and the dimmer outlines of the Jicarillas. Everywhere we saw corn and beans being planted, coming up and being cultivated-various states of the game.
Mountainair Independent 9-6-1917
W.D. Garrison has some nice hogs to sell.
W.C. Harrison left Monday morning for Texas to visit home folks for about ten days. He will talk New Mexico while there.
Wm. Fulfer is visiting his mother and brothers. He was here last winter and had to come back. Goody!
(Then a few items later)
W.C. Harrison returned from his visit to Texas, Tuesday evening, and is more than ever satisfied with the Bean Country. He reports things dried up in the portion of the Lone Star State where he was, and cattle starving to death for want of grass.
Mountainair Independent 12-6-1917
The new schoolhouse at Liberty in district No 59 is nearing completion. There is to be a box supper at this school on Friday night, the 14th, for the purpose of assisting in seating the house. Everybody is invited to come and bring boxes to help out. The people have built the building without state aid, and this will help a good cause.
I found the following in the Mountainair Independent that references the “Harrison School” and the location of the Harrison Farm. Apparently, people were not using the name Center Point or just found it easier to call it the Harrison School since it was on the Harrison Farm. The paper indicates that the price of beans fell for the 2017 crop, and everyone was hurting.
Note Reference to Harrison Farm as Section 4, T1N, R8E.
Mountainair Independent 2-7-1918
Notice of Sale Under Chattel Mortgage
Default having been made in the pay. the indebtedness secured by that certain chattel mortgage given by G. H. Morgan, the mortgager to Mountainair State Bank. the mortgagee. and the conditions specified and named in chattel mortgage to be done and observed by said mortgage, having broken. and which said chattel mortgage is dated the 26th day of March, and filed in the office of the County Clerk of Torrance County, New Mexico, on the 4th day or April 1917;
And the said mortgagee, Mountainair State Bank, having taken possession of the mortgaged described in said chattel mortgage and hereinafter described:
Notice is hereby given that the said mortgagee. Mountainair State Bank, Will at the farm of W. C. Harrison, on Section 4, Township 1 North of Range 8 East. County of Torrance, State of
New Mexico, on the first day of March, 1918, at the hour of 10 o’clock in the forenoon of said day, offer for sale and sell to the highest and best bidder, for cash the following described goods, chattels and personal property, to wit:
Four mares, Two cows, Two coming 3-year old heifers and all increase of above stock.
The amount of debt and costs to be satisfied up to the date of the sale is Three Hundred Forty Dollars, and other costs that may accrue.
MOUNTAINAIR STATE BANE. By C. E. Bigelow, Cashier and authorized Agent.
Dated the 31st day of January, 1918,
Reference to Harrison schoolhouse
Mountainair Independent 2-10-1918
Our snow is gone except in shady places.
H.C. Jones is at Mountainair building his house on the lots he recently purchased.
Several are disposing of their beans, rather than hold them longer.
Quite a number attended Singing at the Harrison schoolhouse Sunday.
I thought I remember being told that Bill Harrison was on the school board. Here is the first meeting to build the school and the next article is the transfer of the property. This should lay to rest any other claims as to who owned and donated the property.
Mountainair Indep 2-15-1917
The citizens of this community met at the residence of W.C. Harrison last Thursday night and agreed on the boundaries of a new school district, selecting a site for a building and chose a board of directors to work for such district. The board consists of W.C. Harrision, Mr. Fulfer and Mr. Morgan. This is a step in the right direction. A school will develop a country as quickly as anything. Hope they will be successful. Ned.
Here is the land transfer from the Harrison property in the southwest corner of Section 4, T1, R8 which matches the location of the Center Point School.
Estancia Hearld 2-10-1921
W. C. Harrison to Trustees
School District No. 59, parcel land
for school house purposes in south
west corner 4-1-8, $1 and other considerations.
These old newspapers paint some incredible pictures, don’t they? It sounds like the pinto bean market was in trouble by early 1918, before WWI had even concluded. I wonder if demand for beans from the military was already decreasing as the war neared an end. Perhaps that foreclosure was related, a sign of more problems to come.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the name Center Point was not used early on. Or at least not used frequently. It’s a difficult name to track, and doesn’t appear in T. M. Pearce’s “New Mexico Place Names,” or Robert Julyan’s “The Place Names of New Mexico.” Robert’s a friend of mine, and I asked him about it once. He said Center Point would be added to any future editions of his book, but I’m not sure where that stands. In any case, based on the information you provided (and the township, range, and section), the Liberty Point School, Center Point School, and Harrison School would all be the same place. There is also the nearby Roundtop School, and I’ve wondered if some confusion is arising because of a mix-up with that school, although I don’t think that’s in the area of the Fulfer’s land. The school that was on land I’m told was donated by the Cumiford’s–which is perhaps simply the Cumiford School–was also not far away. Those other two may have been later schools as the newspaper says, “A school will develop a country as quickly as anything,” and I wouldn’t think they’d say that if there were already two schools in the area.
Anyway, I haven’t heard back from my friend yet, but I’ll send these excerpts down their way, too. If you want, you can email me directly at jmhouse at cityofdust dot com. I can try to get everyone in touch eventually. Also, I sometimes get notifications about new comments here, but not always. So there may be a delay in my checking back.
Thanks for sending all that along. I bet it made for some very interesting digging. It’s quite a snapshot of the time and place, and would indeed seem to clear up the land ownership question.