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McMullan Family History Trip - 2003

1. A Little Background 5. Newton, Mississippi, McMullan Cousins and Cemeteries
2. Heading Out 6. On Through Alabama to Georgia for More McMullan Family and History
3. Texas and My Great Grandfather, William Rufus McMullan 7. Through South and North Carolina and Tennessee and on to Arkansas
4. Leaving Texas and my Trip to Bmybon Street in New Orleans 8. Interstate 40 Through Oklahoma, to Texas and Home

Heading Out

Friday morning, April 18, I loaded up my pickup truck and headed south. My first stop would be in southeastern New Mexico to locate where my grandfather, Hubert Newton McMullan had homesteaded in 1920. The day before I left, my mother had called and she had just been admitted to the hospital with severe abdominal pains. She lives in Lubbock, Texas which is approximately eighty miles east of my destination in New Mexico.

This first leg of my trip would be the longest at almost one thousand miles. After an eighteen hour drive, I spent the night at the Billy the Kid Inn, in Ft. Sumner, New Mexico.

The Bureau of Land Management has an excellent web site and through it, I was able to find the description of the land my grandfather and grandmother homesteaded in New Mexico. The BLM mailed a copy of the original applications my grandfather filled out on August 26, 1920. This brings up an interesting story about my grandfather. As I stated before, Grandad’s father (William Rufus McMullan) died June 13, 1906 in Henderson County, Texas when my grandfather was only ten years old. Even though my grandfather went to live with his sister, Annie McMullan Pyle, he spelled McMullan with an “en” instead of “an”. It was not until he came into possession of his father’s Bible that he realized he had been misspelling his last name. Why his sister did not correct him on this, I may never know. When the homestead applications were filled out, Grandad was still spelling his name with “en”.

I phoned the New Mexico land office in Albuquerque and asked them if they could give me the latitude and longitude coordinates of the land using the land description. The land office employee gave me the coordinates and I entered them into my GPS (Global Positioning System). This amazing technology gives me the ability to connect my small, handheld GPS unit to my laptop computer. Using topographical maps of the United States on the computer, I can locate any point in the country.

After a good night’s rest in Ft. Sumner, I headed south for Elida, New Mexico, the closest town to where Grandad had dreamed of becoming a farmer and rancher. My aunt, Zuma McMullan Sutton, my grandparent’s oldest child, told me that Grandad had applied for the homestead in New Mexico without ever having seen the land. Some of my research has shown that at least one of Grandad’s siblings had settled in that part of New Mexico earlier in the century. As I drove south of Elida, the paved highway turned into a gravel road and then finally, to a small sandy road. At this point, I was glad that I had decided to drive my pickup which is highly customized for off-road use. The closer I got to the homestead, the worse the roads were. Luckily it had rained the day before and the sand was wet enough to keep the dust down but not enough for it to be muddy.

As I approached the northern border of the section of land I was seeking the roads became narrower and I had to open a couple of barbed wire gates to get in. I wonder what Grandad thought as he saw so much sand and cactus. I’m sure he was not as worried as my grandmother was with her young baby in her arms. As I wound my way to the center of the section on the only road that I could find, I found a small pond with a windmill. Living in the desert, my grandparents would have had to live near a water source. Beside the modern, steel tubed windmill were the remains of a very old wooden windmill. I would imagine that these remains were the watering source for my grandparents, their baby and their animals. Grandad was able to secure employment with a water well drilling company in nearby Portales, New Mexico while they were homesteading this land. I can only imagine how lonely my grandmother would have been on that piece of desert. The closest neighbor was over six miles away. I will forever be grateful to my mother for taking the time to question my grandfather about his life and keeping good notes.

“They married Dec. 12, 1916 at Snider, Texas out on a country road. They found a farmer/preacher plowing in the field. They made their home at Fluvana, Tx.

On Jan. 1, 1917 (probably 1921 since the homestead papers were signed August 26, 1920), they left to homestead twenty-one miles south of Elida, New Mexico. The Post Office was in Valley View, NM. The mail box was four miles from the house. They went out in a covered wagon with Mr. & Mrs. Arthur Taylor. (I don’t believe the couple went all of the way). They went out with one cow and one pig. They lived in a one room shack. They had $20.00 to buy groceries. Hubert got a job drilling water wells. They took a trip to Sacramento, New Mexico, which is close to Cloud Croft. They had two horses and a wagon. They would have to stop and soak the wooden wheels to keep them from coming off. Zuma was one year old (probably less than one year old since she was born September 6, 1920). They built a campfire when they stopped for the night. A man who saw the fire came to check it out. He had not seen a woman for six months. He wanted them to camp in his yard. Nettie refused. Hubert would laugh when he told about that. Zuma got sick but they went on the next morning. They camped for two nights in a pine log cabin with a fireplace. Zuma got sick and Hubert had to ride a horse to find a doctor to bring back. It took until the next day for him to get back. They made several trips back and forth from New Mexico to Erick, Oklahoma (over 240 miles) until they finally settled in Erick. The last time that they left New Mexico, they left in a covered wagon. They had to sell their chickens to get back (to buy horse feed). Hubert stopped in Amarillo, Texas (possibly Clovis, New Mexico) and Hubert traded the covered wagon for a car (Ford Model T).”

The harshness of the southeastern New Mexico desert finally won and my grandparents gave up on their dreams of being farmers and ranchers. Apparently, they lived in Portales, New Mexico for a short time because my uncle J.W. (James William) McMullan was born there April 12, 1924. Grandad and Grandma finally moved back to Erick, Oklahoma after trading their covered wagon in for a Model T.

My father, Jack Murrel McMullan, was born in my grandparent’s home in Erick, Oklahoma on May 21, 1930. Shortly thereafter, they moved five miles north of Erick and Grandad walked those five miles to work and back in Erick, every day. During the depression Grandad worked for the WPA as a foreman over a crew of men that would plant shelter belts. A shelter belt is a wide row of trees, probably around one hundred feet wide and sometimes one half mile long on each side, usually fashioned in the shape of an “L”. This part of the country was experiencing severe and devastating dust storms and the trees would help deter the winds that were carrying away the farmer’s very valuable top soil. Grandad was given a pickup to drive and a shotgun with all of the shells he needed to kill as many rabbits as he could. The rabbits ate the vegetation and contributed to the dust bowl. Those were definitely different times. Today the animal rights people would throw a fit if the government commissioned the killing of animals! My father tells me that my grandfather was always able to drive a nice car because of the work he did and the family was worried when Grandad quit working for the WPA.

After that job, Grandad owned a paint store for two or three years in Erick and then he worked the rest of his life as a carpenter. Grandad was quite a fisherman and he never let work interfere with fishing! If he decided it was a good to day to fish, he would hang up his tools and go. As far back as I can remember, in Grandad’s carpentry shed in his back yard, there were dried heads of large mouth bass that he had caught.

My grandmother had stomach problems as far back as I can remember and because of that she was always very thin with loose skin hanging from her bones. Grandma was an excellent seamstress and added to the family’s income by sewing for the public. Both Grandad and Grandmother dipped snuff. They always had a Folger’s coffee can, for a spitoon, beside their chairs and the first thing I heard as kids, when I would visit, was, “Watch out for the spit cans!”

My grandmother developed cataracts on her eyes and when she went for the simple surgery, something happened with the anesthesia and she never quite recovered. Finally in May 1987, she passed away at the age of 88. My grandfather did not take my grandmother’s passing well. After almost seventy five years of marriage he was devastated by her loss. Grandad lived four more years and died at the age of 95 on May 6, 1991.


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