Old West: Pioneer Trek in Covered Wagon from Texas to Arizona

Scouting Trip: As told to William T. Wells [my dad]

Where Do We Cross "em

Title: “Rivers Up, Where Do We Cross “em”

In 1897, Reubin Garrett Wells, my grandfather and about 16 years old at the time, and Luther McLendon, a family friend, left San Angelo, TX, for a trek through west Texas, New Mexico and southeast Arizona, hunting for a possible new place to homestead. They’d already moved once for Grandmother Sarah’s health [from Grimes County where his parents had lived 16 – 17 years]. The family moved to San Angelo, Texas where they lived for 11-12 years. Grandmother’s health improved while living there but not enough. The doctor’s said she needed to live in a drier climate.

On their trip, the boys encountered flood-high rivers and renegade Indians, some hiding and sneaking off reservations, especially Mescalero Apaches fleeing south into the high mountains of northern Mexico.

In New Mexico, the boy’s horses got into some weeds, that made them act loco, delaying them several days. They earned money at ranches, breaking horses as they went and “worked a spell in El Paso.” At one point their food ran out and they had to learn how to survive on native foods. They traveled one entire month without seeing a single human being. They circled back home through the Big Bend country after being gone for 2 years. After hearing their tales and descriptions of the lands they’d seen, Grandmother chose Sulphur Spring Valley because of its “rich horse-belly-high grasslands, water and mountain pine forests.”

Trek

Title: “Wells Trek West- 1900”

The family checked out a few ranches in New Mexico along the Rio Grande River but none suited grandmother. One night five or six of the young men on the wagon train slipped off for some fun in El Paso that resulted in being chased out of town by a posse. The boys took a circuitous route back to the train so they wouldn’t be leading the law back to the camp. They knew they would be in trouble enough with their parents when they finally showed up. They arrived in Bowie, Arizona in April of 1900.The last family train [that we know of] arrived at White Water, Arizona on August 11, 1907 [another great-grandmother’s birthday]. One of the things that appealed to me in painting this scene was the idea that for pioneers looking for a place to homestead, there weren’t many roads, and those, only ruts. One season of heavy rains was often enough for grass to hide any evidence of ‘ruts’ indicating previous trails.