Interview with Roy Wilhelm, February 28, 1993

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Roy Wilhelm Talks Family History

From an interview with his son John February 28, 1993


B. H Wilhelm, part-time law man

Roy: ......that bunch up at Mineral and Grandpa knew him, the whole family knew him. They was brothers lived up there and this one brother got mad and killed the other one and so the law picked him up. So he got some rich Mexican that he knew to sign bail so he could get out. So he went over to New Mexico visitin' around and he was gone for about four or five months. And when he come back the rich Mexican that had signed his bail bond, he'd been worried all that time, he didn't know the guy was goin' to go over there visitin' around and so he went down and told the sheriff, he says, "If he ever comes back, why I'm not on his bail anymore, lock him up." So here comes the guy . . . oh, it was some guy in New Mexico, Sol Luna or somebody like that, and says, "Give this to the sheriff when you go over there." This letter, it was sealed and when they got over here it was tellin' the sheriff, "I'm not a goin' his bond anymore." So they locked him up. Well, it happened over a period that St. Johns and Vernon was a district, and he (B.H. Wilhelm) was the justice of the peace over there so the preliminaries had to be held over there to find out whether he was guilty enough to be bound over to trial in the Superior Court, so they had him there. And there was a bunch of his friends from up at, friends and relatives up at Vernon and Mineral, come down there (Concho) to get him and take him home. They figured it was all cut and dried if all else failed, they knew old Wilhelm was their friend. So Gramps, he found plenty of evidence that he'd killed his brother and done it in cold blood. So he bound him over to appear over to St. Johns. Then the sheriff had gone back and left Grandpa responsible, so when he bound him over he just had his buddy there. They got the guy, got the handcuffs on him, and handcuffed him to the buggy and they headed out. These other s.o.b.'s, they didn't know what to do about it, so they rode for reinforcements and they damn near killed a bunch of good horses. They run 'em all the way to Mineral. I guess they changed there, told ol' Casimiro Padilla about it. "Boy," he says, "we'll ketch 'em, we'll ketch 'em 'fore they get to St. Johns, if they's just in a buggy." And Pa said when the old man topped the black ridge over here they could see the s.o.b.'s come out of the narrows up the Big Hollow there. Big cloud of smoke and they were runnin'. An army of Mexicans, tryin' to cut him off. But he just put those old ponies into a gallop and come on over the hill. When he found out he'd lost, old thing, why he went back. Now he didn't have anything against Grandpa. He wanted to get that guy loose he'd a killed Grandpa to get him. You see he had a life of some kind over there after all this Indian trouble and everthing and all this is baled into, it might have been a long three years, but it was from 1881 to 1884. (Ed. Note: Mormon Settlement in Arizona has B.H. Wilhelm in Concho in March 1879) I says to myself, well the way he cut a pretty wide swath and got places and built things and ever' damn thing, he was pretty well off when he got here, but he wasn't when he left. He never left them one buck, and that's a pretty short time and he was gettin' a Justice of the Peace salary part of the time and he was gettin' Captain of the guard part of the time. It was the only pay job in the whole bunch. He was a spendin' money.

B.H in Mexico, later New Mexico

John: Well, we don't know how much he took with him when he went to Mexico.

Roy: Well, he naturally would of taken some if he'd had it cause he's goin' out an . . . but I figured he was broke, figured he was, just gambled it all away.

John: Could have. For instance after B.H. went to Mexico and was down there for awhile, when did he come back to the States?

Roy: He, you see him and Grace split up while they was down there in Mexico and he was working mines, working in mines in Mexico and then he got workin' mines both sides of the border and Grandma, they sold her place, in Concho, after they got in the sheep business and made Vernon their headquarters; "they" is Pa and Haight. Aunt Fan, my dad's sister younger than him was married to Uncle Art, you remember Uncle Art? Well they lived down on the Gila river this side of Silver City. The old man in his workin' mines to mines, he got over to the copper and silver mines around Silver City. And then him and the old lady got back together, the one that he'd left here, they never did separate, he just didn't come back up here and so there they were, man and wife again. And he was divorced from what's her name or she divorced him. And he come back up here and they lived on the Seven-bar-tee place, that big flat in the north west corner of Vernon valley.

John: Is that the Dick Gibbons place?

Roy: Yeah, they lived there, over against the hill, had a dugout. Dug into the hill and in front of it was just like a house a stickin' out of the hill. And after they lived there, well finally the boys advised him to go (back to New Mexico). Pa and Haight paid for the move and she went with him. He couldn't go to town and ever get back with any groceries or any money. He'd get on a hell roarin' drunk and finally they got tired of it and advised him that he was just throwin' a kink into everthin'. They'd foot the bill, pay his way, he'll take his wife and go on down and be close to his daughter there.

John: Not that he'd be any more sober down there, but they wouldn't have to put up with it.

Roy: Well, he just had 'em in a turmoil all the time, and there was nothin' they could do about it.

B. H. Wilhelm's deathbed dance

So he went on back and they lived there and then Uncle Art picks up the story and tells me of the last night of the old man's life. He was layin' in bed, he had Bright's disease, and the doctor told him he was apt to go any time. And the folks who, and friends were down there, they'd gathered up around his bed there and they was a howlin' and everything. You know even drunkards has got people that loves 'im and he was tryin' to cheer 'em up, that the situation wasn't as bad as they thought. Just to prove it, he just got out of bed and give an old hoedown dance. Uncle Art said he was really clippin' 'er off. He was one of them that was there, he said for about four or five minutes he just really was a plowin' up the turf. He got tired, he just fell over on the bed and died. "Just thought you boys'd want to know that," he said.

Pa and Naomi

John: Well, lets see there's other questions here. It says here, tell about Z. George meeting Nancy Naomi Gibbons

Roy: Oh, Dick Gibbons was in the sheep business and he was in the cow business. He was one of the wealthy men of the county and he had gained control of the town of Malpais by then. And there was fifteen families workin' there and livin' there and they all worked for Dick. Malpai had at one time a post office and in The Post Offices of the West, it says that a man named Phipps was its first and only postmaster and it was only open for 9 months, when they fell below a certain point. I don't know what was the slump, but anyhow it operated for nine months. And they had a school, cause all these people had (kids), so they had a one teacher school and my mother she was a divorced widow she took the county exam and she wanted to go to work, got a job a teachin' school, but the Gibbons' wanted her to come out there because they had kids. They wanted somebody that was competent to teach 'em and then all the Mexican kids so she went out there and was teachin' school and my Dad he come by and that was just a stoppin' place, ya know, and here's this good lookin' school teacher and he just hung up there for awhile and out of that visit there, I don't know how long afterwards, they were married.

John: Well then after they got married they made their home in St. Johns didn't they?

Roy: Yeah.

John: The place over there northwest of Pioneer school?

Roy: Yeah. The old man had, he was well fixed by then, he was Mr. Wilhelm and he bought a place already built there and then he spent some money fixin' it up.

(Ed. Note: according to interview between Doug Singleton and Aunt Maude, George and Naomi lived in Vernon after they were married -- first at Uncle Dick Gibbon's place then George homesteaded and built them a one room log house with a lumber lean-to. Then they built a lumber house on some land of Clarissa Wilhelm's at Vernon. She mentions that they had to haul water from Uncle Haight's while they were living at George's homestead, probably why they moved to his mother's land -- Report from U.S. Dept. Agriculture in June 1908 states that claimant had a wife and three children living on homestead claim with him, Naomi, Maude, Andy and Roy. It also states that he lived on the land from 1900 to December 1907 and farmed land every year, built a house and dug three wells but could not get deep enough with the means at hand to secure water. During the entire time he had to haul water for domestic purposes. Report was signed 5/7/08. He would have homesteaded five years before his marriage to Naomi on Jan. 2, 1905.)

John: Did your mother ever live at Vernon, on the ranch up there?

Roy: Just in the summertimes. This is the same cabin that we lived in when we went up there to be with the old man after mother died. It was just a camp house.

John: Well, is that the two story house that used to sit right there where . . .

Roy: No we built that afterwards.

John: You built that when you and the boys moved up there, huh?

Roy: Yeah the two story house, yeah. That two story house was built adjoining that ranch cabin we had, just built up against that for part of one wall.

Trips to California

John: Tell about the trips to California.

Roy: Well my mother, I don't know, she had some ailment, but often women have an ailment that the Docs can't, just can't fathom it, that's the way she was. And she had kind of pains in her back or something and so, it was kind of like me takin' Mabel over to Rask see, people 'd been going out to California out to some doc that was out there, people looked at him as a, kind of a miracle worker. He was havin' great success and so Pa took her out there and the doc was alright and he fixed her up.

John: So was it only one trip then, to California?

Roy: Yeah, just one trip to California. But when they got out there it, her trouble was such that they decided to live out here and get her worked on, or they'd spend most of their time on the Santa Fe tracks goin' and comin'. So the old man just decided to, the snow was deep up here, and he gets aholt of Haight and he made a promise to kind of, Pa'd hired a couple of cowboys to be there at his place and he'd look after our cows while they, he'd oversee it, and so the old man, they stayed out there all winter, and it was a good thing it was a nice thing for my mother to, that's what they really, the wealthy, wealthy go out to California to stay for the winter and she got to stay out there for the winter.

John: And of course you boys were just quite young then?

Roy: Well they left us with Grandpa and Grandma and Pa got interested in out there.

Dr. Brown's well drills

Roy: It was an old doc in Winslow, the guy that tried to take my, Doctor Oscar S. Brown, he was a Santa Fe doctor down there and he was, people went all over from everwhere to, cause he was a good doctor, good surgeon and so forth. When he started to take my tonsils out he cut into one of them and, boy, he liked to never got the blood stopped. I was a bleeder. Scared the hell out of him, thought he'd lost me there for awhile. I was just a little bit old kid. I just vainly relect that experience, but anyhow, he (Dr. Brown) had the ranch, he's taken his railroad money here and invested it at Lake Elsinore. And had some farms and California ranches, don't have to be very big to be a ranch out there.

Roy: And so he had a string of well drills and the guys that he had runnin' 'em, that's kind of hard for him, he had to trust somebody where he was out here, he could just go back there once in a while. They were takin' him for a ride, shortin' the books and everything, so he wanted my Dad to come out there and run the well auger for him. Pa says, "I don't know a thing in this world about well drills." "Well," he says, "just see where you got them beat, I trust ya." And Pa thought about that. That meant that you can learn how on the job, I can stand your honest mistakes but I can't stand what these guys are doin' to me.

Roy: So Pa spent a quite a bit of time out there at Lake Elsinore, while they was there that winter, and he got interested and was goin' to buy a place there. He had to have a little, he needed $800 to sign the thing up and he didn't know just, he had that trip on his hands and he didn't want to run too low, they sold the steers once a year and he didn't want to run his finances too low. He thought his credit was good for $800 bucks. Anyway, Pa was what they considered one of the rich Apacheans and the banker turned him down on the grounds that Pa didn't know anything about that country out there and "those slickers are going to get to you and just for your own good I won't let you have it." I don't like a banker like that, do you?

John: No.

Roy: Well, Pa didn't like that one for the same reason. Changed banks but the deal fell through on that account, cause Pa was goin' to move out there and take that job, figure out somethin' to do with his cattle, maybe sell 'em. But that's right on the San Andreas fault and the lake, a beautiful lake and they had a big white hotel there for people to, it was built right on the edge of the lake, today it's down in the lake, there's a glass bottom boat you can buy a ride on and look down at the beautiful hotel in the bottom of the lake. Fault opened up, see, water run into the fault. The hotel just settled down slow proposition, water raised.

Pa and bees

Pa got interested in bees while he was out there. Doc Brown's boy, just a high school kid, got him a couple of hives of bees, then he got to sellin' honey, then he got to increasin' the bees. And he got to buyin' honey off of other people and got to be a dealer and he had a thousand gallon tank back of Doc's house right there in the mountains there. That was his honey stuff. He'd spin the honey out of those combs and pump it up there and he'd gallon it out. So Pa, he was goin' to try, the kid was encouragin' him to. There was plenty of flowers there and plenty of bees and he was going to try that and a lot of other stuff, run Doc's well drills.

John: Well he raised some bees back here, didn't he?

Roy: Yeah he never forgot it, the hell of it was he was a doin' bees up there at Vernon. The flowers are so scarce and the winters are so severe takes lots of honey to support a bee in cold weather. That's fuel that keeps 'em warm and there was very little left if you skim very much off from it, why you didn't have enough for the bees to winter on, they'd all die. Well, Pa had that whipped only he didn't have much honey left. Anyhow, things didn't work out.

Summer Cabin

John: Did you tell us the story about Z. George and the Indians at the spring.

Roy: Yeah

John: We believe that was right shortly after they got here, huh '81 or somewhere?

Roy: Yeah without a doubt he was a gettin' away from that Concho sheep, ya see the guys that owned the water hole owned the grass. And Concho being the center, all the big wigs, all but Sol Luna. Sol Luna was a pioneer attorney and a sheep man and a gambler and a gun man and ever' other damn thing. He got his clutches on Malpai and built big dippin' vats there and he had, when he'd drive 'em in the dippin' vat there, that summer they had just completed dippin' forty-thousand head. They'd run the sheep around and dip 'em as they come by from New Mexico. Well, that takes lots of grass and the Candelarias and the Ortegas and oh there's a whole slew of 'em there, Spaniards that married Mexicans and had their sheep. Well, they didn't mean to sell the Wilhelms a cattle right too, when they bought that place to build a town there, the Flake-Wilhelm deed. So he was reachin' out there to get some fresh feed up on the mountain. They took Jackson's lake, that was little Ortega lake. The Ortega boys built that lake so they'd have the bunch of grass there. Those that were down below like the Greers by the (Little) Colorado river, well they wasn't much they could do about it, only just claim it. The people that owned the water and those Mexicans had diverted the water at quite a bit of an expense to fill that Jackson lake out there and on over the hill there by the Y right off the mesa there is big Ortega lake, had a real big one there they diverted water into that a regular sump hole and so that's why the Wilhelms, they were good friends until the grass got to gettin' short, see so they was a reachin' out and gettin' grass that wasn't bein' used and that was over on the Apache land, nobody wanted to have headquarters over there.

John: So any cabin he built there was most likely just a summer cabin or something?

Roy: As I took it, it was just a, possibly a two room deal, cook shack with a bunkhouse. As far as I've ever known or listened to the old man tell the stories, it couldn't have been over, just what they lived there one summer. You fit that into the time frame that there was to do these things and it couldn't have been only just something one summer. But he was an ambitious old rat to do what he did do.

Carpenter Tools

Roy: And his (Georges's) profession, his being in the cattle business was accidental, but his profession was carpenter, he took training at that.

John: That explains why the assessor on the tax rolls over there was taxing him on carpenter tools.

Roy: Yeah.

John: Well now, some of those carpenter tools that your Dad owned, that you inherited, suppose those belonged to B.H. originally?

Roy: Maybe some of the older ones.

John: Like that old jack plane?

Roy: Yeah, I think that could have been the old man's. The full plane was about that long, I don't know if that was a figure 4 or whether it stood out in front the full plane and the jack plane was just only half that size.

John: Oh, that one I've got up there then is a four plane, huh, that long one?

Roy: Yeah, then I don't know what became of the jack plane...

Roy: I remember when he bought that. (The draw knife)

John: When was that?

Roy: Oh when we was livin' in . . . .

John: You mean when your Dad bought it?

Roy: Yeah, when my Dad bought it. But he had had one, kind of a blacksmith made thing. You see, every guy in the team and wagon days, he carried an auger, twist drill, hand operated auger. They would drill a hole, say yea big, and he carried a plane and he carried a good sharp axe and went to town, we went to cross the Vernon creek up at 20-foot Falls and he broke a double tree. Hell, that didn't stall him atall. He just went out beside the road where some of that second growth oak was, picked out a good one, chewed 'er down, you know you had to have a saw too and within forty-five minutes or an hour he had a damn good double tree. We was back on the road again. Had a draw knife, the old man always carried it in the jockey box. Along the front of the wagon box was a box about that deep and they were three-and-a-half feet, about like that, cause that's how much a wagon box was, and it had this lid down.

Pa and Marion's wagon box argument

John: Were they three-and-a-half feet or were they 42 inches?

Roy: I never since that argument, I never had any trouble a rememberin' 'bout how big a wagon box was.

John: Who was it had that argument?

Roy: Pa and Marion. Boy, they was right at each other's throats, you know. Both of 'em 'd measured and they knew. They got a tape and went out there to prove it.

John: And both of them was right.

Roy: And it hit them both at the same time and they just stood there a starin' at each other.

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