By Ruth Burns, Special to the PNT
Editor’s note: This is the first of three articles about two of Roosevelt County’s earliest settlers, Doak Good and Jim Newman. The other two articles will appear in future Sunday editions in June.
It is an interesting fact that a Washington scandal involving a U.S. Senator from Arkansas brought the first permanent resident to the Portales Valley.
Doak Good, a 33-year-old bachelor with a suspicous nature, had a contract to carry the mail between Singer’s Store, now Lubbock, Texas, and Fort Sumner and all points in between.
This was part of what came to be known as “The Star Route Swindle,” a nationwide scheme organized by Sen. S. W. Dorsey and others to get money from the government for false or unnecessary mail routes.
Certainly Good only carried the mail when he felt like it, perhaps every two or three months and there was very little mail to be carried.
About 1880 or 1881, as Good passed by Portales Springs on his mail route, he decided the springs and the adjacent lake would be a good place to run a few cattle. He set up camp in the caves under the overhanging caliche porches and built a wall in front to provide some protection from the weather and possible intruders.
He soon moved to the top of the ledge and constructed a house out of waste rock. After remaining there a few years, he abandoned this building and built a two-room adobe with a shingle roof. He built corrals and sheds and used the old shelter as a stable. His new home had a loft in it with a half-window to the east.
Good was of a slender build with medium brown hair and gray eyes; he was about 5-feet, 8-inches tall.
Some have claimed he had a mustache, but early area resident Col. Jack Potter has said, “I never saw him with a mustache; even when he was not shaved, his mustache was light and barely covered his upper lip and it was a blond color. In fact when I first met Doak Good, you could of passed him off for a big blond nester girl.”
Good ran 300 to 400 cattle at the Springs, branded “GOOD” and later “FX.” He led a peaceful life until the XIT Ranch across the Texas line began to fence in their range and push out the smaller cattlemen who formerly had free run of the land.
In 1882, Jim Newman began to move his cattle from Yellow House near the present Lubbock to the DZ at Salt Lake near Arch. The lake water was salty, but there were springs at the northeastern end of the lake, and Newman dug troughs from which the cattle could drink.
However, as more cattle were brought in, there was not enough water for the large herd, and the cattle tended to drift over to Portales Springs.
Good complained that the nearby ranch did not have enough water and that Newman’s cattle were coming over and drinking his water and eating his grass.
Resentment simmered and trouble was bound to follow. In one incident 25 of Good’s fat steers were shot and he swore Newman had done it.
Finally, at a roundup one spring, Good openly accused Newman of trying to run him out of the country. They emptied their guns at each other, but neither was hit. Good wanted to keep on fighting and begged for more cartridges. Newman got around the other side of the herd to reload his gun, but Good’s horse took a notion to run away about then. By the time Good got back, Newman had gotten away.
One of the legendary shooting scrapes that took place was between Good and Gabe Henson. All of the details may or may not be true, but this what was sworn to by the cowboys who were there at the time, including my step-grandfather, Bob Wood.
When Henson moved in to the east of Good and caused him trouble, Good thought Newman had put Henson up to it. Henson showed up at Good’s place at Portales Springs and called for Good to “come out and shoot it out.”
Henson hid out behind the shed and began taking potshots at Good. Good was convinced that Newman had sent Henson to kill him and commenced shooting out the window with his old Sharp’s buffalo gun.
The men continued to shoot at each other all morning.
According to DZ cowboy Dan McFatter, “At noon, Good sent Henson’s dinner out to him. Henson ate it; then the shooting began again.
Finally Henson got tired of this, and yelled at Good to come on out. Good refused. Then Henson came out and sat down in front of the choza (shed), probably figuring that he would sit there until Good did come out. Then Good fired from the window and killed him.
But the cowboys who picked Henson up and carried his body home, said that there wasn’t a drop of blood anywhere on Henson’s body; the bullet wound didn’t bleed at all. The inference was that the dinner was really what killed him, that Good had poisoned it, and Henson was dead before he shot him.
After Newman bought the cattle from Henson’s widow, Good was more convinced than ever that Newman had planned the whole thing.
Burns has taken her information from the interviews and research of her mother, Rose Powers “Mrs. Eddie” White. She may be contacted at: