Portales historian honored

By Ruth Burns: FNM correspondent

Rose Powers White has been chosen to be honored by a Historic Marker for her tireless dedication to preserving the history of the early days on the plains of Eastern New Mexico.

Rosalie Pierce Powers was born in Las Vegas, New Mexico in 1894 to Neville and Stephen Powers. She graduated from the Las Vegas Normal School and taught Spanish, English, and Math at Vaughn and Santa Rosa.

In 1923, when she married R. E. “Eddie” White and came to Portales to live, nobody knew very much about the early history of Roosevelt County.

In 1898 before the coming of the railroad and the beginning of the little town of Portales, there were no newspapers nearer than Roswell, then the county seat. And people there were not interested in what happened in the far-away southeastern corner of the county, which had more contact with Texas than it did with New Mexico.

Nobody knew where Portales got its name. Nobody knew that Portales Springs had been the most famous water hole on the Llano Estacado, nor did they know that Billy the Kid had had a hideout there. Nor did they take any interest in finding out.

Rose found that she had married into a veritable living history book.

Eddie’s stepfather, Bob Wood, had come to the county in 1882 with the first big herd of cattle. Mrs. Wood and her two boys joined him in 1897 when he became foreman of the H-Bar Ranch near the future town of Portales.

Rose began to interview Mr. and Mrs. Wood and write down their stories of the early days. She expanded her research to numerous other early day cowboys and settlers.

Some of these pioneers, including the famous Col. Jack Potter, Buster DeGraftenreid and Sid Boykin, would visit for several days in her home while she recorded their memories.

Rose wrote newspaper articles about the early history from these interviews which were published in the Portales News-Tribune, Clovis News-Journal, Carlsbad Current-Argus,Amarillo Times, the New Mexico Folklore Journal, and Western Folklore Magazine.

Rose became a member of the New Mexico Folklore Society and assisted Dr. T. M. Pearce in research for his book, “New Mexico Place Names.”

She was first vice-president of the Folklore Society in 1952 and president in 1953 and hosted their state meeting in Portales that year.

Rose was a student of other areas of Southwest history.

Numbering among her many friends and collaborators: Eve Ball, Fabiola de Baca Gilbert, Erna Fergusson, and Grace, Elliot and S. Omar Barker.

Rose was a frequent speaker for organizations and school classes. She was never too busy to give a talk to some wide-eyed audience about the early days on the Llano Estacado or some other aspect of New Mexico history.

Rose was one of the founders of the Pioneer Association of Roosevelt County and was its president, and then secretary for many years.

At various times, she was president of the Portales Woman’s Club, Regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and a member of Eastern Star.

Rose and Eddie were vitally interested in the lack of any facilities or training for the physically and mentally handicapped children of the area. In 1960 they joined with other interested people to found the Society for the Development of Exceptional Children. They donated land on which to build a school and supported it in other ways.

Any written history of early Roosevelt County most likely relies on the details unearthed by her in her research. She passed away before she could combine her writings into a book, but they will be donated to the Golden Library at ENMU some day in the future.

The marker honoring Rose has been installed at the rest stop near the Black Water Draw Museum.

A reception-dedication will be held 4 p.m. Thursday at the Hospitality Room of the Portales Public Library.

All those interested in local history are invited to attend.