One of the busier pioneers who helped in the making of Clovis was A. L. Gurley. He made his fortune in broomcorn and oil. Success in oil was the tricky part!
This is how it came about:
First he married his childhood sweetheart, Myrtle Poor, in Purdy, Mo. That was in 1903. They headed west in 1905. They came by train to Texico and then by wagon to their homestead 10 miles north of Melrose, where his sister had earlier filed a claim.
He immediately had a dugout finished and then built a wooden cabin over it. Leaving his wife to prove up on the claim and care for the garden and livestock, Gurley found work as a timekeeper for the Santa Fe Railroad while a roundhouse was being built at Melrose.
Soon the railroad shut that construction down and chose the site of present Clovis to build the roundhouse and shops. Of course Gurley, this time with his wife, moved to 312 Gidding and erected a tent, as others were doing at that early date.
While working for the railroad he started buying broomcorn (the big money crop, prior to wheat and corn) and selling it out of his warehouse in Melrose.
In 1918, Myrtle came down with the flu, as did Gurley. He tried to get her to drink some liquor as that was one of the many “cures” being tried. She would not allow any liquor to touch her lips. Within a few weeks she died and Gurley, drinking whiskey, survived. He took her back to Purdy and built for her a mausoleum in the little cemetery.
He was left with two children, Arthur Lee Jr. and Marcella, but in 1921 married Margaret S. Wright, a widow with a son. They moved back to Clovis.
Gurley had not ignored his broomcorn business and made a small fortune buying and selling it. He even had a big broomcorn warehouse in Clovis. He was one of the early entrepreneurs with sharp business sense. (Others I could name would be Charlie Scheurich, Cash Ramey, Joe Wilkinson, George Singleton, Sid Boykin and Armand Mandell.) But it wasn’t long before the broomcorn business began to die out.
Gurley started selling real estate, not in Clovis, but in Hobbs. He knew of a driller there who was looking for oil. Gurley knew if they struck oil and a new oil field blossomed, he would make a fortune selling lots and parcels of land in and around Hobbs. He had already sold many pieces of real estate strictly on speculation. This was in 1928. Gurley made a deal with the driller who had drilled down to arounººd 3,000 feet and had found no oil.
“If you keep drilling and decide there is no oil here,” Gurley told the driller, “do not tell anyone, but let me know as soon as you can. With all the land I’ve sold to these people expecting oil to come in and you don’t find oil, I’ll be mobbed, tarred and feathered and maybe even killed!”
The oil well driller decided he couldn’t go any deeper. He told Gurley he didn’t find oil. Gurley started packing to leave. In despair the driller cut the cable on the drill bit and it fell 3,000 feet. The bit sank past 3,000 feet in the bottom of the well and up came a gusher, and that is what saved Gurley’s hide and made Hobbs the oil capitol of New Mexico.
On a night in 1952, right after Ike Eisenhower was elected president, Gurley, who had gone to bed, shouted “Yahoo! we’ve got a Republican president!” He turned out the bedside light, went to sleep and died. He was buried in the little mausoleum beside his first wife in Purdy.
This story was told by Gurley’s grandson, Harry Davidson, who grew up in Clovis, but is now living in Albuquerque. His late mother, Marcella Davidson, was Gurley’s daughter.
Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at: