First phone line north of Clovis led to love at first ring

By Don McAlavy: Curry historian

Editor’s note: The following column is a story told to Don McAlavy by former Clovis resident Marguerite Sellers about her father Sellers.

“My father and grandfather,” said Marguerite Sellers, “sold their property in Oklahoma and Texas and gone to California to establish themselves. But on the way via train they had gone through the bustling new town of Clovis with an offering of free land to those who would prove up claims on the surrounding land.

“My grandfather was not happy in California and could not get over the thoughts of the new territory, and so, they returned to Clovis in November 1908, settling on 160 acres seven miles north of Clovis and young Joe opened a news and tobacco shop at 409 Main and leased the back part of the building to the government for use as a Post Office. Impressed with the future of the new town, granddad purchased property.

“In the meantime, in December, 1908, a young lady accompanied by her sister and brother-in-law, the Daniel O’Connell’s arrived in Clovis from Altoona, Pa., Margaret Kehoe, the young lady, was persuaded after a short stay to complete a claim that had been filed on by a doctor who had returned to Kentucky.

“The claim was also seven miles north of Clovis on the west side of the now Grady Highway. To skip back a bit, my father, Joe Sellers, had worked for the telephone company in Duncan, Okla., and he installed along fence posts the first telephone wire north of Clovis to the claims along the way.

“As fate deemed, the two new-comers, Margaret Kehoe and Joe Sellers, with claims side by side, met, over Joe’s phone line and over the fence, fell in love and after a proper courtship, were married at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Roswell, Dec. 20, 1910.

“Subsequently three children were born in Clovis: Marguerite (me), John Paul, and Kathleen. Our family had moved into Clovis by this time.

“My mother had such a sense of humor telling stories of the bleak and hard times in the undeveloped country, where everyone was a newcomer. She told of violent sand storms for days and how it was necessary to cover the dishes on the table before serving the meal … how homesteaders would gather in the long evenings and play cards and sing, and not too much extra to eat … how the women would get out after the storms looking for their wash tubs and hats that had blown away … how they pushed baby buggies along the streets with their silk skirts trailing the dust … how people would be confused on the prairies and lose their sense of direction, often going in circles, but if they dropped the horses’ reins on the buggy he would take them to their claim.

“Dad was written up once, that each morning he was the first man on the Main Street and always smoking a cigar. He was named to the Board of Directors as president of the Chamber of Commerce and is credited, with assistance from his board, in bringing many new business concerns to Clovis.

“He was also president of the first professional baseball club, the Clovis Pioneers, the year they won the pennant in the league. He was charter member of the Clovis Rotary Club and charter member of the Elks, and had served as County Chairman of the Democratic party. Dad established the New State Auto Co., located at 421 Main, as a Dodge dealer prior to 1920. This building, the JC Penney building and the Piggly-Wiggly grocery store caught afire one night in 1937 and with a terrific wind gutted these firms, one of the biggest fires and most costly fires in Clovis’ history.

“Dad died March 3, 1962, but was preceded in death by Mother, Sept. 2, 1957. Our family was Catholic and mother had served as president of the Sacred Heart Altar Society for several terms.”

Marguerite Sellers was herself a hard worker in the community, helping others in need. She never brought attention to herself but to others, especially her father and mother. Marguerite died in her sleep in the Clovis hospital on May 4, 2001. She will be remembered.

Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at:
dmcalavy@telescopelab.com