By Don McAlavy: CNJ Columnist
Most people go by the old Clovis Mill and Elevator Co. on the second block of First Street, east of Main, by the railroad tracks, and never realize the jewel it became.
Lester Stone came in 1917 and was the founder of the Clovis Mill and Elevator Co., but it was Joe E. Wilkinson and Cash Ramey, who put this Mill and Elevator Co. together and made it work for the good of the farming and ranching enterprises in Curry County. That mill was the only flour mill in the state of New Mexico at that time.
Wilkinson and Ramey and other stockholders also started feed lots and mulled over in their minds the idea of Clovis as a cattle center. The mill and elevator was the largest in New Mexico and they manufactured a large variety of feed products. Wilkinson and Ramey believed in Clovis and its potentials.
The partners took W.D. Mack, a cattleman, into their confidence and in 1935 a fellow named John Young started a bi-monthly horse and mule auction in Clovis. Clovis, situated as it was in the state’s only grain belt of any size, was a natural as a shipping center.
As Mack said, “All cattlemen in western Texas liked to do business in Clovis. Clovis and west Texas was a productive livestock belt, running from Amarillo to Fort Sumner and on to Wichita Falls, Texas, and all pivoted on Clovis.
By 1951, Clovis cattle transaction were totaling up to $106 million. And that ain’t hay,” said one of the partners, “to put it quaintly if not effectively.”
Through the work of the men, including Homer Autry (uncle to Gene Autry) and J.W. Hardgrove and Jimmy Hardgrove, the Clovis stockyards and the Clovis sales barns became the best known in the state and one of the better known in the entire nation. Clovis wasn’t called the Capital Capitol of the Southwest for nothing.
In 1948, Joe Wilkinson was the chairman of the Citizens Bank and Cash Ramey was the vice president. In 1948, there were three flour mills in Clovis. In 1950, I think Wilkinson and Ramey sold their mill and elevator company. It became, I believe, the New Mexico Mill and Elevator Co., Inc. and had moved to 301 E. Curry Ave. I found no New Mexico Mill and Elevator Co. listed from 1965 to 1977.
At one time when the old Clovis Mill and Elevator Co. was closed, it was said a church used it to grind flour to make bread to be given to the poor in Mexico.
Ramey died in 1965 and Wilkinson in 1975 at 91 years old.
That old mill and elevator company should be listed as one of the jewels of Clovis, and treated gently, as you would an old, gray-haired gentleman.
Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at: