Payson's First Elected Constable



James Pleasant "Jim" Lovelady was born March 19, 1852 in Spring Creek, Mo. His father, John, and Uncle James -- both Confederate soldiers -- were killed during the first days of the Civil War. His mother, Margaret Moore Lovelady -- seeking to keep what was left of her family intact -- divided the family plantation among the slaves and joined a wagon train bound for West Texas.

Jim Lovelady was the youngest of six children, having three brothers and two sisters. One sister had married Dave Butterfield of the Butterfield Stage Line family and was living in Bakersfield, Calif. Jim recalled to his granddaughter, Dorothy Lovelady Pyle, that he was 9 years old when his mother, two brothers, and one sister left Spring Creek, Mo. The train was made up of 14 wagons, one of which carried the family's belongings. Jim walked beside or behind the wagon almost the entire distance to San Angelo, Texas.

He told Dorothy that his shoes were worn out early during the trip and he had wrapped his feet in rags, when he could get some.

Jim did not elaborate as to the reasons, but said that his mother left him with a family in San Angelo and went on to Bakersfield, Calif. to live with her daughter. Jim did not stay with this San Angelo family long, but promptly got hired on as a horse wrangler with a north-bound trail herd.

For many years, his was the life of a cattle drover, going with the great herds of Longhorn cattle up the Chisholm Trail until he worked his way up to "Wagon Boss" for the famous Matador Ranch out of San Angelo, Texas.

When the cattle drives to Kansas played out, Jim retained his job on the Matador outfit, although his duties changed. Except for a few scattered farms, all of West Texas was open range. The big ranches would send their wagons out in all directions with 18 to 20 cowboys, a cook and a horse wrangler. Often neighboring ranches would work together, or sometimes send representatives with the Matador wagons so that all the calves were branded before they grew to weaning age. When the ranch had a market, Jim's crew would cut the sale cattle from the herd and hold these cattle separately until they had enough to fill the order. According to the terms of the deal, the sale cattle would be driven to their new home, or the buyers would send men to pick them up.

During the winter of 1885, an Arizona man arrived at the Matador. He paid for 800 head of cows to be delivered to Pleasant Valley, Ariz. Jim Lovelady and his wagon crew were picked to make delivery of these cows. The Matador boss told him. "I've just sold the cows. When the calves are dropped along the way, you can just knock them in the head."

This was not Jim's idea of how a good cow-man should operate, so he went to the buyer and explained the situation telling him, "I can save those calves, but it will cost me considerable money and effort."

The buyer responded, "I'll pay you for every calf that you save and get to Arizona." A deal was struck, so Jim bought a couple of wagons complete with teams and hired two men for each wagon. As the calves were born, they were picked up and wrapped in a soogan (blanket or quilt) and hauled for a few days in the wagon until they got strong enough to keep up with their mothers. Each morning and evening the mother cows were brought to the "nursery wagons" so their calves could suck. This ran into work because the mothers couldn't tell from the mingled smells of the calves which was their own and often had to be roped and held before they would allow the calves to nurse. It also takes a pretty good cow-hand to know just which calf belongs to a certain cow. As soon as the mother's milk begins to pass through the calf, the cow recognizes her own smell and will claim her calf.

Jim's crew left San Angelo in January of 1886 during the rains. They were able to take advantage of spring moisture and grass during the entire drive to Pleasant Valley, which took five months.

The herd was driven through Roswell, N.M., then a "tent city" of 500 people. From there they took a route that led to the Rio Grande then turned up-river to Socorro. Jim called it a small Spanish Colonial village and added that the Mexican Revolution had not yet reached New Mexico.

At Socorro, Jim again pointed the herd west. They climbed out of the Rio Grande Valley, passed Magdalena and skirted the Plains of San Agustin, then crossed the Santa Rosa Range and dropped into the Luna Valley. From Luna they crossed the herd into Arizona, pushed on through the White Mountains and descended into Pleasant Valley. The Pleasant Valley War was at its peak, but Jim and his crew delivered the cattle and got out of the valley without any trouble.

Another Texan who had delivered a herd of cattle into the valley just a week before had not been so lucky. He was shot from ambush and killed as he rode up to a ranch house. Jim found his widow and put her on the stage in Globe, Ariz. for her trip back to Texas where she had family. He made her a loan of $200 which she repaid in a couple of years.

From Arizona, Jim Lovelady traveled by train to California. He saw the City of the Angels when it wasn't much bigger than Socorro. From there he went to Bakersfield and visited with his sister, who had married into the Butterfield family and his mother who was also living there. Jim also had an Uncle Walter living in California who became a U.S. Marshal, then later served for many years as Deputy Warden of Folsom Prison. Walter was a younger brother of Jim's father, John, and Jim was to name his first-born son after this uncle.

On Dec. 18, 1887, James married Eunice Hale in Dickens County, Texas. Their children were Walter Lee, Frank Duke, Vivian, Maggie Belle, Josie May and Bessie Elizabeth.

The family lived in Texas for about 10 years, but Jim could never get the beautiful country of New Mexico and Arizona out of his mind. In 1898, he moved his family to the Blue River in Arizona. For the next several years, Jim was sometimes a rancher, sometimes a lawman and sometimes worked for other ranchers. He took whatever work he could find to support his growing family. Jim was a member of the posse that captured Billy the Kid and put him in the Lincoln County Jail in New Mexico. The Kid later escaped, but Jim kept the handcuffs they used on him. Jim stated that Billy's hands were so long and narrow that he couldn't be held in cuffs. He would simply slip them down his wrists and off his hands.

Jim was working as a lawman and was away from home when his wife died in Magdalena, N.M. on June 4, 1909. He later came to Payson, Ariz. to be near his son, Walter, who had settled on Webber Creek. Jim became Payson's first elected constable, a position he held from 1919 until 1928. In 1930 with his health failing, he moved to California to live with his daughter, Vivian. He died there in 1934.

Jinx Pyle and Jayne Peace own Git A Rope! Publishing, Inc. Their books, Looking Through the Smoke, Blue Fox -- War to the Knife! and History of Gisela, Arizona, can be found at Jackalope Books, Sue Malinski's Western Village, East Verde Trading Company, and the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce. They are currently working on the history of the Payson Rodeo. If anyone has any information or photos to share from past rodeos, please call Jayne or Jinx at (928) 474-0380.

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