McQueary: Meet local pioneers at Dining with the Dead

Jill McQueary
Rio del Sol Kiwanis Club
At right, Mike Leonard talks about William Porter "Port” Stockton during a dress rehearsal for Dining with the Dead on Friday at Greenlawn Cemetery in Farmington.

Editor's Note: Dining with the Dead is a production of the Rio del Sol Kiwanis Club with proceeds benefiting the Farmington Museum and the Rio del Sol Kiwanis children's programs.

Step back in time to the late 1800s and meet some of San Juan County’s pioneer settlers. Dining with the Dead provides that opportunity this coming Saturday at Greenlawn Cemetery. Guests enjoy a delicious barbecue dinner, a leisurely guided tour and can visit with re-enactors standing by the graves while telling their intriguing stories.

Dr. Bob Lehmer portrays Joseph E. Wheeler who was born into a Mormon family near Ogden, Utah, in 1856. Joseph brought his two wives (sisters who didn’t get along) with their 28 children and settled at Jewett, today known as Hogback. The remnants of the old Hogback Trading Post operated by Joseph remain today. Tom Wheeler is the great grandson of Joseph.

Bob Lehmer, center, tells the story of Joseph Wheeler during a dress rehearsal Friday for Dining with the Dead at Greenlawn Cemetery in Farmington.

Mary Eldridge is portrayed by Rebecca Morgan. Mary and her friend, Mary Raymond, served as missionaries with the U.S. government. Upon arriving in the small community of Jewett just west of Farmington, they had a frightening experience. The stagecoach driver left them there all alone, with no one to meet them and Indians watching from the ridge above. Mary later worked with the Methodist Mission. The original mission site was washed away in the flood of 1911 and was rebuilt on land where Navajo Prep is today.

Frank B. Allen, portrayed by Scott Michlin, came to New Mexico in 1884 when New Mexico was still just a territory. His first wife died in childbirth and in a short time he married her sister, Augusta. Frank became Farmington’s best-known entrepreneur. He started a multitude of businesses, mostly on dusty Main Street, where only a few buildings dotted the way. The business that Frank and his family are best known for today is the Allen Theaters.

Dick Simpson, portrayed by Steve Clark, was born in England and came to America after the death of his wife. He was the owner of Simpson’s Trading Post at Gallegos, a stopping point for stagecoaches. Dick was a gentleman whose company was appreciated by women. He had a strong penchant for liquor and fine wines, which he ordered in large quantities. Later he served as head of the Farmington Exchange from which the current Chamber of Commerce developed.

Doug Dykeman gives a presentation on local archaeologist Earl Morris during a dress rehearsal on Friday for Dining with the Dead at Greenlawn Cemetery in Farmington.

Earl Morris, portrayed by Doug Dykeman, was a New Mexico archaeologist who some say was the model for the Indiana Jones movie character created by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. Morris cut a dashing figure in his signature hat. In 1916 he embarked on what would become one of his life’s greatest works: the excavation of Aztec Ruins. Morris and his crews labored there between 1916 and 1921. Aztec Ruins became a national monument in 1923.

Mabel Woods, portrayed by Glenda Fox, was born in 1883 in Boulder, Colo. When she and her husband Robert arrived in Farmington, Mabel began teaching in county schools. Both were very civic minded, Robert twice represented this county in the state Legislature. Mabel was a life-long Democrat and after her husband’s death, served as county treasurer before being appointed as acting postmaster. She was instrumental in getting home mail delivery started in Farmington.

Thomas Jefferson Arrington, portrayed by Charlie Tyler, joined the Confederate Army at 16 and fought in the battles of Belmont, Shiloh and Vicksburg. Later he headed westward as captain of a 500-ox train hauling flour. In 1888, he established a home in Farmington for his family on 160 acres of land known as Arrington Mesa. He operated a stagecoach mail route between Farmington and Durango. Thomas Jefferson served as County Commissioner for three terms and was town trustee in early 1900. His home on Arrington Street stands today and is used as law offices.

D'Ann Waters talks about Lillie Johnson during a dress rehearsal for Dining with the Dead on Friday at Greenlawn Cemetery in Farmington.

Lillie Johnson, portrayed by D’Ann Waters, was born in Iowa in 1864. After her mother’s death, she moved to New Mexico where she met and married her husband, Thomas. They had three daughters but as with many early pioneers, Thomas died after contracting pneumonia. Lillie and her girls moved to Farmington. She became active in the Presbyterian Church, serving as the church treasurer, the Ladies Aid Society and served on the board of directors of the First National Bank. Lillie’s daughter, Bertha, later married Orval Ricketts.

Jimmie Jarvis, portrayed by Dave Bregar, was born in England in 1798. As a young man, he and his wife set sail on a three-month journey to the United States. By the time they arrived in Wisconsin they were a family of four. Unfortunately, Indians killed his wife while he was away on business. He and his children moved westward, finally settling in Aztec. "Uncle Jimmie" bought an old adobe building and turned it into Aztec’s first hotel, the Jarvis Hotel. Jimmie tells one of his stories about Joe Crouch (Crouch Mesa is named for him). Jimmie lived to be 104.

E.Y. (Emma Young MacNichols McAlpine), portrayed by Barbara Hill, was born in New Jersey in 1856 and was a direct descendant of Martin Luther. She married her cousin Frank and they had two sons. After Frank’s death, Emma embarked on different business ventures: a dress shop, a sawmill, and then a fruit canning plant named the San Juan Chief Cannery. Emma had the distinction of being the only woman in the United States to build and operate a canning plant.

Mike Leonard tells the story of William Porter "Port" Stockton during a dress rehearsal for Dining with the Dead on Friday at Greenlawn Cemetery in Farmington.

Port Stockton is portrayed by Mike Leonard, and Ike Stockton is portrayed by Tony DiGiacomo. Port and Ike were born and raised in Claiborne, Texas. They lived in Lincoln, N.M., during the Lincoln County Wars and were acquainted with Billy the Kid, as Ike owned a saloon there. Port got in trouble wherever he went, usually shooting and killing someone, and Ike was there to get him out. They were notorious border states cattle rustlers; their charm and likable personalities helped them get along with lawmen from both states — for awhile.

Many thanks to the Farmington Museum, San Juan County Historical Society and Catherine Davis for assistance with information and pictures, and to Michael Maddox, author of Port and Ike Stockton, Colorado-New Mexico Border Outlaws.

Scott Michlin portrays Frank Allen during a dress rehearsal for Dining with the Dead on Friday at Greenlawn Cemetery in Farmington.

If you go

When: 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday. Dinner served from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Where: Greenlawn Cemetery, 1606 N. Dustin Ave.

Tickets: $25, available at Howard’s Cleaners, 1601 N. Dustin Ave., Suite A

Information: 505-325-5931 or 505-860-5165

Wear comfortable shoes and carry a portable chair if desired.