Memories of Dad



Ralph Reeves Will (my father) was born on a farm near Ottuma, Iowa August 13, 1898.

He was the first of five, children, having three bothers and one sister. His parents were Lydia Reeves and George Clarence Will. His brother Frank was born a year or so after Ralph; his brothers Harold and Everet were born in 1901 and 1903 respectively and sister, Mary, was born January 1, 1908.


In the 1890s and early part of this century people in this country, and particularly those who lived in the midwest, greatly feared the disease they called "consumption"; we today know it as tuberculosis. Dad's grandfather Will had died of consumption in 1866, when his own father, George Clarence, was just a boy of four. George Clarence and some of his friends looked into the possibility of moving out West where the climate in that part of the country was thought to be more healthful and where there would be less likelihood of contracting the disease. With one particularly good friend, Hiram McDowell, grandfather Will went out to the lower Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico to check things out for himself. These two men were both excellent farmers in Iowa; and so, they were interested in farm land. They found what they wanted and each purchased a fine farm. Grandfather Will's consisted of 160 acres of irrigated

river bottom land... the absolute best. Mr. McDowell's and my grandpa's farms were both located near Las Cruces, in Dona Ana County, New Mexico. The year was 1908.


In 1909 grandpa rented out the Iowa farm. Then he and his boys loaded up several box cars with livestock and household furniture, together with some of their personal belongings, and the family moved to New Mexico. Dad was only eleven years old, but he and grandpa took the livestock and furniture on a freight train ahead of grandmother and the other children, who went by passenger train to their new home.


It was indeed a different environment from the one they were accustomed to back in Iowa! Grandmother was very unhappy at first... she had left a beautiful farmhouse and all of her relatives and a lot of friends back in Iowa to live in a mud brick (adobe) home in a dry and dusty place with only the McDowells as friends. But the kids, and particularly my dad, were thrilled and excited over the great adventure they were experiencing. Ralph worked very hard and, even though he was just a boy, helped his father a lot. He began to take pride in all the activities associated with farming and animal husbandry. He won several blue ribbons for his corn and watermelons; he also won recognition with his father for their horses, milk cows, geese and other livestock after the family became established in New Mexico.


Grandmother was so unhappy in New Mexico that after a year or so grandpa took her back to the farm in Iowa. She, Harold, Everet and Mary remained there a year while grandfather, Ralph and Frank farmed the New Mexico land. During that year she had adequate time to compare life in Iowa against that in New Mexico and she realized the many advantages of living out West. Once that had been done, she thought it best to rent the farm in Iowa and move out to New Mexico.


In 1914, only four years after the move, tragedy struck the G. C. Will family. Frank contracted polio ... they called it spinal myelitis. In 1915 grandmother took Frank and Ralph, who was then a senior in high school, to California where she believed that Frank could get better medical care and therapy. They rented a house in Long Beach and Ralph graduated from high school there, valedictorian of his class.

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