Eastwoods braved empty New Mexico territory

Don McAlavy

Nick and Maggie Eastwood were Pug Eastwood’s parents.

Nick was Johnny Eastwood’s grandfather. Nick was a nickname. His real name was Emerson Ethridge Eastwood and he married Margaret Lorane (Maggie) Witherspoon on Feb. 28, 1887.

They had eloped and were married on the Gulf Santa Fe train between Midlothian and Fort Worth, Texas.

Nick was 64 years old when he died. Nick Eastwood was the first person to settle at what became Tolar.

Nick and Maggie became real pioneers by homesteading in the Territory of New Mexico in 1903. New Mexico did not become a state until 1912.

They lived in Midlothian, Grand Prairie and Roscoe, Texas. Maggie’s father, Jack Witherspoon objected to their moving to the empty territory of New Mexico.

Nick was stubborn and wouldn’t give up the idea of going west to the wilds of that forsaken country. One of their children had lived only 48 days, dying only a few days before Christmas, and buried in Texas.

Some of the Witherspoons had settled at Midlothian, Texas, probably around 1835. Midlothian was some 17 miles south of Dallas, in Ellis County.

In 1836 Texas had declared itself a republic, after suffering through the massacre at the Alamo, but whipping the Mexican army at San Jacinto. These were perilous times and troubles between the Indians and the whites was a commonplace thing.

On an historical marker at this cemetery named Mount Zion Cemetery near Midlothian is recorded that an Indian who often rested on the hill was killed by his wild prairie horse in the 1850’s and buried there on that hill. An ancestor, Sarah Witherspoon, born in 1832 and who died in 1857 was listed as an early Anglo-American settler and was the first Anglo buried there on the hill in the first marked grave. This marker was erected there in 1979.

Johnny and Aileen Eastwood visited this cemetery on May 4, 1997. His grandparents, Nick and Maggie, are both buried in this cemetery near Midlothian.

Emerson Ethridge Eastwood, born August 12, 1869, died Feb. 4, 1933, Margette Loranie Eastwood, born May 31, 1863, died Oct. 7, 1913. Baby Eastwood, born Nov. 6, 1894, died Dec. 23, 1894.

Other history on that marker at Mount Zion Cemetery also recorded that soon after Sarah Witherspoon was buried, Coleman Jenkins died in 1861. His brother Alexander Jenkins (1829-1885) deeded this public burial ground.

In 1873 Jenkins helped found the Mount Zion Presbyterian Church here. A church house was erected and used for school in the early 1900s. But as the population shifted, the church and school closed. The cemetery is all that remains of this pioneer community.

I have always liked Johnny and Aileen Eastwood. I hope to see them again in Clovis when I and my wife, Kathy, go there in September.

I understand that my CHS Class of 1950 will have great fun with the old gang. I’ve been told that they will have a lot of good food for three days, too, if Harold Kilmer is in charge of the refreshments.

Adios, for now.