Monday, July 6, 2015

Cassie Hobbs "The Elegant Carpenter of Chloride"

Pioneer Store Museum
Chloride, NM 87943
GPS Coordinates (in three formats):
N 33.338660o, W 107.681144o
N 33o 20.3196', W 107o 40.8687'
N 33o 20' 19.17", W 107o 40' 52.12"
Elevation: 6,186 feet

April 5, 1904 – May 20, 1989

Soon after we arrived in Chloride, I began hearing stories about Cassie Hobbs. The more I learned about this lady, the more awesome she became. I wish I had known her.

I can't begin to tell her story in a way to do her justice. In his book "THE STORIES THEY TOLD US, As told by the ‘Old Timers’ of Chloride", Don Edmund devotes fourteen pages to Cassie's story and she is a frequent player in the stories of others.

I'll content myself with letting Don Edmund's eulogy summarize her life and an excerpt from his book describe her talent. Then I'll give you a glimpse of that talent through the pictures I took while we were here in Chloride.


She was born April 5, 1904 to William Pitt Ramsey and Molly Catherine Ramsey.

She was the Wife of the late Earl Hobbs, and Mother of two sons, Marshall and Earl.

She died in the 85th year of her life, on May 17, 1989

She was a friend to all.

Cassie was born in the Cherokee Strip of Oklahoma Territory, shortly after the great land rush into that area. There were 12 brothers and sisters in the family, and the family migrated several times while she was a young girl. Cassie arrived in Dusty, New Mexico, with her family at the age of 12. She told me several years ago that she had lived in a covered wagon nearly all her life until arriving at Dusty.

Cassie had a keen sense of beauty, and often told us of a special view of a mountain, or of a rock formation, or some scene along the trail, that she had remembered. She once described the beauty of an area where the family had been forced to camp because of a broken wagon wheel. It was during the family’s second trek from east Texas into New Mexico Territory, and the area turned out to be the Mocking Bird Gap. Cassie described how the sun would bring out the colors on the cliff wall to the west, and she described a small stone House and a spring that was walled up to make a small pond. Mocking Bird Gap is now on the White Sands Missile Range, and I recently had occasion to spend a fair amount of time working in that area. I drove off from the paved highway that now runs through Mocking Bird Gap, onto a dirt trail toward the cliff to the east. The scene was as Cassie had described it. The small stone house is now filled with electronic equipment, instead of a homesteader’s family, and the walled up spring was now over grown with weeds, but the colors on the cliff are still there to see.

Cassie said she began to make things when she was a young girl to amuse herself, but more than likely, that was the only way she could have some of the things she wanted. That ability enabled her to make things for her household throughout her life. Her handy work produced toys for her two young sons, furniture for the many Range Camps they lived at, and clothes for the entire family. It also produced works of Art with which she decorated her home at Chloride. In addition to the beautifully embroidered clothes, and the exquisitely carved furniture, Cassie painted with water colors and with oils, sculpted with wood and with copper, and designed and crocheted hats, purses, shoes and jewelry. She was a true Artist.

Although Cassie’s life was not an easy one, I believe she thoroughly enjoyed it. She told us stories about when she and Earl and their two young sons spent Christmas Eve stuck in the mud near the Mud Holes Ranch, instead of at Chloride with their families; and about riding horses from a ranch on the Gila River west of here, through the snow, to get to a dance at Chloride, then riding back so Earl would be at work the next day. And stories of the troubles she had being alone with two small children at an isolated cow camp when Earl had to be away with the herd. She told of leaving nearly everything behind when they moved from one camp to another. Yet there was no rancor. She remembered the best parts, the humorous incidents, and the fact that everything always worked out OK.

Cassie had a delightful sense of humor. She could laugh at herself, and she could find humor in most situations, yet she was sensitive about other people’s feelings.

She was a pioneer, a designer, an artist, a craftsman, and a naturalist, but most of all, she was a devoted Wife and Mother, and a very special friend, and we will miss her. We pray that God will give her rest, peace, and tranquility that she so richly deserves.

Cassie and her husband Earl moved to Chloride full time sometime in the 1940s and occupied a small two room adobe house on Wall Street. In his book, Don Edmund described Cassie's work this way:

She made several improvements to the small two room adobe. She added a living room to the east side that about doubled the size of the house, and she added a kitchen and bathroom on the south side. When I asked Earl how they did it, he said “Cassie did it all, I can’t drive a nail”.

She also made virtually everything inside the house. In the kitchen she made both built-in cupboards and free standing cabinets. She also made the kitchen table and chairs. In the dining room, she had china cupboards and buffets, some with glass fronts so you could see her fancy dishes. She also made the dining room table and chairs. She made them all.

By this time she had improved her capability and was carving decorations into her creations, such as on the chair and davenport backs. She made the drawer handles with twisted copper wire, some with fancy filigree loops. In her living room, Cassie had two full size rocking chairs and a matching divan, all with exquisitely carved decorations.

She also had small tables, ash tray stands, a secretary with ‘swing down’ desk. She made her own lamp shades, often with western scenes painted inside so that the light made western patterns on the walls.

Throughout the house, she displayed her paintings. She painted in water colors and with oils. She constantly thought up designs for small knick knacks. She produced her creations with virtually no tools.

When we first saw her house with the home made furniture, I asked if I could see her work shop. I told her that I did a little wood working. She took us out to her ‘Doodle-Dum’, a building next to their house that she used as a shop and for storage. In her shop was a work table, a stove for heat in winter, a hand saw, a hammer, screw drivers, a horse shoe rasp, and two kitchen knives that she had ground for carving. These were the only tools this lady had, yet she had more than doubled the size of her house, and furnished the entire interior, including the wall decorations! The horse shoe rasp was used to round chair and table legs, because she had no lathe.

In addition to the work described above, she made clothes for both of them. She made Earls shirts and some of the pants he wore, and she made all of her own clothes, including her shoes, hats, gloves, and purses.

This lady was a Designer, an Artist, and a Carpenter. Remember, she had no tools to work with, and she had no schooling. Because of the family’s constant travels, she never had an opportunity to attend school. She taught herself to read and write, and she taught Earl to read. This was a very talented lady. We have often wondered if an education would have helped her native ability, or would it have been stifled?

Cassie was dirt poor her entire life. Her creativity was her tool for survival. She was referred to as “The Elegant Carpenter of Chloride” in a Sierra County Sentinel story about her woodworking. Her woodworking talent is even more extraordinary because she had only a few rudimentary hand tools – no power tools and no carving tools. Here are photos of her work.

In the museum

Her work and her memory have a special place of honor next to Raymond Schmidt in the Pioneer Store Museum.

Two of Chloride's most loved citizens

Everything in these pictures was hand made by Cassie Hobbs.

Cassie's Display

Doll, Dress, and Willow Chair

Hat, Model, Willow Table

Tiny chair made from soda can

Copper Jewelry Box, Shoes, Bonnet

Doll, Wall Hanging, Dress, Chair

Crocheted Table Runner

Inside the house

Cassie's house in Chloride is in pretty bad shape. The Edmunds have not yet been able to undertake the restoration effort. The house still contains much of Cassie's work but it has also become a storeroom for other things. Don and Dona were kind enough to let Michelle and I into the house where I took these pictures of what I could see of Cassie's work.


End Table

Bed Headboard

Display cabinet, Secretary, Bookcase, Rocking Chair

Chair, Bookcase


China Cabinet

Table Pedestal, Chair legs


Dresser with Copper Wire Drawer Pulls

Bed Headboard (see thread spools)

Ash Tray Table

Cassie's talent included painting

Cassie did the painting and made the frame

This one too

She made the cabinets and painted the doors

She was good with copper and copper wire

Vase and candle holders made from copper she got from a still

Copper wire drawer pulls

Cabinet door pulls made from copper wire

Candle Holder

Outside the house

Cassie had a garden, maintained a yard, and built this sidewalk

Cassie's Handmade Sidewalk

Cassie and Earl's House

Three connected but separate buildings.
Doodle-Dum is far right


Cassie was an excellent quilter. Dona Edmund keeps a few of Cassie's quilts in her private collection where they get better care than in the museum or the house.

Four of Cassie's Quilts

Cassie's hand stitching brings wide eyes to quilters

Cassie crocheted this bedspread

This bedspread brought gasps of amazement

Cassie and Earl are buried side by side in the Greenwood Cemetery

on a hill overlooking Chloride

Discovering stories about the people and places where we workamp make our adventures special. If we roamed the country from one RV Park to the next, we would never feed wild horses, we would never build a railroad, and we would never meet Cassie Hobbs. I like it this way.
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