|Robert Simeon McFarland
From the Enchantment (a Quay County, New Mexico Newspaper), August, 1978, page 4:
IF SIM MCFARLAND were living today, you would probably find him inside the McFarland Brothers Bank at Logan, New Mexico He spent more than two-thirds of his long life looking after this banking business which he and his brother, Fred, established here in 1904. If he were not too occupied he could tell you how he became a banker, and why he promoted Logan's Ute Dam.
But he might be busily composing a letter inside the red sandstone building which has housed the banking firm for more than 70 years. His typewriter would be an old Oliver machine with a wornout keyboard.
"When my typewriter wore out several years ago, I couldn't get another one like it," he once explained. "Finally, I found this one at a junk dealer's place during the depression days of the Dust Bowl. He wanted two dollars and a half for it, so I bought it."
After Mr. Sim reparied and adjusted the typewriter he used it for another 25 years. Wastefulness and welfare bothered him. "Some of us have to produce," was the philosophy which he firmly typed in a letter concerning government doles.
McFarland always intended to be a producer, but he didn't really intend to be a banker. That came through various steps.
BORN IN ILLINOIS, February 26, 1875, he was Robert Simeon McFarland whose father had been born in Scotland. Simeon's family moved to Colorado while he was yet a baby, bringing him and his small, older sister. Here, near La Junta, the third child, Fred, was born. A few months later in 1878, the father died. When young Sim's mother married John Ritter, the famiy moved to La Veta. Eventually, there were eight Ritter children also.
Sim loved and respected his Papa Ritter so much that he worked with him and stayed near Colorado until he was 19. Then he came to New Mexico "on a little gray hourse with $23 in my pocket." He went to work on a ranch near Nara Visa, for Coots and Ritter (his step-uncle) for $30 a month and his board.
Out of his wages, Sim was able to save enough money to do some profitable cattle trading. By the time he reached age 24, the cowboy-trader decided that he needed more education. Consequently, with a thousand dollars cash, he resigned from his ranching job to go to Kansas City where he enrolled in business college for nine months. He signed up for the regular course which included a class in banking.
"I HAD NO THOUGHT of ever using banking knowledge," he said, although he applied himself to all the instruction offered.
But when his term of study ended, Sim McFarland returned to Nara Visa, still single, broke and jobless. He always said, however, that his education paid off, for soon he got a job with the New Mexico Sanitary Board as a cattle inspector at $75 a month. In this position, he rode over the open range getting better acquainted with "all these fine people," often eating beans and potatoes with them, and occasionally buying some of their livestock. In later years, McFarland counted 35 years spent in the saddle.
In 1902 he became more sedentary when he and Fred filed on each side of the railroad track at Nara Visa. here, they formed a partnership and opened a box-car-sized store in which they installed a safe for their money. Soon, they began in the service of keeping their customers' money in the safe also, and paying it out when written orders came in. The crude checks, scrawled with a lead pencil on scraps of envelopes or brown paper sacks, were always honored because the McFarlands were familiar with every signature.
ALTHOUGH BUSINESS was good, Sim kept remembering the opinion of M. Bishop, the superintendent of the gang that had built the railroad bridge across the Canadian River 25 miles southwest where the little town of Logan had developed. Bishop said that in order for a town to amount to anything it had to be located on a water course. Logan had that advantage.
The McFarland brothers decided to move their enterprises there, where they continued their money exchange service. This quickly became so important that they opened the private McFarland Brothers Bank in 1904. Now, Sim McFarland was a banker, almost 30 years old, and still a bachelor.
Fred was married, but Sim was still thinking about the girl he had met in Kansas City. Suddenly, he concluded that he would visit the World's Fair in St. Louis, and make a special side trip to see Miss Brayton in Iowa.
That was a successful call, for the following year the fair lady became Mrs. Sim McFarland, in her home town, June 20, 1905. After the honeymoon, Sim brought his bride to Logan, New Mexico where they made their home all the rest of their lives. There may have beem some qualms that first year when Mrs. McFarland had to wait for her husband to haul their drinking water home in a wooden barrel. But together they overcame the inconveniences, and extended their interests to the community. She wanted a church for the Sunday School which was meeting in the railroad depot. He was ready to help. When they aided the organization of the First Baptist Church of Logan, the McFarlands became charter - and life-long - members.
He became a school director who promoted a new building in 1910. Between banking duties, Sim discussed ways to develop the water course with depositors and county officials. A dam across the river to create a recreation lake seemed to be the answer. Still, it didn't develop.
The McFarland brothers continued their banking business, lending money and guarding checking accounts. As the business grew, it appeared to be so well funded that in the early1920's, a couple of hold-up men entered the bank and demanded money. The robbers forced bank' President Sim, his sister-in-law Mrs. Fred McFarland, and others who were present, into the vault, and slammed the door which they tried to lock. Then they scooped up bills and heavy silver coins, and left town in a stripped-down Model T Ford.
MEANWHILE, THE president yelled and hollered inside the vault, trying to attract attention and help. Then he leaned against the heavy door and shoved mightily. Slowly, the door swung open. McFarland, intent on catching the thieves, grabbed a gun which was inside the bank, and ran into the street. He located a fellow with a car who was willing to follow the cloud of dust that rose up from the dirt road leading northward. Sim climbed in and directed the driver.
After several miles the pursuit car sputtered and quit running at a farmer's gate. The determined banker borrowed a saddle horse from the farmer and continued the chase alone.
"I didn't intend for them to get away," he explained afterward.
Some miles ahead, the hold-up men reached a creek where they stopped to bury their loot in the sandy bank.
Back in Logan, Fred's wife had alerted officers to the north by telephone. Before the day was over, the temporarily rich bandits found themselves confronted by a sheriff in front and a demanding horseman in the rear. They surrendered.
The cash was recovered. Later they were tried and convicted.
In succeeding months, the McFarland Brothers Bank progressed so that it became a state bank in 1924. After another 20 years of bank work, brother Fred died. Sim kept on, operating the bank as a family concern. He often talked about the benefits a dam would bring to the town of Logan and the surrounding area. He sat at his trusty typewriter to compose dozens of letters to influential people.
AS THE YEARS advanced, Sim's son Robert assumed many of the banking duties, but the president still liked to open the front door every mornning to greet the customers and mention the need for a dam.
Farther upstream, Conchas Dam had been erected on the Canadian. But a dam below the mouth of Ute Creek after it poured into the Canadian, would catch a lot of water for fishing, boating and skiing. Finally, the possibility of that dam became a certainty.
In 1962, Sim McFarland, now slightly stooped, stood beside Governor Edwin L. Mechem, who is presently a federal judge, while the governor broke the ground for Ute Dam with a gold-plated shovel. Then the bank president received the shovel as a gift of recognition for his many years of effort and promotion of this project.
Mr. Sim was there again for the dedication of the dam in 1963, located about two miles west of Logan. During the next two years, McFarland saw the lake develop, the visitors come, and the town improve. He watched the start of a housing growth around the lake shores. And he still checked the bank.
In June of 1965, Mr. and Mrs. Sim McFarland celebrated their sixtieth wedding anniversary at their home in Logan. Five of their six children were living to pay homage to their parents. One of them, Robert, who was active in the bank at that time, is presently Logan's retired banker.
A FEW DAYS AFTER the happy anniversary occasion, the spry couple took a friend out to the reservoir behind Ute Dam to enjoy the scene. Here they got out of the car to look at the lake which Mr. Sim had helped to create. Without warning, the car started its tragic movement toward the embankment. The banker tried desperately to stop it, but the momentum of the vehicle took Mr. Sim with it over the edge into deep water, where he drowned. He was 90 years old.
Mrs. McFarland's death came a year later.
Today, you can walk into the McFarland Brothers Bank and see the pictures of the founders with their wives: Mr. and Mrs. Fred McFarland, and Mr. and Mrs. Sim McFarland.