Fort, Walter and Nettie O'Neal
Benjamin Walter Fort, the oldest son of Benjamin Herman and Lou Bramlett Fort, born December 5, 1886 in Paris Arkansas, at an early age moved to Brown County, Texas with his three older sisters and parents. In Brown County four boys and four girls were born to the Fort family. The family left Brown County in 1902 for Hale County, Texas and enroute his mother died in Fluvanna, Texas. He took the responsibility of helping his father in caring for the younger members of the family and continued their trip settling in Hale County, Texas; the youngest a child named Adrian died here. A few years later the family moved making their home in Callahan County, Texas.
Benjamin Walter Fort and Nettie O'Neal were married in Dressie, Texas April 29, 1906.
In 1909, Walter and Ann Fort with their first child a girl, Beulah Mae, arrived in New Mexico and he filed on a claim located one mile south of the Antioch Church, built a small lean-to and started improving their home. Mr. Fort worked out when jobs were available and Mrs. Fort raised gardens and did chores, as all pioneer women. Here their first and second sons were born,, Melvin in 1911 and J.C. Jake in 1913. Later living in Texas another girl, Lorene and another son El Ray, were born completing the family. Both their fathers Benjamin H. Fort and James C. O'Neal homesteaded in 1910 in the same area.
After living out his claim (sold to W.K. Dickinson Sr.) in May 1913 he returned to Texas settling in Crosby County at Old Emma, a small community near Ralls and began farming and ranching. Beulah Mae, Melvin and Jake all started their schooling there, carrying tin lunch pails and driving a team of Shetland ponies hitched to a buggy.
The nearest railroad was at Ralls where the cotton and wheat was taken out to market. Things were going better until the Blizzard of 1918 hit with nearly all cattle drifting off the Caprock south towards Post and dying.
About 1923 Waler Fort and W.K. Dickinson Sr. put in feedlots in Ralls; cattle were brought in from New Mexico. In 1924 Mr. Fort and Ira Keith bought Overland & Willys Knight garage in Ralls. The family also moved to Ralls. Two years later Mr. Fort was back at the ranch raising sheep which were driven from Post, Texas. Here he started in the livestock commission business buying mules and horses as teams and selling most in the booming town of Hobbs, New Mexico, to be used in digging cellars and slush pits for oilwells as few tractors were available. He also was buying dairy cattle and selling then in Hobbs to dairies and individuals.
Returning to Lea COunty in 1929, he continued ranching until the Depression hit forcing many small ranchers out of business. When the government started buying cattle and sheep, he and his brother Johnny worked as appraisers on this program. Continueing in livestock commission business, he bought many mules for easter markets and Ross Brothers of Fort Wort., Texas. He continued in this business for many years, buying horses and cattle.
In 1935 WalterFort and L.A. Dad Cooper put on the first rodeo to have been in an arena in Lea County. This was in Lovington and being so well accepted they built an arena in Tatum and put on one there.
World War II, came with two sons, Jake and El Ray, joining the Air Corp and except for time spent in basic training were overseas until returning home in 1945. Mr. Fort and son Melvin worked at the Hobbs Airbase.
Mr. Fort was employed by the Lovington City Water Department for a number of years before retiring due to failling health.
After marriage Mr. & Mrs. Fort made Lea their home with the exception of a few years in Texas as mentioned above. Both were members of the Baptist Church. Mrs. Fort died Feb 11, 1970 and Mr. Fort on Nevember 18, 1971. They reared five children and had four grandchildren.
Walter Fort was a man who won and retained friends wherever he went and loved by a large circle of people all ages. Regardless of how busy he might have ben he always took the time to lend a helping hand to those in need and never neglected those who were sick.
His motto: "If you cannot say something good about anyone don't say anything."