Carters settle on “White Earth”

By Ruth Burns: Special to the PNT

By Ruth Burns

Special to the PNT

One of the first of the pioneers to come to the Roosevelt County area was the Carter Family, who settled at Tierra Blanca Lake about 10 miles west of the present site of Portales, so named because of the “White Earth” which surrounds it.

The Carters had left their holdings at Black Water, or Agua Prieta, between Salt Lake and Spring Lake, Texas in 1881 when the XIT Ranch took more than 3 million acres of land in the Texas Panhandle. Many of the squatters who were forced out migrated to Eastern New Mexico.

The first names of the parents are not known, but a deed filed in 1892 lists the owner as W.W. Carter. According to Col. Jack Potter, the five bachelor sons were Bill, Frank, John, Ed, and Albert. Don McAlavy in the “High Plains History” book, lists them as, Bill, Frank, John, Bud, and Lewis.

They established the T-41 Ranch near the springs at the northern end of the Tierra Blanca Lake and ran 500 to 1,000 cattle under the Backward Seven brand.

Their first house was a 14-by-28-foot sod house consisting of a living room and kitchen. The boys had a 12-by-24-foot bunk house, also of sod. Their corrals were made of barbed wire with a windbreak on the north side made out of soap weeds.

As far as we know, they were not kin to Judge C. L. Carter or his offspring, Edna, Nelle, Byrd, and Lee Carter, who was a surveyor during the homestead period.

Col. Jack Potter knew the family well and has said of them: “They were a real pioneer family. All of them smoked pipes, even to the Old Lady. They were a contented, happy family; the boys were nice to their mother, assisting her in every way.”

Col. Potter has told of a tragic incident in the lives of the Carter sons, and I quote him:

“There was a tragedy in the Carter family that I don’t believe many people knew. Away back when the buffalo hunter was on the range, after a blizzard while the Carters were on the Agua Negro, four of the Carter boys went south to drift their cattle back.

“They were 15 miles from home, and contacted a bunch of buffalo hunters on horseback. The Carters thought they were Indians and started back home as fast as they could go. The buffalo hunters were surprised and wanted to make a contact and followed them chasing them for several miles.

“One of the boys, Frank, in his early teens, let his horse become

winded, and he got off and made the race on home on foot. He never got over the scare. Before he got grown, he would get scary spells and leave home.

“For about three years he would leave home at times and sometimes be tramping over the country for several months and then return home, and seemed to be all right.

“He had a nice little herd of cattle, a hundred or more. Finally about the year 1887, he left home with one of those scary spells and never did return. It was very sad for those old pioneer couple, pioneering out there when their hair was as white as the snow.”

The Carters remained at Tierra Blanca about 10 years and then moved and settled east of Amarillo.

The lake has been dry for many years. Salt cedar bushes gradually took over and created a virtual forest on the white flats left by the dried up lake bed. In the 50s, it was a favorite camping spot for scout troops. My husband Mike took his Troop 125 there many times to learn camping skills. At the present time, parts of the property are owned by Wayne Tivis, Donna Coe, Jack Howard, and Kenny Reid.

Ruth Burns has taken her information from the research and interviews of her mother, Rose “Mrs. Eddie” White. She may be contacted at