Known as “the unofficial, but unanimously recognized, historian of Roosevelt County,” she corresponded with most of the region’s historians and folklorists and her groundbreaking research is the basis for nearly every subsequent history of eastern New Mexico.
Rose Powers White devoted her life to teaching and sharing. A teacher until the birth of her first child, she became deeply interested in New Mexico’s early history through her family, recording oral histories and researching early cowboys and settlers. An avid reader, she pieced together significant portions of New Mexico’s unknown history over the course of her lifetime.
Born in Las Vegas, New Mexico, where she grew up and graduated from the Las Vegas Normal School, she moved after graduation to take jobs teaching Spanish, English, and math in Vaughn and Santa Rosa.
In 1923, she met and married Eddie White and moved with him to his native Portales where his family had homesteaded. She continued to teach until the birth of her first child. Through her husband’s family she became deeply interested in the area’s early history. She started recording oral histories of family members and expanded her research to other early-day cowboys and settlers. With her penchant for avid reading, she began to piece together a history of the Plains that had not been known.
As she collected and verified information, she started writing articles for the region’s newspapers in Portales, Clovis, Carlsbad, and Amarillo. Her popular and informative stories resulted in numerous invitations to speak before various organizations both in eastern New Mexico and throughout the state. Over her life she became “the unofficial, but unanimously recognized, historian of Roosevelt County.” She corresponded with most of the region’s historians and folklorists and her groundbreaking research is the basis for nearly every subsequent history of eastern New Mexico.
She was one of the founders of the Pioneer Association of Roosevelt County and served as its first President. She was also president of the Portales Woman’s Club, Regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and member of Eastern Star.
She is most noted for her work with the New Mexico Folklore Society during a time when it was very active and important. As an active board member she gave talks at various annual meetings throughout the state. She was elected First Vice-President in 1952 and President in 1953. She befriended T. M. Pearce, a University of New Mexico English professor, who was active in the society, and later assisted him in producing his seminal book New Mexico Placenames, which lists her in the bibliography.
Late in life, in 1966, Rose Powers White and her husband helped start the Society for the Development of Exceptional Children in Portales. The organization lacked facilities or training for the mentally challenged children in the area so she and her husband donated two lots of land and then brokered a trade with Eastern New Mexico University so that the organization had its own building and land on which to expand.
Upon her death in May, 1969, T. M. Pearce wrote, “I know that she was brave to the last, because she was brave all her life.” He then announced that he and his wife had started “a memorial for Rose” through which they would collect contributions, beginning with their own, to purchase books on folklore for the University of New Mexico’s library.
Rose Power White’s legacy lives in the collected knowledge that she shared and dispersed in subsequent histories, UNM’s library, and most important of all, in the minds and hearts of all the people she touched.
White, Rose Powers. “Cowboy Humor.” Ibid, Vol. III, 1948-49, pg. 33-35.
White, Rose Powers. “Full Many a Flower….” Ibid. Vol. IV, 1949-50, p. 15-16.
White, Rose Powers. “The Killing of George Peacock.” New Mexico Folklore Record, Vol. III, 1948-49, p. 28-29
White, Rose Powers. “New Mexico Place Names: Roosevelt County,” Western Folklore, IX. January 1950, pp. 63-65.
White, Rose Powers. “The Town of Portales, New Mexico,” Western Folklore, VIII. April 1949, pp. 158-59.