W. Eaves Movie Ranch
Last October while in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on business, I ran across the J.W. Eaves Movie Ranch, Southeast of town off of Highway 14. I had the great fortune of being given a “cooks tour” of the movie set. The four hours that I spent there were the best part of my trip to New Mexico! So much so, that I want to share my experience and photos with you.
The first production filmed at the ranch was the CBS television series “Empire” (1962) starring Richard Egan and Terry Moore. The series only ran for a short time before it was canceled. This didn’t stop J.W. Eaves, he was soon off to Hollywood to solicit the movie folks to produce films at his ranch. Movies that followed were “Red Sky at Morning” starring Richard Thomas, “Where Angels Go Trouble Follows” and its sequel, “The Trouble with Angels” starring Robert Taylor, Rosalind Russell, Van Johnson, and Stella Stevens.
In 1969, Gene Kelly the famous dancer showed up. He wanted to make a move called “The Cheyenne Social Club” with James Stewart and Henry Fonda. This is the only western that Gene Kelly directed and produced. J.W. and Gene Kelly made a deal that they would split the costs for the movie set. It was agreed that the buildings would be built full scale and that the replica of the 1800’s western town would remain on the J.W. Eaves Ranch. The town took five months to build, complete with power lines and roads.
Over 250 movies and TV commercials have been filmed at the J.W. Eaves Movie Ranch since it was founded in 1962. Some of the famous movies filmed there were: “Chisum,” “Easy Rider,” “Every Which Way But Loose,” “The Gunfight”, “Lonesome Dove,” “The Cowboys”, “Silverado,” “Whatt Earp,” and “Young Guns II,” just to name a few.
So come, walk the old western streets’ of the J.W. Eaves Movie Ranch with me; visit the saloons, the dancehall, the bank, the jail and the mercantile. As you walk the board walk, keep in mind that you are walking in the steps of some of Hollywood Legends, such as, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda, Johnny Cash, Kirt Douglass, Clint Eastwood, Jack Nicholson, Kevin Costner, Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen, Lou Diamond Philips and others.
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J. W. Eaves
J. W. Eaves, prominent and well-known owner of the J.W. Eaves Movie Ranch, died on August 8, 2001, in Albuquerque after a valiant struggle against lung cancer. One of six children, Eaves was born April 7, 1916 in Groveton, TX, to William Roscoe and Bertie Christie Eaves. Named for the heavy-weight boxer, Jesse Willard, Eaves preferred to be called by his initials. He was a direct descendent of Captain Jon Eaves, who arrived in Lyn Haven, upon the Chesapeian Shore of the Virginia Colony, around 1632. Eaves was preceded in death by his wife of 63 years, Ermalea Julia Eaves in 1998; his sisters, Lora and Marjorie; and his brother, Joe. Eaves began working as a teenager in the famous East Texas oil field at Kilgore, TX, in 1935, where he attended Kilgore High School and met and married his wife, Ermalea Julia Kendrick. During World War II, they lived in Grayville, IL, were Eaves managed the R.L. Jeffries Trucking Company and oversaw the operation of oil field trucks in southern Illinois and Indiana. In 1948, J.W. and Ermalea moved to Hobbs, NM, where along with his brother, Harry, he founded and owned Jeffries-Eaves Trucking Company, an oil field and heavy hauling company. In 1955, the Eaves family moved to Albuquerque to open a new office for the rapidly growing company. Eventually, Jeffries-Eaves operated 150 trucks in 22 states and had offices in Hobbs, Albuquerque, and Farmington. In Albuquerque, Eaves was a charter member of the Albuquerque Petroleum Club and was a member of the Albuquerque Country Club. He was a 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason and a Shriner. In 1958, Eaves bought "Rancho Alegre" south of Santa Fe. Beginning in the early 1960s many television and motion picture productions as well as commercials were filmed at the ranch, and Eaves began to play an influential role in establishing the movie industry in New Mexico. The first production at the ranch was the CBS television series "Empire" starring Richard Egan and Terry Moore. Movies that followed were "Red Sky at Morning" starring Richard Thomas, "Where Angels Go Trouble Follows" and its sequel, "The Trouble with Angels" starring Robert Taylor, Rosalind Russell, Van Johnson, and Stella Stevens. In 1969, in collaboration with dancer-director, Gene Kelly, Eaves built the western movie town for the filming of "The Cheyenne Social Club," which starred Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda. Since then, the western town has been the location for more than 40 feature-length movies in the Santa Fe area, including "Lonesome Dove" starring Robert Duvall, "The Gunfight" with Kirk Douglas and Johnny Cash, "Wyatt Earp" with Kevin Costner and "The Cowboys" starring John Wayne. In recent years, the J.W. Eaves Movie Ranch has been the wild west venue for many large corporate parties, fund-raisers such as the Buckaroo Ball, private parties, weddings, and political events. In the early 1970s, J.W. Eaves was one of the original founders and the President of Santa Fe Downs Race Track. He also founded and owned the Rancho Alegre residential subdivision in Santa Fe County. He was a former Grand Marshall of the Rodeo de Santa Fe Parade. Eaves served as Chairman of the Lea County Democratic Party and as a member of the New Mexico State Police Commission. He remained an avid supporter of Democratic candidates (and occasionally a Republican) throughout his life and counted among his friends Senators Dennis Chavez, Joe Montoya and Jeff Bingaman; Governors John Burroughs, John Simms, Jack Campbell, Bruce King and David Cargo; and Congressmen Tom Morris, Johnny Walker, Bill Richardson and Tom Udall. Former State Senator, Lt. Governor and Chief Justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court Mack Easley and his wife, Loyce, have been special lifelong friends since his early days in Hobbs. J.W. Eaves's "larger than life" personality will be greatly missed by his loving family. He was especially blessed with the love and companionship of his lady, Pamela Vanway, in the last two and a half years of his life. He is survived by and much loved by his son, Mel Eaves and wife Mary Ann of Albuquerque; grandson, Craig Eaves also of Albuquerque; granddaughter, Jessica Eaves of Seattle, WA; great-grandson and namesake, Jesse Kendrick Eaves of Albuquerque. Mr. Eaves is also survived by his daughter, Patricia Eaves and her two children, Megan and Julialea of Santa Fe. Other survivors include brother Harry and wife, Babe of Midland, TX; sister Maureen Laroe of Groveton, TX, and many beloved nieces and nephews. Eaves will be buried next to his wife at the Rosario Cemetery in Santa Fe at a private Graveside Service. Pallbearers will be Craig Eaves, Raymond Eaves, Harry Eaves, Mack Easley, Bruce Gerry, John Greer and Al Cantu. Honorary Pallbearer will be Pamela Vanway. A Memorial Service for family and friends is planned for Friday, October 17, 2001, at 4:00 p.m. at the J.W. Eaves Movie Town. French Mortuary, 1111 University NE in Albuquerque is handling the arrangements. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in his name to the American Cancer Society, 5800 Lomas Blvd., NE, Albuquerque, NM 87110.
“Albuquerque Journal,” August 11, 2001
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