Mary Chrystyne Bower: Horse riding school pioneer

During the great depression Mary Chrystyne Bower was in danger of losing her ranch but then she got a call from Radford Schools for Girls asking her to teach their students how to ride a horse. Bower established the Bower Riding school. The ranch is now known as Poki Roni on North Loop and Yarbrough and the tradition were continued for many years by her daughters. One of her daughters, Patricia Kirchner continued the riding school until her death in 2006. The history of the ranch itself, or the land, goes back to the mid-1800’s or before. It is believed by some that the fifth mission on the El Paso Mission Trail existed there in the 1700’s. In the 1930’s a big brass bell was dug up and it had a date of 1779 on it. Over the years buttons, pottery and shell casings were found dating back to the early 1800’s. It is believed the ranch was the oldest operating hacienda in El Paso. It did not become Poki Roni until the 1950’s.  The Bowers bought the farm in 1929. The story goes that it got the name because one of the first students at the riding school told one the horses named Roni, “Roni you so pokey.” I do not know if this it true, but it is one of the stories that I have heard. At the beginning, the lessons were 25 cents an hour, and most classes lasted for two hours.

Mary Chrystyne Hoxie was born on a farm in Williamson county,Texas. Her father, Mortimer’s uncle, John Hoxie a railroad magnate from Chicago, purchased 9,000 acres of ranch land in Williamson and built a house which was called “Hoxie House.” He also founded a settlement nearby which was named Hoxie. Since John was living in Chicago, Mortimer helped developed the ranches, imported new breeds of horses, and experimented with irrigation techniques. He served as mayor of nearby Taylor, Texas. The estate was broken up in 1910. Hoxie House burned down in 1934. The Hoxie community started to decline because of drought and the great depression. These hardships caused the Hoxie family to leave the area. In Electra, Texas Mary’s mother, Mary Anna Mitchell, made a comeback and founded a store there.

Mary Chrystyne came to El Paso, probably in 1914, and decided to stay. She lived with her sister on North Oregon street. Her family soon followed her and they established their own residence called “Hoxie Villa” which was somewhere in the Lower Valley. She married James Frazer in 1919 who died of pneumonia in an Army training camp in Kentucky. Mary came back to El Paso and found herself working at a gas station in Ysleta and then married Frank Bower who ran his own grocery store. Bower Road, near Poki Roni, was named in his honor. The Bowers had two daughters, June and Patricia. Mr. Bower was also Deputy El Paso County Tax Collector for many years. Over the years the horse riding school expanded and included students from all over the country. Mrs. Bower is also remembered for her activism, making sure all animals were treated humanely. She served on the Board of the local Humane Society for many years. Bower also founded a youth patrol that went out in the desert and rescued animals. Mrs. Bower did an oral history for UTEP and died in 1973. In 1974 a memorial fund was set up in her honor.

The photo above is of Patricia Kirchner in 2002 saddling a horse for a beginning class.

El Paso Historical Society Volunteer,
Joseph Longo

Since 1954 the El Paso County Historical Society has been a driving force in the historic scene of El Paso. EPCHS strives to foster research into the history of the El Paso area; acquire and make available to the public historic materials; publish and encourage historical writing pertaining to the area; and to develop public consciousness of our rich heritage.