Chaves County, New Mexico
Chaves County is in the southeastern portion of New Mexico, the second county from the southern territorial boundary, north of Otero and Eddy. It lies south of Roosevelt and throws up a narrow strip of territory into Lincoln. It has an area of 11,520 square miles and a population of nearly 5,000 people. Roswell, the county seat, is one of the brisk, attractive and somewhat remarkable cities in New Mexico, situated in the midst of a wonderful artesian belt and a rapidly developing district of farms and orchards, and being only eight miles northeast of the great Honda reservoir, under process of construction by the United States government and designed to irrigate 10,000 acres of land immediately adjoining that city.
Chaves County comprises a section of country about a hundred miles square and is the heart of the Pecos valley, through whose western third flows the river by that name, the second largest in the Territory. The affluents of the Pecos, from the west, are the Rio Hondo, Rio Felix and Spring River. The eastern half of the county is occupied almost wholly by the Staked Plains.
Organization and County Officials
By an act of the legislature passed in 1889, two new counties, named Chaves (with Roswell as the county seat) and Eddy (with Eddy as the county seat), were cut off from the eastern half of Lincoln county. The continuous roster of county officials commences with 1891 and is given below:
1891-2:-County commissioners, E. T. Stone (chairman; died Jan. 25, 1891), Henry
Milne (appointed by Governor to succeed Stone), A. B. Allen, W. P. Chisum;
clerk, Frank H. Lee; sheriff, C. C. Fountain; treasurer, James Sutherland;
assessor, C. S. McCarty.
Wonderful Artesian Field
There is no field, or belt, or stratum of artesian waters in the world which is more constant in its flow or more accessible than that in the Pecos valley, within the limits of Chaves County. As compared with the average depth of wells in other parts of the country and the world, the borings here arc ridiculously shallow, and have been from die first. It is seldom "that the wells are extended to a depth of more than 600 feet, although some have been sunk 1,000, but in the majority of cases the main body of water has been struck at about 250 feet, and some of the 300 wells which are now boiling and spouting in the valley have been in constant operation and furnished an unvarying supply of clear, cold, pure water for the past ten years. The shallow wells give a supply of about 250,000 gallons in twenty-four hours, and the deep ones 225,000 gallons per hour, or 5.400,000 gallons in twenty-four hours. The artesian wells have no eight-hour day; they work all the time and furnish the cheapest power which man has yet discovered. With the artificial systems of irrigation they are making what was once considered the Great American Desert, of which Chaves County is a part, to "blossom as the rose."
As nature furnishes the power, the great volume of the artesian flow is used for irrigation. A great majority of the wells in this field of the Pecos valley are less than six inches in diameter, and the pressure varies from six pounds up. Numerous wells are now supplying 1,500,000 gallons per day, and it has been demonstrated that one such well will irrigate 160 acres of land under very heavy crop page, and much more when the land is devoted to fruit trees and crops adapted more or less to growth in an arid country. The soil of the valley is rich in those minerals which nourish vegetation; the air is dry and pure and discouraging to all forms of parasitical life which create such havoc to the fruits and grains of other sections of the country, where the rainfall and supply of surface water is constant; and the discovery of artesian water has supplied the one thing needful to make the valley a garden of the world.
The proven artesian field in Chaves County is now about seventy-five miles long and twenty wide, and adventurous drillers are increasing the area beyond the limits of what was thought to be the extent of the flow. The first artesian well in the county was bored by Jaffa & Prager on the grounds of the present residence of Nathan Jaffa, in Roswell, in 1890. A strong artesian flow was reached at a depth of about 250 feet, and ever since the experience of borers has been almost uniform. The most striking result of the tapping of this seemingly inexhaustible supply of irrigating waters is the creation and remarkable development of the horticultural interests of the valley. It is peculiarly adapted to apple and peach growing, and since the discovery of the artesian deposit the largest orchards in the country have come into bearing, their products being in demand at fancy prices in all the markets of the country. The development of the country has not only made Roswell one of the most prosperous cities in the Territory, hut within five years Artesia, in the very center of the artesian district, has sprung from nothing to a thriving town of 3,000 people, with handsome buildings, electric lights and telephones and all the other modern conveniences. The pressure of the artesian water is used on a limited scale, aside from its utility as a means of distribution in irrigation. In some instances, however, it has been applied to such domestic occupations as churning and washing, all the power necessary for such purposes being derived through a three-quarter pipe.
Several facts have been noted in the borings and investigations of the Chaves county fields which are worthy of note. There are four considerable streams which supply the surface water, the North Spring River, the South Spring River, North Berendo and the Rio Hondo, all issuing from the White Mountains west of Roswell. All of them flow down the Pecos valley, and their water is clear and cool. The North and South Spring rivers have their source in the artesian strata, and they mark the highest point in the field, no flow of artesian water having been encountered at a point above the springs from whence they come.
At points in the valley there are two distinct artesian stratas, though the upper one is missing altogether, and when found is of too small volume to be of much value, though the quality of the water is exactly the same. It always has a temperature of about forty-five degrees Fahrenheit, with 109 parts of solids in the 100,000. The first flow is encountered usually at a depth of about 150 feet, and the main body at 250 feet. In drilling the wells the strata vary, but the last deposit of water is always found in the same formation, an extremely hard, porous limestone, that, so far as known, has never been drilled entirely through.
The utility side of the artesian wells has already been described. It may be added that, besides the successful cultivation of fruits, the conditions are especially favorable to the growing of vegetables and garden truck. Roswell has already in operation a cannery for beans, peas, asparagus, pumpkins, tomatoes, berries, etc. and before long there will be a good home market for all this kind of produce. In general, land which a few years ago was used only for grazing cattle or sheep and sold by the section for a trifle, is now worth from $35 to $200 per acre. Truck farms in the artesian district rent as high as $40 per acre. Alfalfa is still the great agricultural crop of Chaves County. With deep soil and plenty of water, say thirty-six inches per acre per annum four good crops can be grown annually, averaging a ton per acre. The demand is chiefly from southwestern Texas, and it usually sells from $8 to $10 per ton on cars; the cost of getting it started to market is about $4 per ton.
The value of alfalfa as a crop is not confined to the readiness and luxuriance of the plant, but, far from impoverishing the soil, it is one of the best fertilizers for other crops, as it takes nitrogen from the air and stores it in the ground.
Kaffir corn and milo maize are also easily raised and need little water, the soil requiring to be irrigated just before planting, and once, with six or eight inches of water, afterward. The average crop is from thirty-five to forty-five bushels per acre, and about two tons of forage. Sorghum, millet and several other varieties of forage crops also grow to perfection with very little water. All root crops do well, and Pecos valley melons are obtaining quite a reputation.
Despite artesian wells, mountain streams and artificial irrigation, the most important source of income of the Pecos valley is still its live-stock; but the old-time, free-and-easy, careless methods of raising cattle and sheep-of turning them out on vast ranges and letting them forage for themselves, have given place to the modern system, founded upon a plentiful supply of water and cultivated forage, summer and winter. The market has also continually demanded better breeds of cattle and sheep, and this demand can only be met in the irrigated districts.
The Hondo Irrigation Reservoir
In 1888 several prominent men in the upper Pecos valley, headed by Leslie M. Long, organized the New Mexico Reservoir and Irrigation Company for the purpose of conserving the waste waters of the Hondo River in the vicinity of Roswell. The place selected for the site of the storage reservoir was about twelve miles southwest from that point, and the general plan appears to have been to construct an immense dam across the basin of the river, extending from the hills on either side, thus making a reservoir of the entire stream for miles above the dam. But the means were not forthcoming for the prosecution of this simple plan, and in 1891 the company sold all of their rights and interests to the Pecos Irrigation and Investment Company, which had been organized two years before in the lower valley and which then was under the control of J. J. Hagerman as president and Charles B. Eddy as general manager.
Under the new management the prospects for the Hondo reservoir looked bright until the latter part of the unfortunate year 1893. In March of that year Mr. Hagerman had interested eastern capital in the various plans inaugurated for the development of the Upper valley, and sufficient money had been subscribed for the building and equipment of the Pecos Valley road from Eddy to Roswell, fifty-five miles. He and his associates also appreciated the advantages of the northeastern extension of two hundred and twenty miles to Amarillo, Texas, as the natural outlet into Texas of the products of the Pecos valley. But the panic and the disastrous floods of 1893 paralyzed the irrigation project for the time, although the railroad was opened to Roswell in October, 1894.
The celebration of the opening of the line was on the 10th of that month, and upon that occasion Mr. Hagerman first visited Roswell and the Northern valley. Although he continued operations sufficiently to keep his rights from lapsing, work in the Hondo was never actively resumed, and. although several efforts to revive the project were made by interested parties, nothing was accomplished until 1902. In June of that year the national irrigation act was passed, and in the fall, chiefly through the efforts of W. M. Reed, of Roswell, who had been an engineer connected with the Pecos Irrigation and Improvement Company, the chief engineer of the Reclamation Service of the national government visited the site of the proposed reservoir, on the basis of his reports preliminary surveys were begun in February, 1903. Diamond drill boring tests were made throughout the entire bed of the proposed reservoir, to determine the non-existence of subterranean caverns or other unsubstantial conditions of the substrata. At first the people of Carlsbad, through the Pecos Irrigation Company, protested against the prosecution of the work on the ground that, if the waters of the Hondo River were thus diverted, their own irrigation system would be destroyed; but eventually they withdrew their objections, and in January 1905, active work commenced under the supervision of the United States engineers. They selected 10,000 acres of land between Roswell and the site of the reservoir, eight miles southwest, as the tract to be irrigated, this great fertile body lying from seventy-five to two hundred and fifty feet below the reservoir itself. The works, now about completed, consist of a series of dams, which together form what is known as the Hondo reservoir. The $250,000 necessary to complete the reservoir is being expended by the government, and those who come within the irrigated tract will, within the ten years following the completion of the works, reimburse it at the rate of $2.50 per acre. No one person is allowed to own more than 160 acres. The lands for which reservoir water is guaranteed by the government can be bought at from $30 to $50 per acre. Although the title and control of the irrigation system will remain with the government for at least ten years after the completion of the reservoir, the irrigated land is held in private ownership, the government stipulating, however, that it shall be sold to actual settlers and not to speculators.
After the selection of the land to be irrigated and acting in accord with the suggestion of the Reclamation Service, a corporation was formed, under the laws of New Mexico, known as the Rio Hondo Reservoir Water Users' Association. Only those owning land within the irrigation district selected by the government engineers were eligible to membership. The organization virtually assumes the debt to the government of the $250,000.
The Village of Roswell
In 1874 a man named Huggins was killed by Comanche Indians while carrying letters from Fort Sumner to a trading point for cattlemen in the Upper Pecos valley, a distance of about eighty miles. The growing importance of the place, which was called Roswell, from the father of Van C. Smith, the first to make a claim on the site of the town, induced the government to establish a post office here in the year of the death, of its former letter carrier. Paul Schwartz was the first postmaster. Roswell was then a youngster of five years. Its first store building was an adobe erected in 1869, and a dwelling of the same material, which still stands in the middle of the block fronting the court house, was built about the same time, some eighty feet north of the store. Captain J. C. Lea bought these pioneer improvements early in 1878 from Marion Turner, who had jumped Mr. Smith's claim.
In October, 1885, A. E. Lea, a brother of Captain J. C. Lea (deceased) made a plat of the town of Roswell, although it was not filed at the county seat until two years later. At this time the town was one hundred and seventy-five miles from the nearest railroad point, Pecos, Texas. In 1891 G. A. Richardson drafted and introduced an act in the Territorial assembly for the incorporation of villages, and under it Roswell assumed that form of local government. The act was passed February 14, 1891, and the first election for village officers was held July 6th, subsequent elections being held in April. It remained a village until December, 1903, its officers being as below:
1891: Trustees, Nathan Jaffa (chairman), J. S. Lea. Frank Lesnet; E. H. Skipwith,
S. S. Mendenhall; clerk, Scott Truxton.
The City of Roswell
When Roswell was incorporated as a village in 1891, it had a population of about 400, in 1900 it had 2,000 and its present population is about 6,000. The first election for municipal officers was on December 8, 1903, and resulted in the choice of the following: J. C. Lea, mayor; F. J. Beck, clerk; E. H. Williams, treasurer; L. B. Tannehill, alderman from the first ward; Ralph Parsons, alderman from the second ward; S. P. Denning, alderman from the third ward; W. W. Ogle, alderman from the fourth ward: A. L. Whiteman, alderman from the fifth ward. Mayor Lea died February 4, 1904, and L. B. Tannehill acted in that capacity for the balance of the term.
On April 5, 1904, the following were elected: Mayor, James F. Hinkle; clerk, Fred J. Beck; treasurer, A. Pruit: aldermen, M. D. Burns and S. P. Johnson, first ward; R M. Parsons and George L. Wyllys, second ward; J. W. Kinsinger and Clarence Ullery, third ward.; W. W. Ogle and J. P. Church, fourth, ward.
The city of Roswell has a good system, both for sewerage and drainage. It has telephone and electric light services, and along its well-built streets are laid twenty miles of cement walks. Within its limits are 120 artesian wells, many of them gushing up in the form of fountains and forming a picturesque feature of the city. The free mail and rural delivery systems are well organized. It has an ice plant, a steam laundry, a canning factory, a creamery, and is preparing to install a large sugar beet factory. The city has a pork packery and its hog ranch, where about 8,000 head of swine are being raised on alfalfa, is among the largest in the United States. One daily and two weekly newspapers and a job printing plant, six lumber yards and three national banks should be added to its institutions.
The school system of Roswell is represented by about 2,000 pupils and nearly fifty teachers. Its ward school houses are substantial buildings, while the so-called Central structure is quite imposing, having been erected at a cost of $25,000. Eight churches supply the religious needs of the community, and in 1906, with the co-operation of the Roswell Commercial Club, a modern hospital was completed by the Catholic Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother. It is situated on Main Street, about a mile south of the court house.
The first public school building in Roswell was erected in 1878, being located east of G. W. Stevens' residence by J. M. Miller, the contractor. Judge A. C. Rogers was the first teacher. This first building was used seven or eight years, when the "Farms school" of district No. 2 was built, with Miss Sarah Lund (now Mrs. C. D. Bonney) as teacher. The adobe school house on the hill south of town was built in 1885, and Fred Farner opened it to his pupils. The brick structure which replaced it in 1891 was the first building to be completed under what was practically the first public school act passed by the legislature of New Mexico. During that year, when the act dividing Lincoln County became effective, school district No. 1 comprised the entire northern part of Chaves County. District Xo. 2, known as the Farms, remained intact, and since that time some fifteen or sixteen districts have been organized from these two.
In 1895 the Pauly building on the west side of town was erected, and in 1904 the beautiful Central or high school building, as well as the Mark Howell school on Military Heights.
Roswell takes a just pride in the New Mexico Military Institute, which covers forty acres of a beautiful mesa, elevated some thirty feet above the main portion of the city. It is the only strictly military school in the Southwest and gives the name Military Heights to the entire surrounding section, which is considered as a northern suburb of Roswell, although within the city limits. The buildings consist of seven large and well-built structures, three of which are used as barracks and quarters for the 100 cadets and officers.
The institute owns its own waterworks, and artesian water is both piped through the buildings for domestic purposes and over the grounds for irrigation. The school has been opened since September 6, 1898.
Headquarters of United States Institutions
The first government institution at Roswell was the post office, in 1874, and was for many years located in the old Poe-Lea-Cosgrove building. In July, 1903, it reached the dignity of a second-class office, and March, 1905, the free delivery system went into effect.
In 1889, when the Lincoln land district was carved out of the Las Cruces district, the United States land office was transferred from Las Cruces to Roswell, with John W. Mills as register and Frank Lesnet as receiver. The district now comprises the counties of Chaves, Eddy, Guadalupe, Lincoln, Otero, Roosevelt and Torrance. From July 1, 1904, to July 1, 1905, homestead entries were made through this office to the extent of 107,795 acres; 121,523 acres were taken up as desert claims; 15,787 acres were scripped, and the Territory selected from the government lands 29,849 acres, making a total of 274.952 acres taken up during the year named. Of this amount Chaves County took 35,985 acres in homesteads and 44,000 acres in desert claims, also 7,432 acres of scrip.
In 1902 the United States opened an office of the Reclamation Service, Department of the Interior, at Roswell, the district engineer being W. M. Reed, formerly connected with the Pecos Irrigation Company. Among the first undertakings of the office was the preliminary work on the Hondo reservoir, made by W. A. Wilson. Maps were drawn of the proposed reservoir site, and all the data was submitted to the department at Washington, the construction of the irrigation works being authorized September 6, 1904. Since that time the work has been progressing under the supervision of Mr. Reed. The office has also had active charge of the preliminary work in connection with the construction of the $570,000 reservoir on the Sapello and Gallinas rivers, a few miles north of Las Vegas, and it is believed that before long the reclamation office will take over all the property and partially developed irrigation system of the Pecos Irrigation and Improvement Company of the Lower valley, which is understood to embrace about 13,000 acres of land in its operations. The Urton Lake reservoir, to which reference has been made, contemplates the irrigation of about 75,000 acres, and is the largest project under the investigation and control of the district office. In December, 1903, surveys at that point fifty miles northeast of Roswell were begun by H. C. Hurd and finished the following March. Plans, estimates and maps have been submitted to the department, but no decision has yet been rendered.
When the fifth judicial district was formed of Eddy, Chaves and Roosevelt counties, Roswell was made the place for holding the United States court. The first federal grand jury in Roswell met in April, 1905, and the first term of the United States court was held at the same time, with Judge William H. Pope presiding.
The Weather Bureau of the Department of Agriculture opened an office at Roswell, September 1, 1904, the observer in charge being M. Wright.
Roswell Commercial Club
One of the most potent factors in the up-building of Roswell and the Upper Pecos valley is, without question, the Roswell Commercial Club, composed of two hundred men who now constitute the brains and motive power of any movement which is, or is to be, beneficial to this section of the Territory. Considering that for two years only, the commercial and public-spirited nature of the club has been uppermost, that for the prior decade the objects of the organization were almost entirely social, its achievements have been really remarkable and place it among the leading bodies of the kind in the Southwest.
The Roswell Club was organized at the Pauley Hotel for purely social purposes on March 23, 18(14, and its officers for the first year were: E. A. Cahoon, president; Charles H. Sparks, first vice-president; C. A. Keith, second vice-president; A. M. Robertson, treasurer, and J. F. Hinkle, secretary. Until 1904 the club was the grand promoter of sociability in Roswell, but in the fall of that year, under the presidency of Judge G. A. Richardson, the suggestion that its scope be expanded so as to include matters of public concern and utility, first began to be seriously considered.
A meeting was called at the rooms of the club in the Gallieur block on the night of December 16, 1904, and, in the absence of President Richardson, E. A. Cahoon presided. It was the sentiment of the meeting that the commercial work of the club be pushed to the front, and before adjournment its name was changed to the Roswell Commercial Club. In a few days W. C. Valentine, of Chicago, was employed as secretary, to devote his entire time to the expanded objects of the club. In February, 1905, J. A. Graham succeeded him. Under the active and diplomatic manipulations of the latter the greatest work of the club has been accomplished, "for," as a friend of his states, "Mr. Graham is a natural promoter."
Of Judge Richardson it should be stated that he has been identified with the club since becoming a resident of Roswell in 1888, and has been its president for the past five terms. He is a Kentuckian, head of the law firm of Richardson, Reid & Hervey (which he organized several years ago), has served twice as a member of the Territorial senate, was a member of the national committee in 1892 and is now president of the Territorial Bar Association.
Besides Messrs. Graham and Richardson, the other officers of the club are as follows: E. A. Cahoon, first vice-president; H. Hurd, second vice-president; Robert Kellahin, treasurer.
The social feature has been extended into the country. In the summer of 1905 certain members of the Commercial Club organized and incorporated the Roswell Country Club, with a capital of $25,000. The officers were as follows: W. E. Wiseley, president; E. A. Cahoon, treasurer; J. A. Graham, secretary. The grounds consist of fifty acres of land about two miles east of the city and were purchased from Cosmos Sedillo and the Stone estate.
Captain Joseph Callaway Lea (Photo)
After Roswell, Hagerman is the most important point in Chaves County, and one of the largest shipping centers for fruit, alfalfa and livestock along the line of the Pecos Valley & Northeastern road. It is situated two miles southwest of where the Rio Felix makes its junction with the Rio Pecos, and is nearly midway between Amarillo and Pecos, Texas. It is a place of about 800 people and is substantially and tastefully built.
Hagerman has a good bank, with average deposits of $100,000, a fine school and societies of Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists and Episcopalians. Its water supply is furnished by two of the best artesian wells in Pecos valley, the pressure from which is sufficient to force a stream to a height of one hundred feet, or over the tallest buildings in the town.
The town was founded by J. J. Hagerman in 1695. Mr. Hagerman passed through the Northern valley in October, 1894, upon the completion of the Pecos V alley road from Eddy, or Carisbad, to Roswell. Due of the first things that attracted his attention at that place was a large, luscious apple raised by John Chisum on his South Spring ranch, and known all up and down the valley as the Chisum apple. Mr. Chisum was one of the pioneers in the cultivation of that fruit, which has made especially famous, in a horticultural sense, all that portion of the Pecos valley between Roswell and Hagerman. The development of this special industry commenced about thirty years ago in the live-acre apple orchard on Chisum's ranch.
Parker Earle, who now lives near Roswell, was for sixteen years president of the American Horticultural Society, and is known all over the west in connection with both the raising and refrigeration of fruit. Being in Roswell with Mr. Hagerman at the time of the railroad celebration, he was so captivated by the Chisum apple that he sent to some eastern nurserymen and brought them to Colorado Springs to form the Pecos Valley Orchard Company, and especially to propagate the apple named. He was enthusiastically supported by Mr. Hagerman, who soon became the leading business spirit in 'the enterprise.
In the winter of 1894-95 a 500-acre apple orchard was planted, and from this has sprung what is known the country over as the Hagerman apple orchard, with a product of 100,000 bushels per year. Its apples have taken the highest honors in all the great expositions of recent years, and it has been the means of encouraging others to plant apple trees in both large and small orchards.
At the present time there are about 3,000 acres of apple orchards in the Upper Pecos valley, none of them over ten years old. Some varieties of apples come into bearing in this country in the fourth or fifth year after planting. It is reasonable to believe that within five years at least 1,000 carloads of apples will be shipped yearly from the Upper valley from orchards already planted.
In 1898 the Felix Irrigation Company was formed to operate the Northern canal, formerly a portion of the system of the old Pecos Valley Irrigation and Improvement Company. This canal waters about 7,000 acres of land in what is known as the Hagerman-Felix district, about twenty miles south of Roswell. No finer farms can be found in the valley than in this region, which is being rapidly settled, and die center of which is the town of Hagerman.
The town site of Lake Arthur was surveyed and platted in August, 1904, and in the following November W. L. Stull commenced the erection of the Lake Arthur Hotel, the first building to be completed in the place. Boyd Brothers' store was the next building to be erected, which was followed by the structure in which the Town Site Company's office was located. The town has now a population of about 400, water for drinking and irrigation purposes being supplied from artesian
One nursery has over 20,000 apple trees set out, large orchards are in bearing, and the finest alfalfa and garden truck are raised in the locality. Lake Arthur is a short distance south of Hagerman, on the Pecos Valley & Northeastern Railroad, and it is a large point for the shipping of wool, an average of 10,000 sheep being shorn here during the season.
Chaves County Biographies
Source: History of New Mexico, Its Resources and People, Volume II, Pacific States Publishing Co., 1907.
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