Robert Weems Tansill Eddy County, New Mexico

Robert Weems Tansill, who was very active and prominent as a promoter of the Pecos valley, his business enterprise, capacity and diligence contributing in substantial measure to its development and settlement, made his home at Carlsbad, where he passed away December 29, 1902. He was born August 20, 1844, in Prince William County, Virginia, and was the only child of Robert and Fanny (Weems) Tansill. In the maternal line he was a direct descendant of Mason Lock Weems, a well-known historian of the Revolution and the author of the Life of Washington. It was he who wrote the hatchet story. He was also an Episcopalian clergyman, having charge of the church at Alexandria, Virginia, near Mount Vernon, of which General Washington was a communicant.

Robert W. Tansill was educated at Alexandria, Virginia, and in Georgetown University, at Georgetown, District of Columbia. In the spring of 1861 he accompanied his maternal grandparents to Illinois, and shortly afterward went into business at Clayton, engaging in the confectionery trade and the jobbing of cigars. On the 1st of January, 1867, he was united in marriage to Miss Mary E. Motter, and in 1868 they removed to Chicago, where he continued successfully in business until the disastrous fire which swept over the city in October, 1871. He lost everything but his determination and enterprise, and he soon afterward resumed business, confining his attention exclusively to the cigar trade. Shortly afterward he originated the "Punch'' cigar, which won him fame and fortune. It proved to be a ready seller and the demand for it was so great that he had to increase his working forces in order to meet the call of the trade. He was the originator of the premium method of advertising. Through the conduct of his cigar business he accumulated a large fortune, but overwork and an inherited tendency to pulmonary disease undermined his health, so that he had to retire from business in 1887. He visited the most celebrated health resorts of America and of Europe, and in 1888, while in Colorado Springs, he met C. W. Greene, of Chicago, and through him became interested in the Pecos valley. He was one of a large number of Chicago 'people Mr. Greene piloted to the valley in September, 1888, and from this visit resulted the original Pecos Irrigation and Improvement Company.

It was Mr. Tansill who first interested J. J. Hagerman in the Pecos valley. When the money shortage of 1893 to 1897 irretrievably embarrassed the old irrigation company. Mr. Tansill was appointed receiver, July 19, 1898, and it was almost wholly due to his efforts that the affairs of the company were straightened out successfully and put upon a paying basis. In 1888, when the party of Chicagoans arrived in this country, there was nothing here but prairie dogs, jack rabbits and wild, open country. The party camped at the Eddy Brothers' ranch, the rock house, which was located about two miles north of Carlsbad. At that time C. B. Eddy, who afterward became a promoter of this country, was engaged in the cattle business. While talking to Mrs. Tansill he told her that it was the intention of several people of the locality to start a town, and she suggested that the proposed village be called Eddy. This was done, but in later years Mrs. Tansill suggested that the town be called Carlsbad, from the fact that some springs had been discovered near the town, and they were called Carlsbad from the famous springs of Germany. Mrs. Tansill agitated this change until it was finally adopted by a vote of the people. A circular, "To the Citizens of Eddy," by R. W. Tansill, furnishes the following historical facts and arguments:

"Mr. Charles B. Eddy had determined to give this town the Spanish name 'Halagueno.' This was in October, 1888. Admiring friends, wishing to honor him, suggested the name of 'Eddy.' Later the county was named 'Eddy.' The desirability of changing the name has been discussed ever since the curative properties of our springs have been demonstrated.

"About a year ago the name of 'Carlsbad' was proposed for our city. It struck me at once as being not only appropriate, but suggestive as well, up to that time our celebrated 'Carlsbad Springs' had been known as "Tansill Springs.' No, I will not say known, for as 'Tansill Springs' no one ever gave them a second thought. I suggested applying the name of 'Carlsbad' to the springs, owing to the resemblance of the waters to those of their German namesake. It was done, and the effect has been electrical. I certainly meant no reflection upon the name of Tansill by removing it from the springs, to which it did not apply, any more than do I mean any reflection upon the name of Eddy by favoring the name of Carlsbad vs. Eddy. But before forming a definite opinion I tested the name of 'Carlsbad,' as explained, and the results have thoroughly convinced me that the name of Tansill as applied to the springs was as great a mistake as it would be, in the light of experience, to continue the name of Eddy for our city.

"What has been our experience? Briefly stated, since September, 1888, more than $10,000,000 have been invested here, approximately as follows: Over $5,000,000 in the railroad, over $2,500,000 in the P. I. & I. Company, and the remainder in other companies and by private individuals. Give us people and our prosperity is assured. If anyone will tell me how we can secure them, except through united effort and advertising, 1 shall be glad to learn. Since our town was named, the curative properties of these springs have been demonstrated. I believe this fact to be worth millions of dollars to this town and valley, if properly advertised. Such a boon rarely falls to the lot of any community, and certainly no people inheriting such a valuable curative agent should, for one moment, hesitate about giving it the widest publicity possible. With these facts before us, I ask, do you consider it wise to continue for our town a name that has neither meaning nor significance, and one which we do not and cannot advantageously advertise? Personally, 1 would distinctly say no. The major portion of my life has been devoted to practical advertising, and after a most thorough and exhaustive investigation I am convinced that the proposed change of name will bring with it inestimable benefits and support which will greatly stimulate every business interest of this town and valley."

Since the death of Mr. Tansill his wife has conducted the business affairs left by him and has continued in the work which her husband began of promoting the Carlsbad Country, inducing immigration and advancing its interests through the development of its material resources.

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Source: History of New Mexico, Its Resources and People, Volume II, Pacific States Publishing Co., 1907.

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