Eddy County, New Mexico

Eddy County lies in the fertile valley of the Pecos River, in the extreme southeastern portion of New Mexico. On the north it is bounded by Chaves County, and on the west by Otero and a corner of Chaves County. It has an area of 6,613 square miles, and a population of about 3,500. Although strictly speaking the valley of the Pecos is the entire country drained by the river along its course of five hundred miles through New Mexico and Texas, in recent years the term has become restricted to the districts in the southeastern portion of this Territory which experts have pronounced capable of successful irrigation and in which works by the national government and private companies are well under way. The territory included substantially in Chaves County is known as the Upper Pecos valley; that in Eddy county, as the Lower valley.

Early Development of the County

The early and much of the late development of Eddy County is due chiefly to Charles B. Eddy, Charles W. Green and J. J. Hagerman.

Mr. Eddy first appeared in the region just below Seven Rivers, coming from Colorado and opening a ranch there in 1881. In the fall of 1887 he commenced to stake out a ditch on the east side of the Pecos River, eight miles above the present county seat, Carlsbad. After taking it about four miles down the river bank, he met Mr. Green, who had just come into the country, and the latter proposed to Mr. Eddy that he go east and organize an irrigation company, taking the water from a point about two miles below the ditch already constructed. Within the coming year G. B. Shaw, General Bradley, R. W. Tansill and others were interested, and the charter of the Pecos Irrigation and Investment Company was taken out. The capital stock of the company was $600,000, and the irrigation system included what is now known as the Southern canal in Eddy County and the reservoir of Lake Avalon, supplied from the Pecos River, as well as the Northern canal in Chaves County, whose waters were drawn from the Honda river and its tributaries.

For a short time after its organization Mr. Green was manager of the company, but in the spring of 1880 Mr. Eddy succeeded him, and continued in the position until April. 1894. During that period the canal was extended twenty-five miles down the river; about a mile down the eastern side, and there crossing in a flume and continuing down the western bank for the balance of the distance. A great many laterals were also built, and many thousands of acres irrigated and brought into the market as productive and valuable land. In fact, it may be said to the credit of Mr. Eddy, for whom the county was named at its birth in 1891, that he was the first man to really foresee the bright future of this section of the Pecos valley, a great agricultural and horticultural future, founded on the scientific and persistent extension of irrigation. Even in the early nineties most people (even settlers) were of the opinion that the country would never be adapted to anything but the live-stock business. But Mr. Eddy had unbounded faith in irrigation, and although his enterprises were considered somewhat visionary by many, he had the ability to make money for himself out of these pioneer operations. He gave employment to many poor men, and was their acknowledged friend; what profits he derived came from the pockets of investing- capitalists, many of whom in these later years are still reaping the benefits of his long foresight and sound judgment.

In 1889, soon after the company had begun the construction of the southern canal in Eddy County, J. J. Hagerman, of Colorado Springs, invested $40,000 in the enterprise, and shortly afterward visited Mr. Eddy at his ranch near the present town of Carlsbad. Being much pleased with the country and impressed with its possibilities, Mr. Hagerman increased his investment, as well as raised a large sum of money in the east for the extension of the irrigation system. During the same year (1889) he procured the charter of the Pecos Valley Railway, with rights to build from Pecos City. Texas, to Roswell, now Chaves County. He raised all the money to build the railroad from Pecos to Eddy, a distance of ninety miles, in 1889, and the line was completed to the latter place in January, 1900.

Mr. Hagerman was president of the railroad company from the beginning, and became president of the irrigation company in 1890. The following year he went to Europe on business connected with the Pecos valley enterprises, and while in Geneva, Switzerland, met a number of capitalists of that country, who were looking for a good location in which to plant a colony of Swiss farmers. Their agent in the United States had already met Mr. Eddy and about the time of Mr. Hagerman's arrival was making a favorable report to his superiors of the bright outlook of the Pecos valley. The outcome of the matter was that, after the Swiss capitalists had sent an irrigation expert to make a further investigation and report, they invested $500,000 in the Pecos Irrigation and Improvement Company, which had succeeded the Pecos Irrigation and Investment Company. Of the new organization Mr. Hagerman was president and Mr. Eddy vice-president and general manager.

In the fall of 1892 a colony, mainly of Swiss, with a few Italians, bought farms of about forty acres each in the country between Eddy and Black River. They had money enough to make the first payment on their land, build houses, buy stock and put in their first crops; but, although the Swiss immigration agent had been cautioned not to send over any but practical farmers, the Pecos valley colony proved to be largely composed of educated, well-intentioned young men, some of them of old, aristocratic families, and an overwhelming majority of them eminently impractical. Other immigrants came to the valley, both during this year and the preceding, and it became necessary to extend the irrigation system.

It was therefore decided to construct what is now known as the McMillan reservoir, eighteen miles north of Carlsbad, at a cost of about $300,000. In March, 1893, Mr. Hagerman met a number of eastern capitalists at Eddy for the purpose of raising money to build the reservoir and extend the Pecos Valley road from that point to Roswell, as the first step in the systematic development of the Upper valley, with a subsequent extension northeast to Amarillo. About $2,500,000 was subscribed for these purposes, and then came a series of cumulative misfortunes.

In August, 1893, the Lake Avalon dam was carried out by a flood, with a loss of $500,000, and the panic and hard times of that year are matters of stern history. But, though floods came and subscribers failed to pay, the road was opened to Roswell in October, 1894 and there stopped. The period of financial depression which covered the country simply paralyzed the Pecos valley. Capitalists were making no further investments, there was no demand for cattle, sheep or agricultural products and the farmers could not even pay water rent on their land. Being absolutely without incomes, both the irrigation company and the railroad company went into bankruptcy.

In 1896 the Pecos Valley Railroad went into the hands of a receiver, and was reorganized in 1897 under the name of the Pecos Valley and Northeastern Railway Company, with power under its charter to extend its line to Amarillo. The irrigation company failed in 1898. All the property of the old company in Eddy County was sold to the Pecos Irrigation Company, which now owns it, and all of its property in Chaves County, including the Northern canal and the water of the Hondo river and its tributaries, was sold to J. J. Hagerman. Within late years the development of the irrigation systems, as inaugurated by Messrs. Eddy and Hagerman, has been more pronounced in the Northern Pecos valley, with Roswell as its center.

Charles W. Green, on being superseded as manager of the irrigation company by Mr. Eddy, undertook several quite extensive projects connected with the direct cultivation of the land. After interesting eastern capitalists, he bought a 640 acre tract three miles south of Carlsbad and converted it into a vineyard. Pie also improved another square mile west of that point, but later located at what is now known as the Greenfield farm, twenty miles southeast of Roswell. There he obtained irrigation from the Northern canal, and developed a large alfalfa project. Altogether Mr. Green did excellent work, and deserved much credit for demonstrating the practical possibilities of the valley in many different directions.

County Officers

Both Chaves and Eddy counties were portions of Lincoln, and were set off in 1889. Since 1891 the officers of Eddy county have been as follows:

1891-2: Probate judge: _____ _____; clerk. Thomas Fennessey; sheriff, David L. Kemp; treasurer, W. F. Cochran; assessor, J. D. Walker; county commissioners, Daniel H. Lucas (chairman), Bart T. Whitaker (Harry S. Church appointed to succeed Whitaker in May, 1891), C. H. McLenathan.

1893-4: Judge. James A. Tomlinson; clerk, Thomas Fennessey; sheriff, David L. Kemp; assessor, John D. Walker; treasurer, Harry P. Brown; commissioners, William A. Finley (chairman). Thomas Gardner, George W. Witt.

1895-6: Judge, Ananias Green; clerk, W. R. Owen; sheriff. J. D. Walker; assessor, W. F. Cochran; treasurer, S. T. Bitting; commissioners, R. S. Cameron (chairman; resigned in October. 1895). U. S. Bateman (appointed to succeed Cameron; elected chairman), Frank Reinholdt, George M. Monroe.

1897-8:-Judge, Ananias Green; clerk, W. R. Owen; sheriff, J. L. Dow; assessor, W. F. Cochran; treasurer, S. T. Bitting; commissioners, N. Cunningham (chairman). Frank Reinholdt, George M. Monroe.

1899-1900:-Judge. Ananias Green; clerk. W. R. Owen; sheriff, M. C. Stewart; assessor, W. F. Cochran: treasurer, John F. Matheson; commissioners, N. Cunningham (chairman), George Wilcox, N. W. Weaver.

1901-2:-Judge, Ananias Green: clerk, W. R. Owen; sheriff, M. C. Stewart; assessor, Joseph T. Fanning; treasurer. J. D. Walker; commissioners, J. H. James (chairman), George Wilcox, N. W. Weaver.

1903-4:-Judge, Ananias Green; clerk, W. R. Owen; sheriff, N. C. Stewart; assessor, John O. McKeen; treasurer, J. D. Walker; commissioners, J. H. James (chairman), George Wilcox, N. W. Weaver.

1905-6:-Judge, Ananias Green; clerk, W. R. Owen; sheriff, M. C. Stewart, assessor, J. L. Emerson; treasurer, J. D. Walker; commissioners. Allen C. Heard (chairman), George Wilcox, N. W. Weaver.


The principal towns of the county lie in the rich valley of the Pecos, on the line of the Pecos Valley and Northeastern Railroad, and in the midst of a productive agricultural district. In fact, it is doubtful whether there is a finer agricultural country in the Territory than about Carlsbad (formerly Eddy), the county seat; Lake View, Dayton, Lakewood and the valleys of Black, Seven and Peñasco rivers generally.

Carlsbad is a well built and regulated town of about 1,500 people, its site being a rolling mesa. It contains substantial business blocks, graded streets, mile upon mile of shade trees and irrigation ditches, and a model court house, costing $30,000. When the town site company laid out the place the first pressing business was the location and building of school houses, and its several commodious structures devoted to the cause of public education indicate that practical interest in this municipal department has not flagged. Perhaps the greatest source of pride, after its irrigation and public school systems, is in the matter of shade trees.

Seven Rivers, the oldest town in the county, was moved to McMillan, at the mouth of Seven Rivers, in 1894. Later McMillan was rechristened Lakewood, which is also called the White Town. Among other attractions which it presents to visitors is a large artificial lake to the east, formed by damning the Pecos River, which abounds in fish, although its primary object is to irrigate the adjacent lands.

About four miles from Lakewood is the old town and settlement of Seven Rivers, which was established in 1878. Seven Rivers is noted in the history of the Territory because of the Indian fights which occurred there in 1882-83, also of its connection with the notorious outlaw, "Billy the Kid." The raids of both parties were a great disturbance to the peace of this part of the country at that time. A militia company was formed for protection against them, and the ruins may yet be seen of the old adobe house which they used for a fort and for the storage of guns and ammunition. Three members of the company still live in the vicinity of Lakewood.

The town of Lakewood was originally known as McMillan. It was just a siding placed at the time the railroad was built through in 1894. At that time or shortly afterward a store was established by T. J. Scott. The next building was a saloon put up by L. W. Holt and G. M. Hogg. This was followed by a drug store, the property of Dr. Shedloski. The post office was removed from Seven Rivers to McMillan. In 1905 a town site company was organized, purchased the land from J. M. Coburn and E. C. Cook, and the town was laid out, being called Lakewood. The discovery of artesian water here was the motive factor in laying out the town.

Eight miles south of Artesia, near the confluence of the Peñasco with the Pecos and on the line of the railroad, is the rapidly growing little city of Dayton. Although it was only three years ago that J. C. Day filed upon the tract of government land which is now the town site, the place has two churches, a public school, a good hotel, a weekly newspaper, and all the business and social accessories of a flourishing community. It is in the artesian belt, but the surrounding farms are not dependent upon its wells for irrigation, as the waters of the Peñasco are already "ditched" and systematically utilized.

The name of John Richey is closely associated with the material progress and substantial advancement of the town of Artesia. He came to the Territory in 1895 from Kansas and located at Roswell, and in May, 1896, he took a desert claim six miles from what is now Artesia, where he engaged in fanning until taking up his above in the new town.

The first record of settlement here is that of a man of the name of J. T. Truitt, who was a Union soldier and had a homestead embracing the present town site. He proved up after a year's residence here and sold the property to Frank Rheinboldt, who afterward sold it to Mrs. Robert on the 18th of January, 1900.

In 1901 Messrs. Richey, Hamilton Maddox and J. Mack Smith purchased eighty acres from J. R. Ray and later laid out the town of Artesia in January, 1903. The land was platted and the work of building the town and securing immigration was begun. There was an old siding on the railroad called Miller and the post office, when established, was named Stegman, but the town was called Artesia and later all took the last name. Mr. Richey was president of the company, suggested the name and is called "the father of Artesia." The newly organized company was known as the Artesia Town Site Company, with Mr. Richey as president, Harry Hamilton as treasurer and J. Mack Smith secretary. A short time after the organization of this company another company bought one hundred and sixty acres west of this property, operating under the name of the Artesia Improvement Company, the incorporators being E. A. Clayton, John Hodges, J. A. Cottingham and S. P. Denning. These two companies together drilled the first well of the town site, it being completed in July, 1903. This gave life to the town, which has steadily grown from that time forward until there is now a population of about fourteen hundred. Drilling for water was purely an experiment at that time and has proved not only a great boon to Artesia, but to the surrounding country as well, showing that water could be obtained in that way in this district.

A company known as the El Verde Grande Improvement Company, of which John Richey was president, had drilled a well in 1901 on Dr. Breman's land, seven miles northeast of Artesia. A large flow was obtained. A good portion of this flow was lost by losing the tools in the well. This well demonstrated that a large flow could be obtained in that portion of the valley. This well was nine hundred and seventy-two feet deep.

The town of Artesia was incorporated in January, 1905, and the first town board elected was A. V. Logan, chairman, who later resigned and was succeeded by Mr. Richey; J. C. Gage, George P. Cleveland and E. B. Kemp. This board was first appointed and in April, 1905, the election was held and the above named were chosen by regular ballot. The election of April, 1906, resulted in the choice of J. C. Beckham as chairman, while Messrs. Crandall, Enfield, McBride and Baskom became trustees.

As has been indicated, Mr. Richey has been closely associated with the development and improvement of the town from its inception. He is president of the Pecos Valley Immigration Company, with offices in Artesia, which has done much for the building of the town by setting forth the natural resources and advantages of the district and inducing immigrants to locate here. He has brought over twelve hundred people to the town on excursions since the fall of 1905 and is laboring earnestly and effectively toward making the country known, that settlers may be induced to locate here and develop its rich agricultural and horticultural resources and reclaim the once wild district for the uses of civilization.

Eddy County Biographies

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

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