Lincoln County, New Mexico

Lincoln county lies nearly in the center of the Territory, being bounded north by Torrance and Guadalupe counties, east by Roosevelt and Chaves, south by Chaves, Otero and Dona Ana counties and west by Socorro. It contains nearly 5,000 square miles and about the same population; that is, it averages one person to every square mile of territory. Its county seat is Lincoln, a town of 1,000 population.

Originally Lincoln County occupied the entire southeastern portion of the Territory, and much of the choicest grazing land in New Mexico. From 1876 to 1879 was the scene of what was known as "the Lincoln county war," between rival cattle owners. The entire population of its 30,000 square miles was compelled to take sides in this conflict, and partisanship of the most bitter character was engendered. More than a score of men were killed during the contest, which was practically for the control of the range on the government land in that section. Each side employed desperadoes as cowboys, and battles and sieges succeeded each other as in a regular war.

By legislative act of 1889, Chaves and Eddy counties were separated from Lincoln, and in 1899 Otero was carved from its territory, which then assumed its present area.

Physical and Industrial Features

The average elevation of Lincoln County is from 4,000 to 5,000 feet above sea level. The Sierra Blanca, Capitan, Nogal and Carrizo ranges, in its central and southern portions, are well forested with pine pinyon, juniper, oak and cottonwood, which afford excellent material for fuel and building. Loftier mountain ranges run north and south in Socorro County, but so near the western boundary of Lincoln as to form a complete watershed. Around White Oaks and the Nogal and Capitan mountains are valuable mines of copper and lead.

The face of the country is varied, the northern half of the county being chiefly composed of vast plateaus, interspersed with valleys, mountains and tablelands. The character of the soil also varies, the larger portion being a sandy loam, with frequent and considerable areas of chocolate and black soil, similar to the prairie lands of the more distant eastern states. The central parts of the county are well watered by running streams, the principal of which is the Rio Hondo, a deep, swift stream, draining the Sierra Blanca and Capitan mountains. Besides this are the Felix, Ruidoso, Bonito, Eagle, Upper and Lower Penyasco and Nogal creeks. In the northern portions springs break out on the wide plateaus and afford abundance of water for stock.

Grapes and currants in their native state grow in great abundance, while cultivated vines, as well as apples, peaches and pears, yield splendid harvests. All the grains of the temperate zone grow well, vegetables of every variety maturing into wonderful proportions. Beans are an especially reliable crop, and the forage grasses and fertilizers develop to perfection. Alfalfa yields from four to five cuttings annually, and the crop will average from five to eight tons per acre.

For pasturage and a stock country Lincoln County has few equals. Stock of all descriptions subsist in the range alone and keep in fine condition, winter and summer. Prudent managers think that two per cent is a liberal estimate of loss from all causes while the cattle or sheep are on the range. The profit on cattle is estimated to be at least fifty cents monthly per head from the time they are calved, while the profit on sheep is not less than fifty per cent.

County Officers

Lincoln County was organized in 1869, but, like many other counties in New Mexico, many of the records have disappeared. It is impossible to give anything like a complete list of the county officials.


Lincoln, the county seat, is in the southeastern part of the county, on the Rio Bonito. It is a place of about 1,000 people, its nearest railroad station being Capitan, on the El Paso & Northeastern line, about ten miles to the west.

White Oaks, forty-one miles northwest of Lincoln and nearly in the center of the county, is the most important point. It is surrounded' by good gold mines and mills and is altogether a thriving town. The adjacent mountains are also rich in coal and iron and covered with pine, cedar and pinyon timber. Even before White Oaks secured railroad connections through the El Paso & Northeastern system it was a remarkably prosperous place. For years it has been the seat of most successful gold mining. The first lode located in the White Oaks camp was South Homestake, by John E. Wilson, in November, 1879. A few days later John V. Winters located the North Homestake. A little later were staked out Old Abe (the deepest dry mine in the United States), Rip Van Winkle, Comstock, Little Mack and Henry Clay, and during the winter of 1879-80 Large Hopes, Little Hell and Blacksmith. The camp's real "boom" commenced in March, 1880, with the discovery of unusually rich ore in the North Homestake.

The military post of Fort Stanton is located in a beautiful valley seven miles from Lincoln. It is about forty miles north of the Mescalero Apache Indian agency, and was established in the late '50s to keep the Mescalero Apaches in check.

Lincoln 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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Created 1996 by Charles Barnum & 2016 by Judy White

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