Luna County, New Mexico

Luna County is in the southernmost tier of counties and in the second from the west. Its territory extends into Grant county to the west, and it is bounded north by Sierra, east by Doña Ana and south by Old Mexico.

Luna County was carved from portions of Grant and Doña Ana counties in 1901, after many years of agitation. The real cause of the division was the rivalry between Silver City and Deming, and the general sentiment among the people residing in what were the southern districts of Grant County that they were unfairly treated in politics and otherwise by the northern clique, with headquarters at Silver City. The definite agitation for a division began as early as 1888, and much time, money and bitter feeling were expended before the champions of Deming and a new county secured their end. Logan and three or four other names were proposed, but the rather impersonal and euphonious name by which it is now known was finally adopted.

County Officers

The following have officially served the county since its organization:

Probate judges Probate clerks Sheriffs Treasurers
1901-4, E. H. Matthews
1905-6, Seaman Field
1901-4, B. Y. McKeyes
1905-6, E. J. Carskadon
1901-2, Cipriano Baca
1903, William Foster
1905-6, Dwight B. Stevens**
1901-2, C. J. Kelly
1903, Walter H. Guiney
1905-6, C. J. Kelly
1. Resigned
2. Appointed to fill unexpired term
3. Died in office
4. Appointed to fill unexpired term

County commissioner
1901-2, James P. Byron (chairman), Newton A. Bolich, William M. Taylor (resigned), John T. Onstott (appointed to succeed Taylor).
1903-4. Walter C. Wallis (chairman), Stephen S. Birchfield (resigned), B. Y. McKeyes (appointed to succeed Mr. Birchfield, William Cotton (died in office), William M. Taylor (appointed to succeed Mr. Cotton; resigned), Albert L. Foster (appointed to succeed Mr. Taylor).
1905-6. W. C Wallis (chairman), A. L. Foster, B. Y. McKeyes.

Natural Features

Luna County is pre-eminently a cattle country, although with the development of irrigation systems founded upon the waters of the Rio Mimbres, cereals, fruits and vegetables will undoubtedly become important sources of wealth. The soil of the valleys is a rich, sandy loam, light and porous and of surprising fertility, and best adapted to fruits and vegetables. Cabbages and onions reach a remarkable development, the former often weighing from thirty to forty pounds and the latter from one to two. Delicious melons also grow to grand proportions, and the root crops grow well everywhere. The cereals do best in the elevated plateaus.

The general surface of the county is that of a plain, dotted with clusters of mountains rising from 1,000 to 2,000 feet above the level. The broad plains are covered with black and white gama grass, and the showers ordinarily induced by the mountain clusters serve to keep the forage in nutritive condition.

The Mimbres rises in the mountains of the same name, at the continental divide, in the northeastern part of Grant County. It takes its headwaters within about a mile of the principal feeders of the Gila, on the other side of the divide. Below the mountains in Luna County the river takes the form of what is usually termed a "lost river." About thirty miles north of Deming it debouches upon a plateau of the Sierra Madre as a large plain of deep alluvial soil. Little or no water is in sight, except in the flood seasons, but it always may be reached at moderate depths below the surface. The rivers rise in the mountains, drain a considerable watershed and then disappear into the earth. It is believed that in former ages, when the courses were much greater and the currents more rapid, scoriations of gravel and sand from the mountain sides filled up certain sections of the river beds, and that the water still percolates through these vast filters of nature. It is certain that in the case of Deming the phenomenon has been the means of furnishing the city with one of the best supplies in the world.


The county seat is a prosperous village of about 1,500 people, lying at the junction of the Southern Pacific and the Atchison. Topeka & Santa Fe Railroads, which from this point run west toward California, southeast to El Paso, Texas, and northeast to the upper portion of New Mexico, with spurs to Silver City and the adjacent mining country. It is not only the center of an extensive stock-raising country, but the mines, both south and north, give trade to many of its people. Gardens and orchards surround the place, and the waters of the Mimbres are being developed into a comprehensive system of irrigation, and an extension of the surrounding cultivated area means a corresponding growth of the settlement to which it is tributary.

Like most southwestern towns, Deming was founded upon railroad land. The first government grant of land covering its site was to the Texas Pacific Railroad, covering each alternate section from Texas to the Pacific coast. But the line was not built and the land was forfeited. In 1880 the Santa Fe reached Deming, the town being surveyed upon Wyandotte scrip land, which had been bought by that company. The original Texas Pacific grant was near the site and included the ground upon which the railroad depot was erected. Although this tract was enclosed by a wire fence, in 1882 several men jumped the land and organized a town company. The land was platted and many lots were sold, and after a legal fight of twenty years the squatters won their case.

The early prosperity of Deming was largely on account of its large trade with Mexico. The first church to be established was the Methodist, in 1883. Dr. Keefe was the pioneer physician, and C. H. Dane the first banker, with Frank H. Seabold, cashier. Among the earliest lawyers were Murat Masterson, a Canadian, who became widely known; Fred Clarl and Philip Colby. The best known of the old-time merchants were German & Company. John Corbett. A. J. Clark, J. A. Mahoney, H. H. Kidder, Frank Thurmond, A. W. Armstrong and N. A. Bolich.

While the long fight was progressing in the courts between the Southern Pacific and the Santa Fe roads and those who occupied the land along their lines included in the original Texas Pacific grant, the feeling became so bitter that the companies discriminated against the town people and greatly retarded the growth of the place. But with the settlement of that difficulty, as well as of the -contentions with Silver City (when Luna county was created), Deming commenced to grow rapidly.

In February, 1902, Deming was incorporated under the general village act, its first board of trustees being as follows: Seaman Field (president), T. A. Carr, Lou H. Brown, Albert Beals, A. J. Clark, Ed Pennington (clerk). In February, 1905, M. A. A. Lemke succeeded Mr. Pennington as clerk, but Mr. Field has acted as president to the present.

On November 18, 1905, the Deming City Water Company was incorporated, with Colonel P. R. Smith as president, J. J. Bennett vice-president and W. E. Willis secretary and treasurer. The supply is obtained from the subterranean waters of the Mimbres and the entire watershed to the north, the main reservoir, about six miles from the village, being forty-five feet deep and containing fifteen feet of water. The water is carried to Deming in eight-inch pipes. One well, twelve feet in depth, with a capacity of 1,500,000 gallons daily, supplies the domestic requirements of the village, and another, eighteen feet deep, having a capacity of 2,000,000 gallons in twenty-four hours, is used for irrigation. The capital stock of the company is $100,000: bonded indebtedness, $35,000; assets (estimated), $150,000. Colonel Smith, its president, is in correspondence with the Reclamation Service of the government with a view of extending its investigations to the Mimbres valley in the vicinity of Deming. He is convinced that fifty square miles of valuable land can be irrigated, with the natural resources at hand, at a cost of one cent per thousand gallons.

The importance of Deming as a center of the cattle trade will be realized when it is known that 100.000 head are shipped annually from the three yards which were established by the Santa Fe road in 1892-93. The Adelphi Club was organized solely, for social purposes in 1899. Its membership is limited to Deming and the country immediately surrounding. Besides social and literary features, it supplies, in the way of amusements, bowling, billiards and gymnastic facilities.

Luna County Biographies

New Mexico County Biographies

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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