Roosevelt County, New Mexico

Roosevelt County was organized March 31, 1903, being cut off from Chaves and Guadalupe. It lies in the easternmost tier of counties south of Quay, which was erected at the same time. Its western portions are included in the valley of the Pecos and its numerous tributaries, the celebrated Llano Estacado, or staked plain, extending from Texas into its eastern section. The western part of Roosevelt County is also the scene of the important irrigation project, now being prosecuted by the Reclamation Service of the Interior Department, and which centers in the Urton Lake reservoir. The land in that locality has therefore been withdrawn from the market by the general government until the irrigable area has been defined and the preliminary surveys been completed. The plan contemplates the taking out from the Pecos River, north of Roswell, a canal running to a large natural reservoir north of that place; from this reservoir the water will be conducted south and distributed over the rich lands between the reservoir and Roswell, and will bring under cultivation 75,000 acres of land tributary to Roswell. This Urton Lake proposition has been thoroughly investigated by the government engineers, all preliminary work done, and the reservoir passed upon most favorably. It now only awaits action, pending the completion of the Hondo reservoir.

The Portales Forest Reserve was established by proclamation of President Roosevelt, October 3, 1905 and consists of about 181,000 acres in the central part of the County. At present there is no timber on this great tract of land, but the government foresters intend soon to commence the planting of such trees as black locust, pine, cottonwood and poplar. A. Z. Chester is the ranger in charge of the reservation.

The filings for homesteads have been gradually increasing since the organization of the County, about one-half the entire area being now taken up; the filings for the month of January, 1906, numbered 234. An especially large migration of home seekers has been noted from Kansas, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma and Indian Territory.

Resources of the County

The eastern part of the County is primarily adapted to the raising of stock. The pasturage is the native gamma grass, which, although of short growth, is always nutritious, and seems to thrive as well in dry weather as in seasons of average rainfall. The result is that, unlike most range cattle, who do not have the benefit of this forage, those who feed on gamma grass come from the pastures in the spring as fat as in the fall. The climate is also mild. In the Pecos valley both cattle and sheep are generally of the better breeds. Dairying is also making much progress in that section of the County.

It is in the western sections of the County, watered by the more advanced processes of stock-raising are progressing. It is also a district of living springs, and late experiments and borings give reason to believe that it is within the artesian field which has done so much to advance the country further to the south. It has been demonstrated that the Pecos valley, within Roosevelt County, is a fine country for melons, and that, on irrigated soil, such vegetables as sweet potatoes, beans and onions grow almost to perfection. Broomcorn, kaffir corn and maize have also been abundantly and profitably raised in the country surrounding Portales and in other sections. Indian corn ranges in yield from 23 to 53 bushels per acre.

County Officers
Since the organization of Roosevelt County, in 1903, its officers have been as below:

County Commissioners: 1903-4, W. O. Oldham, Robert Hicks, B. Blankenship; 1005-6, J. D. Crawford. W. H. Montgomery, E. C. Price.

Probate Judges: 1903-4, Charles L. Carter: 1005-6. H. F. Jones.

Probate Clerks: 1903-4. W. E. Lindsey: 1905-6, B. F. Birdwell.

Sheriffs: 1903-4, W. W. Odem: 1905-6. Joseph Lang.

Treasurers: 1003-4, CO. Leach; 1905-6, J. M. Faggard.

Assessors: 1903-4, W. K. Breeding; 1905-6, J. E. Morrison.


Portales, the County seat, was established by J. J. Hagerman, the promoter and builder of the Pecos Valley & Northeastern Railroad. The first house occupied on the town site was not erected there, but was brought on wheels and placed on the ground in November, 1898. The site of Portales was originally owned by the railroad, but has passed into the possession of a corporation known as the Portales Town site and Land Company, with the following officers: President, W. K. Breeding; treasurer. W. O. Oldham, and secretary, W. E. Lindsey. The first mercantile house established in Portales was by Charles Woodcock and W. P. Seymour. The latter retired, and Mr. Woodcock continued alone until 1901, when he formed his present partnership with Mr. Blankenship.

The extension of the railroad from Roswell into Texas, via Portales, called attention of frontiersmen to the advantages of the locality, and in the fall of 1900 quite a number came from the Lone Star state. At this time there were three business houses within the town limits. The first rapid growth began with the formation of the County and the fixing of the County seat. Since then its development has been steady, a very good class of citizens having settled in Portales and the surrounding country from the country to the east and northeast. It is becoming quite an important shipping center for live-stock, feed, and agricultural and dairy products.

The contract for the court house at Portales was let to local contractors by the first Board of Commissioners. It was completed in 1905, at a cost of $10,000, and is splendidly finished and furnished. The structure is composed of concrete manufactured in Portales and the jail, now in process of erection, is of the same material. Another building which will greatly add to the substantial appearance of the town is the school house, whose cost will be $11,000. Briefly, Portales is a town of good prospects, in the extreme northeastern portion of the County, on the Pecos Valley & Northeastern road. It has three Churches, two banks, good schools, the usual mercantile establishments, a fine court house, and. although it is outside the artesian district, its supply of well water and constancy of rainfall give assurances of substantial agricultural development of the surrounding country.

The town of Elida, a station on the Pecos Valley & Northeastern line, southwest of Portales, was founded by W. E. Lindsay and John H. Gee, in 1902. The first business house in the place was erected in January of that year, and practically all the land within five or six miles from town has been homesteaded since 1902.

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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