Torrance County, New Mexico

Torrance County was organized in 1904, from the eastern portion of the original County of Valencia. It lies almost in the geographical center of the Territory, and comprises some of the finest sheep lands in the West. Flowing springs are found in places, and water in wells is found from four to two hundred feet below the surface. As the water supply is evidently so near the surface irrigation by means of windmills has been inaugurated with most gratifying results as to the raising of vegetable and all garden truck. The average total precipitation is about fifteen inches per year, of which probably one quarter is snow. Spring rains are common, but not certain, the rainy season beginning usually about the 1st of July. Altogether, the climatic and physical conditions are about the same as in other sections of Central New Mexico, which are developing into productive areas of fruits, cereals and garden crops.

The Estancia Valley

The most prominent physical feature of Torrance County, and the chief source of its material development, is known as the Estancia Valley. It is an "L" shaped basin, about fifty miles long, north and south, thirty miles wide on the north and sixty miles wide on the south, and, with the exception of a few miles on the north the entire Valley lies within this County, on the eastern slopes of the Manzano Mountains. For the most part the land is a gently sloping or rolling prairie, the steepest incline being toward the Mountains on the west, the water flowing from all directions toward the salt lakes in the south central part of the Valley. East of a depression, which is almost paralleled by the Santa Fe Central Railroad and which has every appearance of once having been the bed of a flowing stream, is a line of varying low hills, beyond which to the rim of the basin, alternate Valleys and hills. To the west of this depression the ground gradually inclines toward the Mountains, the surface being generally, comparatively smooth until near the Mountains, where it is corrugated with arroyos, which gradually widen and spread as they approach the nearer level land of the prairie. On the south, it is bounded by a low range of hills or mesas connecting the Manzano with the Gallina Mountains. The soil is generally a sandy loam, easily cultivated, and in the lower part of the Valley it is quite light in color, resembling in appearance and composition the soil in the artesian belt on the Pecos River. This part of the County contains a growth of chamisa, a small evergreen bush almost impervious to drought, which affords rich pasturage throughout the year. Elsewhere the Valley produces the famous forage plant, known as gramma grass.

On the northwest boundary of the Valley are located the famous Hagan coal fields, into which the Santa Fe Central Railway Company is now constructing a branch. Near the Manzano Mountains, averaging in width about eight miles, is a fine body of timber, consisting of spruce, pine, juniper, cedar, pinyon, oak, cottonwood, quaking asp, willow, and hard or sugar maple. The saw timber is confined to the spruce and pine.

In the lowest place the Valley is within a few feet of 6,000 feet above sea level. The highest peak of the Manzano Mountains is about 10,500 feet above sea level, and the Mountains make an abrupt rise of about 2,500 feet from the surrounding country, which, with the gradual decline, gives the Valley an altitude varying from about 6,000 to 8,000 feet above sea level.

Compared with other sections of the arid west, some of which are now supporting thickly populated communities, nature has been kind to the Estancia Valley. With the exception of a few miles on the southeast it is surrounded by timber. In the timber belt, near the Mountains, are located seven sawmills, which supply building material in abundance at a reasonable price. Twelve miles east of Estancia are located the celebrated Estancia salt lakes, which, from earliest history, have supplied the surrounding country, within a radius of one hundred miles, with salt of a very fine grade. These lakes are now owned by the New Mexico Fuel & Iron Company, composed of the same capitalists who built the Santa Fe Central Railroad, whose purpose it is to build a branch line to the lakes and establish refineries there. But the chief industry has been, is now, and will be until succeeded by agriculture and horticulture, that of livestock.


The Estancia Valley is traversed its entire length by the Santa Fe Central Railway, whose terminal are Santa Fe and Torrance, the latter, a station on the El Paso Northeastern Railroad. This road was completed in August, 1903. The same company is now building a line from Moriarty, a station seventeen miles north of Estancia, to Albuquerque, known as the Albuquerque Eastern, and a branch from this line into the Hagan coal fields. The same capitalists who built this road have organized companies to extend it from Torrance to Roswell and to build a line from Willard to El Paso. The line from Torrance to Roswell has been located and the plats filed with the secretary of the Territory. The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Company commenced the construction of the Eastern Railway of New Mexico, known as the Cut-off, in 1903, and completed it in the winter of 1906-1907. This line connects with the Atlantic & Pacific, a part of the Santa Fe system, at Rio Puerco, twenty miles west of Belen, on the Rio Grande, and with the Panhandle division of the same system, on the Pecos Valley line at Texico. It crosses the Santa Fe Central at Willard and the El Paso Northeastern at Llano.

County Officials

The first Board of Commissioners of Torrance County was appointed by the governor, their service extending over 1904-5. They were: William McIntosh (chairman), Juan C. Jaramillo, and Bias Duran.

The following were elected for 1905-1906: County Commissioners, Valentin Candelaria (chairman), Santiago Madrid. Pablo Maldonado; probate clerk, John W. Corbett: sheriff; Manuel Sanchez y Sanchez: treasurer, William McIntosh; assessor, Parfecto Jaramillo

Towns of the County

Estancia, the County seat, is a growing little town, located at the famous Estancia Springs, from which it takes its name, sixty-eight miles south of Santa Fe on the Santa Fe Central Railroad. The New Mexico Fuel & Iron Company is owners of the town site. The roundhouse and machine shops of the railway company are located here, and the town has become the shipping point for thousands of lambs, who are annually transported to alfalfa districts for fattening, or to other feeding grounds in Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska, with the advent of cold weather. Estancia has a money order post office, a modern hotel and a number of business houses. James Walker's store, built of cement blocks in 1905, was the first structure of the kind erected in the Valley. Although not yet incorporated, the town contains a good school house, and the Baptists and Methodists are about to build churches. A block of ground 300 feet square has been donated for a court house and County offices, and the New Mexico Fuel & Iron Company has enclosed sixty acres around die Estancia Springs, with the intention of donating the tract for park and municipal purposes, when the place shall have been incorporated. New settlers are rapidly coming into the Valley, to Estancia over the Santa Fe Central, and also overland, in the good, old-fashioned prairie schooner. Colonel George W. Harbin of Waterloo, Iowa has lately located a colony of old soldiers at McIntosh, in the Valley north of Estancia.

That Estancia is abreast of the rapid growth of New Mexico is not only evident in the fact that she has an up-to-date newspaper (The News), but that in the fall of 1905 she organized a Board of Trade, with the following officers: President, F. E. Dunlavy; vice-president, H. B. Hawkins; treasurer, William McIntosh; secretary, J. L. Norris. Besides the above, there is the Estancia Valley Development Association, organized, as its name indicates, with the purpose of exploiting the entire region, and of which John W. Corbett is president and A. H. Harnett, secretary. Between the three, as is well expressed by a special correspondent, if anything good gets around Torrance County, it will have to hurry.

The town of Willard, located near the center of Torrance County, at the junction of the Santa Fe Central and the Eastern Railway of New Mexico, better known as the Belen Cut-Off, while still in its infancy gives promise of becoming a prosperous town. It is about twenty-five miles from the Manzano Mountains, and it lies at an altitude of over 6,000 feet. Willard is the natural trading point of a splendid grazing country, and the entire tributary country is a large producer of wool, sheep, cattle and horses. The Willard Town and Improvement Company which owns the town site, was incorporated July 25, 1905, with John Becker as president; Wilbur A. Dunlavy, vice-president: William M. Berger, secretary, and Louis C. Becker, treasurer. The town was named in honor of Colonel Willard S. Hopewell, builder of the Santa Fe Central Railroad. The first lot was sold three days after the incorporation of the company, and the first school was opened in November.

Mountainair is located at the summit of Abo Pass, fifteen miles west of Willard, on the Belen Cut-Off. It is at the base of the Manzano Mountains, in the timber belt of pine and cedar, and is attracting the attention of tourists. In this vicinity are the famous ruins of the ancient towns of Abo and Quarra which form a group with the Gran Quivera, as all show the same characteristics. The last named, however, are over the line in Socorro County. The site of Mountainair is controlled by the Abo Land Company.

Torrance is located near the southeast corner of the County, on the El Paso Northeastern railroad, and is the terminus of the Santa Fe Central. It is surrounded by a fine grazing country, with indications of valuable mineral deposits in the adjacent territory. Duran is a station on the same line, east of Torrance, and Palma is a new town in the northeastern part of the County.

The above places are all new and have come into existence with the railroads. The older places, near the Mountains, commencing on the south, are as follows: Eastview, Punta de Agna, Marizano, Torreon, Tajique, and Chilili, all of which have public schools, and all, except Eastview, Catholic churches. At Punta de Agna are located the historic ruins of the Cuaro Mission, the main walls of which are standing. Manzano is the Spanish word for apple, and at the town of that name are apple trees which the Spaniards found growing when they settled there more than a century ago. It is from these trees that both the town and the Mountains derive their names. Pinos Wells, the oldest settlement in the Valley outside of the mountain towns, is in the east central part.

J. W. Harling

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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