Tucumcari, New Mexico - 1910-1920

Tucumcari, New Mexico began as a railroad camp named Douglas in 1901, when the Rock Island Railroad decided to extend a line through New Mexico. The residents of Liberty (a small town three miles north) saw the opportunity the rail line presented. They moved southward closer to the rail line, and the camp became a tent city. Complete with ramshackle saloons, dance-hall girls and outlaws, the town's nickname became "Six-Shooter Siding". Five business owners from Liberty purchased land, then donated 120 acres of it for the town to be built upon. The names Douglas and "Six-Shooter Siding" were soon dropped, and replaced with Tucmcari, for the mountain range that served as the town's backdrop. The first passenger train arrived on March 12, 1902 bringing new arrivals and commerce. Soon there were four passenger trains arriving in Tucumcari each day, two from the east and two from the west.

Tucumcari in 1913. Note the rail line in the foreground, and the town's namesake mountain on the horizon.

A lack of water was a problem the early residents had to face. Wells were drilled, but the failure to find water (and the difficulty of drilling through the hard ground) stopped further digging. Instead, the residents brought water in daily by the barrel. Lack of water caused obvious issues for farming, but the scarcity of water didn't stop the town's growth. By 1902 the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, a saloon, several taverns, a bank and a furniture store had opened for business. Also arriving in Tucumcari were people seeking to be cured of tuberculosis - the climate that made farming difficult was thought to alleviate or cure symptoms.

At this time New Mexico was one of the last territories available for settling. By 1907 arriving homesteaders had caused many small towns to crop up around Tucumcari. By 1910, the town had expanded to include several churches, a school system and over seventy businesses. Growth continued through the 1920s, brought on by railroad and ranching opportunities. When the depression hit in 1930, many of the smaller towns began to disappear, and the town's population began to dwindle.

In 1940 the South Canadian River was dammed, and much of the arid land was converted to rich, irrigated farmland. The famed Route 66 went through Tucumcari, and this also brought new businesses.

A more detailed account of the town's entire history may be found at this link.

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New Mexico c.1910

Quay County