Chapter 01: Visions of an Irrigation Empire
Chapter 02: Creosote and Sagebrush
Chapter 03: Jackrabbits, Canals, and Cottonwoods
Chapter 04: Dams and Violence in the Pecos Valley
Chapter 05: Companies Canals and Capital
Chapter 06: Railroads and Receivership
Chapter 07: Private Irrigation Drowns in Ditches of its Own Making
Chapter 08: Mr. Wrecklamation Man
Chapter 09: Such of the Lands Economically Practicable to Irrigate
Chapter 10: God Pity the Water User
Chapter 11: An Elusive Reservoir
Beginning in the late 1870s, and through 1925, a succession of people tried to transform the river and the desert embracing it.
First used as open range for cattle grazing, the Pecos Valley became the scene of ever more ambitious plans to establish an agricultural mecca based on irrigation and funded by wealthy investors from Chicago, New York, Colorado Springs, and Europe. Following a natural disaster and financialdownturns in 1893, settlers and investors fled the valley, making its future uncertain. A series of financial reorganizations to attract much-needed cap-ital brought a major railroad to the valley, but the heyday of corporate irri-gation was over.
Under pressure from President Theodore Roosevelt, the U.S. Reclamation Service, although reluctant to rehabilitate the valley's irriga-tion system, agreed to take on the project.
Herculean efforts to create an oasis in the middle of the desert ran counter to the natural environment of southeastern New Mexico, and in the end nature subdued technology despite local and national political maneuverings and convoluted investment strategies to secure water in the Chihuahuan Desert.
it was a place to cross on the way to somewhere else.
A few adventurous Mexican Americans from the Manzano Mountains near Albuquerque ventured farther east of the Rio Grande in the mid-1800s. In the valleys, they established self-sufficient communities where they found water and practiced a mixed planting-grazing economy.
Ranching dominated the area, not farming
nomadic Indians delayed Anglo incursions into the region
cattlemen and land speculators took advantage of the various laws created by Congress for disposing of the public lands.
1870s, Lincoln County War. ^1
1878 John Wesley Powell's report on arid lands was released. recommended classifying western land based on its irrigation potential. ^2, remove from sale irrigable lands, met with resistance, investors could lose millions, Powell's survey idea threatened to disrupt the image of turning the desert into a corporate garden,
mil-lionaires, engineers, reclamationists, government bureaucrats, cigar manu-facturers, steel magnates, and mining and railroad capitalists invested vision, time, and money in the valley.
Primary investor James J. Hagerman, a close friend of politico Marcus Hanna
Other investors included William Bonbright, co-owner of Hood, Bon-bright, and Company, the precursor of Wanamaker's Department Stores; New Yorker Amos Bissell; Frederic Stevens, a member of the board of directors of Chemical Bank of New York, and his son, Joseph Sampson Stevens, a descendant of Albert Gallatin; and Richard Bolles, who made a fortune from investments in the famous Mollie Gibson Mine. Charles Otis of Otis Steelworks; Arthur and Eli Mermod, heirs to the internationally known Mermod-Jaccard jewelry business; and Robert Weems Tansill, who manufactured Punch cigars, were all tied to the Pecos Valley irrigation
Others like Jay Gould, George Pullman, Benjamin Cheney, Harriman and Company, Charles Head, and William McMillan, among other industrial and economic leaders, played a role
These prominent individuals and their efforts paralleled those of cattle thieves, land swindlers, Swiss and Italian immigrants, settlers looking for a better life, Mexican laborers, saloon keepers, prostitutes, lawyers, and lawmen who changed the face of the Pecos Valley.
Walter Prescott Webb maintained that settlers failed to subdue the frontier until the last decades of the nineteenth century, when technology shifted the balance. ^4
In the Pecos Valley, control was vested in those who either had capital of their own or could raise it.
This capital, combined with manipulation of federal land laws, placed an appreciable amount of property with corporate investment companies.
following a natural disaster and financial downturns in 1893, settlers and investors fled the valley
William Smythe, foremost promoter of the irrigation move-ment at the turn of the century, advocated irrigation as a form of coopera-tive capitalism utilizing the natural laws of God to compel the arid lands to produce.
1902 Newlands Act, under which the federal government developed water projects and by extension established a federal presence across the West. ^6
struggles between water proponents and environmentalists [what framing, water proponents... implying the environmentalists are against water. Reminds me of pro-life/abortion (pro-death?) framing.]
After World War II, according to Worster, capitalism and technological expertise produced federally centralized, authoritarian control over local water resources. Worster argues that the federal government worked in concert with powerful economic elites to create a "hydraulic empire" in the West. ^9
Rivers of Empire by Donald Worster
Unlike Worster, Donald J. Pisani sees the emergence of water associa-tions and other quasi-governmental structures as a natural consequence of trial and error. To Pisani, the West established whatever worked best, based on the collective experience of a locality or region, without the assistance or persuasion of some cabal bent on centralizing power. ^10
Salt Dreams: Land and Water inLow-Down California by William deBuys
DeBuys sees the floods as pivotal moments in the region's history, when a succession of schemers, agriculturalists, and others tried to take advantage of the government's noblesse oblige. ^11
Pecos River floods of 1893and 1904 practically ended all hope of private capital-supported irri-gation in southeastern New Mexico. [floods destroyed dams and works]
nationwide economic downturn of 1893
Llano Estacado, the 50,000-square-mile island in the sky that dominates West Texas and eastern New Mexico just east of the Pecos Valley.
differing opinions between federal experts and water users on how best to use the Pecos led to an often uneasy relationship
Reclamation engineers often became dam builders
The choice of the types of dams built across the West was not entirely based on engineering practicality, as Donald Jackson has shown in the experiences of John Eastwood. ^15 Rather, power struggles often deter-mined what kind of dam was built.
beyond dam building, Reclamation often had no clear sense of where it was headed.
Reclamationists Frederick Newell, A. P. Davis, and others did not show a great interest in social reform. ^16
Lingering corporate interests firmly grafted themselves onto the administrative and political framework established by Reclamation vis-à-vis the local water users asso-ciation. Reclamation was often caught between providing water for small resident landowners and for speculative and absentee holdovers from the previous century.
The once formidable Pecos River of New Mexico and Texas is today a mere shadow of its former self. Dammed in many places for irrigation, its springs pumped dry in others, the Pecos River of today leads a precarious existence. Careful observers recognized the fate of the river prior to the 1920s.
In 1925, a committee of water experts from Texas and New Mexico arrived at a compact to apportion the river's water supply. The plan lingered until a new one was adopted in 1948. The Pecos River Compact between New Mexico and Texas did not end the con-test over water
Chapter 01: Visions of an Irrigation Empire
<P>nineteenth-century American mindset of subduing nature and making money at the same time, cat-tleman Charles Eddy and lawman Pat Garrett set in motion the concept of transforming a cattle country into an agricultural mecca based on irrigation.
<P>Pecos River of the nineteenth century, unlike its faint twentieth-century shadow, was a formidable watercourse.
<P>The river stretches for some 755 miles, from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains just northeast of Santa Fe
to its eventual merger with the Rio Grande near present-day Lake Amistad in Texas. The stream flows in an east-southeast direction from its source 13,000 feet above sea level, where numerous streams and heavy snows con-tribute to its volume.
<P>Pecos flows past the New Mexico communities of Roswell, Dexter, Green-field, Hagerman, Lake Arthur, Artesia, Atoka, Lakewood, and finally Carlsbad before veering southeast toward the Texas
<P>alpine forests and meadows along its upper reaches to scrubland from Fort Sumner to near Carlsbad
<P>Canyon-like walls disappear and turn into low rolling hills and then to prairie. South of Roswell is a country of limestone and gypsum, marking what is now considered premium agricultural land. The topography changes again as the river nears Texas to reflect the flora and fauna of the Chihuahuan Desert. ^2
<P>Mexican War in 1846
<P>After the Mexican War, the United States sent explorers to the American Southwest to study the land gained from Mexico through the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo (1848).
<P>report submitted by the lieutenant one year later included both Simpson's largely topographical information and Marcy's journal entries describing the flora, fauna, and water of southeastern New Mexico. ^10
<P>Marcy asked, "Is it not within the scope of probabilities that these springs may be found to possess valuable medicinal properties, and that this place may yet...become a place of fashionable resort for the 'upper-ten-thousand' of New Mexico?" ^12
<P>Marcy noted on September 15, 1849 that the soil was extremely poor, covered with "decomposed gypsum," but that the land was covered with luxuriant grama grass, offering excellent forage for animals. ^13
<P>By the mid-1850s.Mexican Americans had settled into the Hondo Valley from the Manzano Mountains near Albuquerque. The first settle-ment in the region began near Fort Stanton on the Rio Bonito. Called La Placita, the settlement attracted Anglos as well. The town, now called Lin-coln, became the seat of Lincoln County in 1869. By then, some thirty to forty Mexican families had moved to the Hondo Valley, fifteen miles south-west of Roswell. [Missouri Plaza]
<P>Mexican settlers brought with them their Spanish-based community and agricultural, land, and water-distribution systems. , ditches (acequias), even if the ditches crossed another's property
<P>Anglos moving into the Hondo Valley did not accept Spanish community traditions as a means of agricultural production. And, along the lower stretches of New Mexico's Pecos Valley tributaries, no Spanish land grants interrupted Anglo settlement. Anglo settlers began appropriating the water, and in the 1870s the citizens of Missouri Plaza moved away because of Indian problems, racial conflict, and upstream irri-gation. ^15
<P>Since the American occupation of New Mexico during the Mexican War, New Mexico had suffered from cul-tural conflicts among Anglos, Mexican Americans, Comanches, Apaches, Utes, Cheyennes, Arapahos, Kiowas, and Navajos. ^16
<P>Keleher attributed the "color and adventure" of Lincoln County in the 1870s and 80s to cow-boys, camp followers, saloon keepers, gamblers, gunfighters, and horse thieves-most of whom came from Texas. ^17
<P>first major Anglo settlement in what would become Eddy County was Seven Rivers, a village of "dozens of hard-core drifters, drovers, gunmen and fugitives....[G]unfire was frequent [and] it is said that the first four persons buried in the cemetery died of gunshot wounds."
<P>settlements relied on the federal government for law enforcement, which was stretched over an area larger than Massachu-setts. ^18
<P>largest influx of Anglos into the area followed on the heels of the military presence at Bosque Redondo following the 1863 campaign against the Mescalero Apache. The U.S. military established a Pecos River post called Fort Sumner ^19
<P>The fort was laid out next to Bosque Redondo, a round grove of cottonwoods on the river and a favorite camping site of the Apaches. The Mescalero had the choice of moving to a reserve established near the fort, or being further hounded by U.S. soldiers. The Apache, who were organized into small semi-autonomous bands, trickled into the region one group at a time. By March 1863 the military, having established contracts with local cattlemen and Texans like Charles Good-night, was feeding over four hundred men, women, and children at the fort. Although some one hundred Mescalero fled west to join their Gila cousins, by the summer of 1863 the Apaches at Bosque Redondo settled into laying out fields, planting crops, and setting up shelters. ^20
<P>American military, using questionable logic, embarked on a series of campaigns to place other Indians of New Mexico and the Southwest on reservations. The military began settling some nine thousand Navajos on the lands at Bosque Redondo-lands that by then the Mescalero considered their own.
<P>"long walk"-was carried out by Kit Carson, who had previously joined in rounding up the Mescalero. Carson thought the Indian policy foolish, but followed orders. ^21
<P>for the Indians and military alike, the irrigation ven-ture was a dismal failure. Worms, blight, hail, floods, drought
<P>Texas cattlemen saw the grazing potential of lands in the Pecos Valley
<P>trailed cattle along the Pecos River beginning in the 1860s
<P>military removal of the Indians from eastern New Mexico opened the land to Anglo settlement.
<P>Like most Anglos, he [John Chisum] regarded the land as public domain and open to use by those who got there and controlled it first. ^27 [he controlled 3-4 new england states worht or land]
<P>Lincoln County War in the late 1870s devel-oped partially out of competition over grazing lands and water sources in the region. ^28 Whoever controlled the water controlled the land.
<P>In the early 1880s, buyers from the midwestern Corn Belt came in the spring and contracted for fall delivery, by rail, of steers and yearlings. ^52 By 1890 the Eddys shipped cattle by the trainload to markets connected by new rail lines
<P>In the 1880s a great deal of money was generated through fattening cattle on free grass. Many people jumped into the cattle business with little knowledge or experience, hiring cowboys to do the work for twenty-five to thirty dollars a month. ^58
<P>L. Wallace Holt, representing the Holt Cattle Com-pany, bought out cattleman Thomas Gardner and ran cattle near a big spring at the head of North Seven Rivers. Until the ranch was deserted because of later artesian pumping that dried up the spring, the Holt Ranch was a showplace for the entire valley. ^63
<P>By 1884 , the valley was heavily overstocked.
<P>During the "Big Die" of 1886, over a third of the cattle in the Seven Rivers area perished when drought dried up the springs and winter cold killed the weakened cattle.
<P>The disaster, which bankrupted many small ranchers, encouraged Eddy to look for a perpetual water supply. ^67 In 1886 he began expanding the Halagüeño Ditch, a diversion from the east side of the Pecos, building south to irrigate his ranch holdings in La Huerta. ^68
<P>Despite the disaster of 1886 and the limited access to surface water, by the end of the decade almost all inhabitants of Lincoln County depended on ranching to make a living. ^72
<P>On August 15, [1886 or 7], Garrett and Holloman formed the Holloman and Garrett Ditch Company, with capital stock of $5,000 and fifty shares at $100 each. When the corporation dissolved, Garrett bought interest in the Pioneer Ditch Company. ^78
<P>Garrett wanted to build a dam across the Hondo River, the chief tribu-tary of the Pecos. By building a flume, Garrett reckoned he could send water across the desert to areas previously thought worthless for farming. ^79
<P>In 1886, Garrett approached rancher Charles Eddy with his vision of irrigating the Pecos Valley, introducing him to Charles Greene at Eddy's ranch headquarters. ^82 The meeting between Garrett and Eddy heralded the beginnings of corporate irrigation in the valley.
<P>Garrett and Eddy set up their first company, Pecos Valley Land and Ditch, in 1887. ^84 Garrett and Eddy hoped to make money by selling land in the new town of Eddy, which they laid out in 1888, and charging an annual rental fee for water. ^85
<P>by 1891 entrepreneurs had established eighty-eight companies and had built ditches to water 40 percent of the irrigable land in New Mexico. ^90
<P>[loads of rich folks played/rested in CO Springs, tuberculosis/consumption, ranching, irrigation deals, real estate, railroads, mines in NM]
<P>legal wrangling and an anonymous forty-four page pamphlet supporting Hagerman revealed the manipulation behind capital investment schemes of the nineteenth century. ^143
<P>Relatively untouched by a succession of Native Americans, Spaniards, and Mexican Americans, the Pecos Valley changed beginning with the U.S. military presence in the 1860s, allowing John Chisum and other cattlemen to monopolize the scant water holes and vast cattle range on either side of the Pecos. Cattlemen Charles Eddy and promoter Charles Greene took Pat Garrett's concept of irrigating the valley, expanded it, and recruited much-needed capital. After gaining initial seed money from New Yorker Joseph Stevens, Eddy and Greene turned to Chicago and Colorado Springs, a play-ground mecca for some of the nation's industrial and political elite. James Hagerman, a millionaire made rich from iron ore in northern Michigan, used his ties to the steel, railroad, and mining industries to attract more capital for irrigating the New Mexico desert. As Eddy began to pour invest-ment capital into dams and canals, the tools providing the impetus for cor-porate irrigation of the valley were the nation's flexible land laws-espe-cially the Desert Land Act of 1877.
Chapter 02: Creosote and Sagebrush
Federal investigations revealed wide-spread abuse in the 1880s. Investigators in New Mexico indicated that such abuse was condoned by politicians and land officers alike. [Desert Land Act]
Preemption Act of 1841, which allowed those living on unsurveyed land to purchase up to 160 acres of land at $1.25 per acre prior to government survey without bidding on it. Lawmakers designed the law to help settlers save their land from speculators. ^2
1862 Congress passed the Homestead Act to allow Americans to scatter throughout the West and help "develop the nation's resources and character." Settlers could get 160 acres of land free of charge, except for filing fees of ten cents per acre, but had to build a home and live on the land.
Claims could be commuted and title finalized after eighteen months by paying $1.25 an acre.
During the 1860s, the Office of Surveyor General attempted surveys in New Mexico, but Indian hostilities and lack of military protection limited work along the Pecos River.
[By 1870s] Indian attacks had largely ceased, and the office expanded to new areas, including the Pecos Valley. ^5
President Ulysses Grant, March 3, 1877, Congress passed the Desert Land Act-designed for California, Oregon, Nevada, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, Dakota, and New Mexico. Set-tlers on "desert" lands could get one section (640 acres) for twenty-five cents per acre down and one dollar per acre on final proof of compliance.
govern-ment gave no rights to the land until the applicant proved up the property by irrigating.
95 percent of all claims were fraudulent and were made for the ben-efit of land speculators. ^6
All told, a crafty land seeker might accumulate 1120 acres of land by using the Preemption, Homestead, Desert Land, Timber and Stone, and Timber Culture Acts in combination.
In the Pecos Valley, the vast majority of lands were taken under the Desert Land Act, some 100,000 acres in all. ^10
The only practical place to homestead in southeastern New Mexico was along the Pecos. That reality, combined with well-financed cattle companies, meant big business controlled much of the land. ^13
The domination of big cattle operators was in keeping with the spirit of the Gilded Age and concentration of wealth. During the 1870s and 1880s, there was general acceptance in the public mind of the notion of a man quickly enriching himself, even at the cost of his neighbors. ^14
By the mid-1870s, when Henry M. Atkinson of Nebraska took over the Office of Sur-veyor General of New Mexico, surveyors had almost completed their work. By and large, Atkinson's tenure in office was dominated by cattlemen's 45 creosote and sagebrush demands for land and for his falsifying surveys to include nonarable land so cattlemen could claim it. ^15
The 1880s saw cattle as king, at least until the middle part of the decade. ^16
Papers, periodicals, and livestock journals pointed out the large profits to be made in the cattle business. Some estimated that an investment of $5000 could net the investor a profit of $40000 or $50000 within four years. Within that four years, a calf worth five dollars could be fed at very little cost on the public domain and then sold for forty or fifty dollars. Such rhetoric caused the cattle business to take off. ^17
in 1885 all of southeastern New Mexico was devoted exclusively to cattle ranching. ^18
A Senate investigation discovered vast holdings in well-financed land and cattle companies. ^20
The Homestead, Preemption, and Desert Land Acts and assorted other laws allowed speculators to "emasculate" the intent of the democratic laws through fraudulent land accumulation, leading to monopolization and tenancy. ^21
In 1883, special agent H. H. Eddy (no relation to Charles Eddy) investigated some two hun-dred homestead claims in New Mexico, and found that only 32 percent complied with homestead regulations. Eddy was paid extra for the danger surrounding his investigations in the Pecos Valley in 1884, where he found that most homestead claims were false. Only one in fourteen proved legiti-mate. Eddy showed Henry Atkinson's involvement in fraud and connected him with two murders of entrymen on preempted land. ^24
One of the recur-ring problems, according to investigators at the time, was that native New Mexicans were unreliable witnesses who would swear to anything-and Mexican American juries seldom returned a guilty verdict even though the evidence was conclusive. The government viewed natives as people igno-rant of the law who could be deceived into signing virtually anything. Many times investigators discovered native New Mexicans who had settled on a piece of land they thought they had filed on, only to find out that, deceived by unscrupulous land speculators, they had filed on some other piece of land that was worthless. Their home in the meantime was filed on by a person representing the party who had given the New Mexicans the false descriptions in the first place. Consequently, many native settlers did not get the valuable land they wanted but rather worthless acreage. If locals complained about the situation, they were told by officials that they had committed perjury by entering on land that they had never lived on. They were warned that the consequences of speaking out would be arrest and prosecution. ^26 Investigations into land fraud across the West revealed widespread deception and prompted others to accuse New Mexico political groups of collusion.
Most agreed that the choicest lands in these areas had been controlled and then attained though questionable legal practices by powerful groups of cattlemen in the regions to keep out small-time settlers. ^27
Surveyor General of New Mexico George W. Julian, "To rob a nation of its public domain and steal the opportunity of landless men to gain homes was not only a crime against society, but a mockery of the poor." ^32
Julian added: "[T]he grinding oligarchy of land sharks, whose operations have so long been the blight and paralysis of the Territory, should be com-pletely routed and overthrown." ^34
Reflecting the views of small ranching interests, theGolden Era said: "The appointment of Mr. Shields as registrar of the U.S. Land Office is received with satisfaction by the small rancheros [ranchers] in this locality, and they think they will now receive that justice which they say has been so long denied....If Mr. Shields will demonstrate that he intends to be the servant of the people, and not the cringing, obsequious tool of a hybrid land grabbing gang, all good citizens will rally to his support." ^37
The territorial governor of New Mexico, Edmund Ribson Ross, in 1885 commented: "There's a general belief that considerable areas of good agri-cultural land have been illegitimately entered and included in great cattle ranches." ^38 The governor went on to say that he believed that large quanti-ties of public lands had been added using the preemption laws through "the boldest perjury, forgery, and false pretense, and that in at least some instances this has been done, if not with the connivance, at least through the inadvertence and carelessness of officials." The governor also noted that in many cases land had been absorbed into great cattle ranches merely for the purpose of gaining control of water supplies, keeping out settlers and their small herds, and some ranchers accumulated lands for purely speculative purposes. ^39
Cattlemen, beginning in the mid-1880s, by incorporating ditch compa-nies and appropriating available water, could keep settlers from using it. Consequently, they kept competitors off even the public land. This had the effect of making land that others wished to enter valueless un-less they were supplied with water from irrigation companies created by cattlemen. ^40
Mexican Americans had not been allowed to live in these areas peacefully, that many of them had been killed or wounded without provocation, and some had been driven from their homes by intimidation and threats. ^45
Denman and government investi-gating agencies accused Eddy of acquiring lands from settlers through coercion.
Upson claimed that Denman and his followers were "a class of people in our midst that were led by men of unprincipled character who persistently incited their followers to deeds of vice and crime; that newcomers, ignorant of our laws were induced by these leaders to enter upon and occupy lands, legally held and occupied by bona-fide actual settlers; that many of these immigrants are outlaws from Texas and fugitives from justice, who eagerly attach themselves to these leaders for purposes of plunder, blackmail, and kindred crimes." ^46 He gave numerous examples whereby he claimed Denman and his band threatened and intimidated Mexican Americans along the Pecos River, and he contended that Denman often had Mexican Americans arrested simply for the sake of obtaining their land. Upson fur-ther claimed that after Denman had them arrested on frivolous charges, on their release his thugs drove them from their homes, forcing them to leave behind all their worldly possessions to be plundered or destroyed. ^47
Denman organized a petition to the General Land Office in Washington, D.C., charging the officers at Las Cruces with fraud and blasting some of the most powerful and substantial citizens of the region.
Upson minced no words in condemning Denman as a "communist of the most dangerous type, and a common barrater in the most offensive sense of the term;...nine-tenths of the litigation and quarrels in this precinct are acknowledged to be incited by him, and that he bears the rep-utation, where he is best known, of being a liar, a thief, and a perjurer." ^48
Charles H. Slaughter, also a large cat-tleman from Seven Rivers, praised Eddy's reputation to the fullest and denounced Denman as a blackmailer who circulated malicious slander
Following the Golden Era's publication of Upson and Slaughter's affi-davits, thirty citizens, most cattle raisers themselves, signed a deposition describing Denman as a "depraved and reckless man, of evil reputation, and charged with many crimes; that no faith or credence can be placed in what he says, nor the statements of his followers and tools who do his bid-ding." ^51
Eddy County deed records from 1887 and 1889 attest to Anglos obtaining land from persons with Spanish surnames. Many wereilliterate and could not sign their own names, and transferred owner-ship of the land for less than one dollar per acre. ^52
Officials, including local federal land commissioner Shields, publicly regarded Desert Land entries as a source of "a great deal of crookedness," but that did not stop Shields from working closely with Charles Eddy in securing lands for the developer's irrigation scheme. ^54
"Big Die" in 1886
From 1888 to 1891, eighty-eight irrigation companies were incorporated in New Mexico. At least 40 percent of the land brought under irrigation during the next decade was irrigated by these companies.
Compa-nies such as Pecos Irrigation and Investment acquired much of their land from individuals who had filed Desert Land entries and then sold the land for next to nothing to company officials. ^57
Pecos Irrigation and Investment in 1888 and 1889, and Pecos Irriga-tion and Improvement Company thereafter
deeded their properties to the company in return for a small fee or a free trip to the desert Southwest. ^58
Tarr noted that landholders in many instances obtained their property through bribery of government officials, notary publics, and witnesses. At the time of his report, many of the leading citizens of Lincoln County were under indictment by a grand jury for fraudulent land entry.
Pecos Irrigation and Improvement Company. He noted that before the company declared the line of its ditch, it gave information concerning that ditch to friends and relatives.
many others, filed Desert Land entries only to deed them to the company.
The same thing happened near Roswell
Ironically, in 1889, Tarr found that there was a popular sentiment in the Pecos Valley for repeal of the Desert Land and Preemption Acts. He soon discovered that those who objected most strongly to the laws were people who had no money to take advantage of them. A second group, those who actually had the wherewithal to buy land, enthusiastically supported ending the laws because they had already obtained all the land they needed and did not want competition from other large landholders. On the con-trary, Tarr thought the second group would rather see "people of limited means who [sic] they could fleece." ^65
Hagerman claimed that the company's sole purpose at first was to sell "water rights" and collect "water rentals." ^66
Deed record books for Eddy County during the 1880s and early 1890s are riddled with examples of irrigation company officials obtaining indi-viduals' land and water-right deeds following proof of reclamation in exchange for a few dollars. ^72
The year after Congress passed the Desert Land Act, John Wesley Powell offered his findings and viewpoint concerning the use of arid lands in the West. To prevent the sort of rampant land law abuse occurring in southeastern New Mexico, Powell recommended an alternative to specula-tive control in the West. Powell realized that the 1120 acres accumulated through the Preemption, Desert Land, and Timber Culture Acts was not enough land to graze cattle, and 160 acres through the Homestead Act was too much for one man to cultivate as an irrigated farm. Powell suggested 40 acres for farmers on irrigated land. ^78
[powell was surveying land and was going to have the ill-gotten land given to people it was intednded for, but Eddy convinced congress to shut the powell project down]
Powell's engineers in New Mexico selected thirty-nine reservoir sites, totaling 40,170 acres of land. ^88
Hagerman recalled that in the fall of 1890, "[t]he Attorney General had interpreted a law of Congress in a way which would have ruined our Pecos Enterprise unless we had secured legislative relief speedily-in this we were completely successful and we were left in better shape than before the row began." ^91
An amendment to the Sundry Civil Appropriations Bill, signed on August 30, 1890, effectively killed the Powell survey
General Revision Act of 1891. The act repealed the Timber Culture and Preemption Acts, extended the period after original homestead entry several months before it could be commuted to a cash entry, and modified requirements for the completion of Desert Land entries. Now applicants for Desert Land entry had to submit plans for irrigation and spend at least one dollar per acre in each of the three years on irrigation. The applicant had to live in the state, and the acreage one could acquire was now limited to 320 acres. [all the rich fat cats got theirs, now set up the barriers to entry]
Such reforms may have come too late, because speculators and railroads had already grabbed the choicest lands.
[land had for 25 cents an acre was being resold for 25-100 dollars by land developers]
law did not require resi-dency or cultivation
New Yorkers and Chicagoans deeded the lands over to Stevens, the Eddys, Tan-sill, friends, relatives, and parties connected to the valley's irrigation com-pany
the supply of irrigable land was far greater than the number of settlers who wanted to live on it. ^99
Chapter 03: Jackrabbits, Canals, and Cottonwoods
Eddy built his town twelve miles south of the established village of Seven Rivers, the community of Texas cattlemen that now fought Eddy not only over control of grazing lands but also for political control of the region.
christened the town of Eddy in the fall of 1888
Eddy established the Pecos Valley Town Company, 4 organized April 6, 1889, "to acquire, hold, and subdivide tracts of land in the territory of New Mexico and to turn such tracts of land into suitable town lots and to sell them to settlers." ^5
the Town Company was responsible for public improvements such as gasworks, electric light works, waterworks, and streetcars, all of which Eddy proposed for the new town in the early 1890s. ^6
Charles Eddy even planted cot-tonwoods throughout his town.
E. G. Shields commented that as late as 1890, the valley was more or less a complete desert without inhabitants, but by 1891 the population exceeded one thousand, and according to him there were hundreds of houses throughout the valley. ^15
loose cattle had a penchant for run-ning through the streets and knocking over newly planted cottonwood trees.
to protect the cottonwoods by planting ocotillo cacti beside the trees and by hiring a mounted night watchman to chase the cattle out of town.
By the middle of July 1890, construction crews had laid five miles of Pecos Valley Railway track from Pecos, Texas, north to Eddy. ^24
1891, telegraph service
[vying for county seat of the new town of Eddy] "Dear Sir, According to the bill creating our county...the gov-ernor is to appoint...county commissioners in August. In a county [as] progressive as our's [sic]...there [are] always...obstructionists....[I]t may be that they will ask you to appoint commissioners who would prove very unfortunate to our enormous interest. And before you take any action, let us suggest the names of men who are first class businessmen and thor-oughly reliable citizens....Charles B. Eddy, Eddy, New Mexico." ^28
as Seven Rivers receded in importance, the burgeoning town of Roswell, ninety miles upstream, grew as a rival to the town of Eddy. ^30 When in 1890 Roswell adopted the name "The Pride of the Pecos," Eddy decided to call itself "The Pearl of the Pecos." ^31
His first well, dug by William Hale, flowed pure clean water. By 1900 the Roswell area had 153 such wells.
as early as 1891 settlers near Seven Rivers drilled artesian wells, one only 180 feet deep. ^39
local newspaper commented: "[Eddy] is entirely too large a town to twaddle along any farther. She has outgrown her baby clothes and now demands adult garments in the shape of a complete city government." The town incorporated on January 16, 1893. ^41
James Hagerman believed that all the country needed was the right sort of people to settle it. "You want steady, industrious, frugal people-people who understand farming and fruit growing and are not afraid to work and do not expect to make a fortune in one or two years." ^42 In the early days, Eddy and Hagerman brought investors, not farmers, to the area, but by 1891 the emphasis shifted to farmers.
Hagerman Dam. In 1892 workers built the first dam
which became the parent of Southwestern Public Service Company, now Xcel Energy, which supplies electricity to customers in seventeen states. ^57
The reservoir had a capacity of 1.5 million gallons
spring of 1893, Hagerman planted 12,316 grapevines and 2,950 fruit trees, including 37 fig trees. The area around his residence was covered with 5 English walnut trees, 58 olive trees, 12 orange trees, 26 palm trees, a number of yuccas, pomegranates, and oleanders, 99 China umbrellas, 20 elm trees, and 46 Russian mulberries. Hagerman added black locust trees, 799 Carolina poplar trees, 350 cottonwoods, 18 weeping willows, 354 Russian mulberries, and 40,000 Osage hedge plants
They recommended that newcomers plant ten acres of alfalfa and devote remaining acreage to fruit trees.
Boosted by unscrupulous promotion and false promises, Eddy continued to grow.
Max Frost put it, "if this thing keeps on, the Eddy country tail will wag the New Mexico dog financially, politically, and in every other way." ^95
European immigrants would succeed in New Mexico
Gaullieur told local officials that the immigrants needed no financial help since his country did not permit immigration of the poorer classes who depended solely on their labor to get by. Prospective immi-grants to the valley, according to Gaullieur, gained permission to leave Switzerland only after proving ownership of enough capital to allow farmers and stockmen to succeed without going into debt. ^106
Swiss entries all show Vaud, New Mexico, as the place of residence.
Promoters also tried to disabuse prospective settlers from the notion of southeastern New Mexico as a rough, uncivilized place. Rather it was progressive, civilized, and English speaking.
Chapter 04: Dams and Violence in the Pecos Valley
As total investment increased, projects got bigger and more capital-intensive, measured by the flurry of activity by investors, laborers, farmers, and townspeople. Violence fed by alcohol and racism also increased commensurate with the amount of construction activity in the valley.
Ash Upson described the contraption in December 1888: Imagine a large wagon frame, with a tread of eight feet, enormous wheels, with tires six inches wide. Underneath, and at one side, is a large plow, of the kind known as a "prairie breaker." An endless band of gum elastic about three feet wide, revolving over rollers, extends from the plow at right angles with the furrows. A cog wheel attachment to the wagon wheel gives motion to this endless band. Now, when the machine is in motion the plow turns the sod or ground just like any plow, the dirt so turned over falls on the band, which in motion, carries it off to one side and deposits it a distance of 22 feet from the furrow. The machine in an up and down trip will excavate two furrows and deposit the dirt 44 feet apart....Fourteen horses and three men work the machine, doing the work of thirty men and horses with ordi-nary plows and scrapers. ^20
The machine plowed a furrow twelve inches wide and six inches deep. The company ran the machine ten miles per day, working as quickly as possible, throwing some 1,000 cubic yards of dirt in the process. The company used two of these machines on the projects. ^21
By the spring of 1891 James Hagerman and other investors had spent close to a million dollars on various works in the valley, and by the fall of 1893 that figure had doubled. ^55
The introduction of property taxes after 1848 caused many New Mexicans to lose land. Land taxes were based on the presumption that land was used for commercial enterprises, such as those pursued by Anglos, but the tradi-tional economy of Mexican Americans was based on subsistence agricul-ture and stock raising, in which cash profits were scant. During the Spanish and Mexican eras, taxes were levied not on lands but on products of land, and were paid in kind.
In the 1880s when commercial cattle operators entered the territory, Anglos took full advantage of tax laws to wrest land from Mexican Ameri-cans. By the late 1880s and 1890s, Mexican pastoral agriculture near Mis-souri Plaza and elsewhere had been replaced, and displaced Mexican American farmers ironically became the workforce that made possible the newcomers' prosperity. ^59
Charles Eddy, charged with forcing Mexican Americans off their land, also became their major employer, recruiting Mexican nationals and Mex-ican American workers to valley projects for extremely low wages.
Some of his workers were boys, making two and a half to five cents per hour, working ten-hour days, or $15 per month, to complete Avalon Dam and clear a site for the new town. ^61 By comparison, Francis Tracy, who began working for the company as a crew foreman supervising Mexican laborers planting orchards and digging ditches, made $75 a month for his efforts. ^62 A Roswell schoolteacher taught twenty students in a one-room schoolhouse and made $45 a month, $13 going for room and board. ^63 Trail bosses hired to herd the Eddys' cattle in the early to mid-1880s made $100 a month. ^64 Cowboys made much less.
Following the Mexican War, the Mex-ican economy became an integral part of the U.S. Economy, especially as a labor resource: "A worker from central Mexico could move northward, from town to town, through the western United States, engaged in mining, farming and maintenance work for investor and production linked compa-nies."
Following the first railroad built into El Paso in the 1880s, subsequent lines employed thousands of Mexican workers to lay track in the South-west. ^73
Irrigation company offi-cials pursued this from the start: "It is pretty generally understood...that saloons, gambling dens, houses of ill repute, etc., will not be tolerated in Eddy. This place is going to be a temperance town, a decent town, a chaste town. It is going to be a place where good people can locate to bring up good children. It is patterned after Colorado Springs, Colorado, a town that has a national reputation as a strictly temperenced place." ^78
To placate workers and recoup some of their wages [Eddy worked with neighboring towns to profit from the liquor being sold; advertising in the newspaper where to get the drinks, but maintaining an air of respectability in the community.]
Local reporters gleefully related graphic and often bizarre details about violence almost every week. [almost all racially biased, Mexicans, Italians, etc]
One worker, reminiscing on his earlier days building irrigation projects, remembered that the territory was full of bandits: "They ha[d] long hair and beards and would ride through the countryside stopping wagons...killing the people and taking their horses." ^103
Business interests in Phenix ran candidates for sheriff, county clerk, and county assessor in November 1894 and lost all three races in an election in which some returns were lost and the results of the sheriff 's race were contested.
Chapter 05: Companies Canals and Capital
in 1891 the grand total Hagerman proposed to irrigate from the Pecos Irrigation and Improvement Company system came to 400,000 acres. The hubris of engineers at the time led them to believe that irrigating 400,000 acres was not only reasonable but a task made easy by the region's level land, and, perhaps more important, by the engineers' and investors' abiding faith in the human use of science to control water and nature. ^34
In retrospect, it appears that Hagerman and others, including "competent" engineers like Net-tleton, had little grasp of the reality of irrigating the Pecos Valley.
irrigated acreage from Roswell to Texas does not exceed 50,000 acres today.
By the fall of 1893 James Hagerman and other investors had spent $2 million on various works in the valley, and, as indicated by the reservoir negotiations, costs were soaring. ^53
The Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890 directed the U.S. Treasury to buy 4.5 million ounces of silver each month at the prevailing market price, then issue legal tender notes, using the silver as backing. Congress repealed the act in October 1893 because the panic caused many to believe the silver standard weakened the gold reserve and that demonetizing silver would pull the nation out of the depression. ^68
Despite Hagerman's promises and financial maneuvering, many people fled the valley after the flood, including the Swiss and Italians. The only foreigners who stayed were those too poor to leave, the laborers who worked for the moneyed class
Instead of watering 400,000 acres, the system watered only about 37,000. ^83 About 25,000 acres are irrigable under the Carlsbad Project today, an irrigation system that serves 700 people on 155 farms. ^84
Chapter 06: Railroads and Receivership
By the end of 1897 Hagerman had spent $2,654,894 in the Pecos Valley. ^36
1896 and 1898 Eddy and Hagerman frequently competed for the same money at high interest rates of 12 to 13 percent.
Chapter 07: Private Irrigation Drowns in Ditches of its Own Making
engineers failed to use water supplies fully or prevent alkali buildup
90 percent of all privately owned irrigation companies were near or in bankruptcy by 1902. ^1
Roosevelt laid the basis for watering the West: "Great storage works are necessary to equalize the flow of streams and to save floodwaters. This con-struction has been conclusively shown to be an undertaking too vast for pri-vate efforts....[I]t is properly a national function....[T]he Government should construct and maintain these reservoirs." ^4
reclamation met opposition from states' rights supporters; older, eastern states; and from farmers fearful of competition, who tended to oppose fed-eral involvement in agriculture. ^5
western writer, "the engineers who staffed the Reclama-tion Service tended to view themselves as a godlike class performing hydro-logic miracles for gratified simpletons who were content to sit in the desert and raise fruit." ^15
October 2, 1902, floodwaters raced down the banks of the Pecos River and partially destroyed Avalon Dam. Observers estimated the flood to be twice as great as the one that had caused so much destruc-tion in 1893.
December 1904 Reclamation began a seventeen-month-long investigation and preliminary surveys in the lower valley to repair and rehabilitate the system. ^86
Chapter 08: Mr. Wrecklamation Man
[12.5c per hour for Mexican, 15 cents per hour for easterners]
Engineer Thomas H. Means, ^41 from the Bureau of Soils: "Such a depression in the prosperity of every irrigation scheme fos-tered by a corporation seems to be inevitable and when other schemes of similar magnitude in the United States are compared, the Pecos Valley does not seem to have suffered more than many others." ^44
Means noted that in the Pecos Valley, as in other parts of the western United States, engineering and technology did not match the needs of the projects
river water used to irrigate crops was charged with salines. The river carried an average of 310 parts of soluble matter per 100,000 parts water. Out of that amount, some 152 parts were made up of salts
Means con-cluded that irrigation water was so highly constituted of gypsum and alkali that it was gradually destroying the soils of the project area, and eventually would prevent growing all except the heartiest of alkali-resistant crops. ^46
Although fruit, asparagus, onions, cantaloupe, celery, and sweet potatoes showed positive results on well-managed farms, the valley soils lacked the nutrients required for many crops.
Means, like R. B. Marcy fifty years earlier, thought the Pecos Valley was best suited as grazing country.
He [Means] argued that barley or oats during the winter months, with alfalfa and kaffir corn grown during the summer, would be especially profitable. ^47
Farmers in the Carlsbad area grew cotton in sufficient quantities to war-rant the construction and operation of a gin. experimented with Egyptian cotton, and Means thought the crop had a bright future. ^48
Bureau of Soils retracted its statements regarding alkali and poor water, issuing a statement indicating that the real trouble on the project was poor drainage, not bad water. ^51 [?!]
Chapter 09: Such of the Lands Economically Practicable to Irrigate
Referring to Malaga Land and Improvement Company, Reed informed the director: "A close inspection shows that their work is very artistic. They have used great ingenuity in avoiding, or trying to avoid, placing themselves criminally liable, yet they are undoubtedly deceiving people and know that they are doing so....[T]hey are trying to sell land that has not been admitted to the project, but are so wording their advertisements that those who are not familiar with the circumstances would be led to believe that they are getting lands that has a water right or is subject to a water right." ^12
Tracy, McLenathen, and Malaga were selling lands deeded to the association prior to knowing which lands would be irrigated. Given their quality, the Malaga lands were far down the list for possible inclusion under the project.
informed numerous purchasers that they had bought land that had no water whatsoever, and "no one could say when this land could get water for irrigation, if ever." ^26
Average farmers in the Carlsbad area, according to Muggeridge, resented large landowners and managers like Francis Tracy
Chapter 10: God Pity the Water User
While many people consid-ered reclamation projects as engineering triumphs, many projects were social and economic nightmares.
Taylor responded that "no outside man can afford to serve on a [similar] Board...unless he makes up his mind to certify that everything that has been done in the past was 'proper,' otherwise he will put in array against him the most powerful organization in the Engineering world." ^30
Citing an Army Board of Engineers report from 1910, Mead and other Central Board members considered Carlsbad to be the victim of specula-tion.
All told, the government spent some $900,000 for construction on the project, each increment of which was requested andapproved by the association. ^41
The water users association had been controlled by Tracy and absentee proxy votes for a decade.
The Central Board pointed out that people neither improving nor cultivating but simply acting as dummy owners for large holders of land worked against the intent of the Reclamation Act
Local boosters promoted the area water supply as inexhaustible [Carlsbad, 2 springs, 2 reservoirs]
By the end of the decade, according to boosters, the area grew more Durango cotton than anywhere else in the region. ^54 From 1907 to 1922 cotton and alfalfa led the way in crop production.
Reclamation countered that the principal problems at Carlsbad were inflated land prices, alien landlordism, dummy landowners, and watered landholdings that exceeded Reclamation's 160-acre limit
Chapter 11: An Elusive Reservoir
To the north, farmers drilled wells near Roswell to utilize underground aquifers; Carlsbad water users believed the wells diminished the volume in the Pecos River.
With statehood in 1912, state law, not federal territorial law, governed New Mexico's water use.
New Mexicans found it curious that although Texas historically stood against Reclamation in the West, as soon as the federal government started raising money for such projects, Texas promptly made demands for its share of those monies and waters, although it had not one acre of public land. ^10
Leakage and siltation had increasingly reduced the effectiveness of McMillan Reservoir. Experiencing water shortages, the Pecos Water Users Association again requested and received a contract for an investigation and sought federal assistance for construc-tion of a new storage reservoir. ^17
By the early 1920s the federal government had spent close to $2 million rehabilitating and improving the Carlsbad Project. The irrigation works, however, were still besieged by problems of siltation and seepage, salt cedar growth, evaporation, absentee ownership, and additional claims to the waters of the Pecos River.
grandiose pseudoscientific claims about "rain fol-lowing the plow,"
Over 90 percent of the private irrigation companies were bankrupt or close to it by 1900 because of poor design and construction, short growing seasons, alkali soils, inadequate drainage, and poor assessment of water availability and flooding.
Desert Passages,^1 Patricia Limerick discusses a succession of travelers, miners, and appreciators of the desert, finally arriving at irrigationists at the turn of the century.
At its core, Carlsbad is about the scarcity of water-and the individuals, corporations, and political entities who fought among themselves, estab-lished allies, and maneuvered to control it. There was little accommodation for physical, environmental, or economic realities.
1987 before the federal government completed a third reservoir, and then only on the basis of multiple use, Brantley Dam and Reservoir culminated a century's worth of badgering and subsequent investigations in the valley.
the Carlsbad Project nonetheless demonstrates a manipula-tion of federal law for the benefit of nineteenth-century speculators. Carlsbad reflects the struggle between Reclamation's attempt to stay true to policies adopted under the Newlands Act, given the special nature of the Carlsbad Project, and the political pressure brought to bear by local and national lobby efforts aimed at skirting the law's intent.
in 1923 New Mexico and Texas jointly created the Pecos River Compact Commission following legislation in each state to seek a means for distributing waters equitably among the citizens of the two states.
Pecos River Compact, was finally signed in 1948
Immediately following ratification of the second Pecos River Compact, troubles began that continued unabated into the twenty-first century. Unusually dry weather plagued New Mexico in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1988, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that New Mexico had regularly shorted Texas valuable water between 1950 and 1986.