Enchanting People of New Mexico - Charles B Eddy

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Episode 19 - Charles B Eddy

Michael Swickard here. Welcome to Enchanting People of New Mexico sponsored by the Fresh Chile Company in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Our award-winning Hatch Green and Red Chile is from locally owned farms in Hatch, NM, The Chile Capital of the World. You know today is National Green and Red Chile Day which starts January 1st and runs through December 31st every year. Monday and Fridays I do Historical and Cultural New Mexico Podcasts. Wednesdays, I celebrate New Mexicans. Every Wednesday I talk about people but today I start with a volcano that caused a big drought. I jokingly like to say we have had a drought here in Southern New Mexico for the last 280 million years, come next August. Not quite true.

Now we have been in a drought throughout all recorded history in the Southwest but one thing else happened in 1883. Culminating in a series of massive explosions on August 26, 1883, the Indonesian Volcano Krakatoa erupted in the most violent event in recorded history. At least 36,000 people died, mostly from Tsunamis created by the explosion. Krakatoa erupted with a force 10,000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima atomic bomb. It sent about six cubic miles, yes miles of rock dust, debris, and ash into the World’s atmosphere to obscure the sky all over the world. It also precipitated lots and lots of rain. Los Angeles had almost forty inches of rain that next year. It is a Los Angeles rainfall record that still stands. All over the Southwest there was significantly more rain than normal. Then the moisture was out of the atmosphere causing years and years of drought in New Mexico and other parts of the Southwest.

Now I have told you all of this to mention that in the early 1880s when it was raining there was vast numbers of homesteaders and settlers that called parts of the Southwest the promised land because they could actually own land of their own. In other countries it was not possible.

The Desert Land Act of 1877 was passed by the U. S. Congress March 4, 1877. It was designed to enhance and promote the economic development of the arid and semiarid public lands in several Western States including the Territory of New Mexico. U. S. citizens or even those declaring an intent to become a citizen, age 21 or over could own a square mile, 640 acres if they stated that they were going to irrigate and reclaim the arid land. This Congressional Act amended the Homestead Act of 1862. Applicants had to pay 25 cents an acre or $160. After three years these individuals had to prove that water had been put onto a portion of the land by water well or ditch and then they received a Presidential Patent to the Homestead after paying an additional one dollar per acre.

There was not a residency requirement, so the homesteaders did not have to build a house and live on the land themselves, they only had to make sure part of the square mile got water. The Act was designed to foster the settlement and cultivation of irrigable lands so on the east side of the New Mexico Territory the Pecos Valley was a huge hotbed of homesteading by people coming from the East and people wanting to come from the East and stay.

However, the big ranches used straw buyers to do this and then consolidated miles and miles of land. One such person was Charles Bishop Eddy. That is the special person I want to talk about today. You know, New Mexico’s Eddy County is named for him. Charles, his brother John, and a partner Amos Bissell formed the Eddy-Bissell Cattle Company in Southeastern New Mexico.

They came from ranches in Colorado and established a large ranch in the Carlsbad area. The ranch was not going to be worth much without being able to grow crops, so they built a diversion ditch on the Pecos River. With abundant rain from 1880 to 1883 the natural grass sustained the cattle, but the volcano caused drought saw that most of the cows on the range had to be moved to market or die. Getting the value of owning this land during a drought involved finding a way to build some conveyance of Pecos water by ditch water and Charles B. Eddy was up to the task.

Michael Swickard, Enchanting People of New Mexico. Each Wednesday we do a podcast on people who are special to New Mexico. Hit subscribe to automatically get these podcasts.

Today I am talking about a fascinating New Mexican, Charles B. Eddy. New Mexico Eddy County with the county seat of Carlsbad is named for him. In fact, the town now known as Carlsbad was first named Eddy by none other than Charles B. Eddy in 1888 but in 1889, just one year later, he decided to change the name of the town to Carlsbad because he discovered some mineral springs which he claimed would help people medicinally. No, Carlsbad was not named for the Caverns which were discovered a few years later, rather the Caverns were named for the town of Carlsbad. The town’s name was from the very famous European Spa and Health Center in Karlsbad, Bohemia. Rich people all over the world knew the name Carlsbad.

In 1888 Patrick Garrett, the former Lincoln County Sheriff who ended the scourge of Billy the Kid and another promoter joined Charles Eddy in building a system of canals and flumes to divert water to the various properties that could make commercial use of it. Several names joined in the projects including James John Hagerman. Yes, a town near the Pecos River goes by his name. There were many investors from Back East, and it was a toss-up if the project or the all-out promotions made more money for a while. But it really was about water.

Charles Eddy promoted a train for the Pecos, Texas area. In January 1891 the first railroad train arrived in Carlsbad from Pecos. The promoters, including Eddy and Hagerman, had to lay 90 miles of track which over the next few year was extended 70 miles northward up to Roswell. That brought real prosperity to the Pecos Valley. The railroad could economically transport the crops and herds of livestock to national markets. It also was a pipeline so to speak of people visiting and deciding to stay. In 1902 Carlsbad Caverns were discovered eighteen mile southwest of the town of Carlsbad and within a short while the Carlsbad Caverns National Park was bringing many visitors to the area from around the world. The issue is that if people came any time other than during the time of very feisty Spring winds, that area of the Southwest was very attractive, and many people came and stayed. And like all of us tolerated the Spring winds.

Next came oil which was discovered in the area in 1909 south of Artesia. Then one more thing. In 1925 potash was discovered by people looking for oil east of Carlsbad which started potash mining. Again, Charles B. Eddy with his investments in ranches and a finger in all these other enterprises was front row seated in the economic boom in Southeastern New Mexico.

Michael Swickard, Enchanting People of New Mexico. Each Wednesday we do a podcast on people who are special to New Mexico. Hit subscribe to automatically get these podcasts.

I’m talking about Charles Bishop Eddy. Mostly known as Charles B. Eddy and if all he did was the Pecos project, we would still be singing his praises. But here is much more. You see in 1889 Charles Eddy heard of a railroad line that had been started northward out of El Paso Texas, but the company ran out of investment money and those promoters closed the project. North of El Paso into Southern New Mexico were many miles of timber, coal, cattle, sheep, and other things a railroad could convey. With a fine head for geography and having built with others the Pecos Texas to Carlsbad railway, Charles B. Eddy realized that if it went up the Tularosa Valley and continued northward, it could hook up with the Rock Island Railroad around Clayton, New Mexico and provide a better route El Paso to Chicago. That is thinking big.

First off, to build such a railroad a hundred forty miles from El Paso to Carrizozo, New Mexico, would take a lot of timber. A survey crew found lots of timber near today’s Cloudcroft so a line from Alamogordo was planned to bring the timber down. The railroad bought 2700 acres of land to establish the resort of Cloudcroft. It was all good. Oliver Lee was paid $5,000 for his Alamo Ranch and water rights. The new town was laid out with lots being sold rapidly as the railroad reached Alamogordo June 15, 1898. Coal had been found near present day Capitan, so the railroad went up to Carrizozo and then built a spur line twenty miles eastward to get the coal. The railroad building went north, but not through White Oaks who had convinced themselves that the railroad would pay anything to go through the mining town of White Oaks with its Gold Mines. Turns out Charles B. Eddy bypassed White Oaks completely.

But there was one setback. The coal was too difficult to mine and so Charles Eddy backed away from that one enterprise and continued northward. White Oaks had coal but offended Charles Eddy by being, as it was said, too greedy with their price for a right of way. It went to Corona and on north to Clayton, New Mexico near the Northeast corner of New Mexico.

Charles Bishop Eddy found coal fields and got the railroad connected. He sold the railroad and coal to the Phelps-Dodge Corporation which had other mining interests in Arizona. This was concluded in 1905 and a very wealthy Charles B. Eddy left our area for other promotions. He traveled internationally and was said to have financial interests in building Spanish railroads, He also was involved with Texas oil promotions and was even part of a group building a subway in Chicago. He died at age 74 in 1931. New Mexico was made better by the dreaming and then successful efforts of Charles Bishop Eddy. I’m glad there is a New Mexico Eddy County.

Michael Swickard, Enchanting People of New Mexico. Each Wednesday we do a podcast on people who are special to New Mexico. Hit subscribe to automatically get these podcasts.

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Michael Swickard here. This is the Enchanting People of New Mexico. Thank you for your time today. We will always have lots of News and stories about New Mexico for you on these Podcasts. If you have something or someone you want me to talk about in a future podcast, write to: michael@freshchileco.com

Have a great rest of your day. Oh yes and eat plenty of that good Hatch Valley Chile. Like I always say, “Some Chile is good, more is better.” Bye for now.

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