Home News Vision Historically Speaking: Beginning of Roswell

Historically Speaking: Beginning of Roswell

Photo Courtesy of the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Archives Roswell telephone building on Third Street between Richardson and Pennsylvania Avenues — date unknown.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

By Janice Dunnahoo

Special to the Daily


For the beginning of the New Year, I thought it would be fun to share excerpts from a promotional booklet for Roswell — about 1909 — no specific date is listed. This promotional booklet of our town was published by the Commercial Club, which was similar to the Chamber of Commerce. It’s a window into the life and times of our town 111 years ago, and shows how early Roswell was promoted. What a fun time and such nostalgia.

“The City of Roswell

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“Roswell has a natural site for a city. It is the seat of Chaves County, the center of the richest irrigated section in semi arid America, is the logical trade center for an area larger than many states.

“Roswell has a population of 11,000 people, and in the citizenship are included people from every state in the union and every civilized country in the world. Naturally with such a citizenship, Roswell is essentially cosmopolitan, and it has many features normally peculiar to cities twice or three times its size.

“Roswell has three banks, with a combined capital of nearly $3 million, and a great trust company, doing business of a quarter of a million more.

“Practically all religious denominations are represented, namely, Baptist, North and South Methodists, North and South Presbyterian, Christians, Primitive Christians, Christian Scientists, Salvation Army, Catholic, and others of minor membership.

“The cosmopolitanism is almost as well marked in the field of fraternity, nearly all of the brotherhood’s being represented, namely all branches of masonry, the Oddfellow‘s, Elks, Woodman (both branches,) Knights of Pythias, Eagles, Ancient Order of United Workmen, the Yeomen, the Ravens, the Praetorians, the Fraternal Tribunes, the Modern Brotherhood, etc., while the labor unions extend into practically every calling.

“Roswell’s light is supplied by a great electric light plant, which is capable of supplying 15,000 incandescent lights, and which has a $100,000 plant. Gas is also largely used, the Roswell Gas Company having many miles of mains and supplying oil gas for illumination and cooking at $1.80 per 1,000 cubic feet. This company owns and operates the largest crystal ice factory in the valley, much of which territory it supplies, the home price of the best ice being only 65 cents per 100 pounds.

“The city owns and operates its own waterworks having $120,000 plant, with 42 miles of mains. The water is supplied by two large artesian wells, and the water being absolutely pure, no settling tanks or means of clarification are necessary. The equipment of the plant is sufficient for a city of 20,000 people, and water is supplied to the people from as low as 5c for 1000 gallons up to 15c, according to the quantity used. Meter measurement prevails entirely, and the system is generally used, though several hundred homes are supplied from the artesian wells which have made the valley famous.

“The telephone utility is controlled by a local company who have invested over $100,000, and whose lines reach to Amarillo on the north, and by connections with auxiliary companies with Malaga, on the south, with side lines to the more remote mountains and plains settlements. The equipment is absolutely first class, and the rates very reasonable, $3.50 per month for business and $2.00 for residence phones. The Colorado Bell Company’s long distance line enters the city from the west and gives faultless service to Albuquerque, Santa Fe, El Paso, Las Vegas, and northern New Mexico points, while Denver will be connected as soon as a short gap can be built. The Western Union telegraph company has an uptown office, and the postal telegraph people will shortly build from Tucumcari.

“There is now but one railroad, the Santa Fe, though further rail connection is but a matter of a few months. The Santa Fe does a vast business out of Roswell. In 1909, it carried out of Roswell 1275 cars of freight and brought in 2038 cars, while it sold 18,875 in-and-out tickets to passengers. “Considerable passenger business also goes over the automobile mail line to Vaughn, 118 miles north, on the Rock Island road, the distance being covered in four hours. This auto mail line was the first of its kind established in the United States, if not in the world, and has been in successful operation for five years.

“Roswell has the unique distinction of having more cement sidewalks than any other city of its size in America, 71 miles, which is being constantly added to. Naturally this is a matter of great pride to its people.

“The city sewer system extends far into the suburbs, and cost in the neighborhood of $100,000.

“Among other features of the city are: 5,000 shade trees, one daily, and one semi weekly newspaper, 6 excellent hotels, a modern steam laundry, free mail delivery with a comprehensive system of rural routes. No saloons after 1 July, 1910. A wool market that handles annually over 6,000,000 pounds of wool — much of which is scoured at the local mill; A $75,000 alfalfa meal mill which makes the best balanced stock feed in the world, cement brick and block factories, the total tax payment of 100%, the federal land office — which is the second largest in the United States, a perfectly appointed fire department with four paid men and the best hose and chemical equipment — housed in a modern city building, the lowest death rate of any city of a size in the Southwest, representation of practically every line of business, 200 automobiles in use, a ministerial association and an anti-saloon league, no tenderloin district, and the smallest number of police cases of any city in the territory.

“Roswell and the Pecos Valley has a generous allotment of modern public buildings, Roswell, as the largest city, is especially well favored. It is now completing a courthouse that is to cost $130,000. The appropriation has been made for a federal building, to house the headquarters of the Fifth Judicial District, the United States Court, the post office, and other government Departments to cost $130,000. The Masons have the finest temple in the southwest, costing $50,000, with the finest lodge furnishings in the Rocky Mountains. The Benevolent and Protective order of Elks have a magnificent club and lodge home which cost $20,000. The Baptist church with its furnishings cost $35,000. St. Mary’s Hospital represents an expenditure of nearly $40,000 and is one of the best appointed in the country.

“Roswell has perhaps the best graded and High School system in the whole Southwest. It’s equipment is headed with a modern $50,000 high school, which will be furnished in time for the scholastic year of 1910–11, and which contains every facility for effective school work. Supplementing this high school, which in 1909-10 had an enrollment of 160 and a faculty of six, there is a splendid central grammar school, an auxiliary grammar school, and the coming winter there will be three smaller ward schools in operation.

“These schools are conducted by a most efficient staff of 40 teachers, and the total enrollment is over 2,000.

“Two hundred families moved to Roswell in 1909, whose chief attraction was the school system. There is also an excellent parochial school, the Dickens Select School.

“Roswell’s Features In Paragraphs:

“A modern ice plant.

“One daily newspaper.

“A population of 11,000.

“Six excellent hotels.

“Healthy drinking water.

“Complete city waterworks.

“The finest climate on Earth.

“71 miles of cement sidewalks.

“One semi-weekly newspaper.

“Over 5,000 beautiful shade trees.

“200 automobiles.

“125 artesian wells.

“U.S. Land Office.

“U.S. Weather Bureau.

“$20,000.00 Elks Home.

“$25,000.00 Country Club.

“Free rural mail delivery.

“$50,000.00 Masonic Home.

“Gas for heating and lighting.

“Headquarters of Federal Court.

“Cool summers and mild winters.

“2,264 school children.

“Five large public school buildings.

“Local and long distance telephones.

“Five lumber yards.

“Three wholesale houses.

“$35,000.00 alfalfa meal factory.

“345 days of sunshine each year.

“The finest roads in and out of town.

“Large and commodious commercial club rooms.

“50 miles of pretty, shady, drives.

“Stores that are a credit to cities of 500,00 people.

“New Mexico Military Institute, covering 40 acres in the city, with 225 cadets.

“Post office receipts of $22,640.08.

“A glad hand and a smiling welcome to every newcomer.

“No chills.

“No fever.

“No malaria.

“No cyclones.

“No earthquakes.

“No humidity.

“No mossbacks.

“No sun strokes.

“Parties who are interested in Roswell and who desire information not contained here, are invited to address E.L. Bedell, secretary Commercial Club, Roswell, N.M., who promptly responds to all queries.”

Janice Dunnahoo is chief archivist at the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Archives. She can be reached at 575-622-1176 or at jdunna@hotmail.com.


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