Home News Vision Historically Speaking: Early Roswell farming and ranching industry

Historically Speaking: Early Roswell farming and ranching industry

Photo Courtesy of the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Archives The caption reads, "Celery is a very profitable crop in the Pecos Valley, often bringing $500 to $800 per acre. No finer celery grown anywhere" — location, persons and date unknown.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

By Janice Dunnahoo

Special to the Daily Record

For the past two weeks, my articles have focused on the early businesses in Roswell. It is always fun and interesting to look back on the advertisements, where businesses were located and what type of businesses they were.

This week, I would like to take you a bit further back to the beginning of industry in Roswell, which was, of course, farming and ranching. Again, these clippings are taken from early advertisements to attract more people to our area. It is fascinating to see what was grown here, what was shipped from here and the sheer volume of it. There is also some promotion of what living in the Pecos Valley was like. The era of these advertisements was around 1910. I hope you enjoy.


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“During the last few years there has been a marked tendency on the part of the people living in the overworked and overcrowded East, to take advantage of the many opportunities offered by the West. These are men of courage. They are men who have followed all professions and trades, and tiring, as they have, of the confinement of their work, and with a desire to devote their energies to some line that would be more remunerative, they have sought the fertile western valleys, where, for a given amount of labor, the profits are vastly greater.


“One of the first things that impresses the visitor to the Roswell district is the excellent system of country driveways surrounding the city. For miles the roads are heavily shaded and the nature of the soil is such that the roads remain in fine condition throughout the winter as well as summer. Barring, perhaps, the roads of eastern Massachusetts, that are built and maintained by the state, probably no district in the country has as fine suburban driveways.


“Some idea of the immense productivity of the soil can be gained by knowing that it is only a matter of a few years since the entire district illustrated in many pictures was a barren, treeless prairie. Anyone who has traveled extensively in the West cannot help but note the contrast between the finished and highly developed condition of the Roswell district as compared with the harsh and unfinished condition of most of the western irrigated districts; thanks to the good taste and forethought of the pioneers in the Pecos Valley.


“It is generally considered that there is no line of business that will bring as large returns on the investment as will a bearing orchard in the fertile valleys of the West. One hundred to two hundred per cent per annum are by no means uncommon. Visit the Roswell district yourself and confirm these statements. See for yourself the independent life — the life of comparative leisure that the owners of these orchards live and compare their lot with the land of the average business man in the East.


“Certain varieties of apples are best adapted to certain districts. There are many districts where the varieties best adapted have not yet been determined. In the Roswell district the varieties that are not desired in the market and the varieties not suited to the climate are not now being planted. In the next five years, thousands of acres of young orchards will come into bearing. These young orchards will contain the choicest varieties and therefore will have a much higher value than the present bearing orchards. Even so, these older orchards are bringing their owners immense returns upon their labor and investments.


“In the East and North the grower sows his seed and then depends upon the physical elements to determine whether or not he gets a crop. If a drouth (a poetic form of drought) follows, he must stand by and watch his crops wither and parch. If continued rains come when they are not needed, he must bear a loss. Either form of disappointment stands for a depression of greater or less degree. In a district where there is an abundance of pure water, where the soil is rich and deep, having never had the growing season elements washed from it by continued rains, and where the sun shines almost continuously, the grower controls every element that determines his success.


“In making a choice of an irrigated farm it is not necessary to become a pioneer. It is not necessary to live 10 or 20 miles from the city, and in a district where everything is raw and primitive. It is but a matter of a few minutes drive from our irrigated farms into the thoroughly modern city of Roswell, a city that has done things and that is doing things today. No better social, educational or moral conditions exist anywhere than in Roswell, New Mexico.


“A matter of great interest in the Roswell district is the abundant underflow of water. This water finds its source in the snows of the mountains at the west of the Roswell district. It flows eastward through several well defined strata which are found in the water-bearing rock. These various strata of water-bearing rock are found at depths from two hundred to one thousand feet. In places the water comes to the surface of the ground by natural pressure. In a few places it crops out of the ground in the form of springs. On the higher levels, where fortunately the best orchard lands lay, it is only necessary to drill to one or more of these depths when an abundant supply of water will rise so nearly to the surface of the ground as to make the pumping of it a simple matter.


“While apples are and always will be the most important fruit in the Roswell district, as in all the world, yet we grow here in great perfection most of the fruits produced in temperate climates. Pears, peaches, plums and prunes do especially well. All of the best varieties of pears succeed. The fruit is handsomer and of better quality than in most of the states. We grow superb peaches. The diseases of the peach so troublesome in the North are entirely unknown here. Peaches are a highly profitable market fruit.


“The climate of the Roswell district is as nearly ideal as can be. The elevation from sea level is 3,600 feet, plus the temperatures are much lower than would be expected in a district so far south. While the summer temperatures are high at noon day, the nights are always cool. Freezing temperatures late in the winter nights are the rule but as soon as the clear sun rises the days are delightfully warm. The nightly frost in the winter give the apples a high flavor and the clear sunny days of the summer give the fruit a high coloring. The soil can be worked throughout the entire winter as the ground never freezes. The government maintains a well-equipped Weather Bureau station at Roswell.


“Texas is the main market at present for Pecos Valley products, and is reached by Amarillo or Pecos City. Probably 400 carloads of apples and 2,000 carloads of alfalfa will go out of the Pecos Valley to Texas in 1911. The rates on these products are reasonable and the service prompt.

“Our fruit market, however, is by no means confined to Texas. Oklahoma and Louisiana are next in importance, and many cars of apples and peaches are shipped with profit to Chicago, Philadelphia, New York and London.

“Virginia, South Carolina and many eastern states, especially where dairying is extensively carried on, use alfalfa from the Roswell district, and much has been shipped, via Galveston, to Cuba, Honolulu and many foreign countries. The home market for oats and other small grains, for garden produce, is good and constantly improving.


“Excursion tickets to the Pecos Valley can be purchased at any point in the United States and over any railroad at one and a half fare plus two dollars. These are known as homeseekers’ tickets and are good for twenty five days. Roswell has a number of good hotels, the leading one being the Gilkison. This hotel is new and admirably situated, and every arrangement is made for the comfort of the guests. Most of the rooms are equipped with baths.


“Some portions of the Pecos Valley are watered by canal systems. These canals are supplied with water from natural springs that flow throughout the entire year. The government, in the last four years, has spent in excess of two million dollars in the development of such gravity systems in the valley.


“The bee industry in the Pecos Valley has been much improved each year, there being now five thousand colonies as compared to one thousand two years ago.

“The output of honey this last year was 350,000 pounds. A bee growers association was organized in 1910. It has some forty-five members and much of the development of the industry is due to their good work. The honey is obtained largely from the blossoms of alfalfa and during a limited portion of the season from the fruit blossoms. Thus a high quality of honey is obtained.


“As this section of New Mexico is becoming more the domain of the small farmer, the milk breeds of cattle are becoming very popular, jerseys predominating with a fair sprinkling of Holsteins.

“For beef, the white faced Hereford, being an animal of quick growth, is rapidly supplanting the old native stock. Some of the beef men still cling to the Durham, but on the fertile pastures and rich uplands one may see great herds of white-faced cattle.


“New Mexico is perhaps one of the most important sheep districts in the United States. The sheep interests constitute one of the principal sources of wealth of the Pecos Valley. Most of the range is not in the valley proper, but on the open lands running back to the foothills of the mountains.

The sheep breeders of the Pecos Valley of New Mexico ship over 5,000,000 pounds of wool annually.

“Captain Charles de Bremond has spent much money and devoted much time and pains to the improvement of sheep in New Mexico. His herd of 15,000 Shropshires is one of the finest in the Southwest.


“The Roswell district is ideally situated for a healthful place. It has all the advantages of an arid climate, without any of the disadvantages. North Spring River, which rises a short distance above the city, and flows through it, is a living spring and flows without variation throughout the year. The drinking water supply, both in and about Roswell, is entirely from the deep wells. The water contains considerable lime and is therefore quite hard. It is clear and sparkling and absolutely pure. The water has its source in the mountains and it’s perfectly filtered through the porous rock. Waterborne diseases are therefore easily controlled. Typhoid is not endemic, and only occurs when brought in. The few cases that have been brought in have been easily controlled and stamped out. Diseases of childhood seem milder than in a lower altitude and more humid climates.


“It is but two or three hours drive to the mountains where there can be found several well equipped resorts. These mountains abound in some of the finest big game in America. Black tail deer, wild turkeys, Mexican quail and squirrel are quite common, as are also the cinnamon bear. East of Roswell are a series of lakes in which are found the black bass and other fish. In and about Roswell, automobiling is enjoyed to it’s fullest extent during the entire year. Continued clear sky makes tennis and similar games enjoyable from January to December.


“The Pecos Valley of New Mexico furnishes opportunities for the young and the old. The young man comes to help in the great work of home building and thereby adds to his bank account. He realizes upon investigation that his opportunities in this respect are many. The place for a young man is in the West. The old seek the shade of the orchard and it’s agreeable surroundings and succeed through the care of that which is already accomplished. The old and the young alike succeed in the Pecos Valley.”

Sadly, a late hard freeze in the early 1930s took out almost all of the local orchards. The sap was already rising and the stories that were told was that you could hear loud pops all over the countryside when the sap froze and the trees just split open.

The good news was that, by that time many other industries had been started here, so we were able to overcome the loss.

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

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