Just north of the Pajarito Creek, Liberty was founded for the soldiers stationed at Fort Bascom during the war between the states. When the railroad built through the country Tucumcari was born. All of the businesses from Liberty that wanted to survive moved to Tucumcari and this was the death of Liberty. Fort Bascom had already been closed.
In 1900 the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad decided to build a line across New Mexico to connect with the El Paso and Northeastern Railroad at Santa Rosa. The line was built in 1901 and 1902. The first passenger train was through Tucumcari March 12, 1902. Soon there were four passenger trains through Tucumcari each day. Two west bound and two east bound. There was also a mail train, an express, and at least one freight train each way every day.
Tucumcari was founded November 22, 1901 on the Rock Island Railroad in the Territory of New Mexico, Union County. The town was named for Tucumcari mountain which dominated the landscape. A tent city appeared almost overnight. J. A. Street is acknowledged as the first person to erect a tent. Tucumcari was still a tent city in 1903 when Quay County was formed.
There it was. Tucumcari (the Infant Wonder) with no streets, no water, no sewer; just a railroad and a million dreams. The fathers of Tucumcari would be the five business men from Liberty who filed on the land, then donated 120 acres of land for townsite of Tucumcari and were the ones who organized the town in 1901. They were: M. B. Goldenberg, A. D. Goldenberg, Jacob Wertheim, J. A. Street, and Lee K. Smith.
Wells were dugbut the hard ground and failure to locate water discouraged drilling wells. Water was not found. Water had to be hauled each day and delivered to the water barrel by each house. Water would cost fifty cents a barrel. Some of the men were working for the railroad by then. The people stayed. They over came the water problem. These people were real pioneers.
Five million acres of land had been opened for homesteading. Many people came west with their dreams and hopes only to move on to greener pastures when they fell victim to the dry arid climate. Dry land farming just wasn't in God's plan for the area surrounding Tucumcari. Irrigation came at a latter point in history. The same climate which was a problem for the farmers was thought to cure tuberculosis. Numbers of people soon arrived hoping to be cured of TB.
Some of the first businesses to open in 1902 were the Barnes and Rankin furniture store, the A. B. Simpson hardware, A. A. Blankenship's livery barn, a hotel , and of course the Monarch Saloon. A boarding house operated by Mr. and Mrs. Turner was located at First and Turner. Other businesses swere the Pioneer Bakery, Arcade Restaurant, Waldorf-Astoria Hotel with rooms for $2 a day, the Owl Saloon, Weldon and Young Real Estate and Investments, Jackson and Foxworth Lumber Company, and the Exchange Bank. Then there was the Gross Kelly Company of Las Vegas, offering general merchandise. The M. B. Goldenberg's Merchantile Company opened. The Berry Brothers Dairy. Max Goldenberg's home was the first permanent home built in Tucumcari, contained the post office.
|Left: Chester A. Berry, co-founder of the Berry Brothers Dairy in Tucumcari.
Right: Prentice Berry and the Sunshine Dairy wagon.
|By 1910 there were over 70 business in Tucumcari. There were four doctors and two lawyers. There was always the railroad in the early days. A school system and several churches were very active by 1910.|
QUAY COUNTY, 1903-1985, by the Quay County Book Committee, published 1985.
TUCUMCARI, and QUAY COUNTY, New Mexico's best kept secret.
A MARK OF TIME, A History of New Mexico, by Mary Grooms Clark, published 1983.
HIGH PLAINS HISTORY of East Central New Mexico co-edited by Don McAlavy and Harold Kilmer, 1980.
NEW MEXICO, American Guide Series, 1940 , by the Coronado Cuarto Centennial Commission.