Photo of the Eddy County courthouse, administration building, and  county logo

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Eddy Courthouse History

 

 

 

About Eddy County

Eddy County is located in Southeastern New Mexico; bordered to the West by Otero County, the North by Chaves County, the East by Lea County and to the South, by the State of Texas.  The county was named for cattle rancher Charles B. Eddy.

Long before Charles Eddy came along, the area was home to other groups and tribes of people.  Around 25,000 BC, the people living in the area of Eddy County were relatives of "Sandia Man".  Nomadic hunters wandered the area, hunting buffalo and other game, over the next several thousand years. 

In the 1300's, a more sedentary group of people called "Basket Makers" settled in the caves around Eddy County and in pit houses, West of the Pecos River.  In the early 1500's, Spanish Explorers Alvar Nunez, Cabeza de Vaca, Antonio Espéjo and Castaño de Sosa, traveled through present day Eddy County, following the life giving Pecos. 

In 1866, Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving drove vast herds of cattle along the Pecos and set up "cow camps" in Seven Rivers and what is present day Carlsbad.  John Chisum soon joined them and brought an estimated 100,000 head of cattle of his own through the Pecos Valley. 

In 1881, Charles B. Eddy came to the area, and with his brother, John, and partner Amos Bissell, developed the Eddy-Bissell Cattle Company.  In 1884 the Eddy brothers and Bissell broke ground on the Halagueno Ranch which encompassed an area from Seven Rivers to La Huerta (a suburb of Carlsbad).  In 1887, Eddy built the Halagueno diversion ditch on the Pecos, 3 miles above the site of the Avalon Dam (which was completed in 1890) and incorporated the venture, calling it the Pecos Valley Land and Ditch Company.  Eddy was looking to entice Europeans to settle the area and with the new Halagueno Ranch and the Pecos Valley Land and Ditch Company established, he sought funds from a Swiss bank to help attract them to the clean air and sunny climate.

In 1888, Patrick Garrett (better known as Sheriff Pat Garrett, the man who shot Billy the Kid) along with promoter Charles Greene, joined forces with Eddy to design and build a system of canals and flumes to divert water to their ranches and properties.  Greene was able to procure investors from the east, one of which was Robert W. Tansill (manufacturer of the "Punch 5 ¢ Cigar").  These men, along with another big investor, James John Hagerman, laid the plans for a new town on the West bank of the Pecos River.  The men had the town incorporated as Eddy on September 15, 1888.

On January 10, 1891, the first railroad train arrived in Eddy from Pecos, Texas.  Crops of cotton and alfalfa, (which were found to be the perfect crops for the Eddy County area), along with cattle, sheep, wool and people, could be moved into and out of the area with ease, now.  This brought more investors and many more settlers into the area.

Eddy Courthouse 1914Photo of 1914 Eddy County Courthouse

When the territorial legislature set the boundaries of Eddy County, in 1889, Seven Rivers was named the county seat.  (In 1889, New Mexico was not a state yet.  Statehood was granted in 1912.)  In 1890,  Eddy was now a competitor for county seat.  During an election that year for new county commissioners, a referendum was on the ballot to change the seat from Seven Rivers to Eddy.  The referendum passed by a vote of 331 to 83.  In that year, the census said Eddy had only 278 people and they cast 241 of the winning votes.  The referendum also included the building of a courthouse.  Charles Eddy donated the land which consisted of an entire town block.  The county commissioners authorized a contract for $30,000 to build a brick courthouse.  It was constructed in the Victorian style of the day.  The courthouse was enlarged in 1914 (East Wing added) and again in 1939, when it was also remodeled in the stucco covered, Pueblo Style, which it is today.  In 1899, the town of Eddy decided to change the name to Carlsbad, after the famous European health resort, Karlsbad, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), as both towns had identical, mineral rich, springs.

Eddy County continued to grow over the years because of the industries that were established.  Oil was discovered in Eddy County in 1909, near the town of Dayton (8 miles S. of Artesia).  Another big oil strike happened in 1923, when Martin Yates, Jr. purchased a well near Artesia and Southeastern New Mexico was said to be "gushing oil!".  Drilling commenced at a furious pace and by 1938, the area's oil production was valued at thirty two million dollars annually.  The town of Artesia boasts a refinery that has the ability to process sour (high sulfur content) crude oils into high value light products, such as gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel as well as by products such as asphalt.

In 1902, Jim White discovered "bat caves" near Carlsbad.  The caves are now known as Carlsbad Caverns National Park.  Over the years, Carlsbad Caverns have brought many millions of visitors from around the world, into Eddy County.

In 1925, a geologist, Dr. VH. Mc Nutt, discovered Potash, while looking for oil East of Carlsbad.  This ushered in a "boom" in potash mining and several large potash producers set up business in the area.

Over the years since, Eddy County has continued to grow and flourish.  It is now home to over 52,000 people, with more coming to visit and put down roots, all the time.  Eddy County is a beautiful and scenic place, rich with natural resources, abundant water, sprawling ranches, profitable businesses and an abundance of wildlife.  Be sure to pay Eddy County a visit on your next vacation and if you are lucky enough to live here, take advantage of all the county has to offer!

Photo of the Eddy County Courthouse in 2007

Eddy County Courthouse in 2007