About Eddy County
Eddy County is located in Southeastern New Mexico and is bordered to the:
- East by Lea County
- North by Chaves County
- South by the State of Texas
- West by Otero County
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.
1300s to 1500s
In the 1300s, 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 1500s, 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.
Eddy-Bissell Cattle Company
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. 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 Cent 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.
The 1st Train
On January 10, 1891, the 1st 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 now be moved into and out of the area with ease. This brought more investors and many more settlers into the area.
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 became 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 remodelled in the stucco covered Pueblo style, which it is today. In January 2002 a remodelling was completed moving the front door from the south side to a secured north entrance. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance was resolved as well as upgrading plumbing, electricity and heating/air conditioning. Another courtroom was added. A water well, discovered under the parking lot, was converted to a Pueblo-styled portico with a simulated river. This area was named Pioneer Plaza. Engraved pavers with pioneer family names were cemented around perimeter of the Plaza. The County Clerk, Property Assessor, Treasurer and Administrative offices moved to an Administrative complex at 101 W. Greene St, leaving District Court and County Sheriff offices to reside in the remodelled courthouse.
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.
Growth & the Oil Industry
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 south of Artesia). Another big oil strike happened in 1923 when Van Stratton Welch, Martin Yates, Jr., and Tom Flynn purchased three wells in the Pecos Valley near Artesia and southeastern New Mexico. One of the wells was said to be "gushing oil." They sold acreage to raise a little money and promised their drilling crew part payment in oil. The third well was Illinois Producers No. 3, where they found oil. It was completed June 29, 1924 and opened up the great southeastern New Mexico fields. Van Welch and his partners were chief instruments in enlarging the Permian Basin's production toward its westward limits.
Drilling commenced at a furious pace and by 1938, the area's oil production was valued at 32 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 1898, a teenager named Jim White explored the cavern with a kerosene lantern and homemade wire ladder. He discovered several rooms with dramatic limestone formations, pools of water, deep pits, stalactites, and stalagmites. White found a chamber where thousands of bats lived. He mined the bat guano to sell as fertilizer. On May 14, 1930, the United States congress established the cavern as Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Over the years, Carlsbad Caverns have brought many millions of visitors from around the world to Eddy County.
In 1925, a geologist, Dr. VH McNutt, 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.
Eddy County Today
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 experiencing an Oil & Gas boom bringing about another 50,000 workers to Carlsbad and southeastern Eddy County. Eddy County is a beautiful and scenic place, rich with natural resources, the Pecos River, 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.