A century in Elida

By Casey Peacock, PNT Staff Writer

A rich heritage stemming from the early days of the railroad and homesteading are the foundations that the community of Elida has been built on. A century of heritage will be celebrated during the Elida Centennial that is set to take place on Saturday and Sunday.

Many families of the Elida community have called the area home for generations. Third, fourth and fifth generations of the families that helped to found the area years ago still call the area home, said Red Halliday, resident and planning committee member.

“There’s lots of people in this vicinity whose families have lived here for close to 100 years,” Halliday said.

Halliday stated that both sides of her family have been in the area since New Mexico was a territory. Halliday, herself a fourth generation family member of the community remembers working in one of the five stores that her father owned in Elida as a small child.

“I grew up selling things from the time I could see over the counter,” Halliday said.

As part of the Elida celebration, a tour brochure will be available that lists the various buildings in Elida. Though many of them are not in condition for people to walk through, visitors will be able to see them from the outside, Halliday said.

Inheriting a collection of history gathered by her father, Elida resident Jayne Taylor herself began clipping and keeping newspaper articles some 30 years ago. She also reads books about the area and people contact her with information, she said.

“It just kind of snowballed,” Taylor said of her collection and knowledge of Elida history.

According to Taylor, the railroad began to arrive in 1898-99. People began arriving in the early 1900s with the biggest influx from 1906 to 1909. The majority were homesteaders, with a few merchants, Taylor said.

“The train played a big part in the establishment of Elida and people coming in,” Taylor said. “When the population began to come, so did the merchants.”

In 1903 W.E. Lindsey and John H. Gee platted and filed the Elida townsite. The town consisted of 24 blocks for the townsite, with block 18 being undivided to become the town square, Taylor said.

“It (the town square) was the location for many, many picnics and other gatherings through the years,” Taylor said.

In 1902, the town consisted of a three-week old grocery store and post office, both run by a gentleman named Lum. There was also a small section house with rooms for rent and a rough furrow had been laid out for the townsite, according to Taylor.

On July 3, 1907, the town became incorporated. There are two stories as to how the town was named. The first is that Gee had two daughters, Ella and Ida. By combining the names, it became Elida. The second story is that a wooden stake was found in the ground near the lumberyard with the name Elida inscribed on it, Taylor said.

Back east, advertisements were being placed in newspapers and other literature. Word of mouth also spread the word about the booming community of Elida, Taylor said.

“The word spread and people really did come,” Taylor said.

Taylor, who has spent the majority of her life in the Elida community, with the exception of 16 years in the Arch community, has fond memories of Elida, she said.

Raised in the country, Taylor remembers visiting Elida on Saturdays. Many of the families milked cows and kept the cream. They also had chickens and would collect the eggs. On Saturdays, they would bring the eggs and cream to town to sell, Taylor said.

“It was a time of visiting and taking care of business on Saturdays,” Taylor said. “That’s the main thing most of us remember.”

In the late 1940’s and the 1950’s, Taylor remembers that parking on Saturdays was difficult because of the number of people in town. The late 1950’s and 1960’s saw a change in the amount of people and business in the area. Some oil in the area kept people for a while, but it began to dwindle, Taylor said.

“By the 1970’s, you could see the change,” Taylor said.

One tradition that has seemed to carry on through the past 100 years and several generations is the annual Fourth of July celebration, Taylor said.

In 1923, an estimated crowd of two to three thousand people were in attendance for the event. Today, the celebration is sponsored by the Elida Fire Department. The fire department furnishes the meat and families bring covered dishes. There are games for the kids. The celebration offers an opportunity for families to gather and visit and share memories of times past, Taylor said.

“It’s quite an event,” Taylor said.