As New Mexico celebrates its 100th year as a state it’s easy to daydream about what life in our portion of the state was like back in 1912.
Portales had been around just over a decade, Texico was 10 years old and Clovis had been established six years earlier when a division point for the Santa Fe Railroad was located there. All three communities, like Tucumcari to the north, sprang up as railroads pushed across the plains bringing with them enterprise, opportunity and homesteaders.
Life around the turn of the century in eastern New Mexico was rowdy, dusty and ruled by cowhands. By the middle of that first decade homesteading families, the railroad and businessmen began to demand less nightlife on the dirt streets. Prohibition came early to the area and in Portales, especially; it stayed for a long time.
Both Portales and Clovis were well connected with Santa Fe thanks in part to community leaders in each young city — Charles “Uncle Charley” Scheurich in Clovis and Washington Ellsworth “W.E.” Lindsey in Portales.
Scheurich was born in New Mexico near Taos. He was the grandson of Charles Bent, who with his brothers George and William established historic Bent’s Fort in southeastern Colorado along the Santa Fe Trail. The Bents were close friends and related by marriage to explorer and Indian fighter Kit Carson.
Charles Bent became New Mexico’s first territorial governor and was killed in the 1847 revolt of the Taos Indians. Scheurich’s mother, 5, at the time, survived the attack and gave birth to her son in 1867 and raised him in Santa Fe.
Scheurich was a businessman and speculator most of his life but for a time he was hooked up with the Santa Fe Railroad and used his position to get inside information about a proposed division point on the line at Brownhorn (now Melrose). He quickly snapped up property there. When the railroad’s plans changed he was able to quickly trade for property near Riley Switch which became Clovis.
He lobbied hard for Curry County to be established from portions of Roosevelt and Quay counties. Scheurich was appointed to the first board of commissioners of the new county.
He established several businesses in Clovis and eventually owned an insurance, real estate and banking agency, which he operated until his death in 1949.
Lindsey, a lawyer by vocation, was born in Ohio and migrated to New Mexico around 1900. He soon established a practice in the growing community of Portales. He was soon appointed U.S. Commissioner and oversaw homestead claims in the area. He also began to speculate in land himself and with a partner established the Portales Townsite Company.
Like Scheurich, he was instrumental in getting his county established and was Roosevelt County’s first county clerk and later its district attorney.
He was the champion of an irrigation district in the Portales area and supported incorporating Portales as a city so that proper utilities and infrastructure could be established. After incorporation was approved, Lindsey headed the “Dry” ticket in the first city election and became the city’s first mayor.
His law practice and work as a U.S. Commissioner and mayor provided his contacts with Santa Fe and when the New Mexico Constitutional Convention was called in 1910 he was tabbed.
In the state’s second election, Lindsey was elected lieutenant governor. He was to remain in the position for only a few weeks as newly elected second governor of the state, Ezequiel Cabeza de Baca, died. His death made Lindsey the second governor of New Mexico.
Lindsey and Scheurich’s pioneering spirit rubbed off on the people of eastern New Mexico and for 100 years we’ve managed not just to survive but thrive.
Happy birthday, New Mexico!