Photo courtesy nearlovingsbend.net
Photo courtesy nearlovingsbend.net (null)

This article begins a glimpse into our past as a city. It's hard to imagine Carlsbad in the early days, before oil booms, potash mines and WIPP. As we begin our 125th year as a city in 2013, we have become blind to the progression and sometimes forget our roots. As the wise old adage says, you must know the past to see the future.

The land on which Carlsbad is situated now was once a barren wasteland dubbed Rattlesnake Flats by the cowboys who worked cattle for John Chisum in the area. It was said there were more rattlesnakes than cattle in the region, making a treacherous passage for man, cattle and horse. Flat, dusty, nothing for shade unless you were a rabbit and a mesquite bush would suffice, the only saving grace was the waters of the Pecos River.

Photo courtesy nearlovingsbend.net
Photo courtesy nearlovingsbend.net (null)

Charles Bishop Eddy, a New York cattleman who settled in the La Huerta area around 1880, saw much more than just miles of dirt - he saw great opportunity. With his vision began the largest promotional campaign of its time, spanning internationally. Eddy sold a dream, a promise of great prosperity with an "endless supply of water" to farmers and ranchers who were eager to get in on the ground floor. The town of Eddy, largely funded by French and English investors, sprang up quickly.


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The early newspaper, The Eddy Argus, gave accounts of the number of new homes being built in the town, also reporting that with each new house, a dance was given to celebration its completion. The town was growing so rapidly, community member began to complain that they were tired from all of the dancing. Soon, the town of Eddy was to grow to mort than 500 residents by the six month mark, with wagon trains arriving weekly. The town of Eddy was officially christened Sept. 15, 1888, by Lillian Greene, daughter of newspaper man and investor, Charles Greene, with a bottle of champagne at the Guadalupe Ford - north of Eddy on the Pecos River.

Eddy's vision of an agricultural paradise was coming true as he watched farmers from around the United States, as well as Italy and Switzerland, flock to his new town, all carrying the hopes and dreams of a bright future with them on their wagons. All was not rainbows and unicorns for the burgeoning town, but Eddy remained steadfast in his belief that his town would not fail, refusing defeat even when faced with floods, droughts or blights.

After Charles Eddy moved on to Otero County, Robert Tansill, a 5-cent cigar manufacturer from Chicago and founding father of Eddy, purposed the name of the town be changed to Carlsbad after the healing waters in Karlsbad, Czechoslovakia. Since the spring north of the town, later to be called Carlsbad Springs, was believed to have the same curative elements, it seemed like a perfect fit and Carlsbad was born. We have certainly come a long way since those meager beginnings.

Next time we will explore Carlsbad's early wild days.

Donna Birchell, a history buff, is the author of the local history books, "Carlsbad and Carlsbad Caverns" and "Eddy County" for Arcadia Publishing, and the soon to be released, "New Mexico Wine: An Enchanting History for The History Press."