Monument, New Mexico

monumentmap-2

The community of Monument was the first settlement to take hold in what now is Lea County.  It got its start when former cowboy named James Cook built a store.  Not surprisingly, the community’s first name was Cook’s Store.  Cook used to drive a buggy to Carlsbad and back to deliver the mail until around 1900 when Cook applied for and received permission to establish a U. S. post office in the name of Monument.  The area was fairly arid, as it is today and the village of Monument got its name from an old water source named Monument Springs which was the headquarters of one of the larger ranches in the area, the Hat Ranch.

The Hat Ranch is a familiar name to many people from New Mexico.  The eastern boundaries of the very oldest part of the ranch began around Brownfield, Texas and extended to the Pecos River across the current state line, almost to Carlsbad, New Mexico.  It originated when a Scotsman named Kennedy learned of the availability of some open land.  R. F. Kennedy was to acquire it for the estate of the Earl of Aylesford, of the United Kingdom.  The Earl had come to Texas to try and purchase ranch land and had been temporarily been residing in the Big Spring, Texas area.  As agent for the Earl, Kennedy consummated the purchase from some local buffalo hunters, one of whom went by the name of “Peg Leg” Whalen, in 1885 using his own funds.  However, before Kennedy could be reimbursed for the cost of the land, the Earl unexpectedly died, leaving the ownership in the name of Kennedy.

The ranch included Monument Springs, located roughly ten miles across the current New Mexico border.  Monument Springs had been so named over a decade earlier when a regiment of Buffalo Soldiers of the U. S. Army out of Ft. Davis were on a scouting mission, looking for Indians who had escaped the reservation.  The troops came across the natural spring some 60 miles east of the Pecos near the current location of Hobbs, New Mexico.  The senior officer, Colonel William Rufus Shafter, is credited with building a monument four feet wide and seven and a half feet tall out of the native limestone based rocks to mark the area.  The monument was about a mile and a half from the actual spring and could be seen from miles away.  The old monument was torn down over a century ago and the materials were used to build the first stone dwellings on the ranch, although the name remains.  The old spring, which Shafter reported could water hundreds of horses, still flows but its underground source has been tapped into by water wells.  Now it is just enough to make a small pond,  although it is still there.

Images of the monument below are courtesy of Lea County Historian David L. Minton and Phil Lassiter. The caption below states that the monument in the photos was built by developers:

The old ranch is still basically intact but has changed hands a few times.  Kennedy operated the ranch as sole owner until he sold out in 1891 to two brothers, the McKenzies, in order to be able to return to the UK.  The McKensies owned it outright for a number of years and gradually added to the original acreage.  In 1893, as a result of them being financially overextended, the brothers sold some of their property to a Mitchell County, Texas rancher by the name of Sug Robertson who later conveyed the Monument Springs portion of the spread to Winfield Scott, the son of the well known Mexican War general of the same name.  Around this time, Scott changed the brand to the more familiar “hat” brand that has since been used.  Scott and Robertson continued to operate their various holdings together and the two managed amass about 1,000,000 acres of ranch land in the area, mostly in West Texas.  Robertson brought his brother and nephew into the business.

The ranch remained unified until shortly after 1900 when small parcels began to be sold to the flood of settlers arriving in the area.  Eventually ownership was transferred to a William Fletcher Weir in 1906, who purchased all but the brand.  Winfield Scott had previously gifted the “hat” brand to an orphaned cowboy by the name of Charles B. Friscoe.  Scott had told young Charlie Friscoe, “You are a Scotsman and I’m a Scotsman.  I’ll give you the remnants of the cattle and the brand.”  Friscoe himself was able to acquire the ranch in 1953 from Weir’s widow and owned it until 1967 until selling it to New Mexico rancher W. B. (Dub) Baum.  The old spread is still in the Baum family, now being run by a daughter and son in law, the Jimmy Cooper family, part of the well known rodeo family by the same name.

Monument had its own school district for a number of years. Its first school building was completed in 1902 and first classes were held September 15th of that year.  There were 40 students.  The school operated independently for several decades, but was eventually merged with the Hobbs school district.  According to Steve Flores in his excellent book Ghost Town Basketball (sadly, out of print) the school buildings have all been demolished following a fire in 1970, except for the old school cafeteria.

The Monument gym, undated:

(Image credit: Lea County, New Mexico, a pictoral history – available on Amazon.com)

© 2017, all rights reserved.

21 thoughts on “Monument, New Mexico

  1. I went to Monument School from 1st grade to 7th grade, roughly 1953 to1959. My dad worked for Northern Natural Gas and we lived at the plant. I would love to find pictures of the school and the plant.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I grew up in Oil Center. Dad worked for El Paso Natural Gas. From 1947 – 1957 and we used to get fertilizer (horse/ Cow) from the Coopers trying to get things to grow in sand and caliche.didn’t work! At the time, workers from the plant would drive to Momument to go to the bar. The men always said they were going to Monument to check on the water wells 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you Texoso for this informative article. My father was a teacher and coach at Monument School between ’55 and ’60 and I attended 1st-5th grades in that building. We lived in the second house on the school grounds. The principal’s family (Mr. Gaines) lived in the first house, my 1st grade and 5th grade teachers (Ginny Ross and Mrs. Houston) lived in the 3rd house that was a duplex. The junior high science/math teacher (?) was in house number 4 and my 3rd grade teacher in the 5th house (??). Behind the school building was another house where a janitor at the high school in Hobbs lived. His wife was my piano teacher. Imagine trying to get away with anything in that community. Many very good memories for me of those years. Skate nights in the gym, yeast rolls to die for in the cafeteria at lunch, football and basketball games with a crowd of hundreds… well maybe dozens, and enough dirt roads leading to wellheads that a young boy could ride his bike for hours through the tumbleweed forests hunting and just enjoying life. With a few coins in my pocket I could go up the road to the store and get some gum or go to one of the Cooper brothers’ gas stations for a soda. Big stuff for a kid that thought a grocery, one bar/restaurant, a Baptist church, a post office, 2 gas stations, and a school was a big deal. Some 60 years later I sometimes wish my grandchildren could experience that life… well maybe not.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My Grandparents, James and Harriet Dickison homesteaded in Monument around 1900, and my father, Guinn Dickison was born there in 1909, and spent his younger years there. He later became a foreman for and oil tanker company in nearby Eunice. I was born in Hobbs in 1948, and went to school in Eunice through 3rd grade, when we moved to California. My grandfather had a blacksmith shop and small market cafe combination right in the center of Monument. My grandmother lived in a small house with a windmill and pump for water, and an outhouse for toilet on that site until her death in 1968. I still have faint memories of Monument as child, and returned for my fathers funeral in 1997, as he chose to be buried in his childhood home, Monument Cemetary. My grandparents, James and Harriet are also buried there, as are my mother’s parents, Joseph and Ida West. Also, several aunts, uncles, and cousins. Although I have lived on the West Coast most of my life, much of my family history is that of early settlers on the plains.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hello! I came across this website as I was trying to locate information about Monument Cemetery, where I recently learned my great-great grandmother was buried in 1910. In 1971, Genealogy Trails volunteers (I found on their website) mapped the cemetery and listed this information “Tatum, Alvada – temp. marker with no dates – North 1/2”. We were so excited to have finally found where she was buried, so my aunt, who lives in Texas and is in her mid-80s, and her daughter, made a trip to Monument Cemetery a few days ago to see if they could find her gravesite. Unfortunately, from 1971 to now, the marker had disappeared.

    As I was trying to do more research, I came across this site and noticed there were comments here from people who have lived, or currently live in that area. I know it’s a long shot, but was wondering if anyone might have any memory of seeing a temporary marker with the name Alvada Tatum on it so that we might be able to figure out where she was buried so long ago and provide a permanent stone for her. If not, does anyone know if there is a place in Lea County that keeps permanent records of where people are buried (even as far back as 1910)?

    I really appreciate any information you might be able to provide that could help point us in the right direction and hopefully figure out the exact location of where my long lost great-great grandmother is buried.

    Thank you!

    Kelly Cantrell
    Arkansas

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kelly, I just found some old family photos of graves in Monument Cemetary, the earliest being an infant buried in 1905. Don’t know if this is helpful to you, because the photos are of my family. However, the 3 earliest markers were crude homemade markers, so probably some of the early ones no longer exist. On a similar note, I used to have an aunt and uncle who had a small ranch near Tatum, NM, 40 miles north of Monument. I’m sure the name of that town has some relevance to your great great grandmother. Good luck in your quest.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. My parents worked in Monument, New Mexico sometime in the 1930s.There was oil drilling going on nearby and my dad ran a service station and the city water.O.C.Lassiter and wife Pauline.I would like to see a photo of the monument itself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am not sure that there are any images of the monument. I remember looking for them, but finding the comment that Shafter’s monument was torn down and the rocks were used for rock dwellings, at some point.

      Like

  7. Good information about Monument. There is one mistake. The school did not burn down in 1970. The Hobbs School moved all of the Special Education classes out to the Monument School. I was a Sophomore at Hobbs High School in 1968-69, and my best friend and I visited Mrs. Mildred Tenner’s class out at the Monument school. They closed the school shortly after that, and integrated special education with the regular classes in the Hobbs Schools. That could have been 1970. I moved from Hobbs, but came back to Monument with my husband and family in 1980. We joined the Monument Volunteer Fire Department. Our Fire Department was in part of the old school. I remember the Hobbs School District stored a lot of old desks and chairs in the Monument School. The School was full of metal desk and metal chairs that all had wooden tops and seats, so when the fire started it was hard to put out because of the heat created by the metal. We were with Volunteer Fire Department trying to put the fire out. I remember it was a very big and very hot fire. I’m not sure on the date, but I do have a Hobbs News Sun paper in my cedar chest with a picture of the fire on the front page. The Gym burned down a few years later. We were on that fire too. There was a Centennial Celebration for Monument during the 1980’s also. I have some memorabilia from that in my cedar chest that has the exact date on it. I would love to share these documents with you if you would be interested.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s