Happy 150th Lincoln County!!

By Lynda A. Sánchez

Congratulations to our diverse and colorful mosaic of peoples, history and culture.

Lincoln County is a land of rugged natural beauty, cowboys, vast ranches, small farms and orchards. Named after the martyred President, it is also noted for the tragic Lincoln County War in which Billy the Kid rode into legend. Carrizozo, our county seat, is located near the geological wonder, Valley of Fires, operated by the Bureau of Land Management.  Ruidoso is a great year round resort featuring skiing and golfing…and nearby Ruidoso Downs hosts the world’s richest quarter horse race, the All American Futurity.  Capitan houses the Smokey Bear Museum and State Park honoring America’s most famous bear.  Rescued from a raging forest fire in the Capitan Mountains, Smokey’s grave is a favorite tourist destination. Apache and Hispanic history plus great fishing, hunting, excellent museums, art galleries and the Cowboy Symposium round out the multi-cultural aspect of our unique county.


Fort Stanton and Lincoln State Historic Sites are the two most popular sites in the state.  Fort Stanton, also known as the heart of Lincoln County for decades, includes stunning architectural reminders of its cavalry and public health service legacy.  Both communities were embroiled in the infamous Lincoln County War where ranchers, renegades and a few good men and women fought it out until peace came once again to the region.


January 16, 1869, was a banner year and despite some attempts to name the county after Saturnino Baca, Mr. Baca magnanimously suggested that they name the county Lincoln after the martyred president. It was the largest county in the entire United States—about a quarter the size of New Mexico today.  Later several large neighboring counties were carved out of the one, yet Lincoln County today is larger than many nations (or states).


So, we know all of that, right? Well, many residents do, but there are many who have no clue….



Having such a special occasion and celebration is good because it helps all of us remember where we came from and why we live here.  There are many newcomers who need to be brought into the fold, and many old timers who need to be honored and perhaps reminded about how important they are to the heritage of our county.  It is why we fight so hard to maintain special places like Lincoln and Fort Stanton Historic Sites. Gutsy men and women established themselves in this land. Many included a measure of both rogue and rugged rancher. Farming, ranching, racing and history are what we are so proud of.      Let’s step back in Time!


(Cowboys c 1930’s ) Courtesy LCHS 

Vamos a Bailar, Let’s dance!   Imagine the many bailes in both the Hondo and Bonito Valleys.  Billy the Kid and his compadres rode rough mountain trails to dances in San Patricio and Lincoln town. (Courtesy NM Museum of Art)


Sprawling ranchlands, once fought over, are now peaceful reminders of the cowboys and the role they played in our storied past.  John Chisum owned so many cattle he had no idea of the numbers.  John Wayne played Chisum in one of his favorite movie roles.  No doubt many of you have seen this film.


Below:   Panorama of Sierra Blanca, the Sacred Mountain.  It is the watershed that provides for our irrigation projects, the residents, the livestock and wildlife. (Photo image by Pete Lindsley)


Below:  Rodeo time at old Fort Stanton!  Some of the corrals are still there reminding us of the fun, the talent and the real life adventure of being from Lincoln County .

FS rodeo
                      days (1225x956)  


Fort Stanton quadrangle, view from museum veranda. Below, re-enactors prepare to fire…

(Photos:  Joseph Arcure)




                        Fort Stanton Merchant Marine Cemetery, (Photo courtesy, DOT) 

Photo by Sandra Smith showing the only east-west mountain chain in the USA (Las Capitanas--Capitans) and headed on into historic Lincoln via Highway 380.  Below, images of Billy the Kid, forever part of the legend and lore.



Above  “Apaches on the Horizon”, Edwin Curtis photo    “Baskets are an Apache woman’s poetry.”

(Almer Blazer)    


Mescalero Apache warriors and families call this land home and before them, the Jornada Mogollon people built pit house villages and small pueblos along the river valleys.  Mesc












Re-enactor Matt Midgett in front of historic Torreon in Lincoln, NM.  Torreons were used for defense purposes and constructed by Hispanic settlers circa 1850’s.  Still standing today, it is a testament to their tenacity and great construction techniques.  Historic adobe and rock work are part of the charm and lessons of Lincoln, NM.














First Court House and tourist destination today, Lincoln, NM (1874 first built; 1880 became Court House)




New Court House, Carrizozo, 1913                           Present Court House, 1964


                BELOW:  additional photos depicting the area’s diversity and colorful past.      



                    The famous Snowy River Passage, Fort Stanton Cave, Photo by Pete Lindsley

                                                (Courtesy BLM and FSCSP)


Other classic locations in Lincoln County that we too often take for granted:


Capitan, home of Smokey Bear;                                                an example of early day churches in San Patricio;


the elegant WPA Women’s Club in Carrizozo;                     Troop Review at Fort Stanton,


The train chugging into Capitan and Roberta Haldane’s book about White Oaks

all add to the story of our county and its rich heritage and history.


           Happy Birthday!  (Feliz Cumpleaños)  150 years strong!!



 Author, Lynda Sánchez at Cactus Cave

during one of the FSCSP cave expeditions.

Photo by Kathy Peerman