Once nicknamed as "Six-Shooter Siding,” Tucumcari,
got its start as a rowdy railroad camp filled with
outlaws. The camp began in 1901 when the Rock Island Railroad
pushed west through the area. The small settlement of Liberty, some
three miles north, wasted no time dismantling and moving closer to the
railroad. Soon, the camp was filled with merchants, gamblers,
keepers and dance hall girls.
The fathers of Tucumcari were five business men
from Liberty who filed on the land, then donated 120 acres of land for
town site. They were: M. B. Goldenberg, A. D. Goldenberg, Jacob Wertheim,
J. A. Street, and Lee K. Smith. J.A. Street is credited for erecting the
first tent in the new railroad camp.
Six Shooter Siding Tavern in Tucumcari,
December, 2004, Kathy Weiser.
This image available for photo prints &
editorial downloads HERE!
The camp was
officially called Douglas in the very beginning but just one year
later the town took the name of
Tucumcari to reflect with the
Tucumcari Mountains acting as
a background for the city. The meaning of the word "Tucumcari”
is a loose derivation of a
word for lookout.
passenger train arrived in Tucumcari on March 12, 1902
and before long there were four passenger trains arriving daily, two
from the east and two from the west.
One of the first
issues these hardy pioneers had to face was the lack of water. Initially, wells were dug into the hard ground, but failure to locate
water discouraged further drilling. Therefore, water had to be hauled
into the new settlement daily, costing the residents fifty cents a
Some of the
first businesses to open in 1902 were the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel with
rooms for $2 a day, the Monarch Saloon, as well as many others baudy
taverns, a furniture store, a livery barn, a boarding house located at
First and Turner Streets, several mercantile stores, and the Exchange
Bank. Max Goldenberg's home was the first permanent home built
in Tucumcari, which contained
the post office.
The Elk Drug Store
was established in 1906. It was owned by Drug Store Cowboy Herman
Moncus, who collected a mammoth assortment of items more or less
relating to the history of the area. He hung his collection from the
ceiling of his drug store.
Within six years, the mesa lands
Tucumcari had been inundated
by homesteaders who had arrived in
Indian Territory too late to get land. By 1907, there were 20
small towns scattered about
Tucumcari. Just three years
later, in 1910, there were over 70 businesses in Tucumcari, plus a school
system and several churches.
from the railroad and area ranching opportunities, the town continued
to prosper until the depression era. At that time, most of the
20 some small towns that surrounded the city were abandoned and
quickly reverted to cow pastures.
However, Tucumcari hung on with new
businesses created with the advent of
Route 66. And in 1940, when the South Canadian River was dammed, this created
some 60,000 acres of irrigated farmland. What were once cow
pastures soon became rich farmland, pulling Tucumcari out of its slump.
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