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New Mexico Flag - High Country LegendsNEW MEXICO LEGENDS

Tucumcari or Six-Shooter Siding

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Once nicknamed as "Six-Shooter Siding,” Tucumcari, New Mexico got its start as a rowdy railroad camp filled with saloons and 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, saloon 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, Tucumcari, New Mexico

Six Shooter Siding Tavern in Tucumcari, New Mexico,

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 scenic Tucumcari Mountains acting as a background for the city. The meaning of the word "Tucumcari” is a loose derivation of a Comanche word for lookout.

The first 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 barrel.

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 around Tucumcari had been inundated by homesteaders who had arrived in Oklahoma 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.

Primarily thriving 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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Tucumcari, New Mexico, 1913

Tucumcari, New Mexico, P. Clinton Bortell, 1913

This image available for photo prints & editorial downloads HERE!


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