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White Sands Proving Ground land records

Identifier: Ms-0424

Scope and Content Note

The White Sands Proving Ground Land Records consist of two series: Ledger pages and Photographs. Three ledger pages list individual property owners in the Tularosa Basin in 1945, who owned ranches on the area that would become known as the White Sands Proving Ground. Properties are listed by tract number, operator, acreage, improvement value, basic value, present market value, and lease payment.

In addition, photographs of ranching area on the White Sands Proving Ground area detail cattle grazing and other land use in 1952. They were photographed by the U.S. Army Ordnance Department, which at the time operated White Sands Proving Ground. Some of the family ranches include are images from the Bursum, McDonald, and Withers family ranches.


  • 1945 - 1952

Access and Use Restrictions

This material may be examined by researchers under supervised conditions in the Search Room.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with copyright and other applicable statutes.

Copyrights associated with this collection have not been transferred and assigned to New Mexico State University.

Organizational Sketch

The White Sands Proving Ground was established by the U.S. Army on 9 July 1945. Its purpose was to allow the Army's Ordnance Department to test and fire missiles over largely undeveloped land nearly 40 miles wide and 100 miles long. This range was free of a large population base or mitigating factors such as major highways, air travel routes, rail lines, or waterways. The desert area of the Tularosa Basin also offered relatively flat land in which the military could analyze launch trajectories and recover spent missile parts.

To secure this early military use, the U.S. Army originally sought to move any livestock from the Tularosa Basin ranches. However, as the testing of rockets and missiles increased through the late 1940s, it became evident that the Army would make the White Sands Proving Ground a permanent installation. The Government eventually bought the ranches within its boundaries, which angered many area residents and cast lingering doubts as to the motives of the U.S. Army's policy regarding land use. The ledger of the Tularosa Basin properties lists many individuals prominent in the region, including the Danley, McDonald, and Cox families, many of whom have descendants that still reside in southern New Mexico.


.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Detail of property owners and photographs of land within the White Sands Proving Ground (now known as the White Sands Missile Range.)

Related Material

White Sands Missile Range Oral History Ranching Legacy Project. Ms 0346 Archives and Special Collections, New Mexico State University Library.
Guide to the White Sands Proving Ground land records
Processed by Bill Boehm and and Eric Rodriguez.
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Repository Details

Part of the New Mexico State University Library Archives and Special Collections Repository

Branson Hall
PO Box 30006
MSC 3475
Las Cruces New Mexico 88003 USA