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Register of the Pecos Valley-Artesian Conservancy District Legal records

Identifier: Ms-0450

Scope and Content

The papers of the Pecos Valley-Artesian Conservancy District span the years 1877-1988, with the bulk of material between 1885-1935. The material consists of Court and Case files, land applications, and water appropriation rights. The Pecos Valley-Artesian Conservancy District played an important role in development of land, water, business and political structure in the late territorial days, and early statehood of New Mexico. Many important territorial laws like the fence law, and state laws, like water appropriation rights, are apparent in the legal records of the Pecos Valley-Artesian Conservancy District.

The collection has been organized into four series, Court and Case Files, Pecos Valley Stream and Ditch Indices, State Records, and Printed Material. The first series is titled Court and Case Files. The court documents in the series span the years 1893-1935, and contain material that stems from water appropriation rights from territorial laws. Two subseries derive from this series. These are Desert Land Applications and Water Appropriation Rights. The Desert Land Act Applications gives detailed information surrounding the application process of buying land in and around the Pecos River Valley. The application process also details the land transactions of prominent business owners such as J.J. Hagerman and Pat F. Garrett. The second subseries, Water Appropriation Rights, builds on the material from the first subseries. It shows detailed transactions involving the water rights via streams, rivers and ditches. The appropriation of water documented in court records (warranty deeds) shows that land applications often dictated who had the rights to certain water in particular areas of southeastern New Mexico. The information in this subseries span the years 1883-1935.

The second series titled, Pecos Valley Stream and Ditch Indices is a contemporary list of all the water rights in the Pecos Valley-Artesian Districts. It shows and gives exact dates for the person or people responsible for acquiring such water rights, and constructing such ditches.

The third series, State Records, includes a series of records taken by the state of New Mexico in the Pecos River Valley. Records include material from the New Mexico State Engineer and the Department of Interior. The surveys and studies indicate that State and Government agencies wanted to better understand water appropriation rights.

The fourth series, Printed Material, consists of a photocopied transcript of James W. Steele's book, The Pecos Valley in Southeast New Mexico. It gives information about the Pecos Valley's origin and role in the development of land and water appropriation rights in the area. Steele's book also gives information about the Santa Fe railroad and it economic connection to the Pecos Valley. Steele shows the railroads played a vital role in distributing agriculture to and from the Pecos Valley.

Some prominent Southeastern New Mexico businesses that are mentioned: Felix Cattle Company, Jingle Bob Land and Livestock Company, Lea Cattle Company, South Spring Ranch and Cattle Company, Lea and Cockwell Ditch Company, United States Land Office, C.C. Slaughter and Cattle Company, Homestead Act, Department of Interior, Binger Commission, Felix Irrigation Company, Pecos Irrigation and Improvement Company, The Roswell Land and Water Company, The Dallas Land and Cattle Company, The Eddy County Abstract Company, Lincoln County Ditch Company, Bush Land and Cattle Company, J.N. Stockard Ditch Company, Penasco and Pecos Valley Canal Company, and The Davis Armstrong and Higgins Canal Company.


  • 1877 - 1988

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.

Overview Sketch

The Pecos Valley, located in southeastern New Mexico, was inviting to numerous people from all over the country. One primary reason was related to health, many believed that the southwest climate had the ability to cure a vast number of illnesses like tuberculosis and malaria. Another, land could be purchased at cheap prices. As a result, the Pecos Valley was transformed from a desert landscape into a rich agricultural region. The Pecos Valley was originally thought of as an arid territory, incapable of producing any type of agriculture. However, what was discovered about the area in the early 1870's was that it was rich in water, both above and below the surface. The Pecos River, which carries water to the Pecos Valley, is supplied by large amounts of snow and rainfall water located in the northern part of the state. More importantly, the area sits on an aquifer of pure water supplied by a series of underground streams. The underground aquifers were known as the Artesian Wells in the early stages of their discovery. Early farmers in the Pecos Valley reaped huge profits from large crop yields due to the access of water, especially from the Artesian Wells.

The Desert Land Act originated in 1877, and was later amended in 1891. It played an instrumental role in the development of the Pecos Valley. Designed after the Homestead Act, the Desert Land Act gave individuals the free agency to purchase large tracts of arid land, or desert land at inexpensive prices. The Desert Land Act was extremely important in the development of territorial and state land in New Mexico. The Desert Land Act, and the application process, was extremely useful in securing land for prominent businessmen, cattle and ranch companies and later elected officials' ability to claim large tracts of land in southeastern New Mexico. Just as important as the Desert Land Act, Water Appropriation Rights, also known as warranty deeds, played a huge role in the development of business, farms, cattle companies and ranches in the Pecos Valley.

The Pecos Valley Conservancy District was created on September 8, 1931 by Judge Granville Richardson in an attempt to meet the land bank's demand for greater conservation of water. The day after three commissioners were summoned to determine its boundaries and taxable properties, to establish districts for an election for five directors and to write election codes. The election was held on February 20, 1932 and three days later the new board of directors met. They choose Austin D. Crile as the first president of the district.

Some prominent New Mexicans, whom played a role in land transactions, and more importantly, water appropriation rights include: James John Hagerman, Pat F. Garrett, Joseph C. Lea, R.F. Barnett, Frank H. Lea, John J. Cockwell, Ada B. Edwards, C.C. Fountain, and George H. Wallace.


2.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Pecos Valley land and water transactions. Includes court case files, Desert Land Act applications, water appropriation rights and New Mexico State and Territorial records of Lincoln, Eddy, Chaves, Otero, and San Miguel counties. The bulk of material focuses on land and water rights, and the access to streams and ditches.
Guide to the Pecos Valley-Artesian Conservancy District Legal records
Processed by Jerry Wallace.
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