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White Sands Missile Range Oral History Legacy Project

Identifier: Ms-0346

Scope and Content

The White Sands Oral History Legacy Project documents nearly a half-century of ranching activity in Southern New Mexico's Tularosa Basin. The Basin was home to over one hundred sheep, cattle, and goat ranches prior to World War II and the creation of the White Sands Missile Range. Through oral histories and supporting documentation, ranchers and their families offer their perspectives on work, social life, and the region in which they lived during the first half of the twentieth century.

Conducted over three chronological phases, the collection consists of audiotaped interviews, transcripts, photographs, and documents such as maps, drawings, and printed matter. The collection contains thorough holdings for the first and second phases of the project, but no materials from the final phase. The collection has been organized into five series: Project Documentation Files, Phase I, Phase II, Oversize, and Photographs.

Among the Project Documentation Files are various publicity materials associated with the project, such as press releases, publications, and captions from an exhibit on cowgirls. The bulk of the series consists of administrative records, such as flow charts, proposals, and forms.

Phase I contains interviews, both taped and transcribed, and related documentation. Among the topics discussed are settling in the Tularosa Basin, natural resources of the area, livestock, predators, finances, social and domestic life, cookery, child rearing, health, leisure, and the "Wild Man of the San Andres." The consultants included in this phase are Holm O. Bursum, III; Lewis D. Cain; Natalia (Nellie) Lucero DiMatteo; Anna Lee Guame; Bertha (Betsy) Lucero; Verena Andregg Mahaney; Florence Martin; Eloise (Dolly) Helms Onsrud; Mellie Crawford Potter; Alice Gililland Smith; Irving Virgil (Pat) Withers; Joe Pete Wood; and Joe Pete Wood, Jr.

Phase II contains interviews with Edna Anderson Baird, Leonard and Elma Hardin Cain, Louis Crockett, George L. Dean, Cora Cox Fribley, J. D. and Dorothy Miller, and Ria Lee and Ewell Sidwell. The topics covered are similar to those in Phase I, and include settling in the Tularosa Basin, natural resources of the area, livestock, predators, finances, social and domestic life, cookery, child rearing, health, and leisure.

The Oversize series consists of copies of several large maps removed from Phase I and II files.

The final series, Photographs, contains images relating to all the proceeding series. Included are contemporary site visit photographs taken in the course of the project. The bulk of this series consists of reproductions of images taken between 1900 and 1950 by the consultants or their family members. These reproductions depict the consultants' ranches, families, and activities.


  • 1981-1997

Language of Materials


Access and Use Restrictions

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

Copy Restrictions

A small amount of material including an archeological report and unedited transcripts are restricted to comply with state statutes and donor agreement. Consult archival staff for further information.

All rights belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns.

Project Description

Human Systems Research, Inc., is a non-profit New Mexico corporation specializing in historical and anthropological research. Through the Department of Defense's Legacy grant program the corporation spent five years, 1993-1998, completing the White Sands Missile Range Oral History Legacy Project. The project sought to document the lives and lifestyles of ranching families of the 4,000 square-mile Tularosa Basin displaced during World War II, when the Basin became a bombing and nuclear test site.

Human Systems Research, Inc., conducted the project in conjunction with New Mexico State University's Center for Anthropological Research and Archives and Special Collections, and with the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum.

Project staff worked with consultants who had ranched in the Basin during the first half of the twentieth century. The project was conducted in three separate phases: Phase I, 1993-1994; Phase II, 1994-1995; Phase III, ca. 1995-ca. 1998. Using a set protocol, staff conducted oral histories of the consultants, and collected photographs and documents which illustrated ranch life. Their results were disseminated through exhibitions, publications, and workshops.


6.7 Linear Feet


Prior to World War II, the Tularosa Basin of Otero County, New Mexico, was primarily ranching land. During the war, this isolated region was utilized for bombing practice and nuclear testing. The Legacy Project, funded by the Department of Defense, sought to document the histories and lifestyles of the numerous ranching families who were displaced by these military activities. Consultants who had ranched the area were interviewed by project staff. The collection includes both taped and transcribed interviews, photographs, and miscellaneous materials such as maps and brands, all documenting ranch life in the Tularosa Basin from 1900 until the 1940s.


Human Systems Research, Inc.
  1. RG94-008
  2. RG94-014 - RG94-017
  3. RG96-023 - RG96-025
  4. RG94-030 - RG93-032
  5. RG96-035
  6. RG94-043
  7. RG97-024
  8. RG95-031 - RG95-033
  9. RG96-009


Contact Information

  1. Archives and Special Collections
  2. New Mexico State University Library
  3. P.O. Box 30006
  4. Las Cruces, New Mexico 88003-8006
  5. Phone: (575) 646-3839
  6. Fax: (575) 646-7477
  7. Email:
  8. URL:


Inventory of the White Sands Missile Range Oral History Legacy Project, 1981-1997
Edited Full Draft
Processed by Marah deMeule, Christine Moreland, and Jennifer Zuniga
© 2001
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • June 28, 2004: PUBLIC "-//New Mexico State University::Archives and Special Collections//TEXT (US::NmLcU::Ms 346::White Sands Missile Range Oral History Legacy Project)//EN" "nmlcu1ms346.sgml" converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • Monday, 20210524: Attribute normal is missing or blank.

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