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S. Omar and Elsa Barker papers

Identifier: Ms-0209

Scope and Content

The S. Omar and Elsa Barker papers are arranged into nine series: biography, business, correspondence, literary works, Western Writers of America, newspaper clippings, photographs, yearbooks, and scrapbooks. The bulk of the material pertains to their literary work.

The first series contains biographical information relating to both S. Omar and Elsa Barker. Included are biographical sketches as well as diplomas, certificates and awards.

The second series, business, includes account books, publishing agreements, and copyright information related to the Barker’s professional writing work. The bulk of the records pertain to S. Omar Barker.

The third series, correspondence, is arranged alphabetically by the sender and includes letters from editors, publishers, friends and family.

The fourth series, literary works, has been divided into several subseries: poems, stories, manuscripts/books, articles and other writings, and music. Items include the Barkers’ published and unpublished works. Some of the Barkers’ literary manuscripts are in draft form, showing revisions and other editorial notes. The bulk of this series is short stories that were published in Ranch Romances and other prominent Western pulp magazines.

The fifth series, Western Writers of America (WWA), is composed of matters pertaining to the organization, such as correspondence, awards and membership lists, during the Barkers’ involvement. The WWA was organized in 1953 with a mission to promote literature of the American West. S. Omar Barker was one of the founders of the WWA, and over the years the Barkers were heavily involved with the organization. During the 1970s, both held the office of president. S. Omar Barker received the Western Writers of America Spur Award twice.

The sixth series contains newspaper clippings from throughout the Barkers’ writing careers. These include clippings that either feature the Barkers or clippings of personal interests to them.

The photographs series includes images depicting the Barkers’ early lives, portraits, outdoor activities, hunting, and other interests.

The eighth series contains yearbooks belonging to S. Omar Barker from his alma mater, the New Mexico Normal School, now known as New Mexico Highlands University. The yearbooks are arranged chronologically.

The ninth series contains scrapbooks pertaining to S. Omar Barker’s literary works. This series includes a compilation of his published work in a bound scrapbook format. The scrapbooks in this series were assigned numbers by Barker and are arranged by subject matter.


  • 1898-1992
  • Majority of material found in Placeholder Unit Date Text

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

Open. All materials in this collection are available for research under supervised conditions in the Research Room.

Copy Restrictions

Copyrights associated with materials in this collection have not been transferred to New Mexico State University.

Biography / History

Squire Omar Barker, better known as S. Omar Barker and “S.O.B.,” was born June 16, 1894, in Beulah, New Mexico, to Squire Leander and Priscilla Jane Barker. He held various jobs during his lifetime but made a name for himself as a writer of western stories and poetry. He grew up in and around Las Vegas, New Mexico, where he attended high school then studied at New Mexico Normal University, now New Mexico Highlands University. He taught high school English, Spanish and Latin in Tularosa and was principal of the Santa Rosa High School briefly. Following his brother’s advice, he became a forest ranger in 1916, stationed in the Carson National Forest. In 1917, he enlisted with the 502nd Engineers, American Expeditionary Force, and served during World War I in France. Having contracted tuberculosis, upon discharge in 1918 he spent time recuperating at Fort Bayard, New Mexico, then at the family homestead.

From 1921 to 1924, Barker taught English at the New Mexico Normal School and also served as a “stringer” correspondent for the Albuquerque Journal and Santa Fe New Mexican. He received his degree from the Normal School in 1924 and published his first book of poetry, Vientos de las Sierras, that year. He also played trombone in Doc Patterson’s Cowboy Band during this time. He served one term in the New Mexico legislature from 1925-1926. He married Elsa McCormick in 1928 and the couple made their home in an adobe house, designed by noted architect John Gaw Meem, in New Mexico’s Sapello Valley.

In 1926, Barker became successful enough with his literary efforts to make it as a full-time freelance writer. He was known primarily as a writer of western material, publishing poems, many of them humorous in nature, stories and articles. Barker was known as the “Sage of Sapello” and the “Poet Lariat of New Mexico.” Over the years, he was awarded prestigious honors within the western writing field, such as the Spur Award for Best Short Story, Spur Award for Best Short Fiction, Spur Award for Best Short Material, and the Levi Strauss Saddleman Award.

During his incredibly prolific writing career, he penned approximately 1,500 short stories, 1,200 articles, and about 2,000 poems. His literary works were featured in various Western magazines such as Ranch Romances and True West, as well as other general interest publications like the Saturday Evening Post, Western Horseman, True West, Old West, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Barker is best known for his poem titled “A Cowboy’s Christmas Prayer.” A longtime and influential member of the Western Writers of America, he was named Lifetime Honorary President of the organization in 1975. At the WWA convention in 1978, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame of Great Western Writers in the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City.

S. Omar Barker died April 2, 1985, and was buried in the National Cemetery in Santa Fe. He was posthumously named Most Outstanding Alumnus of New Mexico Highlands University in 1993

Elsa McCormick was born March 29, 1906, in Sibley, Illinois. In 1909, her family moved to Hagerman, New Mexico, where she was raised and graduated from high school in 1923. She went on to study at New Mexico Normal University, now New Mexico Highlands University, in Las Vegas, receiving her B.A. in 1926.

After marrying S. Omar Barker in 1927, she worked as an educator and a Western author. Elsa Barker wrote short stories and novelettes for several Western-themed magazines, such as Ranch Romances, Thrilling Ranch Stories, Thrilling Western, and Popular Western.

Elsa Barker was an active member of the Western Writers of America and served as president of the organizations in 1972-1973. She died April 10, 1996, and is buried beside her husband in the National Cemetery in Santa Fe.


45 Linear Feet


The S. Omar and Elsa Barker papers document the literary work of two prolific western writers based in New Mexico. The husband and wife team published their works in magazines of national circulation, including the Saturday Evening Post, Western Horseman, True West, Old West, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. The S. Omar and Elsa Barker papers contain draft and final manuscripts of poetry, articles, short stories, and other writings by the Barkers, as well as correspondence, business and financial records. The papers span the years 1898-1982

Related Material

Eugene Manlove Rhodes collection. Ms 0003.New Mexico State University Library, Archives and Special Collections Department.

Keith Wilson Papers, 1957-2003. Ms 0451. New Mexico State University Library, Archives and Special Collections Department.

Processing Information

Linda Blazer, unknown date. Reprocessed additional materials added by Cecelia Carrasco, November-December 2005 and in October 2017 by Jennifer Chavez, Shane Saenz and Isabel Lopez
Guide to the S. Omar and Elsa Barker papers, 1898-1992
Edited Full Draft
Jennifer Chavez
© 2018
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • 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