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Holm O. Bursum papers

Identifier: Ms-0305

Scope and Content

The Holm Bursum Papers span the years 1867-1965. They include items related to Bursum, the Bursum Company, the Rio Grande Supply Company, ranching, banking, mining interests, New Mexico politics and public affairs, the United States Senate, and the Bursum family. The papers include both Spanish and English documents. They are arranged by series which include business papers and correspondence; New Mexico politics and public affairs- papers and correspondence; United States Senate- papers and correspondence; personal papers and correspondence; and family papers. There are also letter books, business ledgers, books, oversized items, and a large number of maps. The papers are most often arranged chronologically or alphabetically by subject. The content in the series may overlap (For example, there may be references to politics in business correspondence.) Because of the condition of the materials and the sorting that had already been done in the past, it was very difficult to determine the original order of most of these materials. Whenever possible, items were kept together as they were found in labeled folders and these are designated by the title, "Saved as." There are a number of other items in the collection where the relationship to Bursum is not clear. These problems are noted in this guide.


  • 1867 - 1965

Access and Use Restrictions

This material may be examined by researchers under supervised conditions in the Search Room. The use of some of the fragile materials is restricted

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.


Holm Olaf Bursum was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa on February 10, 1867. Orphaned at the age of twelve, Bursum found employment in Denver and in 1882 moved to San Antonio, New Mexico, about ten miles from Socorro, where he worked as a clerk in a store for his uncle, A.H. Hilton, the father of hotel mogul Conrad Hilton. He attended night school in San Antonio, and an avid reader, became one of the best informed men in public life in the Southwest. Soon Bursum went into business for himself, hauling supplies to Fort Wingate which was at the time, an active military post. Later he became a subcontractor for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, which was being completed from Albuquerque to the west coast. The earnings from this endeavor provided a financial foundation upon which he built his large sheep and cattle business in the New Mexico Territory.

Bursum was active in territorial politics. He served as Sheriff of Socorro County from 1894-1898. From 1899-1900, Bursum served as a member of the Territorial Senate and was chairman of the Appropriations and Finance Committee. In 1899, he was also appointed as the Superintendent of the New Mexico State Penitentiary where he worked for seven years. In 1906, he became the Mayor of Socorro and worked for passage of a law that allowed the city to grant deeds to persons who established ownership to their property. Bursum was also chairman of the Republican Territorial Central Committee from 1905-1911 and represented New Mexico at the Republican National Conventions in 1904, 1908, 1912, and 1928. As a delegate to the 1908 convention, Bursum was largely responsible for the Republican plank advocating statehood for New Mexico. In 1910, Bursum became a delegate of the New Mexico Constitutional Convention helping frame the first state constitution. Bursum ran for the office of governor of New Mexico in 1911 and 1916 but was defeated both times. In 1919, he became a member of the Republican National Committee and served for two years. A fluent and compelling speaker in both Spanish and English, and an effective campaigner, Bursum was one of the most influential members of the Republican Party during the later Territorial days.

In 1921, Bursum was appointed to fill the United States Senate seat of Albert Fall who had become the Secretary of the Interior for the Harding administration. He took his seat April 11, 1921 and served until 1925, losing a bid for re-election in 1924. As a Senator, Bursum headed the Senate Committee on Pensions and was an advocate for the equitable treatment of disabled military personnel, servicemen, and war widows. The 1924 edition of the Congressional Directory lists him as a member of the Pension Committee; the Irrigation and Reclamation Committee; the Military Affairs Committee; the Privileges and Elections Committee; and the Public Lands and Survey Committee. In the Senate, Bursum introduced many bills. He supported legislation for high tariffs as well as financial relief for the agricultural and livestock industries. His efforts with the War Finance Corporation during 1921-1922 brought several million dollars to stockmen in New Mexico. Bursum was opposed to the League of Nations, the Permanent Court of International Justice, and the Versailles Treaty because he wanted to avoid international entanglements. However, Bursum argued for the immediate recognition of the government of Obregon in Mexico after the Mexican Revolution and played a part in the negotiations between the two countries. His most controversial legislation was a failed attempt to pass a bill that would have reduced the size of Pueblo Indian land holdings in New Mexico by giving some disputed lands to non-Indian claimants, and by establishing permanent boundaries between Indian and non-Indian lands. Throughout his political career, Bursum proved to be a masterful politician utilizing his influence to impact public policy.

In addition to his public service, Bursum was always involved in the livestock industry, owning and running his own successful sheep and cattle ranches near Socorro, New Mexico. He was an organizer and executive board member of the New Mexico Wool Growers Association and worked towards the development of the industry. After fifty years as a stockman he retired and left the Bursum Company ranch to his son, Holm O. Bursum Jr. Other business interests include mining, the Rio Grande Supply Company, and the Anglo-Mexican Development Corporation.

Holm Olaf Bursum married Lulu M. Moore on August 3, 1898, in Silver City, New Mexico. She was the daughter of a ranch family from Grant County. Mrs. Bursum worked in the family businesses and also served on the Board of Regents at the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts from 1935-1940. The Bursums' had four children including Holm Otto Bursum, Ruth Mildred Bursum Harban, Claire Bursum Pippen, and Betty Kathryn Bursum Taylor. The family home was located in Socorro. Mr. Bursum also served on the Executive Board of the Presbyterian Church of Socorro for many years and as a Master Mason with a lifetime membership in Socorro lodge. Mr. Bursum died in Colorado Springs, Colorado on August 7, 1953 at the age of eighty-six.


  1. Davis, Ellis Arthur, ed. Historical Encyclopedia of New Mexico, Volume I. Albuquerque: New Mexico Historical Association, 1945.
  2. Fernlund, Kevin J. "Senator Holm O. Bursum and the Mexican Ring, 1921- 1924." New Mexico Historical Review (October, 1991.) 433- 453.
  3. Lamar, Howard R., ed. Reader's Encyclopedia of the American West. New York: Harper and Row, 1977.
  4. Moorman, Donald. "Political Biography of Holm Bursum, 1899- 1924." Ph.D. diss., University of New Mexico, 1962.
  5. New Mexico Stockman. "In Memoriam." (August, 1953.) 110.


53.3 Linear Feet (80 Boxes and Maps)

Language of Materials



Holm O. Bursum (1869- 1953.)was a successful politician, businessman, and rancher who lived in Socorro, New Mexico. Bursum became an important public figure in New Mexico and served as a United States Senator from 1921- 1925.


  1. RG89-155, Gift of Holm O. Bursum III.
  2. RG90-17
  3. RG95-012, Gift of Weber State University

Related Material

Henry D. Bowman Papers.RG90- 184 Archives and Special Collections Department, New Mexico State University Library, Las Cruces, New Mexico. Bursum, Holm O., 1867-1953. Papers, 1873- 1936. Mss 92 BC University of New Mexico General Library, Center for Southwest Research, Albuquerque. Albert Bacon Fall Papers. Ms 0008 Archives and Special Collections Department, New Mexico State University Library, Las Cruces, New Mexico. The Legacy Project. Ms 0346 Archives and Special Collections Department, New Mexico State University Library, Las Cruces, New Mexico. Judge Edwin L. Mechem Papers. RG88-014 Archives and Special Collections Department, New Mexico State University Library, Las Cruces, New Mexico. Socorro County Historical Society Collections. RG84-023 Archives and Special Collections Department, New Mexico State University Library, Las Cruces, New Mexico. White Oaks - San Antonio Stage Route Photographs, 1888- 1940. RG2003-123 Archives and Special Collections Department, New Mexico State University Library, Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Guide to the Holm O. Bursum papers
Processed by Portia Vescio, 2001. Reprocessed by Leslie Bergloff, 2004.
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 0305::Holm O. Bursum Papers, 1867-1965//EN" "nmlcu1#0305.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