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Laurens C. Bolles Papers

Identifier: MSS-493-BC

Scope and Content

The Laurens C. Bolles Papers consists of the personal papers of New Mexico conservationist and radio broadcaster Laurens Cheadle Bolles (1890-1971). The collection is divided into four series: Writing and Publishing; Radio Scripts; Correspondence and Miscellaneous Files; and Miscellaneous Additions.

Most of Bolles' writings deal with conservation. Since Bolles was a prolific amateur writer, his papers are autobiographical, book manuscripts, short stories, poems, and articles. He published a collection of poems entitled West Wind and several articles. Most of the papers are unpublished manuscripts.

A large part of Bolles' papers consists of his radio scripts. From 1947 to 1961, Bolles worked for several New Mexico radio stations. Every week Bolles was on the air for fifteen minutes, discussing any problem or issue concerning conservation. Thus, the radio scripts contain all of his conservation concerns and views.

The last series is quite diverse. This miscellaneous section includes Bolles' business proposals, newspaper clippings study notes, memos and personal records.


  • 1919-1965

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of CSWR material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws. Permission is required for publication or distribution.


Soil Conservation Technicians on lunch break (Laurens C. Bolles center), 1938. Part of the Laurens C. Bolles Pictorial Collection PICT 000-493 (Album 2).

Laurens Cheadle Bolles was born in Denison, Iowa, on April 16, 1890. His father, a medical doctor, died in 1902 and the family moved to the farm of his paternal grandfather, Jason Bolles, at Fountain, Minnesota, where Jason hoped to induce Laurens into farming. However, his mother sent him to school, where he excelled in mathematics and managed to skip a year getting into college. At the age of sixteen he enrolled in Iowa State College and decided to be an engineer. In 1910, he received his B.X. degree in civil engineering.

After graduating from college Bolles headed for the West. From 1910 to 1912, Bolles worked for the railroad as a maintenance engineer, travelling from Idaho to North Dakota. Then he acquired a homestead from the public domain in Montana and became a commercial wheat farmer. At the same time he used his knowledge of engineering to work as a highway engineer and do land surveys, mapping, irrigation planning and water rights adjudications around Fergus County, Montana. Bolles' homestead lasted until 1921 when drought and grasshoppers finally forced him into foreclosure.

In 1917, when the First World War reached its peak, Bolles volunteered for the Army. As a private in the Corps of Engineers, he was stationed in Europe. Due to his engineering knowledge and excellent performance, Bolles was made a second lieutenant in the field just before the armistice. He was discharged in July 1919. Bolles brought back a French wife, Lucienne Ronsseu. Their marriage lasted for thirty-five years.

After his return from WWI, Bolles accepted an irrigation job near Brownsville, Texas. Two years later he moved to the Ozarks,Missouri, where he mapped a water power site for a St. Louis company. A business slump caused Bolles to again pick up his plow, farming a small piece of land in the Ozarks which lasted only for a year. In 1922 Bolles resettled in Montana, working for a railroad company. In 1926 he secured a job with the Southern Pacific Railroad and moved to Phoenix, Arizona. Two years later, Bolles went to work for an irrigation company and began to develop an interest in the ecology of the Great American Desert.

Like most Americans, Bolles had a hard time during the Great Depression. He ran an antique and used book store until 1933, when the U.S. Government hired him as a superintendent for a CCC camp for highway construction. From 1934 to 1959, Bolles worked for the Soil Conservation Service under the Department of Agriculture, moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1935. After his retirement from the federal government he supervised landscaping for the New Mexico State Fair for six years.

Besides being an active conservationist, Bolles was also a volunteer radio broadcaster. From the late 1940's to the early 1960's he delivered numerous radio shows on the subject of conservation. Also, as an amateur writer, Bolles published a book and several articles. He was also an active member of many professional organizations including Friends of the Land and the New Mexico Academy of Science. After his second retirement in 1965, Bolles' health began to decline. In the last few years of his life, Bolles suffered several strokes. He died in 1971.


4 boxes (3.38 cu. ft.), plus oversize folder

Separated Material

Photographs including albums of New Mexico Native Americans as well as other personal photographs have been transferred to Laurens C. Bolles Photograph Collection

Relevant Secondary Sources

  • Albuquerque Journal, September 11, 1955
  • Albuquerque Tribune, February 26, 1952


Contact Information

  1. Center for Southwest Research
  2. Zimmerman Library
  3. University of New Mexico
  4. Albuquerque, New Mexico 87131-1466
  5. Phone: 505-277-6451
  6. Fax: 505-277-0530
  7. Email:
  8. URL:


Finding aid of the Laurens C. Bolles Papers, 1919-1965
For Approval
Processed by Judy Brzosko
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • June 28, 2004: PUBLIC "-//University of New Mexico::Center for Southwest Research//TEXT (US::NmU::MSS 493 BC::Laurens C. Bolles Papers)//EN" "nmu1mss493bc.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 UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131