I’m sure you’ve heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls. And you may know that scrolls of papyrus, parchment or paper were the standard method of storing texts for many early civilizations. The famous library at Alexandria is said to have held as many as 400,000 scrolls in its collection. Well, as a writing format, scrolls aren’t as popular as they used to be – excepting Jack Kerouac’s epic manuscript for On the Road, which was either typed or subsequently bound by Kerouac as a scroll. Here in the NMSU Library Archives, we have some scrolls of our own. They were created by the consummate southern New Mexico amateur historian, Lee C. Myers. More about the scrolls in a minute, but first let me tell you a little about Lee Myers.
Lee Myers was one of those extraordinary people who was completely consumed by his love for history. For nearly 50 years, he must have spent every waking hour thinking about, researching, and writing about the history of southern New Mexico. He authored more than 100 articles and historical booklets during his life. His book The Pearl of the Pecos details the creation of Eddy, New Mexico (now Carlsbad) and the development of irrigation on the lower Pecos River. He conducted scores of oral history interviews with southern New Mexico old timers, the people who lived the region’s history, between the 1950s and 1990s. He was involved with several area historical societies, including the Dona Ana County Historical Society and the Historical Society of New Mexico.
Myers was born in Kansas in 1902. He joined the Kansas National Guard at the age of 16, during World War I, and subsequently served in the U.S. Navy during WWII and the Korean War. He moved to Colorado in the early 1920s and began working in mining. By 1927, he wandered south to New Mexico, settling in Hurley where he worked as a machinist for the Kennecott Copper Corporation. In 1928, he married Daisy Fooshee, of Hurley. After about 10 years working in the Hurley mines, the Myers moved to Carlsbad, New Mexico, where Lee got a job as machinist for the United States Potash Company. He also ran his own machine shop. He retired in 1967 and began devoting more of his time to his history passion. Following Daisy’s death in 1976, Myers moved to Las Cruces. He married Christine Buder, a librarian at the NMSU Library, in 1982. He died on November 8, 1994, in Las Cruces after a long illness. He was 92 years old.
Much to the benefit of the historical community, Myers donated all his research papers to the NMSU Library Archives. The collection includes Myers’ articles, manuscripts, notes, and correspondence, as well as research files containing original and copied historical documents covering hundreds of topics of southern New Mexico history. Correspondence includes communication with editors, fellow writers, historians, and other notables, including Pete Domenici, Myra Ellen Jenkins, Leon Metz, Robert Mullin and Marc Simmons. The collection also includes photographs of ghost towns, historical sites, and important people, places and events of southern New Mexico history. Audio tapes of his interviews with old timers are an incredible treasure trove of first-hand information.
OK, now the scrolls. One particularly interesting portion of the Myers papers is what I call his “Hurley Scrolls.” As someone completely obsessed with documenting lived history, Myers would spend his lunch breaks while working his mining jobs writing down notes on the popular history of the Hurley mining area using the materials he had at hand – a pencil and rolls of paper towels. He would wind out a length of rolled paper towel and jot down his remembrances of the colorful people who worked in the mines during the 1920s through the 1950s. Much of the material deals with the relatively indecorous behavior one might expect in a mining town – drinking, fighting, and licentiousness. Myers saved these paper towel scrolls, both rolled and flattened, and today they provide a unique insight into life in a southern New Mexico mining town during the early 20th century.
You can get a more complete picture of the Lee Myers papers by looking at our finding aid for the collection. Also, you can view more than 800 photographs from the Myers collection on our online photo database. Let us know if you have questions about Myers or his Hurley Scrolls.