New Photograph Donations

We are always excited to hear from folks, both near and far, who have historical materials related to southern New Mexico and the border region and are interested in donating to our collections. Some people are surprised to learn that nearly everything in our extensive holdings of archival records (about 25,000 linear feet) came to us as donations from families, individuals, businesses, and organizations. Most archives operate on slim budgets that don’t allow for the purchase of historical materials, which these days fetch high prices in the world of antiquarian books and manuscripts. Of course, the majority of our donors have been people with long family histories in our region – deep New Mexican roots. But occasionally items come from folks far away who had an ancestor who spent time in Las Cruces or southern New Mexico. This was the case with a recent donation of 20 photographs made in Las Cruces in 1899 and 1900.  

Through our connections with the Doña Ana County Historical Society, we were contacted by Jerry Elder a couple of months ago. Jerry, who lives in the Southeast, had an interesting story about the making of these 20 Las Cruces photographs. His great-grandfather, Charles Fulton Neale, was a livestock broker around Springfield, Washington County, Kentucky, specializing in matched carriage horses. He was born in 1871 and according to the Springfield News Leader, was a “well-known and popular young man of the county…who won the respect of all with whom he came in contact.” In 1892, he married Katharine Meadows and the couple had a daughter, Katharine Elizabeth (Eliza) Neale – Jerry’s grandmother. The Neales had been married a few years when Charles was diagnosed with tuberculosis. The family doctor advised Neale to go to the dry climate of Las Cruces to seek the cure. Charles and his family arrived in Las Cruces in 1898 and spent a little more than a year here. The Springfield newspaper then reported on April 12, 1900, “Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Neale and little daughter arrived here Monday from Las Cruces, New Mexico, where they went about 18 months ago. The climate did not prove as much benefit for Charlie’s health as was hoped for so he was brought home.” Charles Neale’s obituary appeared in the paper two months later. He was 29. 

Jerry believes that during their brief time in Las Cruces, either Charles or Katharine Neale took the photographs that he sent to us. They depict people and scenes around Las Cruces that must have seemed typical of this border community, but exotic to the Neales. Thankfully, each photograph bears a handwritten note, in pencil, on the back of the card to which it is affixed, with a description of the scene and the year. 

Photograph of dancers in front of St. Genevieve church

A very rare image showing matachin dancers in front of St. Genevieve Catholic Church. Handwritten caption on the back reads, “Pueblo Indians dancing before church – la iglesia catolica, Las Cruces, N.M., Dec. 12, 1899, Fiesta de la Senora Guadalupe.”

Photograph of early Las Cruces

Caption on back reads, “Mr. Stuart’s bee ranch, 300 stands, suburbs of Las Cruces, N.M., 1900.”

Photograph of early Las Cruces

Firewood vendor is shown with the home of the Amador family in the background. Caption reads, “Mexican wood vendor, team of Texas steers, cottonwood – sold at 75 cents and $1.00 per load, Las Cruces, N.M., 1900.”

Photograph of early Las Cruces

Family at their adobe home. Caption reads, “Typical Mexican dwelling. no. 1 – front, Las Cruces, N.M., 1900.”

Photograph of early Las Cruces

Caption on back reads, “Main Street, Las Cruces, N.M., 1900.” Front caption, “Recuerdo” means memento or souvenir.

Photograph of early Las Cruces

Wood cart being pulled by burros. Caption reads, “Mexican wood vendors, burro team. Mesquite wood dug out of ground – taking several days to procure full load – hauled twenty miles and sold at from $1.00 to $1.25 per load. Las Cruces, N.M., 1900.”

A second set of unique photographs was donated to our collection last week by Charles Bennett, historian and former staffer of the Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe. Purchased by Bennett from an antique shop in Truth or Consequences several years ago, the five “cabinet card” mounted photographs depict the small mining camp of Carlisle, New Mexico during its boom days in the 1880s. Carlisle is in the proverbial middle of nowhere, due west of Silver City in southwestern New Mexico, not far from the Arizona border. Prospecting began there around 1880 and mining in earnest soon followed. The mine and the community that sprang up allegedly were named for Claude Carlisle Fuller, the first baby born in the camp. Gold and silver mining boomed for about 20 years, with the population growing to a few thousand, by one estimate. One of the assistant superintendents of the Carlisle mines would later gain notoriety as president of the United States – Herbert Hoover. The mines saw cycles of intense activity and abandonment over the years. On March 30, 1895, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported, “The old Carlisle mine, which has been shut down for years, has been started up again. Several years ago, under the English owners, the Carlisle was one of the best gold producers in the southwest, and why the mine was shut down and the extensive and valuable milling and hoisting machinery sold for a mere trifle has always been of the unsolvable mysteries. The camp promises to be very lively this summer.” Again, on May 17, 1923, a headline in the Lordsburg Liberal noted, “Carlisle Mine to Open.” The new owners were ready to drop “at least a million dollars” into developing the property again, which “has been idle for a number of years.” In a 1966 report, the U.S. Geological Survey stated that between 1934 and 1942 “the mines produced about 30,000 ounces of gold and well over 1 million ounces of silver.” In 2017, 20 acres of the Carlisle Extension Gold Mining Claim was advertised for sale online by Gold Rush Expeditions for $15,000.

Photograph of Carlisle, N.M.

Carlisle, New Mexico, ca. 1888

Photograph of Carlisle New Mexico mine

Carlisle, New Mexico mine work, showing mine, mill, smelter and other buildings, ca. 1888. Photograph by B.F. Reichard.

We take pride in preserving these historical materials and making them available for use by researchers and enjoyment by anyone with an interest. Let us know if you would like to schedule an appointment to see these or any other of our archival collections in person. We’d also like to hear from you if you have historical materials you would like to donate to the NMSU Library Archives and Special Collections. 

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