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Culture Series: The New Mexico Cattle Frontier

April 16, 2020 @ 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm

CANCELLED – 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
In this Culture Series presentation in the Museum’s theater, range historian Stephen Zimmer of Cimarron, N.M., will survey the rise of New Mexico’s cattle frontier of the 1880s and ’90s. Admission is free.

Sheep grazed the mountains and plains along the Rio Grande for more than two centuries after they were first introduced by Spanish colonists in 1598. But once New Mexico became of Territory of the United States, Americans began grazing beef cattle on the nutritious grama grass that covered much of the area. John S. Chisum and Lucien Maxwell were among the first American cattle raisers, and they grazed vast herds that they sold to the federal government to feed soldiers at various Army forts and Indians on reservations in the Territory.

Conditions for raising cattle changed dramatically, however, when the Santa Fe Railroad laid tracks over Raton Pass and into the Territory in 1879. The rail line ran south to Albuquerque and eventually to Deming where it intersected the Southern Pacific. Once established, the Santa Fe provided the means to ship cattle to slaughterhouses in Kansas City and Chicago that processed beef for the burgeoning population of the eastern seaboard. As a result, large herds of Texas longhorns were driven onto New Mexico’s public domain and a period of open range ranching that extended for the next 20 years.

Zimmer will include excerpts from memoirs of several participants of the era including Eugene Manlove Rhodes, Agnes Morley Cleaveland, Jack Thorp, and Col. Jack “Lead Steer” Potter.


April 16, 2020
12:30 pm - 1:30 pm
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