The history of Carlsbad unfolds as part of a grandiose promotion of the lower Pecos Valley.
During the 1890s, development was fueled by the arrival of colonies of immigrants from England, Switzerland, France and Italy. The original settlement bore the name of Charles B. Eddy, co-owner of the Eddy-Bissell Livestock Company. The cattleman recognized the value of diverting water from the Pecos River to the grazing lands on his Halagueno Ranch, which included present-day Carlsbad.
In 1888, Eddy arranged for the careful
layout of streets in the new town and planted young cottonwood trees
to line them. By 1892, the newspaper reported that the town company
had planted 12,000 trees.
Lots were sold for $50 to $400 each. Because
the towns benefactor was determined to create a model temperance
community, restrictions against the manufacture or sale of alcoholic
beverages were inserted into the deeds of each lot. A small satellite
community of saloons and prostitutes flourished for a while in what
was known as Phenix, south of the tee-totaling Eddy Township.
Former Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett
(famous for gunning down Billy the Kid in 1881) first envisioned
an ambitious development project to harness the valleys water
resources with a series of dams and canals for irrigation. He brought
promoter Charles W. Greene to the Halagueno Ranch to meet Eddy, who
soon recognized that more capital was needed for such a venture. Later,
Robert W. Tansill introduced Eddy to millionaire James J. Hagerman,
who became a principal investor in the Pecos Irrigation and Improvement
Company. Unfortunately, Garrett was edged out of the new partnership.
Eddy, known as the Pearl of the
Pecos, began as a company town for the massive irrigation and
real estate development business. Hagerman and his partners soon formed
their own corporation and took over the enterprise. Key to the growth
of the area were special excursion trains that brought visitors from
the east at reduced fares. Even before the railroad was completed from
Pecos in 1891, travel parties were met at the railroad station in Toyah,
Texas and driven by buggy 90 miles over a rough, dusty road to this
small but growing settlement on the banks of the Pecos River.
By March 1893, the newspaper reported
that there were eleven visiting millionaires in Eddy. All were attracted
here by the prospect of highly profitable investments.
Soon after the town of Eddy was incorporated
in 1893, a disastrous flood swept away the Avalon and Tansill dams,
the original wooden irrigation flume, and the Greene Street bridge.
The irrigation system was promptly rebuilt, but the towns boom
period had ended. By 1899, residents voted to change the towns
name from Eddy to Carlsbad, after the Karlsbad Spa in Czechoslovakia.
The inspiration for the renaming was a large spring near the flume which
reportedly had mineral qualities similar to the famous European health
The town constructed a first-class hotel
to provide lodging for the wealthy visitors arriving by train. The Hagerman
Hotel, a two-story, 60-room lodging house, was located on the southwest
corner of Canyon and Mermod streets, facing the courthouse square.
Most of the early construction in Carlsbad
was completed with locally manufactured bricks. The bricks were quite
soft and of poor quality. The former First National Bank building at
the corner of Canal and Fox streets is one of the few remaining buildings
constructed with the local brick.
In 1918 Carlsbad officially became a city when New Mexico Governor W. E. Lindsay granted the town permission to incorporate, since the population had surpassed 2,000. Today, Carlsbad owes its world fame to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, which lies 20 miles to the southwest.