Buckeye Sheep Ranch

by David L. Minton, Lea County Historian. Used with permission.

Today a look at the origin of the name of the area in Our Lea County known as Buckeye.  Today it is known primarily as the oil patch southwest of Lovington, but 130 years ago it and a larger area was known as the Buckeye Sheep Company owned by Abel Justus “A. J.” Crawford.  Have you ever wondered why it was called Buckeye?  Once again, an interesting story emerges from an unlikely source.

A. J. Crawford was born in Kentucky November 10, 1867.  When he got big enough A.J. went to work in the tobacco fields for $1.25 a week.  He moved with his family to Ripley, Ohio and Ripley was where he attended school and met his future wife, Minnie May Campbell.  A. J. considered Ripley his home town.

In 1884 A. J. Crawford finds his way to Abilene, Texas and goes to work on a ranch and also begins working at building his own flock of sheep.  In 1890 A. J. Crawford has a flock of 125 head built up and he moves his flock to the ranch he bought in the Monument area.  This trail drive was made on foot.  He named his ranch the Buckeye Sheep Company.

On July 18, 1898 A. J. and Minnie wed at Ripley, Ohio and they moved to Carlsbad in September of that year. 

On the 19th day of November 1906 there was a terrible blizzard and 5 of Crawford’s Mexican sheep herders froze to death.  The loss of the men affected Crawford deeply, many years later in a newspaper interview he became teary eyed when talking about the loss.  While burying the dead Crawford decided to sell the ranch and get out of the sheep business for good.  The Buckeye Sheep Co. also lost 4,000 head of its 15,000 sheep to the blizzard. 

A. J. Crawford sold the Buckeye Sheep Co. to his foreman Seth Alston in 1907.

Abel Justus “A. J.” Crawford, the man who started out a boy working in Kentucky tobacco fields at $1.25 a week, then a New Mexico sheep man who went on to get into banking, hotels, grocery stores and other ventures died at his home in Carlsbad February 11, 1969 at 101, a multi-millionaire.  Crawford was generous and shared his wealth with individuals as well as the city of Carlsbad while alive and after death.  A. J. and Minnie Crawford are now together in a private mausoleum at Ripley, Ohio.

So, have you figured out why Buckeye/The Buckeye Sheep Co. are called Buckeye?  The clues are in the story.    Happy Trails!

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