Largest towns – The name followed by the generally accepted story of how it originated. The larger towns were all founded within a couple of years, 1908 to 1910, two years before New Mexico became a state.
Tatum – Founded in 1909 by James G. Tatum. Tatum submitted three names including his own last name, which was chosen by the US postal service.
Lovington – Founded in 1908 by brothers Jim and Robert Florence Love. They preferred the name Loving, but the town of Loving already was established in nearby Eddy County, so they settled on Lovington.
Hobbs – Founded in 1907 by James Berry Hobbs, a merchant whose store had the post office. Hobbs was born October 5, 1887 in Blanket, Brown County, Texas to James Isaac and Fannie Mourning Hobbs. James Isaac and Fannie had come to Texas from Mississippi and moved further west to what was then Eddy County, New Mexico. In 1914, James married Ellen Colkin who was from Alabama. The couple had three sons, James Richard, Roy Dawson and Berry Lee. James Berry died in 1930, Ellen Colkin Hobbs died in 1956. Roy Dawson Hobbs was killed in the Philippines in World War II. His brothers settled in Hobbs and raised their families there. A number of the deceased family members are buried in Prairie Haven Cemetery in Hobbs. The town of Hobbs was consolidated with the former town of New Hobbs in 1937.
Eunice – Established in 1908 or 1909. Eunice is named for the oldest daughter of John Nathaniel Carson, a merchant, and his wife Martha Isabella “Mattie” Marshall Carson. John N. Carson was born March 1, 1861 in Tennessee. By the time he was 13, the family had moved to Whitesboro, Grayson County, Texas. His father died when he was 18 and by the next year, he was living in Cooke County in North Texas. He and Mattie married in 1883 and they remained in Texas for a number of years. Eunice was their second child and oldest daughter. After all their children were born, they relocated to the Monument area when John was 49. By the time the 1910 census was taken, he was listed as being a farmer. Carson eventually relocated back to West Texas where he died in Ector County in 1943 at the age of 82. At this point, Eunice’s life is less well documented, but she married Fred C. King. They appear to have resided in Fort Sumner. Eunice passed in 1959. Both she and Fred are both buried there in Fort Sumner.
Jal – Established in 1910. Jal is named for the initials of one of two ranchers, James A. Lawrence and James A. Lee, although the origin officially remains a mystery. The consensus seems to favor James A. Lawrence. His cattle brand were the initials, JAL, with no cross bar on the A. Neither of the individuals lived in Lea County, but the brand was brought to the area by early rancher William H. “Bill” Cowden who moved to the area with his brothers George, John and Buck in the 1880s (1). At some point, the ranch was operated by brother John M. Cowden, who ultimately sold the land to various individuals wanting to settle there. Charles and Mollie Justis applied for a postal permit which was awarded in the name of Jal in 1910. (2)
(1) Little Texas Beginnings in Southeastern New Mexico, Mosley, May Price, Hall-Poorbaugh Press, Inc., 1973.
(2) The Lea County Tradition, It All Started with a Brand, Ad West Advertising and Publications, Summer 2010.