The first homes in early-1900s Clovis were tents and one- or two-room shacks. But one of the homes built in 1908, at Ninth and Gidding streets (almost out of town at the time) was the J. S. Fitzhugh home that ranked among the best homes in eastern New Mexico.
It cost more than most home builders could afford. Fitzhugh first purchased the quarter section of land where his home would be built. It was then divided into blocks and lots and became part of the North Park Addition. His home, barn and other out building were situated on one-quarter of Block 33, using two lots for his home. It was two stories, had two big basement rooms, and upstairs was a library with a piano and bay window looking south, the same direction as the front of the home faced.
It was said a French painter decorated the ceilings and borders. (Three photos exist.)
The name Fitzhugh has been well known in Clovis since James S. Fitzhugh came to Clovis in 1907. In 1906, he was the treasurer and legal advisor of the Brownhorn Townsite Company, which laid out Melrose. When he learned the railroad had decided to build its roundhouse and shops on the first level section of land west of Texico, he moved there. That site became Clovis. Fitzhugh went into law practice.
Fitzhugh was born on July 14, 1863, at Waco, Texas. He was admitted to the bar and began practice there in 1891, remaining until 1903.
In that year he went to Carlsbad and in 1904 he extended his practice to Roswell and Portales, before coming to what is now Curry County. His wife Hattie died in 1904, leaving him four sons and three daughters. About the time he built his new home he married Ida Gossett who was living in Clovis.
In 1909, a son was born to them called Gordon Fitzhugh, one of our most popular citizens. J. S. Fitzhugh, being civic minded, was a member of the first Clovis Board of Education. He and his brother D. K. Fitzhugh invested in real estate and within two years had built many of the business blocks and residences of Clovis.
It’s been said J. S. Fitzhugh had the first auto here, a 1903 Olds.
Clovis was growing fast, and many called it the “Magic City of the Plains,” so it was a blow to J. S. Fitzhugh to see his magnificent home go up in flames. This was in 1913, but the exact date is unknown.
A 1966 book on Clovis reported “in 1913 the beautiful $8,000 home of Judge J. S. Fitzhugh in the North Park Addition was totally destroyed by fire. (The title of “Judge” was honorary.) There was no mention of what caused the fire, but at least two other homes in Clovis burned in the summer of 1913.
In the Jan. 9, 1914, issue of the Clovis Journal was published this item: “Clovis completed several new houses last week, among them being the splendid Fitzhugh home in North Park.”
Today, that 89-year-old home still stands, built on the foundation of the first home, with a beautiful pinkish-red clay tile roof, an iron and stucco fence around the property and a new gazebo in the place of the first one that had been destroyed. J. Fidel and Teresa Perez have owned this home for 17 years, and have landscaped and remodeled most of the present home. The Perez family has been seeking the history of the property and the two homes for a long time.
In 1918, the home was sold to Zena Bailey. She and her husband Jeff ranched in the Frio Draw. Their prominent son, Joe Bailey, was a rancher too and lived with his wife Lena and daughter Jo Adrienne across the street from his parents. Zena Bailey, on learning that her bank in Clovis had closed it doors because of the money panic in the early 1920s, went down and demanded her money in that bank at the back door. They refused her, but she pulled out a six-shooter and poked it in the open crack of the door. She was probably the only one to have gotten all her money back.
Zena Bailey died in 1956 and the home went on auction and was purchased for $10,000 by one of her daughters, Della.
J. H. and Connie M. Beevers purchased the old home in 1965. The Perez family bought it from the Beevers on July 11, 1986.
J. S. Fitzhugh died at age 82, in 1947, in a hospital in Pueblo, Colo.
His son, Everett, died at Columbu when Pancho Villa raided that little New Mexico town in 1916. He was a member of the New Mexico National Guard, the first soldier from Clovis to die in service.
Ida Fitzhugh died in 1963 and her only son, Gordon Fitzhugh, died in 1994. Some of the few old timers living here now still remember the Fitzhughs and the Baileys.
Don McAlavy is a history buff who lives in Clovis.