By Don McAlvy: Columnist
Newspapers are the lifeblood of any community. Like the many communities that once existed in East-Central New Mexico and have faded away, so have newspapers faded away. Would you believe that in Curry, Quay and Roosevelt counties 62 newspapers once existed?
In the early days the local paper was perhaps the reader’s only reading material – that and the Bible.
In a period from 1898 to 1912, the newspapers followed the railroad.
Texico, Portales, Elida and Kenna were founded by the old “Peevine” railroad. Portales was founded in 1898 and this community
established the first newspaper in East-Central New Mexico, the Portales Progress, first published in 1901.
To the north, Tucumcari (first called Six-Shooter Siding) was founded by the El Paso Northeastern Railroad in 1902, and it was here the second East-Central New Mexico newspaper was established. It was the Pathfinder, published by one of New Mexico’s pioneer newspapermen: Jim Curren, the same man who published the first newspaper in Melrose, the Headlight. That was in 1906.
Jim Curren’s son, Arthur E. Curren, founded Clovis’ first paper, the Clovis News, first printed in May 1907.
Curry County had 17 so-called “Territorial Newspapers” prior to statehood in 1912. Melrose had five: the Headlight, the Democrat, the Enterprise, the Index and the Southwest Baptist. In 1909, the Southwest Baptist was moved to Portales where it became the New Mexico Baptist.
Then there’s Grady. It wasn’t founded by any railroad, although at one time, about 1910, the people thought they were going to get a railroad, to be called the Tucumcari, Texico and Southeast Railroad. It was never built, but Grady had two newspapers: the Grady Gazette and the Grady Record. The Gazette soon merged with the Record. The Record lasted about three years.
Texico, founded in 1902, had three territorial newspapers: the Democrat, the Times and the Trumpet. Texico was also serviced by the State Line Tribune, published in Farwell first in 1910. Between 1916 and 1920 another Twin City paper was published: The Texico-Farwell News.
Clovis can boast six papers prior to 1912: the News, the Journal, the Democrat, the Pony Post (Clovis’ first daily, published in 1909 and which lasted a very brief time), the Post (a weekly started in 1908 that ran until August 1909, when the publisher, Harry Armstrong, sold the Post and his plant to the Clovis Journal, which had lost its plant in a fire) and the Chronicle, published in 1907. This Chronicle is not the Clovis Chronicle, a daily paper published between 1949 and 1950, only lasting little over a year.
Since 1912 six papers have been established in Clovis: the Clovis Herald (1921-22), New Mexico Press (1929-47 as a weekly and from 1947-57 as a daily), Clovis News Journal (1929 to present and a merger of the Clovis News and Clovis Journal), Curry County Times (a weekly 1931-85), the Free Press (1936- 44) and, as mentioned before, the Clovis Chronicle (1949-50).
Melrose had four papers established after 1912: The Melrose Messenger (1918-26), the Melrose Dairyman-Farmer (1914-17?), the Melrose Times (1914-?) and the Melrose News (1929-54).
I helped publish the Melrose News back in 1948-52 when Estell Stahl had it. He would bring it over to the Curry County Times each week where I worked for Chick Taylor Sr., and we would set type on a Linotype and print it.
That was when newspapers were set in hot lead and printed by a letterpress. Now nearly all the papers are set electronically (cold type) and printed by the offset method. It’s faster, but the charm is gone.
Computers have revolutionized newspapers.
Now in this same area only three are publishing today: two dailies, the Clovis News Journal and the Portales News-Tribune; and the Quay County Sun in Tucumcari, published twice weekly. The weekly newspapers have always had a hard time, especially when competing against a daily.
One other newspaper, the High Plains Observer, serves or served the High Plains region monthly, and it started in Tucumcari.
Our best source of local history is printed in these newspapers. They are our heritage.