Old book provides a look back at Quay County, New Mexico

In the last few days, I’ve perused a book titled “Quay County, New Mexico, 1903-1985.” It contains hundreds of stories and photos from the region, including the Route 66 towns of Endee, Bard, San Jon, Tucumcari, Polomas and Montoya.

The book, edited by Mary Lynn Moncus and Marian Farmer Knapp, contains nearly 800 pages of material that’s historically valuable almost 35 years after its publication. You can find a copy on eBay or used-book shops, but it probably will cost you a couple hundred bucks. I procured my copy through the Tucumcari Public Library.

A few observations about the book:

— It contains histories of dozens of small towns — such as Ogle Flat, Hemlock and Apache — that disappeared in the 20th century.

— A good many pictures come from the pre-highway age, when Quay County was a barely-tamed territory for white settlers. Towns such as San Jon and Montoya resembled small but thriving Old West towns.

— One section of the book about Tucumcari tells about disasters, including a rash of arson fires during the late teens, other conflagrations that burned businesses or schools, floods, a water-tank collapse and a train wreck west of town in 1933 that killed 12 people.

— It’s clear Tucumcari was deeply segregated for much of the early 20th century. The book tells about John Wilson, the city’s only black resident for decades, and John Chinaman (his real name lost to posterity), who was the town’s only resident of Chinese descent for many years.

— Family histories take up a huge part of the book. So if you have a long-dead relative with Quay County roots, chances are good you’ll find information about him or her in it.

— A few pages list the book’s sponsors, including such Route 66 stalwarts as the Buckaroo Motel, Safari Motel, Apache Motel, La Cita restaurant, and Blue Swallow Motel.

Here are a few photos in the book from the Route 66 era I don’t recall seeing before:

4 thoughts on “Old book provides a look back at Quay County, New Mexico

  1. The Tucumcari Historical Museum also has a copy in its collection. Another good resource is “High Plains History of East-Central New Mexico” by Don McAlavy and Harold Kilmer, a similar book, covering Quay, Curry, and Roosevelt Counties. The northern portion of Curry County is made up of the old southernmost portion of Quay.
    Moncus also wrote a centenary history of Quay that’s very useful.

  2. I have that book and im willing to sell it the book is in perfect condition let me know if you want it

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