Cloudcroft Founder’s Series: Charles Bishop Eddy

By Pat Rand

Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of the story about the Eddy brothers, John Arthur and Charles Bishop, who brought the railroad to Cloudcroft, and also about their longtime attorney and associate, William Ashton Hawkins. The first story was about John Arthur Eddy. This month, Charles Bishop Eddy is featured, and the final installment in February will be about William Ashton Hawkins.

Charles Bishop Eddy was born in Milford, New York, in 1857. His father was a successful merchant there, and had become quite wealthy. Charles Bishop and his brother, John Arthur, who was four years older, decided to try their success in the west and, with the help of an uncle, founded the Eddy-Bissell Cattle Company in southern Colorado in the early 1880Õs. Charles Bishop became the company president and John Arthur was the general manager. This would be the usual arrangement for most of their future business enterprises. Charles Bishop was the dreamer and promoter, while John Arthur was the day-to-day-operations person.

The Eddy brothers next move was to acquire the Pecos Valley Ranch in southeastern New Mexico, along the Pecos River. Charles Bishop spoke with former sheriff Pat Garrett, who had formulated an irrigation plan for the land along the Pecos, from the Texas state line to Roswell, by use of a series of dams and canals. Garrett found Charles Bishop Eddy, who could visualize such a project involving the Eddy land along the Pecos, to be a very interested party, and they proceeded with plans to make the scheme a reality.

The Pecos Irrigation and Improvement Company was organized with the usual arrangement of Charles Bishop Eddy as president and John Arthur Eddy as general manager. Garrett became a minority stockholder. A portion of the Pecos Valley Ranch was set aside for development into a new town, which would be named Eddy. The territorial legislature formed two new counties from the eastern portion of Lincoln County in 1889. The northern area became Chaves County and the southern portion was named Eddy County, with the new town of Eddy as the county seat.

Also in 1889, the Eddy brothers realized the need for a good attorney to represent them, and were fortunate enough to find a young lawyer from Silver City named William Ashton Hawkins. This was the beginning of the foundation that many future Eddy activities were built upon – Charles Eddy as the dreamer, promoter, and money raiser, John Eddy as the practical operations manager, and William Hawkins as the legal expert who showed them the proper way to accomplish the dreams.

Charles Bishop Eddy had convinced a wealthy mining man from Colorado, named James John Hagerman, to invest heavily in the Pecos irrigation project and also his plan to organize a railroad line from Pecos, Texas to Eddy, which would later be extended on to Roswell. Despite vigorous efforts, the project continued to be unsuccessful financially, and required more and more capital in order to stay solvent. Because of this, serious conflicts arose between Hagerman and Charles Eddy. The two were both strong willed, and constantly battled over the decisions that had to be made. By July 1898, the Pecos Irrigation and Improvement Company had been declared insolvent, and went into receivership at that time.

Charles Bishop Eddy and his brother had earlier decided it was in their best interest to pursue other projects, pull out of the irrigation situation, and leave it in the hands of Hagerman to overcome. This action left a bad taste in the mouths of many people in Eddy, since Charles Bishop had been the president of the Eddy Bank and president of the newly formed railroad, in addition to his position on the irrigation project. An election was held, and the name of the town was officially changed from Eddy to Carlsbad, its present name.

Charles Bishop Eddy had heard of another possible railroad venture. In 1889, a railroad line had been started northward out of El Paso, Texas, but the company had become insolvent. Following a thorough investigation, Charles Bishop Eddy was convinced that such a line could be highly successful, with coal and other minerals, timber, produce and cattle in the region waiting for a market in El Paso. He also visualized a tie-in at the northern end of the line to the Rock Island Railroad, providing a shorter route from Chicago to El Paso.

With his usual flair, Charles Bishop Eddy was able to convince investors from the East to back such an operation financially. On October 28th, 1897, the El Paso and Northeastern Railroad Company was incorporated with Charles Bishop Eddy as president, John Arthur Eddy as secretary and general manager of construction, and William Ashton Hawkins as counsel. On April 13th, 1898, the railroad bought the Alamo Ranch and its water rights from Oliver Lee for $5,000, and soon surveyors began laying out the proposed town of Alamogordo. Lots were already being sold in the new town as the railroad reached Alamogordo at 10 am, June 15th, 1898, with plans to continue northward.

A large amount of timber was required for railroad ties before the continuation could begin. A survey party was sent into the nearby Sacramento Mountains to determine the feasibility of a branch line to bring logs down to Alamogordo. They reported there was all the timber the railroad would need, and such a line was feasible. The report was accepted, and the Alamogordo and Sacramento Mountain Railroad was incorporated on March 24th, 1898. The railroad purchased 2700 acres of land at the summit and established the new resort of Cloudcroft. Logs were brought down to the new sawmill in Alamogordo, and the railroad was ready to proceed northward.

About this time, John Arthur Eddy resigned his position in the railroad to look after his other enterprises. He was paid $100,000 in cash for his interest in the profits. After 15 years of working with his brother in a number of activities, Charles Bishop Eddy continued on with the railroad project, with considerable help from attorney William Hawkins.

The railroad line was extended past Tularosa to the newly established town of Carrizozo. Charles Bishop Eddy had received word of extensive coal in the nearby mountains, and extended a branch line easterly to found the new town of Capitan. As it developed, the coal was too difficult to mine, and the branch line was soon abandoned. The town of White Oaks had hoped the railroad would then run to their area, but this was never done. Some say the people of White Oaks had become greedy, wanting too much money for the proposed right-of-way and having the chance to set their own price for the coal that would be mined there.

Charles Bishop Eddy was able to convince the Rock Island Railroad to extend a line into New Mexico, where it would be met by his line at Clayton. He also investigated the rumor of considerable coal in Colfax County, not far from his proposed rail line. The property was involved in a lawsuit, and Eddy sent attorney Hawkins to investigate. Hawkins reported back to Eddy whom he thought would win the suit, and was able to obtain an option to purchase the property from him once the lawsuit was settled. His assessment was correct, and Eddy purchased the coal field, planning a rail line from there into Tucumcari. With the connection to the Rock Island established and the availability of coking coal on his land, Eddy then began negotiations to sell the El Paso and Northeastern Railroad plus the coal field to the Phelps-Dodge Corporation, which had considerable mining interests in southern Arizona. On July 1st, 1905, the sale was completed, the railroad became part of the El Paso and Southwestern Line, and Charles Bishop Eddy became a very wealthy man.

For a number of years after his sale of the railroad, he was identified with promotions of many daring schemes around the world – railroads in Spain, subways in Chicago, a revolution in Mexico, ventures in the Texas oil fields, and many others. His lifetime interest was always in business and promoting. He never married. Charles Bishop Eddy died in St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City on April 13th, 1931, and was buried in his home town of Milford, New York, which he had left 50 years before. He had dreamed a magnificent dream, founded towns and established railroads. He was a man of outstanding ability as a promoter and builder. Few men could make claim to more than what Charles Bishop Eddy accomplished in his lifetime.

(c) 2003 Copyright Mountain Monthly