Cloudcroft Founder’s Series: John Arthur Eddy

By Pat Rand

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

John Arthur Eddy was born in the town of Milford, located in Otsego County, New York, in 1853. His father was the largest hops merchant in the region, and had become quite wealthy. John Arthur, together with his brother, Charles Bishop, who was born in 1857, decided they would follow the heed of Horace Greeley, who said, “Go west, young man.”With the help of an uncle, they founded the Eddy-Bissell Cattle Company in southern Colorado in the early 1880s, and established two ranches – “The High Lonesome”and “El Dorado.”Charles Bishop became the company president and John Arthur was the general manager. This same arrangement would be set-up for most of their future business enterprises.

The Eddys soon heard about fertile land in the Black River region of southeastern New Mexico, and acquired the Pecos Valley Ranch there. Pat Garrett, famous for his killing of “Billy the Kid,”had formulated a plan to develop the land along the Pecos, from the Texas state line to Roswell, by use of an irrigation system made up of a series of dams and canals that would feed the water to the thirsty land. Garrett had been unsuccessful in attempts to finance such a venture, but found a willing ear in Charles Bishop Eddy, who could visualize such a project involving the Eddy land along the Pecos, and the development of farms and a new town there, which would be aptly named “Eddy.”

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 the town of Eddy. The Eddy brothers were able to convince the territorial legislature to form two new counties from the eastern portion of Lincoln County in 1889. The northern portion became Chaves County and the southern area became Eddy County. The new town of Eddy became the county seat.

In 1889, the Eddy brothers, as their empire grew and became more complicated, realized they needed the help of a good attorney to represent them. They were fortunate enough to find a young lawyer from Silver City named William Ashton Hawkins, who was looking for a change. This was the start of the three-legged base that the Eddy conglomerate was built upon. Charles Eddy was the dreamer and money raiser, John Eddy was the practical, day-to-day operations manager, and William Hawkins was the legal expert who kept them out of trouble. In 1889, John Arthur Eddy, the oldest of the three, was only 36 years old, Charles Bishop Eddy was all of 32 years old, and William Ashton Hawkins, the youngest, was barely 28.

As plans for the irrigation project developed, it became apparent that the project would be quite expensive, and more funds would be needed in order to complete it. Charles Eddy spoke with James John Hagerman, a wealthy mining man from Colorado, and convinved him to invest heavily in the project. At this time, the decision was made to organize a railroad line from Pecos, Texas, to Eddy, to provide an outlet for the dreamed-of quantity of produce from the proposed irrigated fields around Eddy. The line – their first venture into railroad construction – was completed and later extended on to Roswell.

There soon developed a serious conflict between Hagerman and Charles Eddy. They were both strong willed, and constantly battled over the decisions that had to be made. The Eddy brothers finally made the decision to pull out of the situation and leave it in the hands of Hagerman to complete. The Eddy brothers leaving the project left a bad taste in many people’s mouths, and an election was held, changing the name of the town from Eddy to Carlsbad, its present name.

With the experience gained in the Eddy railroad project, Charles Eddy began looking into another possible railroad venture. In 1889, a railroad line had been started northward out of El Paso, Texas, towards White Oaks, New Mexico. The road bed had been laid for 20 miles when the company became insolvent. The project was purchased by Jay Gould, a railroad speculator, but he had died before any action was taken, and the line became part of his estate. After thorough investigation, Charles Eddy believed that such a line would 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 the east into El Paso.

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 A. Hawkins as counsel. On April 13th, 1898, Oliver Lee sold his Alamo Ranch and water rights to the Eddy brothers for $5,000, and shortly, surveyors began laying out and platting the proposed new town of Alamogordo. The Alamogordo Development Company was organized, with John Arthur Eddy as president, to begin selling lots in the town. The railroad reached Alamogordo at 10 am, June 15th, 1898, with plans to continue northward, but a large amount of timber was required for railroad ties to begin the extension.

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 that there was all the timber the railroad would need, but also reported that the top of the mountain, where the clouds lay along the ground, would make an ideal resort for the railroad, and suggested the name of “Cloudcroft,”or “a field of clouds,”for the resort. The report of the party was accepted by the railroad board, 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 village. The first building was the Pavilion, which was opened in a formal ceremony by John Arthur Eddy in 1899. Soon lots were being sold and other buildings erected.

The Virginia Hotel, which later became the Texas Hotel, and was later a shop named Colliques, was also built in 1899. It soon became apparent that an organization was needed to operate the affairs of Cloudcroft.

The Cloudcroft Property Owners Association, known as the Directory, was formed in 1903. John Arthur Eddy drew up the by-laws and served as the first secretary of the organization. Until Cloudcroft was incorporated in 1948, the Directory was the governing body of the community.

Once construction of the railroad was complete and Cloudcroft was firmly established, John Arthur Eddy sold his interest in the corporation to his brother, resigned his position with the railroad, and moved to Denver, Colorado. There, he married Susan Norvell from St. Louis, Missouri, and they had two daughters, Katherine and Sarah. He maintained a Summer cottage in Cloudcroft and his family often visited and entertained guests there.

John Arthur and Susan later divorced and she moved back to St. Louis with the two girls. John Arthur sold their Denver home and spent his latter years residing in a suite in the Hotel Tours in Denver, corresponding with people in the Cloudcroft area regarding its founding. John Arthur Eddy passed away in Denver on November 9th, 1931—seven months after his brother Charles Bishop died in New York City—and was buried in the Fairfield Cemetery in Salida, Colorado, near the location of the Eddy-Bissell Cattle Company, their first venture after leaving New York.

Because of his continuous connection with the community, John Arthur Eddy is considered to be the “Father of Cloudcroft,”and was so honored during the Centennial, held in 1999. A bronze bust of Eddy is in the Sacramento Mountains Historical Museum.

(c) 2003 Mountain Monthly