New Mexico Homestead

The Cow Boy on his pony arrives,
and starts to rubbing his astonished eyes,
Behold a city is before him now,
where use to graze the steer and cow.
- New Mexico Land and Immigration Company

 

Forest L. Link in 1977 surveys remains of where his grandfather, Forest E. Link, and great grandfather's family homesteaded beginning in about 1908. It was the final wave created by the Homestead Act. The steer and cow once displaced by the city of Obar have returned to become its successors.

 Obar, New Mexico barely qualifies as a ghost town today. It is marked in a windswept section of the flat plains of northeastern New Mexico by a lonely stone kiosk with a brass plaque denoting the original occupants. It sits alongside U.S. 54 Highway after that road cuts its southwest journey into New Mexico, eight miles past Nara Visa and following a previous stint in the Texas Panhandle. Between Nara Visa to the northeast and Tucumcari to the southwest, and alongside the rails of the Rock Island Railroad, the plaque commemorates 32 of the founding homesteaders. "C. Link" is one of the names, and that is my great grandfather, Charles Ulysses Link.


In the 1970's when I visited Obar briefly on two occasions, a few rock and mortar foundations were clearly visible near the highway. A rusty dinner knife blade lay near one of the foundations my brother Forest, named for our grandfather who had lived in Obar beginning at age 17, and I surveyed at the dusty spot for perhaps just under a half hour. The year was 1977 and we were returning from our grandmother Beatrice Link's funeral in Pratt, Kansas, to my brother's home which at that time was in Cuba, New Mexico. Beatrice was Forest Elmer Link's wife. Forest went to Obar with his family in 1908 following a dream that failed to materialize.

- Richard A. Link

 

 Proposed route of (Weatherford,) Mineral Wells and Northwestern Railway. 

Temptation to Move
to a Southwestern Climate

Winters in South Dakota could seem brutal, and family members were aware that C.U. Link did not like them from the start. Spring storms had created tornadoes in the vicinity of the farm. Buildings were damaged, people had died with little warning. It was in this frame of mind that C.U. received advertisements from the New Mexico Land and Immigration Company whose offices were in Topeka, Kansas. The advertisements, perhaps more properly called enticements, centered on a "city" in Quay County, New Mexico, named Obar.

Quay County, N.M. - Wikipedia An invitation to purchase land summarized the frontier spirit of the West and made maximum use of the belief common at the time that rain followed the plow across the center of the North American continent. In addition to describing abundant, fertile farmland, Obar was already situated along side the Chicago, Rock Island and El Paso Railway. The key promised factor in making Obar an irresistable place to homestead was not only the ease of farming, but the promised crossing of the Mineral Wells and Northwestern Railroad at the townsite. Such crossings had made other cities key transportation hubs in their areas.

"A trip across the beautiful prairie, with its waving corn, alfalfa and cotton bloom, is like the realization of a cherished dream of a new home in the West. It matters not from what part of the Union you come, you will find here, growing in tropical luxuriance, the fruits and flowers to which you have become accustomed in the old home..."

- from NMLIC "Invitation"

Someone familiar with the area today would scratch their head at descriptions such as "growing in tropical luxuriance," and promising that familiar vegitation from the old farm in the Midwest or East were sure to grow in Obar. The advertising of the time was unabashedly persuasive.

"If  you are looking for a new home and want to better your condition, come to Obar, the land of sunshine, where with the least encouragement the flowers bloom and the crops grow abundantly.

Huge mellon being harvested in wheelbarrow by children. Such fictitious harvest pictures were very popular at the time. Hand-written note on the mellon reads, "Raised around Obar by C.U. Link." It was postmarked 1913 from the Obar post office and sent to Forest E. Link in Pratt, Kansas. The card was likely from C.U. or Malinda."The man from the rugged coast of Maine, and the man from the sunset slope of the Pacific, the thrifty Yankee and the hospit-able Southerner, here meet and mingle on a common level. Here you will be estimated at your true value...

"New Mexico needs you to help develop her wonderful resources... Come to a new town in a magnificent new country, and do not be delayed by skepticism."

- from NMLIC "Invitation"

Charles Ulysses made several trips to Obar and decided the New Mexico Land and Immigration Company was being forthright and that true opportunity existed. Not to mention the chance to get away from blizzards and (it was believed) tornadoes. Such "cyclones" were not unknown in this borderline area of what would later become known as Tornado Alley. If patterns were the same as records beginning in the 1950's, tornado-wise, the move was roughly a wash.

Nevertheless, it was not hard to come up with a buyer, and C.U. and Clara sold 160 acres of excellent South Dakota farmland for a profit of $19 an acre. They moved their family beginning at noon on May 8, 1908, a short time later to become one of the earliest Obar homesteaders.

Tornado Alley - from Northern Illinois University

L. L. Klinefelter, who published the Obar Progress from 1908-1915, eventually dubbed the NMLIC, the "New Mexico Land and Imagination Company" for its innovation in bringing homesteaders to Obar. Undaunted, the Links were determined in the early stages of their new dream. After a house and barn were built, NMLIC began to include them in promotional materials viewed by other potential residents. Some of their comments are included in Obar's Fleeting History.  

The remains of Obar have almost completely vanished. For photographs of the differences over the past 30 years, including evidence of climate shifts that may have been in play when Obar was originally settled, see Townsite of Obar.