Sections support schools, hospitals

By Don McAlavy

I had a request from June Edwards Locknane who wanted a column on school sections. Unless you live in the country and farm or ranch you probably wouldn’t know much about them.
A school section is land owned by the state and leased to private individuals, with the funds used for public education.
Locknane said she always wondered why her father, Murray Edwards, built a home on land he didn’t own. He had built the home on a school section. She asked me about the requirements for leasing a school section.
The answer: Anyone can bid, once every five years, on one school section of 640 acres. Bids are handled by the State Land Office.
“My dad, Murray Edwards, built an adobe house on a school section in 1920 in the Ruth community that is located between the Frio Draw and Broadview, north of Clovis,” Locknane said.
“He had Mexican laborers that made the adobe bricks from the soil close to where the house would be located. The house still stands today one mile west of Highway 209 on Ruth Hill. My dad sold his lease to Isaac Rutherford in 1932. Isaac and Edna lived there for many years. I think Leroy Bailey leases this section now.”
Locknane said her father paid $64 a year for his lease.
“My father … and his brother, Robert, came with all their possessions on a trusty Model T truck. Along with their families, they moved to the Ruth community. My father and his brother found work in the Clovis railroad shops and managed to keep their farms.
“When the railroaders had a strike around 1920, Murray went back to his farming on a school section on a hill that he said was the highest point in Curry County.”
Murray and Ima Edwards had five children: Clifton, Zelda, Pearl, Murray Lee, and June. In 1929, Locknane said the Edwards moved off the school section to another farm five miles north of Clovis.
Money from school sections goes to support public schools, but also public hospitals and our state penitentiary.
New Mexico’s State Land Office is overseen by the Commissioner of Public Lands, who is elected. The office is headed by Commissioner Patrick Lyons, a native of Clovis now living near Cuervo.
One of Commissioner Lyons’ assistants is Walter Bradley, former lieutenant governor from Clovis.
Today, 8.7 million acres of surface land and 13.4 million mineral acres are administered by the State Land Office.

Don McAlavy is a history buff who lives in Clovis.