Our towns: Tucumcari rich in history

Freedom New Mexico: Thomas Garcia The Tepee Souvenir Shop in Tucumcari is one of the Route 66 attractions and houses many souvenirs, antiques and gifts of different western and cultural persuasions. The shop is shaped like a teepee and neon lights light up the outside of the building.

Alisa Boswell

Tucumcari, one of the oldest towns in eastern New Mexico, sits on historical Route 66 and is considered by area residents as one of the most beautiful area towns with its murals, neon lights, parks, museums and local mountain.

The theories of how Tucumcari’s name originated have varied and are debated by area residents, but according to 71-year resident Duane Moore, the origins of the town itself were based on liquor sales.

Moore said a military fort, Fort Bascom, did not allow liquor, so businessmen started a nearby town called Liberty to sell liquor to soldiers.

“They were hoping the railroad would go through there but when it didn’t they packed up and moved south to what is now Tucumcari,” Moore said of the businessmen. “First it was called ‘Tent City’ because everybody set up tents until they could start building houses. Then it was called ‘Rag Town’ ‘cause when women had clothes out on clothes lines, the wind would blow the clothes off the line and all over town.”

Moore said passenger trains came through the town until 1968, providing much of the town’s economy and now, the area is largely agricultural. He said with his lifetime in the Tucumcari and Logan areas, the hospitality of area residents is one thing which has not changed.

“It’s always been home and it’s always been all I’ve ever known,” Moore said. “It’s just a good place here and there’s really good people. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”

Moore said along with the Route 66 attractions, the Tucumcari museums are an important part of the town’s culture and one of the most popular entertainment venues in the area.

“We have a lot of history here and a lot of good scenery out here and ranch area,” Moore said. “For those planning a daytime trip from Clovis, Amarillo, wherever, they can come down and see the history museum or Mesaland’s dinosaur museum and it would be a really good trip and a good history lesson for anybody.”

Moore said new species of dinosaur have been discovered in Quay County.

Yvette Fazekas, a 43-year resident who works with the City of Tucumcari Community Development Department, said her favorite parts of Tucumcari are the parks and when softball tournaments come to town.

“I like going to one of the lakes that are close by, like Ute Lake,” Fazekas said. “We have many restaurants and hotels, so if you decide to stay the night, you have plenty of hotels and restaurants to choose from and we have very friendly people.”

Fazekas said the city offers brochures at the local convention center which shows visitors how to find historical and tourist sites.

City Manager Bobbye Rose said one of her favorite things about the city is Route 66, The Mother Road.

“The community has been busy painting old gas stations so you feel you have gone back in time,” Rose said. “Volunteers giving their time and talents is very inspiring in this community.”