White Oaks Historic District
Lincoln County, New Mexico
Oaks is a ghost town in Lincoln County, New Mexico.
Located on the outskirts of the Lincoln National Forest, it
became a boomtown in 1879 following the discovery of gold and
coal in the nearby Jicarilla Mountains.
following the discovery of gold and coal in the Jicarilla
Mountains, White Oaks sprang into existence from nothing. It was
frequented by notable Old West personalities, including Billy
the Kid, Pat Garrett, and Shotgun John Collins. Jonathan H. Wise
established the town's first newspaper in 1880, called the White
Oaks Golden Era.
In November, 1880, a posse originating
in White Oaks pursued Billy the Kid a distance of over forty
miles, culminating in a standoff, during which the posse
accidentally shot and killed Deputy Sheriff Jim Carlysle, as the
latter was attempting to negotiate with the outlaw. Billy the
Billy the Kid later sent a letter to
Governor Lew Wallace about the death of Deputy Carlysle,
disputing an article written by a Las Vegas, New Mexico
newspaper which claimed he was the leader of a band of outlaws.
In his letter, the Kid claimed that the house in which they were
located was surrounded by lawmen, and Deputy Carlysle entered
demanding a surrender. Billy alleged that he asked for their
"papers", meaning warrants, to which Carlysle replied that they
had none. With that, he alleged that he concluded that without
warrants, the posse accounted to nothing more than a mob, and he
told Carlysle that he would have to stay in the house and lead
them out the next day. Soon after this, the posse had sent in a
note saying that if Carlysle did not exit in a matter of
minutes, that the local friend to Billy the Kid, a "Mr.
Greathouse", would be killed by the posse members. Minutes
later, there was a shot, after which Carlysle jumped from the
window, at which time he was shot to death by his own posse.
The town, at its peak, had a population of 2,000 people,
reached by 1890. In 1882, with a population of 500, construction
was completed on Starr's Opera House, and the town sported
several saloons, several general stores, a school, and a town
hall. In 1884 Lyman Hood held the first church services in an
actual church building, with those meetings taking place
previously in the town hall. During this period, there were
brothels with many prostitutes, and the town was frequently a
haven for cattle rustlers and other outlaws.
White Oaks had settled down, and was beginning to thrive. Three
attorneys, John Y. Hewitt, Harvey B. Fergusson, and George
Barber, opened businesses there, and other professionals began
to arrive in town to open their own businesses. However, its
continued existence was dependent on a railroad passing through
it. This did not happen, with the railroad instead running
twelve miles to the west, through Carrizozo, New Mexico, and by
the late 1890s the mines had dried up, and the population
dwindled. By the early 1900s the town was a shadow of its
previous self. It is now a ghost town, with several of the more
permanent buildings still standing today.
Barber, widow of Alexander McSween who was killed during the
Lincoln County War, became known as the "Cattle Queen of New
Mexico" in the late 19th century, having over 5,000 head of
cattle. In 1902 she sold out, and moved to White Oaks, where she
remained until her death in 1931. She is buried in the old White
Oaks cemetery, along with another notable, former New Mexico
state Governor William McDonald, the state's first governor
after achieving statehood.
On September 4, 1970, White
Oaks was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a
historic district. By that time, very little remained of the
original community; although the district covered over 1,800
acres, only 6 buildings had enough historical integrity to
qualify as contributing properties.
Today one of the old
saloons remains open, The No Scum Allowed Saloon.
White Oaks County, New Mexico, 12 miles
northeast of Carrizozo, on State Road 349.
Carrizozo Historic Marker is on Central
Avenue (US-54 at milepost 122.5), 0.1 miles south of A Avenue,
on the right when traveling north. It is on Central Avenue (U.S.
54 at milepost 125.3), ½ mile north of U.S. 380, on the left
when traveling north. It is on U.S. 380 at milepost 64.5, 0.2
miles west of B Avenue, on the left when traveling west. It is
on U.S. 380 at milepost 65.5, ½ mile east of U.S. 54, on the
right when traveling west.