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White Oaks Historic District
White Oaks, Lincoln County, New Mexico

White OaksWhite 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.

In 1879, 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 Kid escaped.

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.

By 1885, 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.

Susan McSween 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), 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, mile east of U.S. 54, on the right when traveling west.

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