Tucumcari Historical Museum
A Brief History of Tucumcari
By Debra Whittington
Tucumcari may not have been founded if it weren't for a snowstorm in 1900 that stranded some railroad officials at Liberty, three miles north. The men stayed at the Goldenberg home for three weeks.
As they prepared to leave they offered to pay for their room and boards. The Goldenberg's refused any pay. In return the men told the family the railroad would be going through and would establish a shop four miles from the Goldenberg home.
In November 1901, A.D. Goldenberg , his brother Max, J.A. Street partner Lee Kewen Smith each filed 160 acres between Tucumcari Mountain and the Canadian River certain the railroad would have to cross their land. Each gave part of his land totaling 160 acres and formed the Tucumcari Town Site and Investment Company. The area was surveyed as railroad workers laid track to the west of town.
Alex Street put up the first tent in October 1901. Tent and belongings flapping in the New Mexico wing gave the settlement the nickname "Ragtown".
Street & Smith began selling whiskey to the railroad workmen. Max Goldenberg built a new home completed in December 1901, serving as a store, hotel and post office. By January 1902, several new businessmen hurriedly put up buildings. The first newspaper, " The Pathfinder" began publication in February 1902.
After tracks through town were completed, the Rock Island Railroad needed a name for the report to headquarters. An engineer working on a report asked, " What the H--- can I call this place?" As he completed the question, gunfire could be heard. Someone replied, " Why don't you call it Six-Shooter's Siding"? It was later given the name "Tucumcari" after the nearby mountain. Tucumcari can be translated as "Squatty Mountain". " Place of the Buffalo Hunt", or "Mother's Breast".
By 1903 , the Methodists were holding services in a building constructed the year before, Central School was begun and Quay County was incorporated on February 28, 1903.
By the end of the year Tucumcari had nearly doubled in size with a population of close to 1,000.
Two million acres of land was opened up for homesteading and settlers arrived in droves.
Tucumcari experienced a major building boom from 1910-1920. Even during the Depression years, Tucumcari experienced growth. After World War II, Tucumcari faced a housing shortage as servicemen arrived home to returned to former jobs or start new businesses. New houses were built all over town.