One hundred and ten years ago my Great Grandfather, Arza Millikan, homesteaded in the territory of New Mexico. That didn’t make sense to me because this was the same Arza Millikan who grew up on the family farm near Sheridan, IN. On that farm 100 years ago, my Grandmother was born. Her siblings were born there as well. Even my Dad was born on that farm. So where did New Mexico fit in? How long was Arza there? And why didn’t he stay on his homestead?
I can’t remember exactly when my Grandmother, Margaret (Millikan) McKinley, mentioned that her Father homesteaded in New Mexico. I do remember that I didn’t quite understand it. Turns out, hearing that he was in New Mexico homesteading made some sense because I had some letters and cards that were addressed to him in Nara Visa (pronounced with a long i), New Mexico. I also had his bank book from the First National Bank of Nara Visa. So what was his story? Why did he go? Why did he return to the Indiana farm?
Arza may have got the notion to go out West from stories from neighbors or notices posted in the newspaper or other periodicals. He may have seen a news clipping like this one from the Sheridan News May 17, 1907:
But even before that time, the area of Nara Visa was being promoted as a great place to settle. The Tucumcari, New Mexico, News from February 3, 1906 reported that Nara Visa was “Booming.” It reported that survey work was being done to lay out the town. There was already a postmaster there.
Perhaps Arza saw a report like this one from the Tucumcari News from June 6, 1906:
Then another report from the Tucumcari News, January 12, 1907 told of how the settlement was being advertised around the country:
The letters & papers I had gave me some idea of when Arza was in New Mexico—1907-08. He would have been 24 years old when he had this adventure. He summarized his trip in a farm journal entry January 1, 1909. “On the morning of Feb 19-07. Elmer Davis Harry Kincaid Clarence Walker & myself started to New Mex to file on homesteads. All filed on adjoining claims…”
The Sheridan News announced this information on February 22, 1907:
Arza and his friends set out for New Mexico together, going by way of St. Louis. It would have been a 2 day trip by rail from Indiana to New Mexico. They went to evaluate the possibility of homesteading in the territory. I don’t know much about Clarence Walker except that he sold his claim due to an unrelated lawsuit. Elmer Davis lived on the adjacent farm just East of Arza’s home. He and Arza were life-long friends. Harry Kincaid, another friend, was younger than the others. He was 21 when he joined the group for New Mexico.
At the same time that the young men took their trip to scout out the land, the Tucumcari News had another report of the growth of Nara Visa. From the February 23 edition:
So, by all the publicity, the area around Nara Visa, New Mexico sounded like a great place to set up a homestead. However, there was a cautionary notice in the Sheridan News March 1, 1907:
Arza returned to Indiana after filing his claim. The Sheridan News reported his return March 11, 1907:
But these young men weren’t the only folks from Sheridan to go out West.
William J. Woods, a prominent citizen of Sheridan took the trip to New Mexico as well. There were several newspaper articles about his plans for homesteading. Some of these articles give more information about the process for settlement.
The front page of the Sheridan News, February 22, 1907 reported on Mr. Woods’ return from New Mexico where he secured claims of 160 acres each for himself and other family members. It reported that they expected to have a “regular Hoosier Colony there before very long.” The specific requirements for homesteads were spelled out: “Parties taking the claims now will be compelled to occupy them on or before August and must remain there about 8 months before the title is passed to them.” Arza and his friends would follow the same guidelines.
Mr. Woods and his family settled in Union county, NM near the new town of Amistad. This area was 24 miles north of Nara Visa. Arza and his friends also secured claims in Union county & Amistad was closer to their claims than Nara Visa. However, Nara Visa was on the direct railroad line and would have been the starting point & supply line for homesteaders in the area.
The Woods family made plans to pack up and move to New Mexico in the months after securing the claims. The Sheridan News reports their plans. First, from the February 22 edition and then from the May 10 edition showing the header of a full page advertisement announcing the closing of William E. Woods’ store.
The young men were making plans as well. Arza had to secure help to work his Grandfather’s farm while he was gone. His journal entry from 1909 states he “hired Willie Kinneman to work from August 1, 1907 to May 1, 1908 for $140 and $18 per month” until he returned. They also collected supplies to ship out to New Mexico. My Grandmother wrote that Arza took a wagon, 2 mules, harness, bedding, folding bed, food, cooking utensils, plow, harrow and a bicycle with him. He also took a tent that was reportedly made for him by the young women of the Sheridan community. The bicycle he took along was later stolen.
The friends prepared to leave for their New Mexico adventure in August 1907…
to be continued…
© MJM 2017