Captain Joseph C. Lea

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9781881325536: Captain Joseph C. Lea

Captain Joseph C. Lea played a significant role in shaping Southeast New Mexico in the nineteenth century. The Pecos Valley area became a leading region of New Mexico in his lifetime.

The son of a Missouri planter and doctor, Lea joined Quantrill's Confederate guerrillas when the Civil War started. He also served in Shelby's cavalry, but for much of the war Lea was captain of his own men in Louisiana.

Lea married Sallie Wildy in Mississippi in 1875 and soon left for northern New Mexico. In 1877, Lea moved his family and operations to the Pecos Valley. There, Lea developed Rosswell - thus earning the title 'The Father of Roswell.'

But Lea was much more. He was a force for peace during the Lincoln War and played a major role in ridding the county of Billy the Kid. In 1885, Lea and financial backers started a large ranching venture: Lea Cattle Company, which owned land available for development. The company developed Pecos Valley farmland by building irrigation ditches, laid out the streets of Roswell, and sold lots for businesses and homes.

Lea was the leader in the creation of Chaves County in 1889 and the present New Mexico Military Institute in 1891. In 1903, he was drafted to run for mayor but died two months after taking office.

J.C. Lea was a remarkable man. As a ranchman, developer, and patriarch, he had a great impact on one of New Mexico's most important regions.

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About the Author:

Elvis E. Fleming has written or co-written eight books on the local history of West Texas and Southeast New Mexico, as well as dozens of magazine articles. He serves as a board member and volunteer archivist for the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico in Roswell, and as the honorary official historian for the city of Roswell. Fleming is Professor of History, Emeritus, from Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell. He and Menza, his wife of forty-six years, reside in Roswell. They have two children and four grandchildren.

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Fleming, Elvis E.
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Elvis E. Fleming
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