By Lynn Moncus
The farther we get over the hill, the more strange experiences we seem to have.
I was asked to give a brief history of Tucumcari Historical Research Institute and wondered why someone far more knowledgeable hadn’t received the honor.
Well, as I began a bit of research, I realized why I had been selected. I am the only one of the first board still living!
Although that first meeting took place March 10, 1958 in the Assembly Room of the courthouse, I was amazed at how clearly I could remember that evening when I can’t always recall what happened last week. I can still see Greer Cottingham opening the meeting to a crowded room.
He explained that the purpose of the gathering was to organize a historical society and to elect officers, board of directors, and advisory staff. People were excited about the prospect of having such an organization and about figuring ways to preserve our history.
Plans for a building to house a museum began immediately. By 1965, Marian Shaffner had decided to donate land along Route 66.
Although several drives were planned to raise money, the group just couldn’t seem to collect enough for a building. They had already discussed using the old hospital, the Community House, and in 1960, even Central School. Finally in May of 1967, Tucumcari Historical Research Institute was permitted to lease Central for a dollar a year. That called for much celebrating and more work than anyone could imagine.
The group met in Central for the first time on February, 5, 1968. Until then they had met at various places in town and had enjoyed short programs at almost every meeting. The real work to move Herman Moncus’ collection from Elk Drug Store and to collect as many other items as possible before opening began. Service organizations and volunteers helped with preparation and cleaning of that school.
The extension clubs settled into the task of arranging all the displays and preparing for the Grand Opening, which was held on June 1, 1969.That was a great day in our county because we now had a wonderful collection to show off our history and to preserve for future generations. A big party was held, and the program was aired by KTNM. All went well until the society realized they needed help in order to keep Tucumcari Historical Museum open. Dues and donations just could not keep up with the cost.
On May 18, 1970, the City of Tucumcari agreed to help and gained control of the land which can be used freely as long as it is used for educational purposes.
Tucumcari Historical Research Institute has remained active and has done much to promote our area. Each year, we have an annual meeting with a special program and follow established traditions by helping around the museum when necessary.
We have several field trips throughout the year and have begun to have other gatherings just in order to do some visiting with friends and neighbors. As we look back at the history of our organization, we realize how much work has gone into maintaining the museum and how much work went into formulating the by-laws and policies to be followed during our partnership with the city.
Having an attorney in that original group was a major help.
Having so many people interested in sharing and preserving our history has been a real boon to our area.
We dashed to become incorporated in June of 1958 and have had many ups and downs during all these years, but some of us are very proud of having had a small part to play in creating some of our history.
I surely felt lonely, however, as I stood behind the microphone Saturday evening and talked a little about our organization!