NMSU: Centennial

Celebrating 100 years of statehood Image of ...Las Cruces residents, dressed in costume, portrayed members of the New Mexico delegation that went to Washington to see Taft sign legislation in the White House’s Oval Office. Taft was portrayed by Dale Liikala, an Ohio actor, who has long impersonated the 27th president. Image of ...Jon Hunner (left) and Hillary Floren host reenactment of signing of New Mexico Statehood Proclamation

New Mexico State University started celebrating New Mexico’s centenary early, with events October connected to homecoming.  Jon Hunner, history professor and department head at NMSU is among those coordinating centennial events in the region. Hunner co-hosted a special reenactment of the statehood signing at the Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum with KVIA-TV anchorwoman Hillary Floren. A standing-room-only crowd watched as an actor representing President William Howard Taft signed the proclamation on Jan. 6, making New Mexico the 47th state in the union.

Centennial Essay Contest Scholarship winners

A student from Onate High School and another from Estancia High School are the winners of the New Mexico Centennial essay contest, as selected by the New Mexico State University Statehood Centennial Committee. They will each receive a scholarship valued at $2,500 during the New Mexico Centennial Luncheon Jan. 6 at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Museum in Las Cruces. Hannah Hopper, of Onate High School, was awarded the heritage scholarship funded by the NMSU Alumni Association for her essay on “What does it mean to be a New Mexican?” The scholarship may be used at NMSU. Aylissa Lujan, of Estancia High School, was awarded the agriculture scholarship donated by Mesa Farmers Cooperative for her essay answering, “What does agriculture mean to New Mexico?” The scholarship may be used at an institution of higher learning of Lujan’s choice. The essay contest attracted 32 essays from high school seniors from around the state. It was open to all seniors within the state of New Mexico. Other events are planned as part of NMSU’s continuing celebration of the state’s centennial. Statehood celebration events are scheduled across the State of New Mexico. Check the New Mexico Centennial website for the latest information on these events.

Jon Hunner shares some unusual facts about New Mexico history

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Is it true that playing baseball was once a crime in New Mexico?

Apparently, playing baseball on Sunday was a crime in New Mexico based on interpretation of the legal code of 1897. In 1912, the year of New Mexico statehood, every region of the country had a recognized minor league baseball circuit except the Southwest. While Arizona clamored for a professional team, promoters in New Mexico succeeded in joining the first professional league in the Southwest.

The Rocky Mountain League, a ‘D’ class circuit was located along the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains in east-central Colorado. Initially, New Mexico did not have any entries into this league, but the Canon City Swastikas moved their home to Raton, New Mexico on June 4, 1912. Three days later, the Colorado Springs Millionaires moved to Dawson, New Mexico. Maybe the sudden interest sprang from the May 1912 New Mexico Supreme Court ruling that playing baseball on Sunday was not a crime after all, just a misunderstanding of the law. The Rocky Mountain league folded on July 15, 1912, but New Mexican boosters would get a second chance when baseball promoter and Texas league founder, John McCloskey, organized the Rio Grande Association, a ‘D’ class circuit that would begin play in 1915 across three states, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Read more >>

Area students experience 1912 through NMSU Time Travel program

“Welcome to the Jubilee here in Las Cruces!” shouts Hiram McDowell to a group of students visiting New Mexico State University’s Fabian Garcia Science Center on a recent April morning. “We just became a state a few months ago, in January. President Taft signed the proclamation making us a state on January 6. So we are here to celebrate this great day here, this great occasion!”Thus begins a “Time Travel to 1912” event designed to give local K-12 students in 2012 a taste of what life was like in the Mesilla Valley at the time New Mexico became a state.

It isn’t actually Hiram McDowell addressing the students, however. It is Jon Hunner, head of NMSU’s Department of History and director of the university’s public history program, playing the part of the historical figure from a century ago. According to Hunner, McDowell moved from Iowa to the Mesilla Valley in 1909 and established a farm on what is now McDowell Road. In addition to being a farmer, he was an energetic advocate for improving the community by bringing in electricity, improving the roads, and pursuing other initiatives supported by the FIBAB (“Forget It, Be A Booster”) club. Read more>>