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The Well-Worn Trail
More homesteads were settled in the United States during the first decades of the twentieth century than during the entire nineteenth century. People followed dreams of becoming landowners, "proving up" patents for homesteads in eastern New Mexico between 1900 and 1930 by dry farming. Without irrigation, these farmers depended on rainfall to grow crops, and severe droughts in 1903, 1909-1910, and 1922 tested their resolve. Whether these homesteads were established by Hispanic, Anglo, or African-American families, the material remains found by archaeologists suggest the homesteaders' lives depended on both self-sufficiency and participation in a cash economy. Canning jar fragments make up a sizable portion of the collections from these sites, but "store bought" goods such as tobacco cans, porcelain sherds, and patent medicine bottles are also represented at all of these sites.

Home Sweet Home
The dugout was a common first home on homesteads in eastern New Mexico because it could be quickly constructed, even by someone with little training in carpentry, and because it required less materials than a conventional house. In New Mexico, a dugout might have been excavated into an embankment and walled with stone, or it might have been a half dugout, extending 3 to 4 feet below the ground surface with wood, adobe, or stone forming the above- ground portion of the dwelling.

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The first home of William and Lillian Ricketts built on their claim in 1907 was a substantial two-story adobe.

Dugout house in the Tucumcari area. Click to learn more.

The first dwelling the Ontiberos family constructed on their homestead claim near Roswell, ca. 1903, was a dugout. A year later, a permanent residence was built of limestone blocks. Click to learn more.