During the early eighteenth century, Spanish explorers mentioned this area and its unique water supply flowing from seven springs which fed the nearby Pecos River. Despite those advantages, settling the area wasn’t feasible at the time due to the presence of hostile Plains Indians. Around the time of the Civil War, however, Anglo settlers began making their way to the area and more soon followed.
In 1866, Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving brought their herds and set up camps there and what is now called Carlsbad. To the vast herds owned by Goodnight and Loving, John Chisum added an additional one hundred thousand to graze the Pecos River Valley.
In 1867 two trading posts were established, one by Dick Reed and another nearby by Captain Sam Samson. At the time, the area was called Dogtown because of the over-abundance of prairie dogs, but changed in 1878 to Seven Rivers, the same year the Lincoln County War occurred.
The town was a place for ranchers and cattle-drivers passing through to gather, but during the Lincoln County War it also became known as a hangout for outlaws, rustlers and other shady characters – commonly called the “Seven Rivers Crowd” by locals. Shootouts were common and it was said that hinged doors on the saloon were removable, used as stretchers to take away the unlucky ones not quick enough on the draw.
Despite the criminal element, the town had grown to around three hundred residents by the 1880’s and added a post office, hotel, schoolhouse and a couple of saloons. In 1888, lawman Pat Garrett and Charles Greene joined Charles and John Eddy to develop a system of canals to provide water for their ranches and also attract other settlers to southeastern New Mexico. Two other investors joined them and on September 15, 1888 the town of Eddy was incorporated.
Yet, when the boundaries for Eddy County were established in 1889, Seven Rivers was named the county seat of Eddy County. The cattle industry around Seven Rivers had already been gradually declining, and its tenure as county seat was short-lived, replaced by the town of Eddy in 1890 (which was renamed Carlsbad in 1899). The referendum included a pledge by Charles Eddy to donate land for a courthouse, so not surprising it passed overwhelmingly.
The railroad came to Eddy in early 1891 which brought more settlers and industry to the Pecos River Valley. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the town of Seven Rivers had been all but abandoned. Only the cemetery remained, until in 1988 when Brantley Dam was constructed it was removed to an area near the Twin Oaks Memorial Park north of Artesia.
© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2015.