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Capitan, New Mexico:: From the Coalora Coal Mines to Smokey Bear (Brief History) Paperback – April 8, 2012
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From the Author
Most people know about Smokey Bear yet they do not know that he was found in the Capitan Mountains north of Capitan, New Mexico. My purpose in writing this book was to tell the story of his founding along with a history of the region. Capitan is the geographical center of Lincoln County which is famous for the Lincoln County War. Surprisingly, the village was founded over 20 years after that event and was originally the site of coal mines which supplied coal for the El Paso & North Eastern Railroad. A young merchant, George A. Titsworth, built and economic empire here and controlled the region through the use of the railroad. Ranching was and still is an economic factor in the region, especially on the north side of the Capitan Mountains. The Block Ranch at one time was one of the largest ranches in the state. One of its cowboys was Jack Thorp who collected western songs actually sung by the cowboys and published them in a book. Another cowboy and eventual owner of the ranch was William McDonald, the first governor of New Mexico after it became a state. There is also the story of an old west gunfight between a disgruntled rancher and the U. S. Forest Service. Finally, despite the catching lyrics of the song, the bear's name is Smokey Bear, not Smokey the Bear. As or locals say, it is not Santa the Claus or Easter the Bunny and it is not Smokey the Bear. I hope you enjoy the book.
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The author was also trained as an historian and is able to treat the larger themes of Capitan's history; its founding as a coal mining town, closure of the mines, and its later role as a ranching center. And it isn't just a local view, Cozzens spent 24 years as a Marine infantry officer. This earlier career took him around the world and in harm's way but it provided him with a cosmopolitan perspective to view the little town.
Capitan"s history is part of the larger history of Lincoln Country with its famous wars and outlaws. But it has its own unique history too. Best known is that of Smoky Bear, found as an injured cub after a forest fire near Capitan, who emerged as a national symbol, not only for the Forest Sevice's fire prevention campaigns, but came to symbolize conservation, in general. Decades after the bear's death (and burial in Capitan), a museum and shrine in Capitan remain a major tourist attraction.
The book is also graced by numerous rare historic photographs, which are probably worth the cost of the book alone.
In all, it is a good read, and a good example of what local history can be.
Most recent customer reviews
Gary has certainly done his homework. I enjoyed his book very much, and it gave me more history than
I realized about the Capitan area.Read more