IntroductionConstruction of the Belen Cutoff triggered significant population growth through homesteading and settlement in eastern New Mexico, an area where few people lived previously. The railroad provided jobs and access to national markets, making farming and ranching more viable.
We learn about past events from 1) oral stories, passed down from person to person; 2) primary sources, historical documents such as journals and letters; and 3) secondary sources, such as newspapers, maps, and literature.
This lesson features an oral story, two primary source documents (letters from railroad employees), and two secondary source documents (newspapers from the time of the railroad’s construction).
View imagery related to construction of the Belen Cutoff.
Read one or all of the selections related to construction of the Belen Cutoff.
ObjectivesTo analyze the geographic, economic, social, and political factors of New Mexico that impacted United States and world history.
To explain how New Mexico history represents a framework of knowledge and skills within which to understand the complexity of the human experience.
To demonstrate the ability to examine an aspect of history from the perspectives of the participants.
To include the use of primary and secondary sources in historical research.
To interpret events and issues based upon the historical, social, and geographic context of the participants.
To analyze the evolution of particular historical and contemporary perspectives.
StandardsNM Public Education Department, SS, grades 9-12, I-A2, I-A5, I-D3, I-D6, I-D7
Title: Driving Sheet Piling for Coffer Dam
Author(s): Unknown (Photographer)
Description: Driving sheet piling for a coffer dam to build the Pecos River bridge.
Publisher: Kansas State Historical Society
Publication Date: Circa 1905 to 1906
Collection(s): Kansas State Historical Society; Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway Corporate Collections
Catalog Number: AT
Title: Construction of the Belen Cutoff
Author(s): Southwest Crossroads Spotlight; William Penner
Description: A brief history of the construction of the Belen Cutoff and its effects.
Publication Date: 2009
Title: Teamster Packing a Mule in Abo Canyon
Description: Teamster packing a mule in front of a tent in Abo Canyon.
Publication Date: Circa 1903 to 1907
Title: Pecos River Bridge Piers Under Construction
Description: Concrete piers, wood plank forms, and falsework being used to construct the Pecos River bridge.
Title: Abo Canyon Is The Best Way
Author(s): F. Meredith Jones (Author)
Description: F. Meredith Jones writes to James Dun indicating Abo Canyon is the only easy way from the eastern plains through the mountains to the Rio Grande.
Publication Date: May 31, 1902
Catalog Number: Santa Fe Splinters, Volume 27 (Microfilm)
Title: 1921 Map of New Mexico Railroads
Source(s): The New World Atlas and Gazetteer
Author(s): Francis J. Reynolds (Editor)
Description: 1921 Map of New Mexico Showing Railroads.
Publisher: P. F. Collier
Publication Date: 1921
Collection(s): Map and Geographic Information Center, Centennial Science and Engineering Library, University Libraries, University of New Mexico
Catalog Number: G1019 C49 1921
Title: F. Meredith Jones and Unknown Person Working
Description: F. Meredith Jones, Santa Fe Railway Engineer, and an unknown individual working in a tent with surveyors’ tools.
Publication Date: Circa 1902 to 1907
Title: Dad Had Charge of the Commissary There
Author(s): Tom Seery (Author); Randy Dunson (Oral Historian); William Penner (Editor)
Description: Tom Seery talks about growing in Abo Canyon during the construction of the railroad.
Collection(s): Randy Dunson personal collection
Title: L-S Con. Co’s Corral, Cam 2
Description: Mule corral at Lantry Sharp’s Camp 2, the largest camp in Abo Canyon.
Title: Railroad Workers Near the Sais Quarry
Description: Workers with mule teams removing rock from near the Sais Quarry on the west end of Abo Canyon.
Title: Lantry-Sharp’s Con. Co’s Camp 2, Abo
Description: Birds-eye view of Lantry Sharp’s Camp 2—the biggest camp in Abo Canyon—showing the large commissary tent in the foreground.
Title: Get Cut-off Contracts
Author(s): Unknown (Author)
Description: Construction contracts are awarded and work is about to re-start on the Belen Cutoff.
Publisher: The Santa Fe New Mexican
Publication Date: May 25, 1905
Collection(s): University of New Mexico, Zimmerman Library
Catalog Number: AN2 N83 76; Microfilm (March 17, 1905 to August 16, 1905)
Title: Interior of Railroad Workers’ Bunkhouse
Description: Interior of railroad workers’ bunkhouse, most likely in Camp Sunnyside (modern-day Fort Sumner) on the Belen Cutoff.
Title: Blasting the Tunnel Cut
Description: Blasting the large Tunnel Cut near the east end of Abo Canyon.
Publication Date: Circa 1905 to 1907
Title: Proposed Bridge Over the Pecos River
Author(s): James Dun (Author)
Description: James Dun writes to Lantry Sharp Contracting Company about the Santa Fe Railway’s plans to build a bridge over the Pecos River.
Publication Date: December 28, 1905
Title: Pecos River Bridge Under Construction
Description: View of the Pecos River bridge under construction with machinery and falsework.
Title: Settlement and Homesteading in East-Central New Mexico
Description: A brief history of settlement and homesteading in east-central New Mexico.
Title: Breaking Ground
Author(s): Unknown (Photographer)
Description: Breaking ground with a two-horse team near Broncho, New Mexico.
Publication Date: Unknown
Collection(s): Dorothy Cole personal collection.
Title: Working With Mule Teams
Description: Men working with mule teams breaking ground along the Belen Cutoff near Mountainair, New Mexico. Railroad tracks and telegraph line are visible in right of frame.
Title: Scholle: A Portrait of a Railroad Community
Description: A brief history of Scholle, New Mexico, a railroad community on the Belen Cutoff.