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Clayton, Union County, New Mexico

New Mexico Magazine highlighted the lovely little town so I thought we would too.

Clayton is a town and county seat of Union County, New Mexico, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 2,980. Clayton is a crossroads for tourists heading from Texas to Colorado, and Kansas / Oklahoma / Texas to Taos, New Mexico.

The Cimarron Cutoff of the Santa Fe Trail brought some of the first Americans through the Clayton region. The Santa Fe Trail was first established in 1821 after Spanish rule was evicted from Mexico which opened up trade between Santa Fe and the United States. William Becknell, also known as the Father of the Santa Fe Trail, became the first person to utilize the Santa Fe Trail as a trade route between the state of Missouri and Santa Fe. He established the Cimarron Cutoff, also known as the Cimarron Route, as a faster route between countries as the Cimarron Route shortened the Trail by more than 100 miles. The Cimarron Cutoff went straight through the Clayton region where travelers used the Rabbit Ear Mountain as a guiding landmark. Eventually travelers along the trail began to appreciate the rich soil around Clayton and the rolling green hills which were perfect for raising livestock. Cattle ranchers and sheepherders established ranches in the area, though they were large and far apart. That changed when the railroad came to the area and Stephen Dorsey, a nearby rancher, received the rights to the area where the railroad ran. He soon laid out a town site.

Clayton is named for a son of U.S. Senator Stephen W. Dorsey, an Arkansas Republican, originally from Ohio, who served during Reconstruction. The town was established in 1887. The town was a livestock shipping center for herds from the Pecos River and the Texas Panhandle. To get the full Wikipedia article, click here.

The New Mexico Magazine of course has a much different slant than does Wikipedia…they begin out talking about ranches and the prairie.

Meet a few of the people who love this prairie town—and are determined to help make it thrive.

WITH ITS COVEY OF COWBOY HATS, ranches, and prairie stillness, Clayton and its 2,763 residents exude a clear-cut Americana.

Rabbit Ears Mountain, that conspicuous rock formation to the north, looms over this one-stoplight town. Founded with a railroad station along what had been the Santa Fe Trail, it grew into an important cattle-shipping hub for the western fringes of the Great Plains, in the northeast corner of New Mexico, near its intersection with Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Like much of rural America, it’s shrunk a bit—in 1950, it peaked at 3,515 residents. The Luna Theater, built in 1916 and still topped by a smiling neon moon, thrived in those years. That kind of stability cratered when the Dust Bowl descended. In May 1937, a black cloud 1,500 feet high and a mile wide enshrouded the town, dropping more than 300,000 tons of dirt.

For the rest of this great article, head over to The New Mexico Magazine

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