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New Mexico was one of the last territories to become a state, gaining statehood in 1912. Before that, it had been part of the Spanish Empire, Mexico, and the United States Territory of New Mexico.
Lea County, located in southeastern New Mexico, has a rich and diverse history. The area initially was inhabited by Native American tribes like the Apache, Comanche, and Navajo. These tribes lived off the land, hunting, gathering, and occasionally engaging in trading with other tribes.

The arrival of European settlers in the 19th century greatly impacted the region. Cattle ranching became a dominant industry, as the wide open plains made for ideal grazing land. Lea County saw the establishment of several ranches and the growth of towns such as Hobbs, Lovington, and Tatum.

In the early 20th century, exploration for oil and natural gas brought significant changes to Lea County. The discovery of oil in the area led to a rapid influx of people, transforming small towns into bustling oil communities. The oil industry shaped the economy and culture of Lea County, attracting workers from all walks of life and creating new opportunities for growth and prosperity.

Over the years, Lea County continued to develop and diversify its economy. Agriculture, particularly the production of crops like cotton and peanuts, became an important sector alongside the oil industry. The county also saw growth in industries such as healthcare, education, and tourism.

Today, Lea County is a vibrant community that embraces its history while looking towards the future. It remains a significant player in the oil and gas industry, while also exploring renewable energy sources. With a strong agricultural base and a focus on economic diversification, Lea County continues to thrive and attract residents and visitors alike.

This timeline provides a concise overview of the key events in the history of Lea County, New Mexico.

  • 1917: Lea County is established from parts of Chaves and Eddy Counties.
  • 1927: The county seat is moved from Lovington to Lovington City Park.
  • 1930s: Discovery of oil brings rapid growth and economic prosperity to Lea County.
  • 1931: Hobbs becomes an incorporated city.
  • 1947: The world's first commercial helium plant is built in Lea County.
  • 1951: Construction of the Artificial Nuclear Breeding Reactor (ANBR) begins near Hobbs.
  • 1964: The ANBR project is canceled, leaving a partially complete reactor.
  • 1970s: Oil industry booms, bringing more growth and prosperity to Lea County.
  • 2000: The EnergyPlex business park opens in Hobbs, attracting various industries.
  • 2020: Lea County experiences a population increase and diversification of its economy.