Eunice — where oil flows, a city grows

Pumpjacks are everywhere throughout Eunice. Photo by Phyllis Eileen Banks
Pumpjacks are everywhere throughout Eunice. Photo by Phyllis Eileen Banks

As often happened when areas were settled, the date of founding is the same date a post office was established. Eunice is a case in point.

J. N. Carson from Shafter Lake, Texas circulated a petition in 1908 seeking a post office for the present-day location of Eunice. He had claimed 320 acres for homesteading by plowing a furrow around the boundaries. He then applied for a post office.

Conditions at that time required that a name be chosen for the post office and that the mail be carried without charge for three months. Supposedly, a cowboy suggested naming it for Carson’s oldest daughter Eunice. That name, among others, was submitted and was the one chosen by postal authorities. The post office opened in 1909.

Thus, the town of Eunice was born and Carson’s son, E. O. Carson, was the first postmaster. Carson built a home and a general store on his homestead. In 1910, homesteaders in the area started a subscription school, adding to the appeal of the community.

The musical Carson family with daughter Eunice at the piano, began weekly musical productions that reportedly might last all day. That tradition continues, with annual fiddling contests drawing contestants and an audience from hundreds of miles.

At an altitude of 3,569 feet, and a population of 2,676, nineteen miles south of Hobbs on alternate New Mexico Highway 18, Eunice has had difficult times. There were no producing oil wells until 1929, when one well finally came in. The town then began to recover. A byproduct of natural gas, carbon black, which is used in ink, paints, fertilizer, carbon paper, cement and dark chocolate, spawned several companies. Oil drilling services, however, provide most of the employment.

Pumpjacks, resembling giant grasshoppers, are everywhere throughout the town. With their steady pumping rhythm, it is less than a quiet place. The story is told that in the 1930s the light provided by the lighted natural gas flares allowed people to drive at night from Eunice to Jal without headlights. Another historical tale is that there wasn’t enough illness to support a physician for whom they had advertised.

The proximity to Hobbs provides wider shopping conveniences but allows Eunice to keep its own identity. Carlsbad is approximately 70 miles to the west and Andrews, Texas is about 30 miles to the east.

About Phyllis Eileen Banks