The Hillsboro, New Mexico Flood of June 10, 1914

This article was requested by one of our readers, who wanted to know a bit more about the 1914 flood that hit Hillsboro, New Mexico.

On June 10, 1914, a six-foot wall of water plowed through the main section of Hillsboro, New Mexico, leveling most of the town’s structures. In researching the flood, we have to rely on newspaper reports of the time and the words of those who lived through the disaster.

Despite heavy damage to the town, early warnings seem to have provided enough time for many of the inhabitants to evacuate the town and seek higher ground.

Below are accounts we have uncovered about the Great Hillsboro Flood Of 1914. Each account also denotes the source.

Deming Headlight, June 12, 1914

Hillsboro, the county seat of Sierra County, was practically wiped out of existence on Wednesday night by a flood that swept through town, carrying away most of the buildings in the town and damaging the remainder so badly that they were rendered unsafe for habitation.

The continued rains of the past week were augmented by a cloudburst on Wednesday sent a wall of water six feet high roaring through the town, wiping out everything in its path.

Most of the inhabitants had been warned of the danger and had escaped to the higher ground on the outskirts of the town and only one man, Thomas Murphy, is supposed to have lost his life. Mr. Murphy was one of the pioneer residents of the town and had been the first sheriff of Sierra county. A telegram was received here yesterday from Lake Valley by E. F. Bickford, of the Rio Mimbres Irrigation Company, reading:

“Town of Hillsboro washed away; the Bucher house, postoffice, drug store, Mister’s livery stable, damaged Long’s and Robertson’s goods, all of Keller, Miller & Co’s, Meyers meat market, and most of the stores on west side of street. Reported that Tom Murphy was drowned; have not found body but found hat. All wires down.”

Hillsboro was one of the principal mining towns in the state, and during the early 80’s several million dollars worth of silver were taken out of the mines at that point.

FROM WILD WOMEN OF THE WEST:

One of the more colorful characters of the town was Sadie Orchard.

There weren’t many careers for women in the good old days, but Sadie Orchard
carved out a rather unusual career for herself back in the eighties.

Mrs. Orchard was one of New Mexico’s few women stage drivers and today is the
owner of the Orchard Hotel in Hillsboro, New Mexico. (interviewed after the flood).

It is said that Saide, who at the time of the flood was running a profitable hotel and had a history of “providing girls to service men”,  was deeply concerned about those who had been displaced from their homes by the flood waters and the terrible influenza epidemic which struck the tow soon after the flood.

Saide was known to cut up her own gowns to line the coffins of children, who died from influenza.

Albuquerque Morning Journal, June 13, 1914

HORROR GROWS AS FACTS ABOUT FLOOD DISASTER COME TO LIGHT
Hillsboro is still cut off from communication by wire with the outside world, but news of Wednesday night’s disaster, brought here by word of mouth, by such as to permit of forming a fairly clear conception of the magnitude of the horror, which continues to grow as all the facts come to light. As nearly as can be estimated, the money loss will run from seventy-five to one hundred thousand dollars, with a probability that the latter figure will be exceeded. Sixty adobe houses have been utterly swept away. The principal losses, so far as known, are as follows:

Keller-Miller company, stock almost total loss.
Mrs. Long, stock almost total loss.
Postoffice and drug store, total loss.
Stage Company, loss about $ 1,500
Robin’s store, loss about $200.
W. H. Bucher, former cashier of the Sierra county bank loss about $ 2,500.
Residence and furniture of Mrs. Crews, mother of R. H. Crews, of Albuquerque, about $1,000.

Wall of Water
The flood came down the main street of Hillsboro a living wall of water at least six feet high, as described by the horrified spectators who witnessed the catastrophe. Nothing could withstand the rush of the waters, and buildings in the wake of the tide crumbled before it. The fact that the toll of death was not much greater than it was in one of the wonders of the disaster.
The ladies of the Order of the Eastern Star were holding a meeting in the Masonic hall, which is on the second floor of an adobe building in the path of the flood. The steps of this building crumbled, and it was a miracle that the entire building did not give way, entailing the death or serious injury of every one of the ladies in the hall.
Death of Thomas Murphy
It was here that Thomas Murphy, pioneer citizen and one of the best-beloved residents of this community, met his death. Mrs. Murphy was in attendance at the meeting of the Eastern Star, and her husband was on the porch of the building waiting to take her home when the flood broke.
Fearing that the building would collapse, and thinking to get the women safely out of the building, Murphy stepped off the porch into the street with the purpose of going around to the rear of the building to the only stairway leading to the upper floor, when the flood took him off his feet and swept him away.

It was not until noon on Thursday that his body was found two miles below the town of Hillsboro, where it had been swept by the flood. When recovered the body was perfectly nude. One leg was broken and the skull was crushed. Mr. Murphy was buried with Masonic honors in Hillsboro today.

Aside from the death of Mr. Murphy, no other casualties or serious injuries as a result of the flood have been reported. 

The work of restoration is going on rapidly in Hillsboro, and it is believed that it will be only a few days before conditions are again normal. While there has been much suffering, no appeal for outside aid has yet been made.

Herald Democrat, June 13, 1914
Lake Valley. N. M.. June 12.—With communication between here and Hillsboro restored today, details of the flood Wednesday night were obtainable. The only casualty was the death of Thomas Murphy. His nude body was found two miles below Hillsboro, with one leg broken and his head crushed, yesterday. Sixty adobe houses and cottages were swept off their foundations. The total property loss is estimated at $lOO,OOO. This includes practically every business house In the town. Murphy was on the Masonic hall steps waiting for his wife who was attending a lodge meeting on the second floor when the wall of water front the two arroyos that met at Hillsboro swept Into the little town. He started for the rear stairs when the flood engulfed him.

Sacremento Union 12 June 1914

HILLSBORO, NEW MEXICO, DESTROYED BY FLOOD
ALBUQUERQUE (N. il.). June 11.— Hillsboro, In the southwest corner of New Mexico, practically was destroyed by a flood which swept through the principal business section last night.

A continued rain, which had swollen mountain Arroyos, was followed by a cloudburst which sent a wall ot water six feet high foaming through the town.

Most of the 800 inhabitants had been warned, and those living in the lower part of the town had sought safety On the hillsides. Thomas Murphy, a pioneer resident and first sheriff of the county, is missing, and is believed to have been drowned. No other loss of life is reported.

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