Pie Town in 1940

Garden adjacent to the dugout home of Jack Whinery, homesteader, Pie Town, New Mexico 1940 Sept.

A glimpse of life on New Mexico’s Continental Divide a few generations back, by photographer Russell Lee, among the many treasures in by found in the Library of Congress’ 1930s-40s in Color (the Pie Town material begins on page 5; there’s also a trove of northern New Mexico photos starting on page 19). Here’s some background on Lee and Pie Town, courtesy of Smithsonian. My off-the-cuff observation is that Pie Town’s major change since the photos were taken is that it probably has fewer people, and certainly less business. Today it’s mostly known for the Continental Divide Trail, various sorts of people who don’t want anyone minding their business, and of course pie (the green chile apple deserves its reputation). It’s certainly an area I’m quite fond of, high country of dry grass and xeric ponderosa parks, bracketed by the loom of Alegres Mountain (New Mexico’s highest point on the Divide) to the south and broken, haunted-looking teeth of the Sawtooth Range the other way. I’ve yet to make any really satisfactory images of my own out there, though I keep trying. In any case, it’s damn hard to imagine migrating to that country from points east and trying to run a farm.

Faro Caudill drawing water from his well, Pie Town, New Mexico 1940 Oct.

Dugout house of Faro Caudill, homesteader with Mt. Allegro (sic) in the background, Pie Town, New Mexico 1940 Oct.

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4 thoughts on “Pie Town in 1940

  1. John Davila’s ranch is of course just south, in the saddle between Allegres & Escondida– visible background of 1st photo I think. He, a bit younger than I am (53?) was born there, but his folks were relative latecomers from N NM, after these photos.

    I wonder if the ruined church in the photos is the one we call Mangas church, near John’s- very similar but I haven’t been there in a few years (John visits here!)

  2. These are super cool; as with so many of your posts, Jackson, I learn more and more about the state I grew up in!

    I agree…moving almost anywhere in the West from the east coast, trying to eek out a living was probably very challenging indeed.

    Great post–thanks for sharing these great images!

    • Thanks Greg! We’re actually down near there now visiting my folks, and remarking that Pie Town is about as cold as Montana, but a hell of a lot drier. Apparently most of the Okie settlers didn’t last too long. Unsurprisingly, the only thing you can really grow out there is cows.

      If you’re ever out here with time to spare, the Sawtooths near Pie Town would be an awesome if challenging place for us to go and try and make some images!

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