Wednesday, December 26, 2012

On the Hunt

Since my semester is now over I can take the time to catch up on some of the exciting stuff I did this fall. One of my classes was the required Research Seminar, which this semester centered around the theme of biography.  I decided to continue my work on Josephine Foster, who I portrayed in our time travels to 1912 last spring.  I'd been through most of the sources available to me in Las Cruces - issues of the Rio Grande Republican, Republic, and the Las Cruces Citizen. I requested microfilm of the Raton Range through Interlibrary Loan, but received word that no one was willing to lend the necessary reels. Funny, since when I spoke to one of holding libraries on the phone, they'd been perfectly willing to loan one reel at a time.

Rather than continue wrestling with Interlibrary Loan, I decided the situation called for a road trip.  I made a couple of reservations, checked opening times, borrowed a couple of audiobooks and prepared to spend my weekend up north. The hardest part would be leaving my kitten behind. I adopted nine week old Manticora on October 13, just three weeks before my planned excursion, and I was a bit worried about leaving her for the long weekend. 
Manticora, shortly after I brought her home.
But, my roommate would be there to take care of her and the research needed to be done. 

I stated right after my Thursday afternoon seminar, getting out of Las Cruces around 5 pm.  Before too long I encountered the rather comical Border Patrol checkpoint, where all they did was ask if I was a citizen and waved me on through. That first night I made it to Albuquerque and stayed in a motel 5 minutes from the UNM campus. I ordered dinner in so that I could get some homework done and a good night sleep before the next day's adventures. I also prepared a list of files I wanted to see at the State Archives. I left the next morning before the motel's complimentary breakfast had begun, intent on visiting the UNM library.

Walking across the UNM campus in the pre-dawn darkness was pretty creepy. 
Creepy statues on the UNM campus.
I got to the Zimmerman library at about 6:45 am only to have a security guard bar my entrance. Apparently, since I could not produce a UNM student ID, I needed to wait fifteen minutes before he could let me in. At least I got to wait inside - it was cold that morning! I wouldn't have been able to start immediately anyway as the area I needed to access didn’t open until 7 am. Down in the basement I found two reels of the Raton Range in the microfilm collection, one of which covered the tail end of the period I'm interested in (1905-1910). Unfortunately, the UNM library appears to be several decades ahead of NMSU - rather than the microfilm readers I'm used to, they had these hi-tech USB readers attached to computers. A student working the reference desk was kind enough to log me in using his credentials and set me up. I guess the advantage of these readers is that you can create digital images from the microfilm, but I think the viewing quality is rather diminished. Since the image travels by cable to a computer monitor it degrades more than when the film is viewed directly via lenses and mirrors. In any case, my early hours at UNM gave me the chance to discover the end of the Fosters times at the Raton Range.
UNM's Zimmerman Library before dawn.
I think I made it out of the library by 10 am, at which point the bustling campus was unrecognizable as the deserted grounds I'd crossed in the dark that morning. My next stop was the state archives in Santa Fe, where I arrived just as the reading room opened at noon. They couldn't pull anything for me until 1 pm, but that hour allowed me to compile a specific list of boxes and get a feeling for the archives' holdings. I hadn't realized that the Historical Services division shared their microfilm room with the Southwest Room, otherwise I may have tried to come earlier. I could have started with those collections as early as 9 am!
NM state archives in Santa Fe
The problem with researching someone like Josephine Foster is that there aren’t any "Foster" collections which have preserved her or her husband's papers for future historians. Instead, I feel like I have to come at her sideways, looking through documents concerning journalism in New Mexico and the papers of New Mexicans with whom the Fosters crossed paths. My requests included the collections of former governors Herbert J. Hagerman and George Curry, records from Dona Ana and Colfax Counties, files from the Bowman Bank & Trust, and WPA  research on the history of newspapers in New Mexico. Quite an odd assortment, which unfortunately produced very little in terms of results. It was a little embarrassing when after the staff took about an hour procuring a library cart full of boxes, I finished going through the files in less than 30 minutes. The  microfilm collection was much more promising as it included all available reels of the Raton Range from 1905 to 1910. I kept at it until the library closed at 4:30 pm, but it was good to know I could find the Range closer than Raton.

Speaking of Raton, that was my next destination. Spending so much time at the archives meant more driving after dark than I generally do, but what scenery I saw before sundown was beautiful. I passed the current offices of the Raton Range on the way to my Bed & Breakfast. 
Heart's Desire B&B, Raton NM
The Heart's Desire Inn offered an excellent location from which to explore the old center of Raton and a delicious breakfast each morning. The Victorian Room was a bit overwhelmingly feminine, but the bed was very comfortable after long days spent staring at microfilm. 
The exceedingly pink and frilly Victorian Room
My lovely host - a local schoolteacher - directed me to a couple of local places that would still be open for dinner, Crystal Cafe and El Matador. I opted for Italian over Mexican, though both restaurants were almost empty. Apparently Raton is such a small town that everybody shows up when the high school has a football game.

After a hearty breakfast of waffles, peaches, and bacon, I set off in the morning for the Arthur Johnson Memorial Public Library due to open at 10 am. Only two blocks away from my B&B, I have to say this is one of the best small town public libraries I have ever seen. 
Arthur Johnson Memorial Public Library, constructed 1912
Their collection was both varied and extensive, while the large number of patrons I saw would indicate that the library is also well used. I asked for directions to their microfilm and was led upstairs to a back room with several computers and two microfilm readers. One was of the same model found at NMSU and the state archives, but I was informed that it was a recent donation and missing parts. The working microfilm reader dated to the 1970s, could not print, and did not even allow the user to zoom in on images. 
The library's ancient microfilm reader
I settled in with a drawer full of microfilm reels for the next few hours. When I broke for lunch, I got a lovely meal at Enchanted Grounds nearby and stopped in at the Raton Museum. I met the curator, but he had never heard of the Fosters. Funny, since the Range became the first occupant of the museum's building under their leadership in 1908.  
108 S. Second Street - once home to the Raton Daily Range, now occupied
by the Raton Museum
I returned to the library and continued staring at microfilm until it closed at 6 pm. As I grew tired of taking copious notes during my brief time with the reels I tried photographing the images on the reader's screen. This worked surprisingly well and significantly accelerated my progress through the Raton Range.
One of Mrs. Foster's poems, captured with my camera
Downtown Raton, New Mexico
The current offices of the Raton Range
Inside the Heart's Desire. Lately I seem to only stay at places inhabited by
Weeping Angels
Goat Hill and the old Seaburg Hotel, once home to both the Raton Range
and the Fosters
Since the microfilm collection in Santa Fe was just as complete as that in Raton, I decided to spend another full day at the archives. The drive back to Las Cruces would also be more manageable in one day. Archives are rarely obliging enough to open on Sundays, so I took the day to travel and go over my notes. I planned to spend Monday at the archives and then drive back to Las Cruces Tuesday morning. I booked a two night stay at the Sunrise Springs Inn & Spa and headed back south.

Sunrise Springs proved to be just as relaxing as I had hoped. While the spa was not open on Sunday, the Blue Heron restaurant had a delicious brunch and a greatly enjoyed walking the grounds. My pond view room was tiny, but didn't include the distraction of a television and allowed me to listen to the sounds of the fountain. The only improvement might have been a desk. The grounds were also home to at least 8 semi-feral cats who lined up outside the registration office for their dinner. I enjoyed their company, but was very glad that I'd soon be returning to my own cat. 

My tiny Pond Room
The delicious Blue Heron Restaurant 
A few of the cats line up to say goodbye
I spent Monday looking exclusively at the Raton Range, but even then I couldn't make it through the entire paper. Perhaps in an effort to increase the number of issues for me to read, the Fosters changed the paper from a semi-weekly to a daily in 1908. Those five extra issues each week really slow down the researcher's progress. However, the state archives did allow me to continue photographing the reader's screen rather than forcing me to pay for copies or write my own notes. As in Raton, this helped me get through a lot more film than I otherwise would have been able to.

Returning to Las Cruces on Tuesday meant spending five nights away from Manticora and missing one class, but it was definitely worth it. The Raton Range charted Josephine Foster's entrance into the newspaper business and established both context and precedent for her later career in Las Cruces. I've made a great deal of progress unearthing Mrs. Foster's legacy, but here are some records that continue to elude me:

In 1912, H. B. Holt sued the Fosters for libel, demanding $20,000 in recompense. I could find no record of the suit in Holt's collection at NMSU or in the Dona Ana County records in Santa Fe.

Mrs. Foster's personal relationships do raise some questions. Why did she and Charles Hague divorce? How did she meet Orrin Foster? Why did she and Orrin Foster divorce?

Equally mysterious is Orrin Foster's first marriage and divorce with Inez L. Foster.

I have an tree for Josephine Foster and I would love it if I could track down a living descendant. I would also be very excited to find an image of Mrs. Foster or any of her family.
Manticora at four months old. She forgave me for my brief absence back
in November