Fascinating Facts from Las Cruces History - LasCruces.com
Las Cruces Abstract & Title is housed in a historic building.

Las Cruces history is rich with fascinating stories of the people who made their homes in this Southern New Mexico city. Las Cruces was founded in 1849, back when there were no title companies to help homeowners with the process.

If you’re in business helping people secure homes and commercial properties, you could find no better place for your own business than in one of Las Cruces’ oldest buildings. That’s exactly what Las Cruces Abstract & Title, a company specializing in title searches and insurance and real estate closings, did. You’ll find them in an old adobe building on Campo Street — and not just any old adobe, but one with a rich history.

Las Cruces Abstract & Title (LCAT) occupies the Otto Bombach House, which may or may not have meaning for you. Let’s put it in perspective.

The Otto Bombach House Becomes LCAT’s Home

In 1889, Otto Bombach built an adobe home. Several thousand bricks were made in the yard from clay hauled in by wagon. After Otto died in 1893, his widow, Hipolita, continued living in the home with her daughter, Margarita, who married Manuel Chavez in 1915.

In 1929, having built a new home on East Griggs, the Chavezs decided to convert the old Bombach home into five efficiency apartments which they named Valencia Courts. It remained a successful business for years.

In 2003, Guy Floyd, Gregg Floyd, Elvia Romero, and Robert Flores purchased the building and remodeled it to serve as Las Cruces Abstract & Title’s offices. This was not LCAT’s first location. The company was founded in 1926 and has been the “go-to” real-estate closing company for Doña Ana, Hidalgo, and Luna counties ever since.

But that’s just part of Las Cruces history. It really begins 40 years before Bombach built his house.

A tree in Klein Park, the location where a drawing was held for home lots when Las Cruces was founded, an important moment in Las Cruces history.
Klein Park, the location where a drawing was held for home lots when Las Cruces was founded.

The Founding of Las Cruces

In 1849 — a year after the Mexican-American War and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo transferred the Southwest to the United States — Lieutenant Delos Bennett and five surveyors used rope and stakes to lay out an area just south of the village of Doña Ana. It was thirteen blocks long and six blocks wide.

The place chosen for the new town was the site of a legendary Apache attack. The only survivor told the tale of mourners erecting a garden of crosses to commemorate the dead — hence, Las Cruces. At least, that’s one of the stories behind the city’s name.

Under a cottonwood in what is today’s Klein Park, 120 families drew suertes, or lots, from a hat to claim part of the new town for their homes. Of course, at this time there were no title companies like Las Cruces Abstract & Title, although title searches and insurance are nothing new. That was still to come.

Title Company History

The first title company in America was the Law Property Assurance and Trust Society, formed in Pennsylvania in 1853, four years after Las Cruces was founded, to confirm the authenticity and legality of a real estate title.

More than 70 years later and now nearly a century ago, Las Cruces Abstract & Title found its own home here. It has since contributed to Las Cruces’ growth to become the second-largest city in New Mexico, with a current population of approximately 114,000.

The exterior of the Rio Grande Theatre in Las Cruces. This building is a rich part of Las Cruces history.
The exterior of the Rio Grande Theatre in Las Cruces.

A Few Las Cruces History Highlights

There have been some interesting milestones along the way. On July 26, 1926 — the year LCAT opened its doors — the Rio Grande Theatre also opened its doors, showing the silent movie, Mare Nostrum. It’s doubtful many of the company employees, focused on establishing their new business, had time to see it, and three years later, they got a real kick in the teeth. The stock market crashed and the Great Depression set in, making success — if not survival — immeasurably harder.

Agriculture has always been important to Las Cruces. Fabian Garcia, a member of the first graduating class (1894) of New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (now NMSU), became director of the college’s agricultural experiment station. He began testing crops that would benefit farmers transitioning away from grains. He’s principally responsible for the chili pepper in New Mexico.

Garcia also brought in profitable strains of Acala cotton and the Grano sweet onion. Despite the proximity of the Rio Grande, Las Cruces faced drought during the Depression, bringing Dust Bowl conditions to the area’s agriculture. It was a hard time.

But there were also better times intermingled with the hardships in Las Cruces history. Founded in 1894 to boost the quality of life in Las Cruces, the Women’s Improvement Association established the city’s first library in 1924.

A decade later, in 1935, Alice Branigan funded a new library, the result of a bequest in memory of her husband, Capt. Thomas Branigan. It was the only privately funded library construction project carried out in the state during the Depression. And it served the city until 1979 when the current library was opened.

Meanwhile, the historic Branigan building became the Branigan Cultural Center, one of four museums now operated by the City of Las Cruces, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Branigan Cultural Center is the perfect place to explore Las Cruces history and culture.

Today, Las Cruces is a thriving city known not only for its agriculture, but also White Sands Test Facility and Missile Range — proving ground for military weapons, location of the first atomic bomb test, and the forefront of space exploration.

It is a city with a rich and deep multicultural history. And Las Cruces Abstract & Title is still here — still helping homeowners and entrepreneurs secure and insure the titles of their homes and businesses.


This Story Sponsored by LAS CRUCES ABSTRACT & TITLE

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