Chaparral History


The Franklin Mountains, located at the southern tip of the Rocky Mountain Range, borders the community to the west; and this separates Chaparral from the Rio Grande River and the Mesilla Valley. Millions of years ago the Rio Grande River's original course was on the east side of the mountains, but as the mountain range formed, it forced the river to the west. Native Americans continued to roam the area because there were many places water accumulated after the Rio Grande River changed its course. Hand Grinding tools were used by Indian Hunters to make meals from seeds and roots, have been found within community boundaries, camping sites, and not surprisingly, discovered during land development. The Butterfield Stagecoach Line used a trail through Chaparral in the mid-1800 when the Rio Grande flooded. As the river spread across the Mesilla Valley, it made travel to the area too dangerous. Soldiers from early frontier posts used the same trail to travel from Ft. Bliss to the north to protect the settlers and roads. In 1918 when New Mexico released land to be used for homesteads, many families settled in property east of the Franklin Mountains. Some families tried to raise cattle and dry farm, but the lack of running streams made it difficult to provide the necessary water for either. The conditions were harsh and made life difficult on the settlers. By 1940, most families had to sell their land and moved to find work in surrounding towns. At this time, the Chaparral community was named Blythe, after a family who homesteaded in 1928. In 1934 a school with one room had been built and could hold about 10 to 12 children. Eventually, the school closed as families moved from the area. A portion of the foundation remains and can still be seen at the corner of Lisa and Edna Drive. The community now has 5 schools including, 3 elementary schools, 1 middle school, 1 high school, and a Dona Ana Community College associated with New Mexico State University.

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