Not so long ago, thousands of buffalo roamed these vast grassy plains.
Although many travelers passed through Lea County during the years when Europeans were exploring the New World, they were no match for the Native Americans who claimed the area as their own. From the Spanish conquerors of the 16th and 17th centuries, the Mexican rulers of the 18th century, to the Buffalo Soldiers of the post-Civil War era, to the fearless cowboys of the 19th century, all were daunted by the harsh landscape and by the skills and brilliant tactics of the native people who resisted the onslaught of these invaders. Fortunately, though, remnants of these former civilizations still remain in Lea County’s museums, folklore and anthropological digs. Much of the land is still as wild and untamed as it was when the nomadic Comanche and Apaches called it home. Arrowheads and pottery shards still lie undisturbed just below the surface, a paradise for amateur archaeologists. In fact, North America’s most ancient prehistoric human probably hunted bison and mammoth in and around Lea County at least 15,000 years ago. Both the Clovis Man and the Folsom Man left their spear points here.
About 250 million years ago, the Llano Estacado was submerged. Although the shallow, inland sea slowly evaporated, layer after layer of dead marine life slowly decayed underneath, resulting in huge oil and natural gas reserves that have made Lea County one of the richest centers of natural resources in the world. Later geological changes would add an even more important resource to the Llano Estacado: the Ogallala aquifer, a huge, underground lake of cold, pure water. Although the Native Americans cleverly hid this secret source of water for many years, eventually the stubborn determination of 18th century pioneers led to the rediscovery of this essential source of life.
By the 1880s, Lea County had become a haven for cattle ranchers who settled near the scattered watering holes. They were quickly followed by the even more tenacious homesteaders, who learned that plentiful water existed just a few feet below ground; hence, ubiquitous windmills now dot the landscape. Many ranchers in the Hobbs area still depend on the simple power of these windmills to water their herds.
While the never-ending procession of settlers brought stability and permanent encampments to the Llano Estacado, the Southwest remained a place of fiercely independent and self-sufficient people. In fact, New Mexico was not even admitted to statehood until 1912, making it the 47th state to join the Union and one of the last to relinquish its association with the Western frontier.
Lea County and its five rural municipalities have comprised a local economy based almost solely on petroleum for over eight decades. This area has thrived during prosperous booms and suffered during ruinous busts. An unflinching, entrepreneurial spirit has sustained generations of Lea County families, who have reliably delivered a cornerstone commodity to our nation. And getting oil and gas to market is no easy task; men and women toil outdoors in triple-digit heat, sub-zero cold, gale-force winds and other inclement weather. For these reasons and more, energy is our proud heritage.
Energy is also our future. That same entrepreneurial spirit that kept eyes fixed on the next boom is what fuels our vision for the future. Because energy is our workforce’s core competency, we are developing a variety of fuel sources and, thus, diversifying our local economy. Lea County is home to the petroleum, nuclear and renewable industries. From assets to attitudes, no other region in America is more poised to develop the U.S. energy economy than Lea County, and that is why residents have embraced calling the county the EnergyPlex.
Today, Hobbs remains a retreat for those who crave a little elbow room and prefer the peaceful, wide open spaces reminiscent of bygone days. Lea County consistently and proudly reflects its pioneer spirit. While traditional occupations still thrive, such as farming, ranching and drilling, opportunities abound for the entrepreneur looking for a new beginning. Ideal weather, friendly neighbors and the affordable cost of living make this area a great place to live, play and work.