Camp Cody/Holy Cross: Final insult
The importance to Luna County of the site known as the location of Camp Cody and later the Holy Cross Sanitarium is not the possibility of its possession by ghosts and spirits. Its fame is not that it became a dumping site, party site for young people, or that it has been the site of murders.
The real importance is that Camp Cody, a training camp for National Guard soldiers from many states for World War I, was one of the most important historical, economic, and social events in this county’s history. The area was once again benefited by the economic impact of the Holy Cross Sanitarium.
Camp Cody and the Holy Cross Sanitarium occupied the same site northwest of Deming. The Sanitarium occupied the buildings used for the base hospital for Camp Cody. Camp Cody brought 30,000 troops to the community. The economy, in the area, was greatly improved as businesses opened everywhere and anywhere in the community that could support a store. The area was impacted socially by the many troops coming to town attending church and joining fraternal organizations. Families of troops came to Deming and rented homes. Many local citizens were employed by the camp.
The Holy Cross Sanitarium followed in the 1920’s. It opened as a hospital for patients suffering from tuberculosis. Again, the local economy was improved by the staff and patients who used local businesses. The importance of the hospital to the economy was evident when the Village of Deming was attempting to have the hospital turned into a state hospital in 1939, when the facility burnt and was destroyed.
The question now raised is who determined that the site could only be destroyed? Who made the decision that the site could not be salvaged as a historical site? Who determined that no community interest existed for its preservation? Was an archeological team brought to the site to determine it was of no value? When was the Luna County Historical Society contacted as to the historical importance of preserving the site?
Had someone contacted the museum, they would have been told that annually many visitors come to the museum or contact the museum archives wanting to know about relatives who were stationed at the camp. If someone had “googled” it, they would have seen that there are web sites dedicated all or in part to the camp. If someone had simply done a search on the eBay website, it could have been determined that much memorabilia from the camp is listed and selling for prices that definitely suggest an interest in the camp still exists.
The County Commission which has taken much effort in holding public forums on many topics made no effort to hold forums on the future of the Camp Cody/Holy
Cross site. Many will remember that extensive public meetings were held and committees were formed when the future of the railroad depot was in question.
What was the rush? Why was the destruction held in secret from the public? The reason given was safety for tearing down the remains of the buildings. Nothing had really changed on the site since 1939, so it is hard to conclude that it was such an immediate safety concern that would have prevented public forums on the subject.
It is hard to escape the possibility that those who made the decision simply were unaware of the importance of the site in local history. Again, this goes back to the issue of why experts were not brought in to evaluate the site.
The State of New Mexico is planning for the 2012 centennial of our statehood. It would appear that Luna County’s contribution to the celebration will be the clandestine destruction of a site that was part of two major historical events of the county. The preservation of the site, as a historical site, could have been a great achievement as part of the centennial had any foresight been given to the issue.
William Bayne Anderson lives in Deming and is a History Instructor. He is also the author of: “Camp Cody and Deming, New Mexico: A Partnership of War.”
By Bayne Anderson For the Headlight – Deming Headlight Newspaper