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History of Artesia, New Mexico

Artesia, located in Eddy County, is a city in southeastern New Mexico. First inhabited in 1903, it is named for the artesian wells that provide water to meet municipal needs as well as irrigation for the surrounding agricultural area. Artesia is the town's third name. It began as Miller, named for an employee of the Pecos Valley Railroad, which built a siding here. Then Stegman, after the first postmaster, when the place got its first post office in 1899. The ultimate name of Artesia was adopted in 1903 after the first artesian wells were drilled. Artesia was incorporated as a city in 1905. Output from the artesian wells began to falter by the early 1920's, but another type of well appeared. The first successful oil well, known as Illinois #3, was drilled in 1924, and since then the oil and natural gas industry has been a factor in Artesia's economy. The Abo Underground School and Fallout Shelter was built in Artesia during the height of the Cold War. The school had no windows and had "emergency entrances" rather than "emergency exits." It is now known as Abo Elementary School and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Artesia's train depot is now the Historical Train Depot and Visitor Center. Local history and art are on display at the Artesia Historical Museum and Art Center in the historic Moore-Ward House. New Mexico State University operates an agricultural science center in Artesia. There is also a branch campus of Eastern New Mexico University. Health needs of area residents are met by Artesia General Hospital, which opened in 1939.