The Chronicles Of Grant County

Refugees Near Lordsburg

lordsburg three related drought refugee families stalled on the highway near lordsburg new mexico dorothea lange library of congress may 1937 65Three related refugee families, initially fleeing drought in Oklahoma, were stalled on the highway near Lordsburg, New Mexico, according to the Library of Congress. (The image was produced by Dorothea Lange and provided courtesy of the Library of Congress, May of 1937.)

Today, when many local folks in southwest New Mexico refer to refugees, they are typically either referring to people fleeing war in places like Ukraine or people coming across the border with Mexico.

In the 1930s, "refugees" included Americans fleeing the Great Plains and usually heading west. Some headed to California. Some then left the Golden State to find job opportunities elsewhere.

It was the time of the Dust Bowl. During the Great Depression.

Farms were devastated. The economies of small towns were destroyed. Jobs disappeared. Foreclosures were common.

Life changed for many.

A snippet of the impact of this migration can be seen through a series of photographs provided courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The photos show three related families stalled in vehicles on the highway near Lordsburg, New Mexico.

The three families, according to the caption provided by the Library of Congress, were refugees initially fleeing drought in Oklahoma. They had lived on farms near Claremore, Oklahoma.

The caption indicated the family members had worked as "…migratory workers in California and Arizona, now trying to get to Roswell, New Mexico, for work chopping cotton. Have car trouble and pulled up alongside the highway."

One of the adults explained that they "would go back to Oklahoma, but can't get along there. Can't feed the kids on what they give you (relief budget) and ain't made a crop there you might say for five years. Only other work there is fifty cents a day wages and the farmers can't pay it anyways."

According to the caption provided by the Library of Congress, "one of these families has lost two babies since they left their home in Oklahoma. The children, seventeen months [old] and three years [old], died in the county hospital at Shafter, California, from typhoid fever, resulting from unsanitary conditions in a labor camp."

To view the photos, see the PDF below:

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