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Posts Tagged ‘Continental Divide New Mexico’

Prewitt, Thoreau and Continental Divide, New Mexico

Posted by graywacke on October 23, 2016

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-four-or-five days blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is) please see “About Landing” above.  To check out some recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”

Landing number 2303; A Landing A Day blog post number 733.

Dan:  Two New Mexico landings in a row!  My 60th double (and my 6th NM double).  In spite of this double, NM is still undersubscribed, and my Score went down from 615 to a new record low, 599.

Here’s my regional landing map:


And my local landing map:


My streams-only map shows that I landed in the watershed of the Rio San Jose (1st hit ever!):


And then, on to the same river as my last landing, the Rio Puerco (4th hit); and thence to the Rio Grande (48th hit).

Notice the town of Continental Divide on my local landing map (OK, and in the title of the post)?  Here’s a shot that shows the continental divide running right through Continental Divide (amazing but true):


To the east, of course the Rio Rio Rio San Jose, Puerco, Grande discharges into the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.

To the west, runoff heads towards the Rio Nutria to the Zuni to the Little Colorado to the Colorado (and thence to the Gulf of California and the Pacific Ocean).

It’s time for my Google Earth (GE) spaceflight on into NM (almost a repeat of my last spaceflight).  Click HERE, enjoy the trip, and hit your back button.

Since I don’t have much to say about Continental Divide, I’ll start there.  Wiki tells me nothing, but LegendsOfAmerica lets us know that old Route 66 ran through town, and the highest point on Route 66 is at the Continental Divide, at 7,263 feet above sea level. 

The topography’s not very dramatic as you cross the divide; there’s a gentle slope coming to the town from both directions.  There’s a cheesy (and oh-so-predictable tourist souvenir shop there (GE Street View shot):


So what about Thoreau?  From Wiki:

The population was 1,863 at the 2000 census. It is majority Native American, primarily of the Navajo Nation, as this community is located within its boundaries.

Practically all residents pronounce the town’s name like “thuh-ROO,” [not as fans of the American philosopher/writer might expect.]  The town is not named for Henry David Thoreau, though this is a common misconception. A history of the town was compiled by local author Roxanne Trout Heath in her 1982 book Thoreau, Where the Trails Cross!

All well and good, but how did the town get its name?  After stating that the town is not named after Henry David, there’s not a word about who it is named for.  I Googled the book title, to no avail.  But then I found this, from TheRoute-66.com, about Thoreau (the town):

The Mitchel brothers, William and Austin moved to the area in 1890. They had their eyes on the forests on Zuni Mountains, where they wanted to build a sawmill and sell the lumber in the Southwest. They platted a town that they named “Mitchel”. But their business did not prosper.

In 1896 Talbot and Frederick Hyde, heirs to the Babbit Soap fortune sponsored a archeology expedition in New Mexico. The Hyde Exploring Expedition set up its base in Mitchel and from there conducted excavations in Chaco Canyon until 1901.

Professor Frederick Ward Putnam of Harvard University was in charge of the expedition. The scientific expedition led to a growth in trading with the Navajo and the town was renamed as Thoreau by the Hyde brothers.

OK, so the Hyde brothers (from upstate New York, I think) named the town, and a Harvard professor was involved.  The prof might think that Thoreau (after Henry David) might be a cool name for a town, what with Walden Pond being in the greater Boston area.

I then checked out Ancestry.com for Talbot Hyde (actually Benjamin Babbitt Talbot Hyde) and found that he took some courses at Harvard.  Hmmm. Another vote for Henry Thoreau.

But the pièce de résistance came from a portion of TheRoute-66.com article that I initially missed (it was in a box off to the side):

Wikipedia denies that the town was named after Henry David Thoreau and the locals maintain that “Thoreau” was a person who worked for either the railway, the Mitchels or the US Army.  However, the book Thoreau, Where the Trails Cross! by Roxanne Trout Heath (1982) affirms that it was named after the famous philosopher.

Interesting, isn’t it, that both Wiki and TheRoute-66 use the same source as the basis for opposite claims?  My vote goes solidly with TheRoute-66, considering the Boston connection for the folks that named the town . . .

This makes me want to figure out how to log in to Wiki and actually make a legitimate change to one of their entries.  Stay tuned (but don’t hold your breath).

Quick personal story about Henry David Thoreau.  I have long been aware of the quote “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” from his book Walden.  Way, way back in the day (many decades ago), I felt like one of those “mass of men.” 

Many, many years later, (well beyond the time of quiet desperation), I was in a used book store, and came across Walden.  I riffled the 352 pages with my thumb, and randomly stopped, then looked down at the page. 

The absolute first words that I focused on were “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” 

Blew me away.

Being left-brained, I was immediately suspicious that many others had found that quote in that same book, causing the book to naturally open on that page.  I held the book loosely and let it open naturally with no bias.  Nope.  It had no tendency whatever to open there.  Out of 352 pages, some Higher Power decided I should see that quote for myself. . .

So.  It’s time for Prewitt.  Prewitt immediately caught my eye, because a good friend of mine is one Bob Prewitt.  His circle of friends occasionally call him Bob, but for the most part, he’s Prewitt.  So, of course, I had to check it out. 

Wiki had nothing, but I found a link to RoamingPhotos.com, a blog by one Glenn Campbell (one Glenn Campbell, not the Glenn Campbell).  Here’s his first three pics (his captions below each shot):

img_2952So I’m driving east on I-40 in New Mexico….


 When I pass this sign, which happens to remind me of a colleague.

 [This is uncanny.  If I were driving on I-40, and I saw an exit for Prewitt, I would also be reminded of a colleague, and would also get off the road to check it out.]


So I take the exit to find out what Prewitt is all about. This is already a good sign: Thoreau is one of my heroes.

I strongly recommend you check out the remainder of Glenn’s blog entry.  It’s really funny.  Click HERE.

I then found this, from LegendsOfAmerica.com:

A small settlement was in this area before it became Prewitt. Called Baca, after a local ranching family, it dates back to at least 1890. However, in 1916 two brothers, Bob and Harold Prewitt, moved to the area and established a trading post in a large tent along the National Old Trails Highway. When a post office was established in 1928, it took the name of Prewitt. In 1946 it was described of consisting of little more than a trading post and a railroad siding.

How about that.  Bob (not Robert) Prewitt.  My friend (when he’s not “Prewitt”) is Bob, never Rob or Robert . . .

It’s time for some GE Panoramio shots.  To set the stage, here’s a GE shot, showing a cluster of Pano shots nearby:


Of course, I’ll only present the best.  I’ll start with this, by BurnedDeathWash:


And here’s one by Tom Rael, with a friend posing to provide scale:


I’ll close with another by Tom:


That’ll do it . . .




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