Goodson Memorial School – Union County NM


"Goodson Memorial School represents one of many federal relief efforts to lift devastated areas of Union County out of the effects of the Dust Bowl and Depression. Located in the northeast corner of New Mexico, Union County was situated near the heart of the Dust Bowl of the southern High Plains, with its small ranching and farming and homestead communities, devastated by successive waves of drought years. Along with federal aid given locally to farmers and ranchers to keep them out of foreclosure, the Works Progress Administration worked actively to build infrastructure in small communities throughout Union County by constructing public buildings, roads, and drainage improvements.

A critical need of the county during the Depression was that of the repair and improvement of its rural public schools. Between 1935 and 1940, the WPA worked on approximately 60 new construction, repair or school improvement projects in Union County. School projects became a major focus of Governor Tingleys effort to bring federal funds into the state during the Depression. For not only did the projects provide relief to unemployment, but also as Tingley described in a letter to President Roosevelt, addressed the 'deplorable conditionsof the rural schools of this state.'

On September 13, 1935, then superintendent of county schools, Marion Thomason, wrote Governor Clyde Tingley a letter requesting the approval of 13 projects to build or repair public schools in Union County. In the letter Thomason describes the projects as 'badly needed' to 'provide better housing for children' and 'to give employment to people living in districts' that had suffered crop failure for several years. Approved on September 25, 1935, the unnamed school cost an estimated $6,000 to construct and was described in a newspaper article as a four-room building and auditorium with steam heat and its own water and sewer systems. Many of the new schools, such as Goodson, worked to consolidate the remaining students from far-flung former homestead and ranching communities that had been affected by the economic downturn. Accordingly Goodson School consolidated the pupils of the earlier New Mexico, Wagner, and Valley schools under its roof.

Goodson Memorial School

The new school was named in memorial to Felix Emmett Goodson, a local rancher and politician, by whose efforts as county commissioner, the school was constructed. Born in 1892 in Anniston, Alabama, Goodson married Stella Ellis of Yell County, Arkansas in 1919, and settled on a homestead in southeastern Colorado. In 1925 Goodson and his family moved to Roberts Ranch, just northeast of the school site, to become its manager. Stella Goodson and another area resident taught at the Wagner and the New Mexico schools, as enrollment shifted from one school to the other. Felix served as a Union County Commissioner in 1933, and in 1936 was elected Chairman of the Commissioners. In the spring of 1935, the Goodson family moved to a new house they built on a ranch purchased just south of the school site. Felix died unexpectedly on April 17, 1936, at the age of 44, and the new school, adjacent to his ranch, was named in his honor. The school opened seven months later in November and described by a local newspaper account as 'the last word in rural schools in the county.'

After its completion in 1936, the community surrounding the school became known as Goodson, as the school became the center of activity for the area, including the site of community dances, political gatherings, box suppers, and Christmas programs. The school supported a small population of students derived from the scattered ranches in the region until the feasibility of busing students to Clayton resulted in closing the school in the early 1960s. Barbara Monroe, a student who attended the school between 1947 and 1951, recalled that the school sustained a population of 50 to 60 students who were educated from first to tenth grade. The students at that time were predominantly Anglo and commuted to school from nearby ranches. Classes were taught by two married couples who lived in the Teacherage and entertained themselves in the off hours with board games and outdoor activities. Some pupils pursued after school activities and played baseball against another school team from Kenton. The building was last used as a polling place in 1962, and has not been used since then. Despite the current appearance, the building is revered by the residents of the Valley as a landmark and a potential site of interest to visitors seeking to understand the history of the region.

In 1986 Goodson Memorial School was surveyed and determined eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. In the survey it was identified as one of a few extant rural WPA schools in the northeast section of the state. A subsequent 2001 county-initiated project to map schools in Union County came to the same conclusion. The schools significance for providing shelter and education to the children of the Dry Cimarron Valley and its role in local efforts to bring the New Deal to Union County warrants listing the Goodson Memorial School to the National Register of Historic Places at the local level of significance."


Project Details

Federal Cost Local Cost Total Cost Project #'s

Source notes

Monroe, Kendyl K., "Goodson," New Mexico Office of the State Historian website

We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.

Location Info

County Road B072
Union County, NM 88419

Location notes:
The school is located off of NM 456, approximately 4 miles West of the junction with NM 406.

Coordinates: 36.939307, -103.101903

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