Whole Town for Sale

ACME-Logo-660x332There is a girl in Roy, New Mexico, that is the only graduate in her senior class.  Not because she went to school with a bunch of dropouts, but because she is the only student in her senior class.  She probably has the highest grade point average and is valedictorian too.   I know she was prom queen.  There are 13 other 7-12 graders in her school, which has elementary, middle and secondary classes combined under one roof, so there were a few other prom-goers I hope.

 Now, Roy, New Mexico, isn’t very big, as you might guess, somewhere a little south of 237, and dropping since the 1990 Census.  But it’s kind of astonishing to be the only student in your high school graduating class, don’t you think?  Wouldn’t be much of a yearbook, only one picture on the senior pages, no seniors to sign best wishes.  She got to pick the class colors, class flower and the class motto though.  I wonder if she’s renting a cap and gown.  Did she get a class ring?  Senior pictures probably, but they have no professional photographer in town, so they would have had to go to the nearest “big” city for that. 

Anyway, I thought I would check to see if there are any other “Classes of 2014” that only number in the ones, and there doesn’t appear to be any.  Ah ha, so it’s a publicity stunt.  She said that she used to have other students her age in school but they all left, and others her age didn’t move into Roy in the last four years.  Well, nobody is moving to Roy from the sounds of it.  Like I mentioned, it’s been losing population since 1990.

Roy is a little town northeast of Las Vegas, New Mexico.  I’ve never been to Roy, and see no reason to ever go.  It does have the only gas station in Harding County, I’m told, so that could be helpful information if I ever take the wrong exit off of Interstate 25 to New Mexico 120 and don’t realize it until I hit state road 30.  And, of course, Harding County has the only senior graduating in 2014 too, but I don’t know that for sure, just guessing.

The only New Mexico communities smaller than Roy, are Encinal, pop. 212, Tementina, pop. 212, Pueblo Pintado, pop 231, and San Ysidro, pop. 233.  Never been to any those places either.  The only one I’ve even heard of is San Ysidro, probably because I saw it on an exit sign at one time or another.  There are 50 towns in New Mexico with populations below 500 though.

Small towns are uncomplicated.  I think most of us wish we lived in a small town if we could make a living.  Maybe not most of us, but I do.  No traffic, a couple of traffic signals maybe on main street, mom and pop shops, no mall, no crime, diners and local cafes, no big box stores, everyone knows everyone else.  Hey, if you can’t find one to move to, why not buy your own?

ACMEBEYEC10I remember a small town, actually a mining camp, which was a short distance outside of Sheridan, Wyoming where I grew up.  Acme, Wyoming.   It  was established in 1911.  Big Goose Creek and the Tongue River join just below the camp.  Acme was a coal mining camp named after the slope mine that was across the Tongue River, which operated until about 1940.  In 1953 the town was purchased by Gather Byland, the company bookkeeper from the then Sheridan-Wyoming Coal Co.  They sold him the whole town. 

My Dad was the one who told me that the town was for sale I think.  “You can buy the whole town of Acme,” he had said.  It was kind of a novelty at the time.  In fact, the sale of the town became a national oddity.  I thought it would be neat to own a town.  I would have to change the name of course.    Something more appropriate.  I mean, anyone who has ever watched the Road Runner cartoons knows that everything Wile E. Coyote ordered was from The Acme Corporation.  Acme didn’t seem right for the name of your own town.  Anyway, you could name it anything you wanted if you owned it.

I started thinking maybe the memory of Acme, Wyoming being for sale was a figment of my imagination, so I did a little research.  I found this “fluff” piece on the front page of The Henderson Times-News, Henderson, NC., on February 12, 1968, below the fold, under the headline “Whole Town For Sale”:

“CHICAGO (UPI) If you long for the days when frontier barons ruled the mining towns—why not buy Acme, Wyo.?  It’s for sale.

A classified ad in a Chicago paper Sunday read; “A town for sale.  Inq. Box 175, Acme, Wyoming.”

Acme, a turn-of-the-century coal mining town near the Wyoming-Montana border, now consists of about 100 persons, a general store, a post office and 40 houses with either indoor or outdoor plumbing, and a power station.”

The article goes on to describe that the town is near the Big Horn Mountains between the Big Goose and Tongue Rivers.  “There is one street, and a road that leads out of town—which is where the 200 of the 300 residents went when the coal mines gave out around 1910.”  So this fact appears incorrect because the mine was operated until around 1940.

“The Sheridan-Wyoming Coal Co., which made the town important enough for the county to locate the power plant there, sold the town, all of it, to the company bookkeeper, Gather Byland.

Byland has kept renting the 40 houses and running the Acme Mercantile, the only store in town.

Acme’s few residents either work in the power plant, or in Sheridan, eight miles away, or are retired miners.”

The author implies that the town was getting too expensive to run so the owner decided to sell.  Not sure if that was the real reason.  Money may have been an issue, though, since the classified ad in the Chicago paper gave no other details about the town for sale, or even an asking price.  Eventually the camp was acquired by the Big Horn Coal Company which strip-mined the area.

sheridanmainWhen I was growing up in Sheridan, I remember that there were train tracks down the middle of Main Street in some areas, and I knew that there used to be a trolley car in town.  I didn’t know that it was the longest commercial trolley in operation in the country at the time.  It was an electric trolley car line that serviced the mining towns of Monarch and Acme in the early 1900s.

acmepowerplnt13I stumbled across a blog comment about Acme while I was searching the internet too.  I don’t think I’ve ever been to the actual town site myself.  But it seems that it is now just another ghost town in rural America.  Someone that actually lived there for a month back in 1972 said they took a side-trip through in 1990 on their way to Finland from Juneau Alaska.  The water tower and the power plant were still there, but all the buildings had been moved to Sheridan or torn down.  All that remains of the “whole town” that was for sale in 1968 is the circular road around the center, remnants of the building foundations, and the one road leading out.

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