Pancho Villa State Park

Across Highway 11 from the Columbus Historical Museum you’ll find Pancho Villa State Park which has extensive historical exhibits depicting the raid and the U.S. Army’s subsequent “Punitive Expedition” into Mexico. The displays are housed in a 7,000-square-foot exhibit hall.

The park is located on the grounds of the former Camp Furlong. Gen. John J. “Black Jack” Pershing launched 10,000 troops on an 11-month, 500-mile pursuit of Villa from Camp Furlong. The exhibit hall tells the story that begins with the 1910 Mexican Revolution and ends with Pershing’s command of the Allied Forces when the U.S. entered World War I.

The exhibit hall contains a full-size replica Curtiss JN-3 “Jenny” airplane used by the 1st Aero Squadron; a 1916 Dodge touring car, the type used by Pershing for a field office; historic artifacts; military weapons and ribbons. An armored tank stands as a sentinel outside the facility.

The park includes several buildings that date from the time of Villa’s raid: the 1902 former U.S. Customs House, two adobe structures dating from the Camp Furlong era and Camp Furlong Recreation Hall.

Address: At the intersection of State Routes 9 and 11, Columbus, NM 88029
Phone: 575-531-2711
Hours: Daily, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Columbus Historical Museum

Columbus is famous for having been invaded by Pancho Villa in 1916.
As the Mexican Revolution raged to the south, most Americans felt little threat. In Columbus, residents felt secure: a detachment of 350 U.S. Army soldiers from the 13th Calvary were stationed at Camp Furlong on the town’s outskirts, between Mexico and Columbus. But at 1 a.m. on March 9, 1916, about 500 Mexican revolutionaries, led by General Francisco “Pancho” Villa, crossed into the United States. Villa divided his troops and attacked Columbus from the southwest at approximately 4:20 a.m. This attack caught the entire town, as well as the Army camp, by surprise.

The Villistas concerned themselves more with raiding than killing, otherwise the town might have been erased. The Villistas burned and pillaged the business district. The Army camp and stables received little damage, even though the horses and armaments must have been attractive to the raiders. Alerted by the gunfire and burning buildings, many Columbus residents fled to the desert, or sought refuge in the school house, the Hoover Hotel, or private homes.

U.S. Army officers and soldiers, awakened by the commotion, set up a Benet-Mercier machine gun in front of the Hoover Hotel. Another machine gun set up on East Boundary Street fired north and caught anyone in the intersection of Broadway and East Boundary in a deadly crossfire. The raid lasted until dawn, or approximately 90 minutes. The death toll totaled 70 to 75 Villistas and 18 dead Americans, most of them civilians.

Whatever the reasons for the attack, its result was immediate: Columbus residents experienced a boom. General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing arrived in Columbus to lead a punitive expedition into Mexico to find and capture Pancho Villa. Columbus became the expedition’s home base. By late 1916, due to the growth of military personnel, Columbus had the largest population of any New Mexican city.

Columbus-Historical-Society-MuseumThe Columbus Historical Museum is housed in the old El Paso Southwestern rail station, which was built in 1902 to connect El Paso, Texas to Douglas, Arizona. The railroad used the depot until 1961 when it was abandoned. The building then became a meeting place for the local Boy Scouts troop and then a library and newspaper office. The museum is staffed by volunteers, and its displays tell the story of the Columbus – and the famous Villa raid.

Address: Intersection of Highways 9 and 11, Columbus, NM 88029
Phone: 575-531-2620
Hours: Open Daily, September – April 10 am – 4 pm, May – August 10 am – 1 pm
Closed most holidays
Admission: No charge


The Western Heritage Museum and Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame

Wastern Heritage Museum - HobbsThe Western Heritage Museum and Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame are on the New Mexico Junior College campus in Hobbs.

The Western Heritage Museum focuses on the history of Lea County and the neighboring area in northwestern Texas. It is a region where cowboys and oil-and-gas industry workers meet and mix. The museum includes exhibits showing life on the Llano Estacado from prehistoric times to the present. There is archaeology, ranching, cowboys, buffalo soldiers, and exhibits about the oil-and-gas industry. A restored Eclipse windmill recalls a time when windmills were used on ranches throughout the area.

The Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame was founded in 1978. It features the many rodeo world champions who come from Lea County (more champions come from Lea County than any other county in the United States). In addition to memorials, many artifacts reflect aspects of the rodeo and cowboy life.

Address: 1 Thunderbird Circle, Hobbs, NM 88240
Phone: 575-492-2678
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m., Monday by appointment only
Admission: Adults, $3; seniors 65 and older, $2; students $2, children 5 and under, free.

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The Lordsburg/Hidalgo County Museum

Lordsburg was once a transportation and commercial hub for southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona. Phelps Dodge ran the Playas Smelter nearby and the local economy was built on ranching, farming (cotton and roses), and mining. The main highway ran through town and into southern Arizona and an international crossing to Mexico was just south at Antelope Wells. Students, including former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, came from the surrounding area in both New Mexico and Arizona to attend school. During World War II, an internment camp outside of Lordsburg held German prisoners of war.

However, when Interstate 10 was built, it bypassed Lordsburg, and the town has suffered economically as a result.


The Lordsburg/Hidalgo County Museum is housed in the old Hidalgo County Armory. The museum covers the area’s history. A premier and extensive exhibitLordsburg/Hidalgo County Museum exhibits is on New Mexico’s various World War II internment camps. This exhibit began as a traveling exhibit funded by the New Mexico Humanities Council and is now housed permanently in Lordsburg.

Address: 710 East 2nd Street, Lordsburg, NM 88045
Phone:     575-542-9086
Hours:     Monday through Friday, 1 to 5 p.m.
Admission: Free

Nearby you can also visit the ghost town, Shakespeare. Originally known as Mexican Springs, Shakespeare was a mining boom town on the Butterfield Overland Stage Trail. The town survived until 1932 and in 1935, it was purchased by the Hill family of Lordsburg. The town is known for its wild history that includes tales of Billy the Kid as well as, lesser known outlaws such as Russian Bill and Sandy King. The museum and visitor center are open two Saturdays a month when there are also tours and re-enactments about life in the town. There are occasional public tours offered for a donation. Call 575-542-9034 for the schedule. There are no private tours.