General Membership meetings
General Membership meetings take place on the 2nd Thursday of the month at 5:50 and are open to anyone who would like to attend. You need not be a member. A potluck is served first, followed by a short business meeting and then a speaker or some other entertainment.
Anyone can become a member. The dues are $8.00 per couple or $5.00 single. One does not need to live in Columbus to become a member. (Membership is open to anyone, anywhere.)
The El Paso Southwestern Railroad Depot
The El Paso Southwestern Railroad Depot was constructed in 1902. Neighboring structures, including the pump house, the Customs House, and the Section House were also built in 1902. The railroad used the depot until 1959 when it was abandoned by the railroad. The building then became a meeting place for the local boy scouts troop and then a library and newspaper office. The most significant event associated with the depot occurred on March 9, 1916 when Pancho Villa's army across the border on horseback before dawn and attacked Columbus. Between 400 and 500 Villistas participated in the attack and took the sleepy town by surprise. The attack lasted from 4:15 A.M. to 6:00 A.M. In response to the raid, the Punitive Expedition led by General John Pershing embarked from Columbus to seek and capture Pancho Villa after he retreated to Mexico. Many of the soldiers arrived at Columbus by railroad, stopping at the depot before going to Camp Furlong. Supplies for the expedition also came by railroad to Columbus and Camp Furlong.
So What Happened in Columbus, NM?
Columbus, New Mexico, in the early spring of 1916 was a sleepy little border town. As the Mexican Revolution raged to the south, most Americans perceived little threat from this conflict, including many of Columbus' citizens, who felt safe in their village. To add to this feeling of security, a detachment of approximately 350 U.S. Army soldiers from the 13th Calvary stationed at Camp Furlong on the outskirts of Columbus stood between Mexico and the town.
In the middle of the night on March 9, 1916, life in Columbus changed dramatically. At 1:00 A.M., between 500 and 600 Mexican revolutionaries, led by General Francisco "Pancho" Villa, crossed the border into the United States. Villa divided his troops and attacked Columbus from the southwest at approximately 4:20 am. 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. That morning majority of the destruction of the town came from the burning and pillaging of the business district. Surprisingly, 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. The noise and fire sealed the fate of the raiding Mexican Army. U.S. Army officers and soldiers, awakened by the commotion, set up a Benet-Mercier machine gun in front of the Hoover Hotel and produced a murderous rain of bullets. 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 one and a half hours. By this time, the death toll totaled 70 to 75 Villistas. In addition, during the attack on Columbus, eighteen Americans, mostly civilians, died.
Beginning in 1916, Columbus burst onto the world's stage. With a war raging in Europe, the military actions in Columbus and the northern New Mexico forced many Americans to acknowledge that the United States also was engaged in war. Columbus experienced world recognition, excitement, and prosperity. After the Punitive Expedition ended, this prosperity began to wan and a sense of isolation returned when first the Army and then the railroad pulled out of town. Today a sense of isolation has returned to this sleepy border town. Columbus is regaining part of its past as NAFTA enlivens the trucking industry across the Mexican-United States border and as tourists search for the heritage of the last place in the lower forty-eight states that has been invaded by a foreign army.