Our History

Located in Chaves County, Roswell is a growing city that is home to a thriving population of almost 50,000 residents.  Roswell is well known not only for aliens, but for their hospitality in welcoming new businesses (while supporting existing ones) and visitors alike.
The first non-indigenous or Hispanic settlers of the area around Roswell were a group of pioneers from Missouri, who attempted to start a settlement 15 miles (24 km) southwest of what is now Roswell in 1865 but were forced to abandon the site because of a lack of water. It was called Missouri Plaza. John Chisum had his famous Jingle Bob Ranch about 5 miles (8 km) from the center of Roswell, at South Spring Acres. At the time it was the largest ranch in the United States. 

Van C. Smith, a businessman from Omaha, Nebraska, and his partner, Aaron Wilburn, constructed two adobe buildings in 1869 that began what is now Roswell. The two buildings became the settlement's general store, post office, and sleeping quarters for paying guests. In 1871, Smith filed a claim with the federal government for the land around the buildings, and on August 20, 1873, he became the town's first postmaster.
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Van C. Smith was the son of Roswell Smith, a prominent lawyer in Lafayette, Indiana, and Annie Ellsworth, daughter of U.S. Patent Commissioner Henry Leavitt Ellsworth. He called the town Roswell, after his father's first name
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In 1877, Captain Joseph Calloway Lea and his family bought out Smith and Wilburn's claim and became the owners of most of the land of Roswell and the area surrounding it. The town was relatively quiet during the Lincoln County War (1877–1879). A major aquifer was discovered when merchant Nathan Jaffa had a well drilled in his back yard on Richardson Avenue in 1890, resulting in the area's first major growth and development spurt. On February 25, 1889, the New Mexico Legislature decided to carve Chaves and Eddy Counties from Lincoln County. In 1889 Roswell became the seat of Chaves County and a railroad was built through town in 1893.

Roswell has been the home to New Mexico Military Institute since 1891. This four year high school and two year junior college has been the breeding ground for many, many talented young men and women in Roswell, New Mexico, and the United States. Among its most notable graduates are Conrad Hilton, Roger Staubach, and Sam Donaldson. Will Rogers, had a son who also went to NMMI, and once said that Roswell was the prettiest little town west of the Pecos. This school contributed to New Mexico becoming a state in 1912. It also holds a long history of appointing its graduates to West Point and other military academies, as well as important appointments in the nation's illustrious military forces.
In the 1930s, the famed record-breaking aviator Charles Lindbergh and financier Harry Guggenheim were looking to find a location for the scientist Dr. Goddard's rocket experiments which led them to Roswell. Goddard remained for 12 years working on the secret experiment and record-breaking rocket launches. without those experiments, the United States would have later not won their race to the moon and begun the human race's early space exploration. After Goddard's passing in 1945, his widow started a series of gifts to the Roswell Museum and Art Center of her husband's rocket technology and in 1969 the Robert H. Goddard wing was dedicated. the Roswell Rotary Club (Goddard was a member) has since figured prominently in the preservation of his legacy, making Roswell the "Cradle of Space Exploration." You can enjoy this exhibit year around at the Roswell Museum and Art Center.
During World War II, a prisoner-of-war camp was located in nearby Orchard Park. The German prisoners of war were used to do major infrastructure work in Roswell, such as paving the banks of the North Spring River. Some POWs used rocks of different sizes to create the outline of an iron cross among the stones covering the north bank. Later, the iron cross was covered with a thin layer of concrete. In the 1980s, a crew cleaning the river bed cleared off the concrete and revealed the outline once more. The small park just south of the cross was then known as Iron Cross Park. On November 11, 1996, the park was renamed POW/MIA Park. The park displays a piece of the Berlin Wall, presented to the city of Roswell by the German Air Force. 
The 20th century kept Roswell on the map, first with the Air Force continuing experimental flight training - and, if you believe in it or not - the UFO crash in 1947. Roswell has benefited from interest in the alleged UFO incident of 1947. It was the report of an object that crashed in the general vicinity in June or July 1947, allegedly an extraterrestrial spacecraft and its alien occupants. Since the late 1970s the incident has been the subject of intense controversy and of a conspiracy theory regarding a classified program named "Mogul". Many UFO proponents maintain that an alien craft was found and its occupants were captured, and that the military then engaged in a cover-up. In recent times, the business community has deliberately sought out tourists interested in UFOs, science fiction, and aliens.
In 1967, the Walker Air Force Base was decommissioned and the city had to reinvent itself. Walker Air Force Base became an airplane storage facility and thanks to an amazing gas and oil boom which continues in the 21st century. Roswell is diversifying as center for the arts with an International Artist-in-Residence program, focus on tourism, a flexible university which supports the industrial interested students, health care, as well as the new multi-media and upcoming film industry which has found New Mexico and southeast New Mexico to be friendly and welcoming hosts.   

In 2012, Roswell made history and again became the center of science and adventure, when "Fearless Felix Baumgartner" departed from Roswell Airport in a balloon up into the stratosphere, jumping from a world record 39,045 meters (128,100 ft) and returned safely back to Earth. Baumgartner also set the record for the highest manned balloon flight and fastest speed of a free fall at 1,342 kilometer per hour (834) mph) making him the first human to break the sound barrier outside of a vehicle. 

Roswell capitalizes on its pleasant climate and as a great place to live, work and retire.
baumgartner landing in Roswell