7. HUNING FAMILY, Los Lunas
Huning Ranch, Comanche Ranch
160,000 acres in Socorro and Valencia Counties
WO IST DER LAND?
From their native Germany the Huning brothers--Franz, Louis, Carl and Henry--descended upon New Mexico in the middle of the 19th century like economic tornadoes. In 1855 Franz set up shop in Albuquerque, prospering as a businessman and real estate promoter. He made a killing in the 1870s when the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway put its main line straight through his property. Franz later built the famous--but long-torn down--Huning Castle on Central Ave.
Younger brother Louis came to New Mexico in 1858 and ended up in Los Lunas working as a clerk in a mercantile store owned by a cousin. Within two years, Louis bought the operation. He later took in brother Henry as a partner, calling the business The L & H Mercantile, later Huning Mercantile. Like many merchants of the day, it functioned as a bank, making loans to customers secured by property--and foreclosing when repayment could not be made. Louis also made shrewd acquisitions of land across western New Mexico. Pretty soon the Hunings had cattle, sheep and flour mills in the Los Lunas area.
Over time the Hunings amassed substantial land holdings, much of it west of Los Lunas in the historic San Clemente Land Grant. It had been broken up into hundreds of 10-acre parcels and sold. But when the buyers couldn't pay their taxes, the Huning family snapped up the property at foreclosure sales.
Today, a 160,000-acre spread is controlled by Louis Huning's grandson, Jack Huning, age about 70. Besides holding considerable development potential--Jack wants to build a golf course, around which he could then build pricy homes--the land also contains New Mexico's Mystery Rock. That's a basalt slab chiseled with 216 early Phoenician and Hebrew characters that has drawn archaeologists from afar. Zealots say it was carved by Roman Christians fleeing persecution. Skeptics call it an elaborate hoax dreamed up by zany anthropology students.
Another feature is Luna Hill, the rise where Los Lunas High School seniors go every year to paint a big ``LL,'' visible as far as Albuquerque.
What does Jack say? We couldn't reach him for comment.
8. MICHAEL MECHENBIER, Albuquerque
Four Daughters Ranch, Dockery-Collings Ranch, Pie Ranch
135,000 acres in Cibola, Socorro and Valencia Counties
Michael Mechenbier is a second-generation New Mexican rancher. His dad, Jerry, had a ranch near Estancia in Torrance County. But Jerry's ill health forced its sale in 1977. Mechenbier, who grew up on the ranch, tried pig farming, but an epidemic killed a bunch of the swine. At that point, in 1979, he moved to Albuquerque to start Sundance Mechanical & Utility Contractors, an industrial builder. The company was successful, providing Mike the wherewithal to keep ranching in the family. So when a rancher friend started having financial problems in the mid-1980s, Mechenbier started buying.
His property, west of the Huning Ranch, itself west of Los Lunas, consists of three adjoining spreads: Four Daughters Ranch, Dockery-Collins Ranch and Pie Ranch. Why Four Daughters? ``It's because,'' says Mechenbier, ``we have four daughters''--Jessica, Abby, Katie and Emily.
His new land has some interesting features. It's the home of Chicken Mountain, which boasts Indian ruins. It also contains a salt river and a marble quarry on its east side. Poor in mineral resources, the land is used entirely for grazing.
9. LESLIE AND LINDA DAVIS, Cimmaron
CS Cattle Ranch
125,000 acres in Colfax Counties
THE FAMILY NAME
You may think of Springer as simply a northern New Mexico town with a prison for youths. But a century ago the Springer family was one of the state's best-known clans. In 1873 lawyer Frank Springer moved from Iowa to rough-and-tumble Cimmaron -- ``Everything is quiet in Cimmaron; nobody has been killed for three days,'' a Las Vegas NM newspaper once reported--to work for the famous and controversial Maxwell Land Grant Co. That was the outfit assembled by Lucien Bonaparte Maxwell that obtained control of two 1841 Mexican land grants for 1.7 million acres covering the western two-thirds of Colfax County.
Springer, who later became a noted art collector, eventually became Maxwell Land's president. His brother, Charles Springer, became one of the state's leading residents.
The CS Cattle Co. -- the CS stands for Charlie Springer -- is the family legacy, with much of its land from the original Maxwell grant. Les Davis is a grandson of Frank Springer who's been running the CS for nearly a half-century. He grew up in Philadelphia, where his father was a prominent plastic surgeon. But as a pre-med student at Dartmouth, ``I decided I would rather be a rancher than a doctor,'' he once recalled. So upon graduation in 1941 he moved to the ranch for the first time and became its manager in 1948.
In a match made in cattle heaven, he married Linda Mitchell, whose father had managed the famous Bell Ranch (see Lane family, above, and Mitchell family, below). Both Davises have received honors from cowboy organizations, and both have served on state boards. The scenic CS Ranch has even been the backdrop for Marlboro cigarette advertisements. Our efforts to get comment from the couple were unsuccessful.
10. BOGLE FAMILY, Dexter, Snyder TX
100,000 acres in Chaves, Eddy, Lea and Lincoln Counties
TAKING THE CURE
Like so many people, Hal Bogle came to New Mexico seeking a cure for his tuberculosis. Age 21 he moved in 1918 from his native Tennessee to Alamogordo. He later relocated to Roswell and then Dexter, which is just south of Roswell.
The move westward worked; Bogle regained his health and proceeded to build a farming and ranching empire, not only around Roswell but in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri and his native Tennessee. Bogle himself became a respected businessman, serving on the boards of a regional Federal Reserve Bank.
He also had the foresight to acquire lots of land in Chandler AZ. As it turns out, Chandler is a close-in suburb of Phoenix and the family got rich by selling off farmland for housing developments in the great Phoenix boom after 1960.
Hal Bogle died in 1973 at age 76, but son William Clarence Bogle, now 78, and his five children carry on the connection with the land--cattle, sheep and irrigated farming--under the parent company Bogle Ltd. In recent years, the family has pulled out of Colorado to buy extensive acreage in Lincoln County NM--including two of the six reputed crash sites of the Roswell UFO Incident. But unlike Hub Corn (see Corn family below), the Bogles aren't turning them into tourist attractions. ``We're just not as entreprenurial,'' laughs Scott Bogle, one of Hal's grandchildren.
11. JOHN YATES FAMILY, Mayhill and elsewhere
Atarque Land and Cattle Company, Ojo Feliz Ranch,
Cross D Ranch, Las Clara Vista Farm
100,000 acres in Chaves, Cibola, Eddy and Mora Counties
BETTER THAN THE MATTRESS
The Yates family ranked No. 2 on the Crosswinds Rich List last year (estimated net worth $350 million). That was on the basis of its drilling activities in southeastern New Mexico, where the clan has held sway for more than 70 years since Martin Yates Jr. hitting black gold on the first state-issued oil-and-gas lease. Of course, you have to do something with the money besides shoving it under the bed. Our research suggests that the family of John Yates, one of Martin Jr.'s four son, has been buying land in widely separated parts of the state.
The Ojo Feliz Ranch, formerly the Diamond A Ranch, is in the center of Mora County near Wagon Mound and is used for grazing. Atarque Land operates in the rugged western portion of the state. Other spreads are closer to the Yates' family traditional home of Artesia.
A Yates Petroleum spokeswoman says Yates would be unavailable for comment because ``the family feels such matters are private.''
12. DUNIGAN FAMILY, Abilene TX
Baca Location No. 1
95,000 acres in Sandoval County
Ever since Texas millionaire Pat Dunigan bought the Baca Location No. 1 west of Los Alamos in 1963 (for a reported $3 million, about $30 an acre), the Federal Government has been trying to get it. Why? The ranch is replete with trout streams, trophy elk, vast lumber resources, geothermic pools and breathtaking landscape. It is also the home of the Valle Grande, a gigantic collapsed volcano at the summit of the Jemez Mountains along New Mexico Route 4 that contains some of New Mexico's strangest and most beautiful geological formations. Some experts think it could some day erupt again.
Still, the Dunigan family has adamantly refused to sell, although it once agreed to swap 970 acres on the northern fringes of the ranch for 2,456 acres of government land near Pena Blanca. In 1991 the family accepted $1.5 million from the federal government to end a fight over 200 acres claimed by a nearby pueblo.
The area had come under private ownership in the early 1820s when one Don Luis Cabeza de Baca obtained a land grant from the Spanish government.
Today, the Baca Location is closed to the public and is used mostly for grazing. Pat Dunigan died in 1980. The property is controlled by his widow, Anne Dunigan, and her next husband, Pat Wilson. They could not be reached for comment.
13. WESLEY D. ADAMS, Logandale NV
UU Bar Ranch
95,000 acres in Colfax and Mora Counties
UNDERGROUND AND UNKNOWN
The UU Bar Ranch near Las Vegas is another one of those old spreads carved out of the Mora Land Grant. Though some of the land is irrigated, most of it is used for grazing.
According to the Mora County tax assessor's office, title is held by the U.U. Bar Limited Partnership. Who is that? Land, corporation and voting records in New Mexico and Nevada suggest the ultimate owner is Wesley D. Adams, a somewhat mysterious ex-Houstonian who recently relocated to the Las Vegas NV area. He bought the UU Bar about two years ago. The beefy Adams, who turns 48 this month, is said to be the inventor of construction equipment. We unsuccessfully left messages for Adams, at various home and business locations around Las Vegas.
The 40 Largest Private Landowners in New Mexico
NAMES ON THIS PAGE
7. Huning family
8. Michael Mechenbier
9. Leslie and Linda Davis
10. Bogle family
11. John Yates family
12. Dunigan family
13. Wesley D. Adams
From CROSSWINDS, New Mexico’s largest alternative newspaper