The Cowgirl who Became a Justice: Sandra Day O'Connor
June 14-November 4, 2018
Prior to Sandra Day O'Connor, no other female in the United States had been given as heavy and as public a yoke to carry in representing women, the West and in turn the best interests of the nation. President Ronald Reagan appointed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor to the United States Supreme Court in 1981; she was the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court since its inception in the late 1700s.
The exhibition features family and public-life photos, ranch artifacts on loan from the Day family, and selected editorial cartoons. Arid desert scenes are juxtaposed with the confirmation hearings and the publicity that surrounded the future Justice.
The Cowgirl Who Became a Justice: Sandra Day O'Connor was organized by the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.
Virgil and Thelma Linam Collection
The staff of the Western Heritage Museum Complex and Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame and New Mexico Junior College is proud to be the home of the Linam Ranch Museum collection. The Thelma A. Webber Trust has graciously donated this collection to the WHM in order to keep the memory of Thelma A. Webber and the significance of her collection and museum alive.
Thelma A. Webber was born October 7, 1906, in Knowles, NM, to John William and Nellie Eller Taylor. John William moved to the area from Texas in 1893 when he was sixteen years old to look for work. As a second generation pioneer to the area (Lea County was not formed until 1917), Thelma had a respect for the land, the work, and the people. At the time when Thelma was born very few families had settled in the area but the Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909, granting farmers 320 acres of land, brought many more families to southeastern New Mexico. During this time the cattlemen, sheep herders, and homesteaders were all vying for land, animals, and most importantly water. Through the early years of violence, sickness and death, and other hardships of pioneer life, Thelma persevered and married James Virgil Linam on December 25, 1921. Thelma and Virgil raised both cattle and buffalo and even after Virgil’s death in December 1959 Thelma and her daughters, Bruce Alene and Alta Faye, operated the ranch and kept the buffalo until 1978. Besides ranching, both Thelma and Virgil had a passion for preserving history. For a long time they had kept sentimental items in their attic, barn, and garage, but in November 1959 Virgil began planning for a fireproof building where they could store all their keepsakes. After Virgil’s death, Thelma focused on running the ranch and made no advances on the would-be museum until, by happenstance, she met a man who was willing to do some stonework. In 1962 the building was completed.
The stone building had a flagstone floor and fireplace, roof columns made of pipes covered with mortar to look like logs, and a concrete roof colored and shaped to look like a straw thatched roof. In 1977 Thelma realized that more space was needed which led to the addition of the wagon shed and again in 1988 more space was needed leading to the addition of the kitchen. Most of the items in the Linam Ranch Museum were used by Thelma and/or Virgil’s family which included the Linam, Thorp, Taylor, and Snow families. Objects in the Museum included early Native American artifacts, pioneer momentos, and special keepsakes, most of which relate directly to the area of southeastern New Mexico. The Museum was not just somewhere to keep objects for Thelma and her family, it was a place to tell stories and keep memories alive. Thelma later married two more times, once to Herman Adlong in 1962 who died in 1969, and the second time to Ladd Webber in 1973. Ladd was the one who gave her the first guest book for the Museum. Ladd helped her to explain and show objects to visitors and he also enjoyed telling stories about experiences from the early days. Thelma had a passion for history and wanted younger generations to know and appreciate their heritage which is why she preserved the objects and told their stories.
Because of her passion, Thelma preserved many examples of early life in the area. We at the Western Heritage Museum Complex and Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame are especially proud to have acquired her collection therefore giving us the chance to continue her mission of educating younger generations about their heritage.
Historic Eclipse Windmill
An historic Eclipse windmill was erected in front of the Western Heritage Museum as a memorial to Shaun Berry. In 2017, the blades of the windmill were moved inside to better preserve it from the weather. The tower was fitted with a replica windmill that will better stand up against the Lea County winds.
Christopher Shaun Berry, son of Danny & Libby Berry, was born October 14, 1978 in Hobbs, NM and was raised on the family ranch west of Eunice, NM.
While in Eunice High School, Shaun participated in basketball and track. He was a member of the state championship track team, running the anchor legs of the relays and the 400- meter sprint. He won the Track Leadership Award and the Sprinter Award in 1996 and in 1998. Shaun graduated from Eunice High School in 1998 and attended Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas on the C.F. McAuliffe rodeo scholarship.
As a youngster, Shaun participated in the Lea County Junior Rodeo Association playdays. He particularly enjoyed team roping and competed in this event in the High Plains Junior Rodeo Association, National High School Rodeo Association, and the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association. He was also a member of the U.S. Team Roping Association.
The cowboy way of life came naturally to Shaun and in the winter of 2003, he decided to leave Sul Ross and come back to the ranch to go into business with his family. With his easygoing personality and ease at pulling practical jokes, he made many good friends and especially enjoyed the times he spent working cattle with neighbors and his family. He had a special way with horses and cattle and refined his skills at mechanics and carpentry.
The ranching heritage and western way of life ran deep in Shaun's roots. He was a fifth generation rancher and cowman ~ a unique cowboy, having patience with horses and people as well as appreciating the history of this area. After discovering an old Eclipse windmill on the ranch, he made plans for its reconstruction, but was never able to carry out the project.
On May 8, 2003, while attending the college graduation of his friends in Alpine, Texas, Shaun was killed in a vehicle accident, coming home to pursue his dreams.
Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame
Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame Inductees
Induction into the Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame is commemorated with the presentation of the Cowboy Hall of Fame Inductee Award. This award is given annually to no more than four men and/or women who have roots in Lea County and who have distinguished themselves in the rodeo world or have contributed to the area's ranching industry. In addition to the three individuals selected by the membership, the Board of Directors may choose no more than one person per year who meets special criteria. Each inductee receives their own case in the Hall with artifacts donated by their families and a poster bio. Want to nominate someone for induction? Nominations are accepted all year round. The board will vote on and send out ballets in late August/September. Nomination forms can be found here.
For men, women or animals not eligible for induction in to the Hall of Fame, but who deserve to be remembered for their service throughout Lea County, the Board of Directors of the Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame instituted a "special recognition award" known as the Silver Concho. Silver Conchos are honored with their picture on the Silver Concho wall within the Hall. Click here for a list of the Silver Conchos.
The Board of Directors recognize those who are "actively preserving the fast-fading cowboy way of life." The Outstanding Ranchers Award is presented to an individual(s) whose occupation is ranching, and is recognized as a business person with ethics, integrity and honor.
The Working Cowboy Award is bestowed to the individual who is a wage-earning cowboy who exemplifies ability, dependability and character.