Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Arid Domain: The Santa Fe Railway and Its Western Land
Grant. By William S. Greever. Stanford, California (Stan-
ford University Press), 1954. Pp. x+ 84. Maps, appendices,
bibliography, index. $4.00.
All sorts of histories have been written on the Santa Fe Rail-
way, and all sorts of histories of railway and grant policies have
been compiled by such noted practitioners as Richard C. Over-
ton and Paul W. Gates under the stimulus of Professor Frederick
Merk of Harvard University. But now comes William S. Greever,
a professor at the University of Idaho, to give a new look at this
phase of Western American history.
For one thing, although there have been any number of Santa
Fe histories, the Santa Fe land grant story has not been told be-
fore in any detail. In the second place, unlike its sister railroads
in the West, the Santa Fe never made any particular attempt to
colonize its lands, mainly because its lands were in the arid areas
and therefore generally unfit for conscientious colonization.
Most of its acreage was in New Mexico and Arizona and had
some validity as pasturage, but for timber resources or for gen-
eral agriculture the land generally was valueless. But through
canny sales and through a patient policy of waiting for the coun-
try's land values to develop, the Santa Fe realized a net profit
of nearly $16 million between 1897 and 1952, though when you
subtract the half-price freight rates which had to be given the
government under the land-grant arrangement, you can, perhaps,
reduce that net profit figure right out of sight.
Regardless of whether Santa Fe profited, it apparently had a
land department that could resist the temptation of promoters
who wished to colonize its arid lands without providing adequate
water. And the Santa Fe undoubtedly played a considerable
role in the economic development of New Mexico and Arizona,
both from operating a railroad and from slowly dispensing a
huge land holding.
Although the Texas Panhandle can lay claim to the Santa
Fe as one of its roads, Professor Greever's book has little mention
of Texas, a natural omission, since the federal government had
no Texas lands with which to smooth the Santa Fe's financial
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 60, July 1956 - April, 1957. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101163/. Accessed March 12, 2014.