The City of Moriarty was named for the first permanent family to settle in the community. Michael Timothy Moriarty, his wife and their three children arrived (at what is now Moriarty) in the fall of 1887, and homesteaded their land. Mr. Moriarty had moved his family from their farm home in Iowa to avoid the cold winters, which had aggravated his rheumatism. The first Moriarty family home was located about a mile and a quarter west of present day Moriarty. There were no railroads, no towns, and very few settlers in the Estancia Valley. The area was suited for cattle grazing, and Michael Moriarty became one of the many ranchers in central New Mexico.
A post office was established in Moriarty in 1903, with Michael Moriarty as the first postmaster. Before the railroad was built, the mail was brought to Moriarty by a horseback rider from Chilili. The Santa Fe Central Railroad built a line in this area in 1903; and in 1908, the line became the New Mexico Central Railroad. The railroad was built between the communities of Kennedy (southeast of Santa Fe) and Torrance, in southeastern Torrance County: passing though Stanley, Moriarty, Estancia, Willard, Progresso, and Cedarvale. This new passenger and freight line was opened to provide connections between Santa Fe and El Paso, and Santa Fe and Chicago via connecting lines at Torrance. Following the arrival of the railroad, a rush of homesteaders from Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Iowa cut the land into farms and fields. The railroad company built a depot, opened a telegraph office, and established a town which it called Moriarty. The Moriarty Depot soon became the center attraction in the community. Mr. Moriarty built the first store, which he rented to Dunlavy Mercantile Company. Another early business was the Levi Hughes store, which years later became the Moriarty Trading Company. The new town also had a grocery store, two hotels, a livery stable, and later a drugstore. The town also had a doctor in the early 1900's. The commercial buildings of the original town of Moriarty were located on present day Center Avenue. Many of the original buildings were destroyed by fire in the mid-1920's.
In 1906, Mr. Moriarty and Pete Vigil were chosen to obtain material, money and labor to build a school house. The railroad company donated land on which to construct the building. When the school was built in 1907, it also served as the center for church activities. That first school was located in the vicinity of the present day intersection of Girard Avenue and Eighth Street. Also in 1907, the Moriarty Messenger began publishing a weekly newspaper, and the Moriarty Commercial Club was organized to attract business to the town and settlers to farms. As a result of the drought of the early 1930's, farmers were forced to leave Moriarty and the Estancia Valley. However, a new community named Buford, for Buford Crossley, was built around the intersection of U.S. Highway (Route) 66 and State Highway 41, approximately one mile north of the original town site of Moriarty. Both areas were combined into the City of Moriarty in 1953 when the City was incorporated. Eventually, tourist traffic and the development of irrigated farms led to the rejuvenated growth of this community.
Route 66 was formed in 1926 by the Federal Highway Act. Originally, Route 66 was located just west of Santa Rosa with a route turning north toward Santa Fe. However, in 1937, Route 66 was re-routed to NM Highway 6 in the Rio Grande valley and passed through Moriarty. In the 1960's, Route 66 was superceded by Interstate 40. Two I-40 interchanges were completed for Moriarty in the 1970's, resulting in greater accessibility and the potential for increased growth.
In 1975, the railroad tracks which had been inactive for many years were removed and the right-of-way was sold. While the railroad origins of the City were diminished, the traditional gridded street pattern remained as evidence of the railroad days of the past. Moriarty continues to prosper as a service community for travelers; however, it now serves visitors as a highway community rather than a railroad community.
Click here to download a PDF of the 1985 article when Moriarty's Oldest Business burns.
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Bogging photos courtesy Bob Ayre | All other photos courtesy Mountain View Telegraph, unless otherwise specified