Pie Town’s Pie Festival is held as a benefit for Pie Town, New Mexico.
Pie Town is located in Catron County in West-Central New Mexico just west of the Continental Divide at nearly 8,000 feet elevation. The Pie Town Post Office serves roughly 40 families in town and about 200 families on the surrounding ranches and subdivisions.
There are several versions of the story about the founding of the town and how we came to be called Pie Town. There may be some discrepancy in dates but these are the basic facts.
In 1922 a veteran of WW I by the name of Clyde Norman filed a 40-acre mining claim called the Hound Pup Load for gold and silver along the route of what would become US 60. Next to this a trail had been set aside to drive cattle to a railhead 60 miles to the east in Magdalena—this would be called the Driveway. Although US 60 bills itself as the Nation’s first coast-to-coast highway, when Clyde Norman settled here, the Driveway was the more important route—both sheep and cattle used the route to get meat to market. Norman’s mining claim was not very successful, so he opened a small store to supplement his income. He sold gasoline, kerosene and pies made from dried fruit. Some versions of his story say he first tried selling donuts made by a lady in Datil, but she found out what he was doing, stopped selling to him and told him to make his own. He couldn’t, so he switched to the dried pies he had grown up with in Texas. Other stories say that Norman himself made the pies, but some versions say his teenaged niece did the cooking for him. At any rate, the pies were a hit with the cowboys on the cattle drives who went out of their way to stop at the pie town.
In 1924, Harmon L. Craig bought a half-interest in Pie Town from Norman for “one dollar of good and lawful money and other good and valuable consideration” or so the story goes. The actual deed of sale recorded in the county seal shows that Craig actually paid $700 and for that got the land, the Hound Pup claim and two cows with calves. A pretty good deal, either way. Craig became Pie Town’s leading citizen. He owned the mercantile store, a Chevron service station and garage, a café and a pinto bean warehouse called the beanery, which also acted as a roller skating rink when beans were not being harvested. Most of the families that settled in Pie Town had come from Texas and Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl and established homesteads. The bean warehouse provided local homesteaders a way to market their crops, for dry farming pinto beans was a good deal in the ‘30s and 1940s. Mr. Craig helped these families struggling through the Depression by selling land below market value, and by making loans with no collateral and no interest.
When it came time to establish a post office for the town the Postmaster General thought Pie Town was not an appropriate name, but the local citizens insisted that was the only acceptable name. So Pie Town stuck.
In 1940, Farm Security Administration photographer Russell Lee took an extensive set of photographs of Pie Town, including some using the new Kodachrome color film. Those photographs are in the National Archives.
Today’s residents of Pie Town still have the sense of community and self-sufficiency that sustained the earlier settlers. We enjoy a unique tranquility in one of the few places in the United States where you can still see the Milky Way.