Today we members of the Grant County Archaeological Society celebrate our 80th year since we filed our Certificate of Incorporation with the State of New Mexico on July 14, 1938. That alone would make our group one of the oldest if not the oldest archaeological organizations in the state. But there's more. We have actually been an active, continuously chartered archaeological organization for 90 years.
In 1928, a group of 16 men and women interested in Grant County's prehistoric Native ruins met in Fort Bayard in Mrs. Anna Davis's tea room to investigate the possibility of organizing a local chapter of the Archaeological Institute of America. Later that same year the group became the Grant County Chapter of the New Mexico Archaeological Society and continued operating under that name until incorporating as the Grant County Archaeological Society in 1938.
Shown up there in the right corner is Dr. Edgar L. Hewett of the Museum of New Mexico. He is best known for his instrumental role in gaining passage of the 1906 Antiquities Act, a pioneering piece of legislation for the conservation movement. He was also one of our group's first speakers. In 1929 he presented our group with a lecture on archaeological field work that included a slideshow illustrating the then-innovative use of aircraft for archeological exploration. One of Dr. Hewett's purposes was to mobilize groups like ours to protect local archaeological sites from destruction by looting, development, and natural forces. We later reflected Dr. Hewett's ideals in our own mission statement.
By August, 1933, our group was listed with the American Council of Learned Societies and had had years of continuous monthly meetings with at least one excavation in the Burro Mountains. We created two museum displays - one exhibited at the Chamber of Commerce building on Broadway in Silver City, the second one at the Bayard Inn in Bayard. The formation of a junior archeological organization was in the works to encourage boys and girls to study archaeology and learn the value of preserving archaeological sites and objects.
In about 1940, many GCAS members and other individuals raised enough money to incorporate as the Grant County Museum Association and buy the R.C. Eisele collection of Mimbres ceramics and other Native artifacts. Ultimately the Museum Association donated this collection to Western New Mexico University, where to this day it forms the core of WNMU's museum exhibits at Fleming Hall.
Our membership fees were $2 per person in 1928. By 1944 they had increased to $4 per person. Today, in 2018, they are $15 per person which happens to be precisely in line with overall inflationary trends. In other words, it is still a good deal.
Between June 1949 and February 1952 no GCAS meetings were held due to lack of interest, but during the decades since then our group resumed and continues regular monthly meetings and field trips. Our members have also regularly volunteered to work on professional archaeological excavations; supported the Mimbres Culture Heritage Site by giving tours, maintaining interpretive trails, and creating museum exhibits; and assisted local schoolteachers in classroom and field trip activities so that our county's schoolchildren can learn more about the rich cultural history of the area they call home. We of the GCAS remain active in the current events surrounding archaeological legislative policy and preservation. Please take time to read about more of our exploits here.
We hope to continue our work in our community for another 90 years and more. We would welcome anyone to join us as we explore our area and share what we learn with our friends and neighbors.
Happy Birthday(s) to the GCAS!