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Built in 1920 by the Shupe and Willis family, the Carson School symbolizes the long-term educational aspirations of the Carson community. After moving his family to the Carson and claiming their land through the Homestead Act of 1962, William S. Shupe, a saw mill worker, began helping the Carson community. In addition to constructing the school with the aid of his sons, Troy and Verde and his friend, Mr. Willis, Shupe also helped build the Arroyo Aguaje de la Petaca irrigation ditch and planted many acres of pinto beans for the community. The Carson School was reported to have approximately 40 students at its peak when Carson had a population of 150 people. After 1932 when public education was consolidated within the nearby Ojo Caliente Independent School District, the school was used for community activities and functions. In 1986, the Carson school was listed in the National Register for Historic Places for its well-preserved architectural integrity and its historical association with the Carson community.


  • Standing in All of its Glory: Carson School
  • All Drawn Up:The Interior Layout of the School

In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act, granting Americans 160 acres of public land to claim and settle. The act also allowed slaves, immigrants, and women to become landowners. In addition to a filing and commission fee, requirements to acquire land through the act are that the applicants had to be at least 21 years old, never have been borne arms against the U.S., and to live five continuous years on the property. The applicants must also have a house and farm the land. Also, the owners must have two neighbors and/or friends to attest to the government that the requirements were being upheld. Mostly, the act benefited cattlemen, farmers, miners, lumbermen, and railroad workers. These regulations also created an invitation for fraudulent claims and owners abandoning their property before the five year mark due to unforeseen climate issues. Until its repeal in 1976 with the passage of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, over 270 million acres of U.S. land have been claimed.

The Homestead Act of 1862 helped the development of Carson, New Mexico, and in the late 1800s and early 1900s, majority of Carson's land was already claimed and settled. In 1912, William S. Shupe and his family moved to Carson through the Homestead Act. Shupe discovered the vicinity of Carson while leaving from his job at a saw mill in Tres Piedras, which is 25 miles away from Carson. When the family arrived, there were over a dozen families already settled there. Shupe quickly became a vital member of Carson when he and other settlers built an irrigation ditch, which they named Arroyo Aguaje de la Petaca. The irrigation ditch made it possible to irrigate the Carson countryside, The ditch helped produce corn, wheat, and vegetable gardens, which increased the economic boom of the community. The Shupe family also planted many acres of pinto beans.

In 1920, Shupe with the help of his sons, Troy and Verde and his friend, Mr. Willis built the Carson School. Troy handled the contract for the construction while Verde hauled all the water and part of the stone and lumber used in the structure. Mr. Willis, a native stonesman shaped the native basalt rock that was quarried from the Rio Grande Gorge. He also shaped the concrete that was used in the school's construction. The school's exterior included a hipped gabble roof with shingles, a small wooden belfry topped with a flagpole, a wooden door with small square windows, windows on the south side of each wall, and an exposed chimney. On the inside, there are two large rooms divided into an entry hall, which opened to either side into two symmetrical coat rooms. The six pine doors connected the coat rooms, the two large rooms, and the entry hall.

At one time, approximately 40 students attended the school when the population at Carson was only 150. The two classrooms were most likely used to separate the younger students from the older ones. The school also doubled as a gathering place where Mormon services were held. Also, funerals were occasionally held at the school house. After 1932 when public education was consolidated within the nearby Ojo Caliente Independent School District, the school was used for community activities and functions, such as dances, potluck dinners, and autumn country fairs. In 1983, the school was transferred to Frank and Kathy Perry. In 1986, with the help of Kathy Perry, the Carson school was listed in the National Register for Historic Places for its well-preserved architectural integrity and its historical association with the Carson community

"Homestead Act," History.com. August 15th 2019. Accessed June 4th 2020. https://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/homestead-act.

Perry, Kathy. C. Van Dyke, Tina. "Carson School," National Register for Historic Places. February 13th 1986. Accessed June 4th 2020. https://npgallery.nps.gov/NRHP/GetAsset/4ea7f348-43cd-4f64-9402-f32e10f6e2d7.