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Sierra County honors colorful pioneer at Sadie Orchard Day

The Sierra County Historical Society will celebrate the life of pioneer Sadie Orchard and honor Sierra County's colorful and often tumultuous history during this year's Sadie Orchard Day celebration.

Actors portray a scene from Sierra County's past during a previous Sadie Orchard Day celebration. (Courtesy Photo)

Festivities begin a 4 p.m. Aug. 18 with a skit eulogizing Sadie, followed by a gravesite tribute. This will be followed by several unusual games, including bed races, chamber pot relays, and a watermelon-seed-spitting contest. Barbecue and hot dogs will be for sale. There will be live music and a sarsaparilla bar. All events take place at or near Geronimo Springs Museum, 211 Main St., in Truth or Consequences.

Sadie first came to Kingston, about 25 miles west of Truth or Consequences, around 1885 and opened a brothel on Virtue Avenue. She and her girls collected money for a church to be built. In 1886 she moved her business to Hillsboro, the county seat of Sierra County a few miles to the east. She later married J.W. Orchard, owner of the Orchard stage lines.

Sadie was an astute businesswoman, running a boarding house and two hotels, as well as the stage coach line. The coach line ran passengers and freight between the railroad station at Lake Valley and the mining towns of Hillsboro and Kingston. She was known to handle the reins and drive the horses herself when occasion demanded.

When a new church was needed, Sadie raised money. When the new school needed books, Sadie was there to buy them. During the influenza epidemic of the early 1900s, Sadie nursed the sick, had coffins made for the babies who died and paid for the burials. The coffins were lined with silk from her petticoats.

Sadie took an interest in local politics, and when the voters elected to move the county seat to Hot Springs, Sadie, along with other Hillsboro business people, filed suit against the county commission for election fraud. They lost the case, but the trial transcript is said to be very entertaining reading.

Sadie's spirit of doing whatever was necessary in hard times to get by and helping her fellow human beings exemplifies the pioneering spirit.

In honor of Sadie Orchard Day, the Museum will waive admission charges all day on Aug. 18, and will remain open throughout the evening during the Sadie Orchard Day activities.

This event is promoted with the help of REDTT, Rural Economic Development Through Tourism. REDTT is part of New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. NMSU is committed to helping both educate and improve the lives of people across the state through continuing Extension efforts.

For more information on this event, contact Geronimo Springs Museum (505) 894-6600.