San Marcial had been a thriving railroad town since the 1880s when the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad designated it as a major division point on the Santa Fe's north-south train route through New Mexico.
By the 1920s, San Marcial boasted a bank, a mercantile store, a drug store, an opera house, several churches, public schools and even a Harvey House. Only Socorro surpassed San Marcial in population and prosperity in Socorro County. San Marcial's 1,500 men, women and children were justifiably proud of their close-knit community there work was plentiful and nearly everyone got along.
But the bright skies over San Marcial suddenly darkened in August 1929. Unusually heavy rain caused the Rio Grande to rise so high and so quickly that the reservoir at Elephant Butte (built in 1916) could not handle the overflow. Despite heroic efforts, San Marcial's dike broke on Aug. 13.
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