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Barker Mountain

Mount Barker, in the main range of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, one mile southwest of Elk Mountain[1], was named to honor a local family whose members made significant contributions to New Mexico. They included S. Omar Barker, his wife Elsa and Omar’s older brother Elliott[2]. The 11,450 foot (3,490 meter) peak is about 22 miles northwest of Las Vegas. It received its official designation in October 1994 from the U.S. Board of Geographic Names[3].


Elliott Barker

 Elliott Speer Barker was born on Christmas Day 1886 in Moran, Texas, to Squire and Priscilla Barker. Elliott was one of eleven children which included siblings Squire Omar Barker and Grace Barker Wilson. The family pioneered from Texas to New Mexico by covered wagon in 1889. They eventually settled outside of Las Vegas.

 Elliott Barker was home educated until the fifth grade and attended school at Las Vegas through high school. He took a six-month photography course in Effingham, Ill., and worked briefly as a portrait photographer.

 From 1908-1909 Elliott Barker worked as a professional hunter and guide. From 1909-1919 he worked for the U. S. Forest Service as a ranger and supervisor. For several years he worked at ranching until 1931, when he became Director of the Department of Game and Fish.

 Elliott served in this capacity for 22 years. In 1950 Barker donated Smokey Bear, the bear cub rescued from the Capitan, NM fire, to the U. S. Forest Service on behalf of the State Department of Game and Fish. Barker traveled with the bear to his new home in Washington, DC.

 Elliott was the executive secretary of the New Mexico Wildlife and Conservation Association from 1959 to 1966. He published a book of poems and several books about his wilderness experiences including When the Dogs Bark 'Treed' and Beatty's Cabin.

 In 1911, Elliott married Ethel M. Arnold. They had three children: Roy E. Barker, Florence Giers, and Dorothy Elmore.

Elliott died April 3, 1988 in Santa Fe, he was 101[4].


S. Omar Barker

S. Omar Barker was lauded as the “Poet Lariat” of New Mexico. He was also a rancher, high school teacher, college professor, forest ranger, soldier, outdoorsman and legislator. His first book of poetry appeared in 1928. Later he attained international recognition for numerous poems and short stories depicting cattle country folklore in ranch vernacular and for two books; Little World Apart and Rawhide Rhymes. 

An example of his poetry is entitled Grave Error. “Boot Hill was the pay-off, them old-timers claim/For men that pulled triggers without takin' aim.”

Probably his probably best known work was A Cowboy's Christmas Prayer which was recorded by Tennessee Ernie Ford and Jimmy Dean.  He won the Western Writers of America Spur Award twice and was 1967 recipient of the Levi Strauss Saddleman Award for bringing honor and dignity to the Western legend.

He was the first living author inducted into the Hall of Fame of Great Western Writers in the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City.

Squire Omar was born in Beulah on the Sapelleo River in 1894 and attended high school and college in Las Vegas[5].       

Both S. Omar and his wife Elsa were members of the Western Writers of America and served in succession as presidents of the organization. He often signed his letters with his trademark brand “Lazy SOB”[6]. The Barker room in the Las Vegas Carnegie Library features the Lazy SOB brand as a chandelier.

Squire Barker died April 4, 1985. He is buried at Santa Fe National Cemetery.


Elsa M. Barker (1906 – 1986)

Elsa Barker was a cover-featured author for Ranch Romance Magazine throughout the heyday of Western fiction pulp magazines and was contributor to many other magazines as well. Several of her serials and novelettes were distributed world-wide. She wrote some 200 short stories.

Las Vegas area-writer Elsa Barker wrote Riders of the Ramhorn (1956), Clouds Over the Chupaderos (1957), Cowboys Can't Quit (1957), Showdown at Peñasco Pass (1958), War on the Big Hat (1959), and Secret of the Badlands (1960).  All were published under the name "E.M. Barker," since editors at that time did not believe fans of Westerns would read books written by women.        

She was born in Illinois in 1906. In 1927 she met and married S. Omar Barker. Elsa graduated from what is now New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, and taught high school English in Las Vegas. She and Omar joined the Western Writers of America. Both served a term as president of the organization.     

Her husband wrote a tribute which said in part, "Elsa shares with me a great love of the outdoor West, as well as a fondness for and tenderheartedness toward dumb animals -- maybe especially housecats and horses. Essentially a quiet person, maybe a little reserved, she is completely friendly, not uncomfortably shy nor without independent opinions. If she has any vice, it is reading books when she ought to be asleep.”

Six of Elsa's novels were published in England and Holland. Her novels War on the Big Hat and Clouds Over the Chupaderos appeared in French, published by the 30,000 member Club de Lecture des Jeunes in Paris under the titles Le Ranch du Grand Chapeau and Cowboy au Nouveau Mexique.

Elsa Barker died on April 10, 1996 and is buried at Santa Fe National Cemetery Section 6, Site 1199, alongside her husband Squire Barker.


[1] The Place Names of New Mexico

[2]  accessed 12 August 2011

[3] Latitude 354548N, Longitude 1053411W

[4] Sketch accompanying Elliott Barker papers at New Mexico State University Library, Archives and Special Collections,  accessed 7/18/2011

[5]         accessed Aug. 12, 2011

[6] Ibid