“Because of the hot mineral springs, which issued from the ground, the Southwestern Indians long before white settlement of the area considered the site of the present Truth or Consequences “neutral grounds”. Here they gathered without conflict for the inter-tribal exchange and to bathe their wounds and other ailments. During the latter half of the 1800's two great ranches were established across the southern part of the area now covered by Sierra County. Cowboys from one of these ranches, the John Cross Ranch, built the first adobe bathhouse over Geronimo Spring.” LaRena Miller, A Visitors Guide to the Geronimo Trail.
Downtown Truth or Consequences sits on a hill above an aquifer. The aquifer was estimated in 1942 to produce 2.26 million gallons a day, making it one of the largest aquifers in North America. The water flows to the surface through faults, taking routes short enough that the water is still hot when it reaches the surface. The hot water also aids in freeing and dissolving minerals along the way. These unique mineral hot springs have long drawn people to Truth or Consequences.
Some think the use of these hot springs goes back as far as the first inhabitants. It is not inconceivable that Indians who first settled this area would have discovered the naturally flowing, warm pools of water. The pools were discovered by all followed. The Chiricahua Apaches named these springs "Place to Pray" and considered the natural hot mineral springs a sacred place: a place for healing, a place for praying, and a gift to be shared with all.
In 1910, before there were bathhouses, people would come down to the water and pull mud up over themselves to soak. Soaking in the mud bogs was a famous therapy for rheumatism. The first homestead entry in what is known as Truth or Consequences was filed in 1910.
The Rio Grande River ran between present day Truth or Consequence's Main and Broadway streets, but at that time there was only one homestead in Truth or Consequences. Truth or Consequences, known then as Palomas Hot Springs, began to grow with the construction of the Elephant Butte Dam in 1911. Growth of the town was spurred by a ban on all liquor and gambling establishments within five miles of the dam. It was incorporated as a town in 1916. In 1919, the dam was finished and it was decided that twenty miles of river channels were too much to maintain, so a new channel was cut between Truth or Consequences and Williamsburg. The new route shortened the channel length to seven miles, moved the river two blocks south of the present day Hay-Yo-Kay bathhouse location, and reclaimed the area, allowing the bathhouses to be built. The town developed as a health resort and trading center for nearby mining, farming, and stock raising areas, and was made the county seat in 1936.
For an interesting historical look at our town from a geothermal perspective, click on Truth or Consequences, New Mexico – A Spa City, by John W. Lund and James C. Witcher.