The Library of Congress has a fascinating collection of over 600 photographs taken in Pie Town, New Mexico by documentary photographer Russell Lee, mostly black & white but a fair number in color.
Russell Lee is one of a number of photographers hired to work under Roy Stryker in the Farm Security Administration (FSA) during the Depression “to document the plight of the rural poor.” The FSA collection in The Library of Congress Archives archives contain approximately 77,000 images and are well worth a visit or two.
Pie Town in the 1930s was being homesteaded by families from Oklahoma and Texas looking to build a new life.
It was surprising to me to see how primitively people were living in America as recently as the 1940s.
I have wondered what happened to the families photographed by Russell Lee.
I located an answer in the form of an article by Paul Hendrickson and published by magazine in 2005 documenting what he found when he visited Pie Town 65 years after Russell Lee.
When Russell Lee arrived in 1939 Pie Town “boasted a Farm Bureau building, a hardware and feed store, a café and curio shop, a hotel, a baseball team, an elementary school, a taxidermy business.”
They had daily (except Sunday) stagecoach service, “operated by Santa Fe Trail Stages, with a uniformed driver and with the passengers’ luggage roped to the roof of a big sedan or woody station wagon.”
I am in awe of what they were able to accomplish.
Not too many years later the weather changed and the farms and gardens and homesteaders disappeared.
Today the homesteaders of the 1930s are gone and Pie Town is “no more than a wide spot in the road.” But they still love their pie.