In 1910, Helene Haack traveled from Wisconsin to Fort Summer to visit her brother. She decided to stay in New Mexico, first in Belen and then in 1912 she moved to Fort Summer. As a result of a horse accident in which Helene broke her arm, she met and, in 1913 married, John Allen. The couple had three children and operated a number of businesses until John died in 1945. They opened one of Fort Summer’s earliest drug stores, operated the village’s waterworks, acquired land, ran farms, had a mortuary, and operated the village’s Zia Theater. In addition, Helene established the first museum about Billy the Kid that her son operated for a few years before his death.
After 1945, Helene continued to manage the properties and operate the Zia Theater. She also maintained her museum and the ruins of the Old Fort that housed the U.S. troops that oversaw the Bosque Redondo Reservation in the nineteenth century.
While active in many community activities, Helene Haack Allen’s most endearing contribution to the village of Fort Summer was her generous donation to the town of the land that contained her museum and the ruins of the fort. This property initially was developed into Old Fort Park and, when the village turned some of the land over to the State of New Mexico, it became the site of a New Mexico State Monument and, more recently, The Bosque Redondo Memorial Museum. The two state institutions commemorate the area’s ranching history, range wars, and a fitting remembrance to the Navajo and Mescalero Apache Indians who were forced onto a reservation at the site.
Helene Haack Allen’s love of place and appreciation of history is the basis for Fort Summer’s status as an important historical destination point, for its tasteful and sensitive presentation of a non-to-pleasant history that needed to be preserved.
Allen Sparks, Ft. Sumner Museum Living Water. Bob Parsons.
Bob Parson, edit., Our Mid-Pecos History: Living Water; The Families & Events – From Fort to Future, (Mid-Pecos Historical Foundation, n.d.), 31-32.