The Oliver Lee Dog Canyon Ranch at Oliver Lee State Park south of Alamogordo represents the life and times of a prominent rancher and politician who overcame the adversarial conditions of developing a ranch in the "open range" of territorial period New Mexico. Oliver Milton Lee, born to a ranching family in Buffalo Gap, Texas, came to New Mexico in 1884 as a teenager. Lee and his half-brother, Perry Altman, came from Little Elm Creek, Texas, in search of open rangeland and a good market for horses. Within a few years he had developed a reputation for fearlessness and straight shooting. By 1893, he had settled on the mouth of Dog Canyon as the best location for his ranch. Building an extensive house, possibly with the assistance of Francois-Jean (Frenchy) Rochas, a French immigrant who homesteaded at the mouth of Dog Canyon, Oliver Lee used the location to develop one of the most extensive ranching empires in southern New Mexico.
The early years were full of controversy as larger ranches and organized ranching associations sought to limit the activities of smaller ranchers. Gunplay was not uncommon and Oliver Lee was involved and allegedly involved in many of the resulting conflicts. Overcoming these trials, he became a much respected rancher and politician, serving several terms in the New Mexico legislature as a representative or senator from 1918 to 1930. Oliver Lee died quietly in 1941, aged 76, at his home in Alamogordo. His death ended one of the most colorful careers in New Mexico history, and signaled the close of an era.
In 1984, as a preliminary step to the reconstruction of the Oliver Lee Ranch House at Oliver Lee State Park, Human Systems Research excavated the majority of the interior rooms and much of the exterior walkways at this historic house. The artifacts and features of the house revealed much of the "nuts and bolts" of ranch life for a growing family in the late 1890s and early 1900s. Oliver Lee moved from the ranch house in 1907, moving to a new headquarters along the Sacramento River. Subsequently the house was rented and then used as a cow camp. After the land was purchased by the National Park Service to provide water to White Sands Monument, the house fell into disrepair. In 1971, Disney leased the house location to make the movie Scandalous John starring Brian Keith. In the early 1980s, New Mexico State Parks acquired use of the land as part of Oliver Lee State Park, leading to the excavation and restoration of the house.