San Antonio, New Mexico — not Texas

Place Names of New Mexico by Robert Julyan indicates there are 36 places in New Mexico where St. Anthony is mentioned. However, San Antonio at the junction of US 380 and one mile east of I-25 is the only one listed on the current New Mexico map. It is located ten miles south of Socorro and ten miles north of the Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge.

The post office was established in 1870, and is still in existence. The site of this village may date back as far as 1600. According to Mr. Julyan, a document that mentions Estancia de San Antonio exists with that date . Two friars established a mission at the Piro Indian Pueblo, but after the Pueblo revolt of 1680, people left. Floods, pot hunting and recycling of materials makes it very difficult to establish exactly where the pueblo may have existed.

At about the time the post office was established, northern Hispanic settlers began to resettle there, and they kept the name San Antonio. These settlers raised grain, beans, chile, onions and grapes, and the Atcheson Topeka and the Santa Fe Railroad established a station there. The railroad was soon hauling alfalfa, wine, coal and coke. It was the advent of the railroad that ultimately gave the community its fame. Conrad Hilton’s father arrived here in the 1880s and opened a store. He was later to become known as “The merchant king of San Antonio,” as he also established a stage line to White Oaks, a then-mining town eighty miles to the east. He and his wife opened their home as a hotel, and it was here that Conrad had his first “hotel” experience. He and his brother Carl met the trains and carried passengers’ baggage. At $2.50 a day, including meals, the hotel made money. Conrad reports he first thought of being a hotel bellboy when a man gave him a $5 tip.

In his autobiography Be My Guest, Conrad gives an amusing anecdote that indicates the confusion over San Antonio, New Mexico and San Antonio, Texas. “I was not born in Texas,” Conrad says. This unalterable fact caused a brief moment of embarrassment for Governor Beauford H. Jester when he offered to make Conrad a “Texan of Distinction.”

“I had accepted the honor,” Hilton relates. “The press was alerted; the guests bidden to the traditional banquet . . . Being born in Texas was the prime requisite for the pending honor . . . Texans, it would seem, whether distinct or otherwise, are born and not made.”

After much flurry and many phone calls, the Governor found a way out of the dilemma of Conrad being born in New Mexico and not Texas. “You will become the only honorary Texan of Distinction in the world,” said the Governor.

Today the Hilton family home, at Sixth and Main Street, is in ruins. The Owl Bar, a tourist stopover and meeting place for locals, contains the bar from the old Crystal Palace. The bar is listed on the State Historical and Cultural Properties . The old Crystal Palace still stands on Main Street but is not open to the public.

The coal, wine and crops are gone, but San Antonio, New Mexico, still exists.

About Phyllis Eileen Banks