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History & Nostalgia

Last updated on Monday, February 24, 2003

Blackwater Draw Museum — traces of Clovis Man
Blackwater Draw Locality No. 1, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is one of the most important archeological sites in the New World. The Blackwater Draw Museum has wonderful displays of bones and artifacts to educate adults and children in the history of New Mexico as well as the New World.

Christmas in Kingston (1882)
Christmas was coming to Kingston. The Christmas spirit was in the air. Every burro that came into town over mountain trails packed a Christmas tree, a big bunch of mistletoe, or a branch of red berries. A little of the evergreen went to decorate Mrs. O'Boyle's cabin where the Catholics of Kingston would gather on Christmas afternoon to celebrate the birth of Christ; some of the holiday green went to brighten up the eleven saloons of the town; but most of it went to adorn Pretty Sam's new dance hall, the Casino.

Columbus, New Mexico — Pancho Villa and the Railroad Depot Museum
What vision comes to mind when you hear the name Pancho Villa? Bandit, hero, valiant leader, ruthless tyrant? All of those names have been associated with him. He was not an easy man to define; it would depend on when you met him during his career. Here in Columbus, New Mexico, the same holds true. Some of our citizens have been told by their older relatives that he was a defender of the people. Others say he killed many of his countrymen in their villages.

Columbus, New Mexico's soiled doves
From the Ringo Kid's girlfriend Claire in Stagecoach, through Miss Kitty in television's Gunsmoke, to the waif-like Diane Lane in Lonesome Dove the prostitute has been among the more enduring images of the literary and cinematic West. She was called "soiled dove", "shady lady", "fallen woman,” "lost sister", "saloon belle", and a host of other appellations. She was quite simply the ubiquitous whore, and her portrait has been painted on many different canvases and in a generous and imaginative assortment of colors.

Geronimo's surrender — Skeleton Canyon, 1886
On May 17, 1885, Mangus (son of Mangus Colorado), Chihuahua, Nachite, old Nana, the shaman Geronimo, and their followers fled the San Carlos reservation in Arizona in an attempt to regain the freedom they had known before the reservation system was instituted by the United States government. The restrictions of reservation life were difficult for these semi-nomads, and they longed for the openness of the land the Spaniards had called Apacheria. Although the Chiracahuas could not have foreseen it, this was to be their last attempt to recapture the old ways that many of their cousins had already forsaken.

Gran Quivira — a part of Salinas National Monument
The Spanish gave this Anasazi village the name of Pueblo de Las Humanas (a thriving pueblo) when Oñate first approached it in 1598 to accept the oath of allegiance to Spain. Largest of the Salinas pueblos, it was occupied for nearly nine centuries, 800 A.D. to 1672 A.D. Later, Spaniards called it Gran Quivira, the object of Coronado's and Oñate's futile search for gold.

Historical Center for Southeast New Mexico — a living history
The Historical Center for Southeast New Mexico, 200 North Lea Street, Roswell, New Mexico was constructed in 1910 and listed in the National Register of Historical Places.  This stately home, once the residence of James Phelps White, houses the Museum. The yellow-brick home, with its gently sweeping rooflines and large porches, is an excellent example of the prairie-style house developed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It is a reminder of turn-of-the-century life in Southeastern New Mexico.

Ice Age Mammoth Remains Uncovered in Southern New Mexico
In the fall of 1990, Marlo Sharpe, a local miner and geologist, and his wife Barbara chanced upon what appeared to be a tusk eroding out of the wall of Dry Gulch, just outside of Nogal, New Mexico.

Jornada Del Muerto — 90 miles of hell
The roughest and deadliest part of the Camino Real, from Mexico City to Santa Fe, was the stretch between Las Cruces and Socorro called Jornada del Muerto or Journey of the Dead. A broad, flat valley with no water, grazing or firewood, it offered no amenities to travelers for 90 miles.

José Chavez y Chavez — Hombre Muy Malo
In the days of the Old West, New Mexico was home, at one time or another, to many of the more colorful desperadoes. The Clantons, William Bonney, Jesse Evans, William "Curley Bill" Brocius, Clay Allison, Doroteo "El Tigre" Sains, Tom "Black Jack" Ketchum, John "King of the Rustlers" Kinney, Jim Miller, and Johnny Ringo are a relatively small sample. Because of its remoteness and proximity to the Mexican border, Southern New Mexico attracted a large number of outlaws:  violent men who lived from the labor of others, who were quick to kill, and for whom the conventions of settled society meant little. A man who fit the mold of New Mexican outlaw, and has been largely ignored by historians and folklorists, was José Chavez y Chavez.

Kas-Tziden's fury — (Nana's raid)
The Tcihene, or "red paint people", were the eastern band of the Chiracahua Apaches. Their home was in the Black Range, the Mogollon, and the San Mateo Mountains of New Mexico. The settlers in the area, small farmers and villagers at first, called them Warm Spring or Mimbres Apaches and did not want them for neighbors. Soon miners were exploring the ore-rich mountains of the region and with strikes came the boomtowns with hotels, saloons, churches, homes and schools. Caught between 1) a growing number of settlers, 2) the vacillating policies of the Indian agencies, and 3) the Army's mission to establish and maintain peace in the area, the Tcihene found their old ways of life challenged at every turn.

La Mesilla, New Mexico — the last 100 years
La Mesilla, New Mexico, has changed little since Billy the Kid and Jesse Evans died at the end of its lusty frontier atmosphere. Thick-walled adobe buildings erected by the remarkable men who trekked the heels of Don Rafael Rules from the heart of Old Mexico to settle in the spawning Rio Grande Valley are much the same as they were when 10-year-old Mary Maxwell, the daughter of one of La Mesilla’s forthright citizens, was carted off by a hungry mountain lion while gathering wildberries.

Leopold Legacies — how he came to preserve the Gila Wilderness

It is autumn 1919, in a wild and scenic area of New Mexico's Gila Forest. A young assistant district forester named Aldo Leopold is on horseback, trying to imagine what his surroundings will be like if a proposed road system goes through, a "civilizing" influence becoming all too familiar in other forests of the Southwest.

Not here, he resolves. Something must be done to save it so future generations will be able to enjoy the purity and beauty of this back country.

New Mexico's Scenic Byways: The Salt Missions Trail
You say you're bored, the kids are restless, nothing to do! Well, how about spending a day discovering some of New Mexico's great history? This scenic drive will take you to three ancient Indian pueblos and the ruins of three awe-inspiring Spanish mission churches that are some of the most beautiful to be found anywhere in the United States. Along this route you can also hike and play in the Cibola National Forest, bike, camp or fish among the pine, aspen, and maple forests of the Manzano Mountains at Manzano Mountains State Park.

Shakespeare, New Mexico — Don't Expect Disney
For travelers on I-10 in Southern New Mexico, there's an escape from the truck traffic and even from the 20th century:  a side trip to the ghost town of Shakespeare, located about three miles south of Lordsburg. Because this place is privately owned by the Hill family, a visitor has to catch one of the weekend tours (Call ahead to schedule).

Southwest Mining — a history

Possibly the best known name in Southwest mining is Phelps-Dodge. You might well ask yourself, "Where did they find this corporate name?"

Well, Easterners Anson Greene Phelps and William E. Dodge started a trading company back in 1834. At the time neither of the partners knew squat about digging minerals from the earth, but they were astute businessmen.

By 1881 when the founders met William Church, fresh from Arizona Territory, they'd expanded their knowledge base. Without ever setting foot in the Southwest, the partners knew that mining your own copper and making it into telegraph wire was a lot cheaper than buying imported copper and making it into telegraph wire. They bought Church's mining claim. Cheap.

Steins — a Railroad Ghost Town
Sometimes the unseen hand of fate descends to arrange a unique opportunity. When visiting Steins (pronounced Steens) Railroad Ghost Town, just off I-10 in southern New Mexico near the Arizona state line, I had the chance to take a rare photograph.

The Butterfield Overland Mail — stitching the country together
On a time line, the two and one-half year operation (1857-1861) of the Butterfield Overland Mail was but a  flash in the history of transportation in the United States.  But this short-lived operation captured and held the imagination of Americans because it stitched together the growing country from sea to sea.

The Camino Real — Four Hundred Years of Migration
In January 1598, Don Juan de Oñate set forth with an expedition to colonize the lands of New Mexico. Eighty-three wagons carried munitions, supplies and food for 400 men, some soldiers, some colonists. One hundred families, eight priests and two lay brothers accompanied them. Seven thousand head of livestock, grapevine cuttings, seeds and tools were brought to help settlers survive and establish new homes.

The Gadsen Purchase of 1854 — Securing Mesilla Valley
Events always have a precursor and the Gadsden Purchase is no exception. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed on February 2, 1848, ended the war with Mexico. It confirmed U.S. claims to Texas and set its boundary at the Rio Grande.  Mexico also agreed to cede to the United States, California and New Mexico. This included what is now California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah as well as parts of New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming. The purchase price was $15 million and assumption by the United States of claims against Mexico by U. S. citizens. The U. S. Senate ratified it on March 10, 1848 and the Mexican Congress on May 25.

The Gila Wilderness—The Ghosts of Those Who Came Before

More than eight centuries ago, long before this country was discovered by the white man, a Native American people known as the Mogollon lived in southwestern New Mexico. They hunted, gathered and prospered. Around 1300 AD, they disappeared.

Their land became inhabited by the Apache. They, too, hunted, gathered, and prospered, led by chiefs whose names have become synonymous with the area: Victorio, Nana, Geronimo. Then in 1875, a U.S. Calvary sergeant by the name of James Cooney discovered yet another reason for gathering and prospering in this area: Some of the richest gold and silver veins in the world were here.

The LC Ranch — Cattle Baron of the Gila

By It has been written that behind every great personal fortune lies a crime, and there is probably no better illustration of that adage than the cattle empires of the Old West. New Mexico's territorial days offer a number of such illustrations, but perhaps none better than the story of the Lyons and Campbell Ranch and Cattle Company of the Gila River country and beyond.

Angus Campbell, a Scotsman, came to New Mexico from California after gold-rushing with his parents. He discovered what became the Gosette Mine on Lone Mountain in the late 1870s, established a foundry in Silver City, and went into business with Thomas Lyons, an Englishman who had recently arrived in the Territory from Wisconsin. The partnership prospered, but the two decided that the future was in cattle and in 1880 sold their mine and foundry and began to acquire land and cattle. The "LC," as the company was popularly known, began its climb from modest ranch to cattle empire, and its holdings at the turn of the century stretched from Silver City west to Arizona and from Mule Creek south to Animas - more, it was said, than five hundred thousand acres.

The Lincoln County War (1878-79) — Competition Wasn't Welcome

Nomad Indians dominated Lincoln County's population, but it had also been inhabited for hundreds of years along the Rio Grande and its branch by casual settlers. For many years, New Mexico was looked upon by politicians in Washington as an abandoned puppy among the states and territories. In 1874, General Tecumseh Sherman, testifying before the senate committee, thundered from the pulpit, "ownership of the Territory of New Mexico is not worth the cost of defense."

In 1849, the U.S. Government paid $10,000,000 to the State of Texas to settle the boundary dispute between New Mexico and Texas, spending a small fortune to keep a curb on the ferocious Indians and ruthless cutthroats widespread in the territory. In 1863, the Territory of Arizona was established by cutting off the western half of New Mexico. At the same time the uncivilized boundaries between New Mexico and Colorado were straightened. Arizona depended on the courage and gunslinging skills of imported peace officers along with the full and uncompromising support of the citizenry.

The Luna Valley Ruins — attempting to preserve ten rooms and a great kiva

The high valley in which the tiny town of Luna, New Mexico, sits is surpassingly beautiful. The San Francisco River courses by under enormous cottonwood trees, and the green valley stretches between piney mountains. Luna itself, rustic and basic, could hail from an era when cowpokes rode alongside their herds, ropes a-twirl, spurs flashing in the sunlight.

Actually, an even more radical time shift is required of the visitor who would take in everything Luna has to offer. With the re-opening of the Hough Ruin (pronounced HUFF), one must stretch one's imagination 700 years back in time, when another civilization peopled this lovely valley.

The Old Dowlin Mill

The sound of water cascading over the immense wooden wheel is sometimes barely audible over the traffic on Ruidoso’s main street. But the wheel turns as steadily as it did more than a century ago. Inside the adobe walls of the old Dowlin Mill , two flint millstones slowly grind a handful of dried yellow corn into fine meal.

The mill, Ruidoso’s oldest building, was built by Paul Dowlin, a Civil War veteran and retired Army captain who served at nearby Fort Stanton. It was his second attempt in the mill business. The first mill, built at the junction of Ruidoso River and Carrizo Creek, was swept away by heavy rains just a few weeks after its completion.

The Other UFO Crash — Something Happened

Around the 4th of July every year, Roswell, New Mexico hosts a UFO festival built around the Roswell Incident. Months before, the motels in and around Roswell can be sold out. The hoopla included a parade, film festival, rock concert, costume contest, bicycle run and a glow-in-the-dark golf tournament. Any spare time the visitor had could be spent at the two UFO museums. Any spare money could be spent for T-shirts, toys, gimmicks and statues that only the outer limits of the imagination can curb.

But what about the other UFO crash in 1947, the one on the San Agustin Plains?

The Seven Cities of Gold
The Seven Cities of Gold has been a New Mexico fable since before Fray Marcos de Niza claimed to have seen them in 1539. As soon as Cortes and crew finished conquering the Aztec Empire in the early 1520s, they set out to find the legendary Seven Cities of Gold, said to have been established by seven bishops who fled Spain after the Moorish conquest to hide gold, gems, and religious articles in the New World.

The Story of Frances Baca — Threads that weave us together

A sequence of events can occur in the most unexpected ways. An article titled “Folklore of Lincoln County Post Offices” brought an e-mail from two sisters in Indiana who were working on their family geneology. The thread that wove New Mexico and Indiana together was that their great grandmother had been one of the postmasters of Lincoln County in the early 1900s.

Although family oral history isn’t always totally reliable, Judith P. Hamilton and Kathy Anderson Goins thought their great grandmother had been postmaster (no gender quarrel in those days) in the late 1800s. However, Jim White of Farmington, NM, considered the state historian of post offices, found that Frances Baca Walters, born in 1855, became postmaster on November 16, 1901.

The Year the Apple Festival Ended Early
For most, Labor Day weekend in Hillsboro means Apple Festival - apple pie, arts, crafts, antiques and three days of fun on the banks of the Percha River.

But for some like Sue Bason of Sue's Antiques and Bonnie Guess of Kingston's Camp Shiloh, the weekend also carries memories of a roaring wall of water - "like a freight train" - that hit town at midnight on Saturday during the 1972 Apple Festival.

The deadly flood killed four, washed away seven businesses, destroyed 13 homes, damaged countless others, left behind $750,000 in loss and damages, and, as Sue dryly puts it, "ended the festival right then that year."

The Johnson Massacre
Certain stories are so evocative of time and place, they enter a zone of both fiction and common knowledge. The story of the Johnson Massacre is such a story. It has been retold in books and magazines claiming to report real life in early New Mexico. The story has been borrowed by the movies, for its dramatic qualities give themselves to the medium of film. Let me tell you the legend, and the real incident which gave rise to it.

Victorio's Mimbres Apaches were concentrated family units which had once populated the Mimbres and Gila Rivers, and Mogollon Mountains. Through attrition from contact with encroaching Spanish, Mexican, and American settlers, their numbers dwindled, and in 1870 the Mimbres Apaches were given a small reservation, Ojo Caliente or Warm Springs, northwest of present Truth or Consequences.

Victorio and the Reservation System — a prescription for disaster
In the years immediately before the outbreak of the Civil War, the Board of Indian Commissioners in Washington, D.C. had discussed a policy of removal and concentration for the Southern Apaches of New Mexico and Arizona Territories. Simply put, the policy called for the removal of the Mimbres, Central Chiracahuas, Coyoteros, Gila, and Mogollon bands from those areas where they would have potentially disruptive contact with white settlers and placement on reservations where they could become self-supporting through farming and animal husbandry.

War Eagles Museum
You wouldn't expect to find a world-class air museum in tiny Santa Teresa, just outside El Paso, Texas, but there it sits. The War Eagles Museum is an eye-opening find for nostalgia buffs such as Lt. Col. (Retired) Lloyd Mettes of Oxford, Indiana, who said, "I flew seventy P-38 missions during World War Two - reconnaissance mostly, but a few combat missions." Looking at the black beauty (one of only seven left in the world) sitting on the hangar floor, he said, "This is really an early version of the P-38."

Who were the Penitentes?
Penitential practices were once common throughout Europe and other colonies in the New World. The Penitente are considered true representatives of Spanish religious thought and culture. The high point of their worship was the re-creation of Christ’s Passion on the cross. This was accomplished through portrayal of the suffering of Christ, self-mortification of the flesh, emulating the crucifixion of Christ, and singing of alabados (sorrowful hymns).

WPA projects in Southern NewMexico — windows to our past
The words in bas-relief over the door of the school house read "WPA 1936." A breeze blows through the paneless windows and weeds grow where there once was a playground. This school at Claunch, New Mexico was once a symbol of the 1930s and the efforts of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to bring the United States out of the Great Depression.

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