December 17, 2011

Bridal Chamber Mine a Centennial Journey

by Craig Springer
The Bridal Chamber, perhaps the richest silver mine in the history of the American Southwest, is the story twice-told.  And we're telling it again, here, thanks to the Office of the State Historian.

The Bridal Chamber is located in Lake Valley, New Mexico, once a thriving boomtown. The 1885 Territorial Census counted 183 people living in Lake Valley while nearby Hillsboro had 376 residents, and 329 people lived in Kingston, according to the University of New Mexico's Bureau of Business and Economic Research.   All three towns were busy places.  Lake Valley was the jumping-off place for train passengers.  Those not staying at Lake Valley moved on by stage to the other two mining towns of western Sierra County.

Enjoy this Centennial Journey (click here), an audio presentation in celebration of the New Mexico's 100 years of statehood.

The labor force that extracted the mineral wealth of the Bridal Chamber lived at Lake Valley, seen here circa 1890. Photo Black Range Museum.

Timbers prop open the Bridal Chamber as mine workers pause for a photo in a moment of levity. Photo Black Range Museum.

Extracting minerals from the earth is a labor-intensive affair, as evidenced by this Bridal Chamber reduction operation at Lake Valley. Photo Black Range Museum.

December 5, 2011

NICHOLAS GALLES: “The father of Sierra County"

By Mark B. Thompson, III
So said the Albuquerque Journal in its article noting his passing in Las Cruces, New Mexico on December 5, 1911. Galles had died too young; approximately two months short of the fifty-fourth anniversary of his birth in Chicago, Illinois.  He had, however, led a full life, including thirty-five years or so as a volunteer militiaman, businessman, hard rock miner and politician in the Territory of New Mexico.

The parents of Nicholas Galles, William and Anna Marie, with their one year old son, Joseph, arrived in New Orleans from their home in Luxembourg on May 30, 1857. The party of nine also included William’s brother Nicolas as well as their father, Peter. (William’s brother apparently preferred the spelling without the “h,” but for the next generation, I have followed the spelling of the name on New Mexico documents.)  In Luxembourg the family had worked as “wheelwrights,” building wagons, and they anticipated opportunity for working that trade in the expanding frontier of the United States.  While the others headed to Minnesota, William, Anna and Joseph went first to Chicago, possibly because of the large population of Luxembourger/Luxembourgeois immigrants.

Nicholas Galles 1858 - 1911.
Photo Mark B. Thompson III
The Galles family came from a country where most people speak both French and German.  Surname experts believe the name is a Germanization of the French Gallois, which means “Gallic,” i.e. Gaullic or Gaelic.  (The most common pronunciations of Galles are either “gal-is” or “gal-us.) Perhaps young Nicholas shared an “identity crisis” with some of his ancestors. They probably had a hard time keeping their nationality straight before 1815, when the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg was finally given a unique nation state status.  In four census enumerations between 1880 and 1910, he never gave his parents birthplace as “Luxembourg;” twice he said “France” and twice he declared their birthplace as “Germany.”

At least his political instincts kicked in and he was evenhanded on the subject!

Chicago was not their kind of town, however, and in 1859, William moved his family to Shakopee, Minnesota, southwest of Minneapolis in Scott County. By 1860, they had moved on to New Ulm, the newly formed German community named after the town in Wurttemberg, Germany.  It seems safe to say that William, whose marriage certificate identifies him as “Wilhelm,” favored his “German side” and New Ulm probably looked liked a good place to build his business among German speakers.  In addition, his brother Nicolas, with help from their father, was building a successful wagon business only a few miles to the east in Nicollet County.  But the move to New Ulm, although it might have appeared to offer “instant community,” brought both short term and long term complications for William and his family.

The first “complication” was caused by the Dakota insurgency of 1862.

A “Gallis,” no first name, appears on the roster of John Helm’s company of the Minnesota Militia, indicating that William took part in defending New Ulm. In addition, a family story indicates that Anna and her children were protected by a Dakota woman Anna had befriended.  Whatever the personal involvement of the Galles, they, with other residents of New Ulm, were clearly affected by the physical destruction of the town. The Galles moved back to Shakopee in 1862 and then on to Oshawa, home to brother Nicolas, in 1865.  By 1869 they had returned to New Ulm.  Although it is unlikely that young Nicholas had an understanding of the insurgency and the move from New Ulm in 1862, his return at age 11 clearly had some impact on his life.

The long-term complications of the move (and return) to New Ulm derive from the nature of the German immigrant settlement of the town.  Originally staked out by a German group from Chicago in 1854, that group was joined in 1856 by another German immigrant group from Cincinnati, Ohio.  The group from Cincinnati was affiliated with a turnereine, a German gymnastics union. Its members were commonly known in this country as the Turner Society or “Turners,” which simply means “gymnasts” in German.  The Turner movement originated in Prussia in 1811 and many of its members came to the United States after the unsuccessful German “revolution” of 1848.

The Galles family, devout Roman Catholics, and perhaps others, saw the Turners as more of a religion.  Indeed, one of the goals of the Turners was the promotion of “reason against all superstition.” A sociologist/historian of religion might agree that this could look like a “belief system,” or from the standpoint of the New Ulm Catholics, a “non-belief” system, one which was a threat to the church.  William and Anna’s oldest, Joseph, eventually became active in the Turners and was denied the sacraments by the Roman Catholic Church. This was to have a devastating impact on the Galles family, especially on Anna after the death of William in 1878, when she was forced to move in with Joseph and his family.  It may have contributed to her mental illness which resulted in her commitment to the state hospital in St. Peter where she died in 1901.

Perhaps just as relevant to our story was the influence of the Turners on the public education system in New Ulm. One of their historical efforts was to promote “non-sectarian” schools during that period of American history when the most powerful religion in a community often controlled the education of the young.  As a result of the Turner efforts, William and Anna eventually sent some of their children to school in other communities.  Nicholas apparently ended up in Lake City in Wabasha County, which by today’s roads would be approximately 130 miles from New Ulm.

It is unclear why Lake City was chosen; for example, no Galles relatives lived in that community.  On    my trip to Lake City in 2011, I found evidence that may indicate that for both the move to Lake City and the following move to New Mexico, Nicholas Galles appears to have come under the influence of a character named Abner Tibbetts.

Born in Maine about 1825, Tibbetts found his way to Lake City, Minnesota in 1855.  Apparently he had some political connections and in 1861 was appointed Register of Public Lands at the St. Peter, Minnesota office of the Government Land Office by President Lincoln.  He resigned his position in April of 1865 and is back in Lake City at the time of the Minnesota census enumeration in June.  Appointed to the same post by President Grant in March of 1869, Tibbetts and his wife Marian moved again, this time to New Ulm.  In the 1870 census they are found a mere six homes from the William Galles household, which at that time included twelve year old Nicholas Galles.

The ubiquitous Abner and Marian Tibbetts can be found in the May 1875 Minnesota census in Mankato, Minnesota living in the household of their in-laws, headed by Edgar Walz (Sr.).

More importantly, at least for this story, earlier in that year Abner had made a trip to New Mexico and a letter to his son-in-law, William Walz, written from Mesilla, New Mexico, is published in the Lake City Leader.

Although he does not mention Nicholas in the letter, the Mesilla News of April 4, 1875, notes that on Thursday April 1, 1875, the Hon. A. Tibbetts and N. Galles had arrived in Mesilla from Lake City, Minnesota “and have decided to make their future home with us.”

Abner and Marian are found in the 1880 census living with Nicholas and others in a boarding arrangement headed by George Perrault in Hillsboro, but in 1881 Tibbetts was appointed by the U.S. President as a Collector of Customs and the Tibbets moved again, this time to El Paso, Texas.

We believe that Galles in 1875 had headed back north to Socorro, New Mexico and for a time taught school in that community. In April of 1876, he was appointed Postmaster at Aleman, New Mexico, a settlement south of Socorro in that desolate land known by its Spanish name, El Jornado del Muerto, “the journey of the dead.”  He worked on a ranch at Aleman before moving on, perhaps in 1877, to Mesilla where he read the law in the office of Albert J. Fountain one of New Mexico’s most famous lawyer/politicians.  We do not believe that Galles asked Judge Warren Bristol, once of Red Wing, Minnesota, for admission to practice law. Galles instead moved again, this time to the Black Range area of northern Doña Ana County where gold had been discovered.  We do know that in March of 1879 he was appointed the first Postmaster of Hillsboro and it is likely that he had earlier formed a general store with George Perrault.  He made the history books by leading a company of militia against the insurgency of the Apaches, led by Chief Victorio, in the 1879 battle at Lake Valley where fourteen of the Galles militia company lost their lives.

This preserved letter documents a long-distance romance.
Photo Pam Thompson Rau
After moving to New Mexico, Nicholas Galles apparently kept in contact with  Harriet Stocker, a young woman he had met in Lake City. In August of 1880, he wrote her father asking if Mr. Stocker would have any objections to “Hattie” and Nicholas getting married.  Apparently no objections were lodged and on January 5, 1881, they were married in Chicago, Illinois, not in Lake City nor in nearby rural Goodhue County, Minnesota, where her mother was living with a second husband and Hattie’s sister Ninette, nicknamed “Nettie.”  Although she appears in the 1880 Lake City census in her father’s household, Hattie is also is listed in her paternal grandparents’ household in McHenry County, Illinois that same year.  The marriage certificate indicates that the bride lived in McHenry, Illinois, and, because Harriet does not appear in a list of graduates at the Lake City high school, I suspect that she may have finished her schooling in McHenry.

Harriet Stocker Galles posed in the Kingston Studio of J.C. Burge in 1889.
Photo Pam Thompson Rau
Three of his younger brothers, Louis, Peter and George, then living in New Ulm, followed Nicholas and Harriet to New Mexico. Their father had died in 1878 and, as indicated above, their mother was not very happy living with their older brother Joseph. George, the youngest, appears to have stayed in Minnesota for his education and is in brother John’s household in Minneapolis in 1895, but then is in Hillsboro working as an engineer (mining?) and is counted in the 1900 census.  According to a Nicholas Galles obituary, he was in Washington State in 1911.  Peter had a successful career in Hillsboro as a carpenter, and married Ophelia Jones there in 1887.  Peter died in Hot Springs (Truth or Consequences), New Mexico on June 24, 1918. Louis was successful in business in Hillsboro and was the patriarch of the automobile dealership family of Albuquerque and Taos, creating New Mexico Motors in 1908.  He did not stay long in that business, however, and his son, the first H. L. Galles, is credited with creating the enduring Galles legacy in the automotive world.
Sisters Ninette Stocker Miller (l) and Harriet Stocker Galles pose in this circa 1900 photo taken on Ninette's porch in Hillsboro. This image was replicated on a fresco on the home's stucco wall in the early 1990s. Photo Craig Springer 

The Apache insurgency continued, and Nicholas had to set the record straight when his death at the hands of the insurgents was erroneously reported in newspapers in 1881.

Galles probably made good use of this publicity for his entry into politics. In 1881 he began a two-year term as a county commissioner for Doña Ana County. In 1884 he served as a representative from the county in the territorial House of Representatives. It was during that session that he sponsored the bill which created Sierra County out of Doña Ana, Grant and Socorro counties.  The county commissioners of the new county rewarded him with a Justice of the Peace commission in July of 1884.  In a twist of irony, he ran for Sierra County Sheriff in November 1884 and was walloped by Democrat Tom Murphy, 447 to 280. The Rio Grande Republican reported four precincts: Hillsboro, Lake Valley, Kingston, and Las Palomas. Galles carried only Kingston. The Republican had opined in September that "Thos. Murphy will have an easy victory. In June of 1885, Galles led several of his fellow citizens in petitioning for a new militia to combat the Apache insurgency, now being led primarily by Goyakla, better known as Geronimo, the nom de guerre given to him by the United States military.  Galles was commissioned a captain in an infantry company which saw limited action in September of 1885, but for less than the thirty days required by law to allow Harriet to later obtain a military widow’s pension.

Edith Georgia Galles, taken March 1889 in the
Kingston studio of J.C. Burge.
Photo Craig Springer
Nicholas and Harriet’s first child, Gertrude, was born in Hillsboro in 1883.  Possibly due to a fall by the pregnant Harriet from a horse, Gertrude lived with both physical and mental “retardation” until her death in Las Cruces in 1921.  Their second daughter, Edith Georgia, was born in June of 1886 and was baptized at the Galles home in 1887 by the Episcopal Bishop of Arizona and New Mexico, with future New Mexico Chief Justice, Frank W. Parker, as one of the sponsors. The Galles family also increased the population of Hillsboro by bringing in more relatives. In addition to the brothers of Nicholas, Hillsboro also attracted Harriet’s younger sister Ninette, who, with her first husband, George T. Miller, arrived soon after their marriage in Minneapolis on June 24. 1891.

Edith Georgia Galles at age 16.
Photo Pam Thomson Rau
After 1900, the Millers were joined by the mother of Harriet and Ninette, Tamezin (Kimball) (Stocker) Dodge, who died in Hillsboro in 1927.  Ninette Stocker, who also served as “Postmistress” of Hillsboro, married Alphonso Lafayette Bird after the death of her first husband.  She died on October 23, 1946, in Hillsboro.

It is difficult to create a timeline for his business ventures with precision, but it does appear that Nicholas continued with some aspect of the mining and milling of ore during the 1880s.  In September 1889, he was one of the Sierra County delegates to the New Mexico Constitutional Convention.  Nicholas was a committed Republican, as were many voters in New Mexico until the 1930s, and this convention was seen as an effort by the Republicans to control the statehood debate.

In another echo of New Ulm for Nicholas, the first being the military campaign against native insurgents, the constitution adopted by the convention was opposed by the Roman Catholic Church because it proposed a “non-sectarian” public school system. The main problem was that few Democrats publicly supported the proposed constitution and it was rejected by more than a 2-1 margin in the special election.

During the 1880s, Nicholas apparently convinced his father-in-law, Henry Stocker, to take some role in his mining ventures.

The letterhead of the Standard Gold Mining & Milling Co. indicates that Minneapolis was the “main office” and Stocker was shown as a Vice-President. Stocker’s association with the Galles businesses continued into the 1890s and the two families had homes in 1895 about ten blocks from each other in Minneapolis.  In 1894, Standard Mining, Galles, Stocker and others were sued in Minneapolis in what the newspaper called a “famous” and important case. The case took 36 days to try, a record for the times, and resulted in the reputation of Stocker being tarnished because of his conflict of interest as both a stockholder in Standard and as an attorney for the plaintiff.

During the nineties Nicholas was also engaged in mining ventures in Colorado and Prescott, Arizona.  Henry Stocker moved to Prescott to practice law about 1897, apparently leaving his second wife in Minneapolis.  When Stocker died in May 1900, the Prescott, Arizona obituary indicated that Nicholas Galles was in charge of arrangements.

During the 1890s Harriet apparently spent considerable time in Minneapolis, allegedly due to unspecified “health problems.” Perhaps the dry air of the high desert was a problem and she needed the humidity of the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes! They show up in both the 1895 Minnesota state census and the 1900 federal census near Lake Harriet in Minneapolis. They are not found in the 1900 census in Hillsboro and the Louis Galles family is listed near Ninette and George Miller in a house that may have belonged to Nicholas and Harriet.  Apparently Nicholas did not give up legal residency in New Mexico.  In 1894 he served on the Territorial Bureau of Immigration, an official body charged with drumming up new residents for the territory. In 1894-95 he represented Sierra County in the upper chamber of the territorial legislature, known as the Council.

On January 21, 1902, Nicholas was nominated by President Theodore Roosevelt to be the Register for the Las Cruces, New Mexico District office of the Government Land Office and was confirmed by the Senate on January 29, 1902.  The Register was one of the three main local officials of the GLO, the other being the Receiver (of public moneys) and the Surveyor General, the latter being a single, state-wide position.    The Register was appointed for a four-year term, but served at the pleasure of the President.  The position might be described as “quasi-judicial” in that a Register could be “disqualified” from acting on a land application when he had a conflict of interest.  He had a base salary of $500.00 per year, plus fees and commissions from the sale of government land.  That compensation method itself sounds like a conflict of interest waiting to happen but the Santa Fe New Mexican in June 1902 declared Nicholas to be a “man of the hour” and we believe he completed his term without any scandal.

As he started his fourth and final year as Register, Galles made a move for another political office; he sought the governorship of the Territory. President Theodore Roosevelt began his second, but first elected, term as President, on March 4, 1905. The pundits and experts were sure he would take the opportunity to relieve Miguel Otero of the governorship he had held for seven years and appoint “his own man.” Nicholas obviously thought he had TR’s ear and announced that at least 18 U.S. Senators were ready to confirm his nomination.

The position of the nominee on statehood would be the “litmus test,” and Galles’ main opposition was probably lawyer Bernard Rodey of Albuquerque. Rodey, however, had just been rejected, first by the Republicans, and then, as an independent candidate, when he sought re-election as Territorial Congressional Delegate.

Nicholas Galles was an engaged businessman. This ad is from a 1909 NMSU Round-Up. 
Perhaps to avoid a fight among “good Republicans,” Roosevelt fooled everyone and reappointed Otero, only to ask for his resignation a couple of years later as the controversy over statehood strategy heated up.

No doubt disappointed, Galles turned again to business pursuits. In April of 1905, he joined several other businessmen, including his son-in-law, Robert Mayes, the husband of Edith Georgia and father of Nick’s first grandchild, Edith Sue, to form the First National Bank of Las Cruces.  Galles was then chosen to serve as the first President of the bank, which eventually became part of the Albuquerque based Sunwest Bank holding company and now part of the Bank of America system. During this period, he was elected to the board of directors of the Mesilla Valley Water Users Association, an organization which would play a significant role in the development of the Elephant Butte and other dams on the Rio Grande.  In the 1910 census, Galles gave his occupation as “unemployed miner,” perhaps the truth but also showing a sense of humor. One of his last business related positions was his service as the chairman of the Mesilla Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Hillsboro, looking west, as Galles saw it circa 1900. Photo George T. Miller Collection, Black Range Museum.

It was during this period that Nicholas and Harriet Galles started acquiring land on Depot Avenue, now Las Cruces Avenue.  Judging from the 1910 and 1920 censuses, they may have at one time owned the entire south side of the street in the West 400 block.  In 1909 they gave their daughter Edith Georgia and her second husband, Mark B. Thompson, a portion of the land on which a home was built at “409” and which is noted by historian Linda Harris as the “Mark Thompson House.”

In the 1910 census, the Galles and Thompson families are listed next door to each other, and, although no house numbers are shown, we believe that the Galles were at what would become 425 W. Las Cruces Ave.  Harris identifies the extant house at that address as built “circa 1910” but names it the “Duarte House” and Sixto Duarte is listed with his family at the address in the 1930 census. By deed dated February 15, 1922, Amelia Armendariz de Duarte, the wife of Sixto Duarte, had purchased the property from Harriet Galles.

Sixto and Amelia Duarte were both born in Chihuahua, Mexico and immigrated in 1913 and 1915, respectively. A successful Las Cruces merchant, Sixto died in El Paso, Texas, in November of 1966.

In January of 1908, yet another hearing was scheduled in Washington on New Mexico statehood and a committee of prominent citizens from each county was chosen to go to D.C. to “lobby” for statehood.  Nicholas, Mark Thompson and others, were chosen to represent Doña Ana County.

The trip never took place and this effort does not even rate a mention in the definitive history of the “quest” for statehood. 

The statehood “enabling act” was passed by Congress in 1910, but Nicholas Galles did not run for delegate to the constitutional convention held that year. Galles’ good friend, and sitting territorial judge, Frank Parker, was elected as a delegate and played a major role in shaping the New Mexico judiciary.  The Galles son-in-law, Mark Thompson, however, was an unsuccessful candidate for a Doña Ana County delegate position, the only time he ran for political office.

Perhaps the skin cancer was already beginning to take a toll on Galles.  He died one month and a day before President Taft signed the legislation on January 6, 1912, creating the State of New Mexico. Harriet Stocker Galles continued to make Las Cruces her home and died in El Paso, Texas on January 7, 1930.

Mark B. Thompson, III, is the great grandson of Nicholas Galles.

1 “Pioneer of New Mexico, Nicolas (sic) Galles, Dead,” The Albuquerque Morning Journal (Wednesday, December 6, 1911), p. 7.  See also, “Death of Nicholas Galles,” The Rio Grande Republican (Friday, December 8, 1911), p. 2.
2 Nicholas Galles can be found in census population schedules for 1860, 1865 & 1870 (Minnesota, in his father’s household), in New Mexico in 1880, 1885 and 1910, and Minnesota in 1895 and 1900. 
3 See generally, Kenneth Carley, The Dakota War of 1862 (St. Paul: Minn. Hist. Soc. Press, 1976).  A new edition is due out in 2012, the 150th anniversary of the insurgency.
4 A good, short (“inhouse”) history of the Turner movement is published at
5 I have not yet found any evidence of Nicholas’ attendance in a school in Lake City.
6 The Walz household not only included William, married in 1874 to Jennie May Tibbetts, but also his younger sister, Julia A. Walz, who in 1877 married Thomas B.  Catron of Santa Fe, and a younger brother, Edgar A., who later played a small role in the Lincoln County War as a business partner of Catron.  Given this history, I think perhaps Abner Tibbetts should be known as the head of the “Minnesota Ring.”  
7“New Mexico as Seen by A Minnesotan,” The Lake City Leader (Thurs. May 13, 1875), p. 2.  It was the accidental discovery of this letter in the Lake City Public Library which led me on the Abner Tibbetts chase and eventually to his association with Nicholas Galles.
8 The Mesilla News item was later confirmed, without reference to a specific date in 1875, in an untitled article on Nicholas Galles. See, The New Ulm Review (Wed. Sept. 7, 1881), p. 3.
9 The original name of the community may have been El Aleman, “The German” in Spanish, named for a German resident.  How appropriate for a Minnesotan from the German speaking community!
10 Ralph Emerson Twitchell, The Leading Facts of New Mexican History (Santa Fe: The Sunstone Press,  2007) [facsimile ed. of the 1911 publication], Vol. II, pp. 438-39, n. 359.
11 “The Gabilan Canon (sic) Fight,” The Rio Grande Republican (Las Cruces, N.M., Sat. Aug. 27, 1881), p. 3. This story was picked up by the New Ulm Review (see note 8, supra) and The Saint Paul Daily Globe, Sat. Sept. 17, 1881. 
12 “Cupid’s Cavortings,” The St. Paul Daily Globe (Sat. June 28, 1891), p. 10.
13 See generally, Robert W. Larson, New Mexico’s Quest For Statehood, 1846-1912, (Albuquerque: U. of N.M. Press, 1968), chap. X.
14 It was Stocker’s association with Harriett and Ninette in Minneapolis and Hillsboro, we have a photo of Stocker we believe was taken by George T. Miller, which persuaded me that Henry had not completely burned his bridges after he left their mother shortly before 1870.  Her efforts to obtain a widow’s pension, he was a civil war veteran, was a pretty ugly story and left me temporarily convinced that he had walked out of their lives.
15 “An Important Case,” The St. Paul Daily Globe (Thurs. April 19, 1894), p. 3.  “Mexican (sic) Gold Mine,” The St. Paul Daily Globe (Wed. Aug. 22, 1894), p. 10.
16 Men of The Hour in New Mexico,The Santa Fe New Mexican (Saturday, June 21, 1902), p. 1.
17 “Nicholas Galles Latest Candidate For Governor,” The Albuquerque Morning Journal (Wednesday, March 1, 1905), p. 1.
18 See my article in the State Bar Bulletin, “Bernard Rodey and the Jointure Movement in the U.S. Congress,” June 30, 2008 (republished on line by the N.M. State Historian).
19 Linda G. Harris, Houses in Time: A Tour Through New Mexico History (Arroyo Press, Las Cruces: 1997), p. 74.  Harris in “Houses” also includes a home built by Peter Galles and others for Harriet’s sister, Ninette, in Hillsboro, and known as the “Miller House.”  Id at p. 88.
20 Harris, id at p. 142.
21 Special thanks to Neil Weinbrenner, lawyer and historian, for his “fact-checking” the Galles/Duarte transaction. 
22 “Hearings on Statehood Measure,” The Albuquerque Morning Journal (Friday, January 17, 1908), p. 2.
23 See generally, Larson, note 13 supra.

October 16, 2011

Army of the West (or this day in history 1846)

By Harley Shaw
On State Highway 152, about six road miles east of Hillsboro stands a large kiosk, with a spacious pull-out for curious travelers to stop and read. The kiosk pays homage to much local history, but it fails to mention the passing at this point of the most important military expedition that ever traversed New Mexico, and perhaps of the entire U.S. Had you stood at this site the afternoon of October 15, 1846, you would have viewed up close some 140 mounted members of General Stephen Watts Kearny’s Army of the West leading pack mules and dragging two cannons. In fact, you might well have been forced to move aside, for, according to an analysis made in 1957 by retired Army Colonel George Ruhlen (scroll down page to read Ruhlen's article), Kearny and his troops passed roughly at this point, led by the legendary Kit Carson. They descended southward into Percha Creek where they camped for the night. That camp was probably just upstream from the present Percha Creek Ranch, which shows up as Clark’s Ranch on the 1996 Skute Stone topographic map, within sight of present-day Copper Flat mine.  
After a bloodless defeat of the Mexican army near Santa Fe, Kearny had claimed New Mexico for the United States. He and his men then headed westward to invade California. By the time Kearny reached Percha Creek, however, he was expecting to meet no more resistance in taking California than he had in taking Santa Fe—a misconception that nearly cost Kearny his life and resulted in the death of 18 of his men. Only nine days before camping on Percha Creek, Kearny had encountered Kit Carson between present-day Truth or Consequences and Socorro, carrying news that John Charles Fremont had already captured California, leading Kearny to reduce his force, abandon his wagons and speed westward with mounted soldiers and a pack train. Carson knew the way over this unpopulated territory.    

After camping a night on Percha Creek, Kearny moved out southwesterly and followed the route of present State Highway 27 for perhaps six miles before turning westward to follow Berrenda Creek to the low pass between the Black Range and Cooke’s Peak.  This pass would be the site of infamous raids by Apaches Nana, Geronimo, and Chihuahua in the early 1880s, and then a short-lived state highway in the 1920s. Note that none of these landmarks bore those names in 1846 and at least one, Cooke’s Peak, resulted from the passing of another branch of Kearny’s Army, the Mormon Battalion. A small obolisk a few miles south of Lake Valley on State Highway 27 stands in silent tribute to their privations. The peak at the south end of the Mimbres Mountains is named for Lieutenant Colonel Phillip Saint George Cooke, who led some 350 Mormon volunteers, traveling afoot from Iowa to Californian, down the Rio Grande and south around that peak north of Deming.  Cooke’s infantry followed the Rio Grande through present Sierra County, thereby crossing Percha Creek about 20 miles east of Hillsboro and three weeks later than Kearny’s crossing.  This infantry fought no battles other than a somewhat humorous encounter with wild cattle in southern Arizona, but they suffered many hardships before they reached San Diego—and after California had been claimed for the United States. They disbanded in San Diego, and most of them found their way to Salt Lake City to join their Mormon brethren.

Paso por aquí. This 1957 map shows the camps sites and route that Kearney's army, guided by Kit Carson, took around Hillsboro in October 1846.

The stories of Kearny’s near-defeat at San Pasqual, the subsequent court marshal of Fremont, the 1849 gold rush, and subsequent growth of California as a state fill many books, but I find it strange that the only highway marker in our area that acknowledges the Army of the West is a U.S. Forest Service sign at Emory Pass, some 25 miles north and west of the actual Kearny route. This pass is named for Lieutenant William H. Emory who was with Kearny when the Army of the West passed our way. During Emory’s lifetime, he earned ample renown to justify naming a pass in his honor. He is credited with saving Kearny’s life at San Pasqual; he assumed the chief surveyor’s job later on the Mexican Boundary Survey, interceding when Commissioner Bartlett’s inattention nearly cost the U.S. the key railroad route across the southern deserts; he performed honorably in the War Between the States and later served as a Commissioner, risking his reputation amidst the messy politics of the Southern Reformation.  Through it all, he left a written body of biological, geological, and archaeological observations unmatched by many full-time scientists unencumbered by military or political responsibilities.  Aside from the pass, Emory oak is named for him. The sign at Emory Pass notes that Emory and the Army of the West “passed by here,” leaving the impression, perhaps, that the troops crossed the rugged Black Range rather than following the easier route to the south.

To return to my original theme, it seems to me that a historic marker near the present kiosk on Highway 157, along with a strategically placed marker on Highway 27 would be appropriate, considering the importance of Kearny’s expedition and the history of the United States. Such a pair of signs would inform travelers of the significance of the route in American history, as well as help correct the misconception advanced by the sign at Emory Pass.

If you want to learn more, here are some recommended texts.

Cooke, Phillip St. George. 1878.  The Conquest of New Mexico and California in 1846-1848.  G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York.  This was reprinted in 1964 by Rio Grande Press, Inc.  Chicago.  
Calvin, Ross.  1951.  Lieutenant Emory Reports:  The University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.  
Clarke, Dwight L.  1966.  The Original Journals of Henry Smith Turner.  University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.  
Clarke, Dwight L.  1961.  Stephen Watts Kearny:  Soldier of the West.  University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.  
Norris, L. David, James C. Milligan, and Odie B. Faulk.  1998.  William H. Emory—Soldier-Scientist.  University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

Ricketts, Norma. The Mormon Battalion: United States Army of the West 1846-1848

Sides, Hampton. Blood and Thunder: An Epic of the American West.  

October 7, 2011

Sierra County Surnames and Population Myths

By Craig Springer
A freshly minted master's thesis from the University of New Mexico's Geography Department offers unique insight into the historic populations of Sierra County. It reveals too some of the reasons why Sierra County is anomalous today in its demographic ranks among the other 32 New Mexico counties.

The one-hundred page thesis titled "Determining Historic Ethnic Changes in Sierra County and New Mexico 1870 - 2000," was written by Sierra County native, Destiny Mitchell.  Ms. Mitchell discusses the origins of settlements in Sierra County, using U.S. Census Bureau data, going back as far as 1870 when present-day Sierra County was part and parcel to Dona Ana, Socorro, and Grant counties.  Her findings ferret out where Hispanics and Anglos lived and how those ratios changed over time. It is curious to note that the 1870 census data reported in the thesis has no enumerations from present-day Happy Flats on the east end of Hillsboro, or anywhere west of Las Palomas. This absence of data perhaps verifies that the area around Hillsboro in fact had no permanent Hispanic or Anglo habitation prior to 1877.

Ms. Mitchell's document is a gem not only for the trends in demography she painstakingly documented, but also for the historic hand-drawn precinct maps that she acquired from the National Archives. Several other of her original maps show population changes over time.

The thesis does however repeat oral traditions that are factually incorrect. Ms. Mitchell cites Apache cheiftain Victorio attacking Kingston.  While grizzled prospectors no doubt were scratching dirt on the east face of the Black Range in the late 1870s, and were very much vulnerable to Apache depredations, Kingston was not established until two years after Victorio's death in October 1880.
The Victorio Hotel was named in honor of the vanquished.
The Victorio Hotel is now a private residence in Kingston. 
Another artifact of fables-past that appears in the thesis is the reported population of 7,000 people residing at Kingston in 1885 -- about the same number of people living in Truth or Consequences today. The number has been repeated for so long, it's become commonplace to read in travel books and even state tourism promotional matter.

U.S. Census Bureau data are very much to the contrary. The territorial census of 1885, available through the University of New Mexico's Bureau of Business and Economic Research documents 379 people living in Kingston and outlying Danville Camp.

But Kingston boomed. The 1890 census lists the number of people residing in "minor civil divisions." Kingston had 1,249 residents in 1890, slightly more than Las Cruces but far less than half that of New Mexico's largest town, Albuquerque.  In 1890, 3,630 people lived in all of Sierra County, about the same number living in Albuquerque. The Panic of 1893 caused Kingston to be all but abandoned.

You can see these data, which also includes surprising numbers for Hillsboro, Lake Valley and several other Sierra County towns, on page 242 of the Census Report Eleventh Census: 1890.

The Hillsboro Historical Society congratulates Ms. Mitchell on her recent academic achievement, and we encourage anyone interested in Sierra County history to read her thesis, which you can do by clicking here.

September 11, 2011

Remembering 9-11

By Craig Springer
The date, September 11, is seared in American memory. And it was one that perhaps was not forgotten by those who lived in and around Hillsboro in 1879.

In August of that year, the Apache leader Victorio launched a rampage that made its mark in history. Victorio, followed by tens if not hundreds of disenchanted Mimbres and  Mescalero Apaches, and probably Comanche Indians too, raided ranches and isolated military outposts in southern New Mexico, west Texas, and northern Chihuahua.

On September 11, a posse of armed citizen from Hillsboro led by the likes of town pioneers, Joe Yankie and Nicholas Galles, confronted Apaches at H.D. McEver's Ranch 15 miles south of Hillsboro. McEver's Ranch would shortly become the first townsite of Lake Valley following a silver strike.
Nicholas Galles, Hillsboro's first
postmaster, was at McEver's Ranch
on 9-11-1879.
Photo Mark B. Thompson III. 

The number of Hillsboro men engaged in the battle vary, as do the number killed--and so does the actual date--depending upon which report you read. A review of the literature reveals that anywhere from a half dozen to 15 men were killed in action. The 1880 Secretary of War's report to Congress offers some insight as to the geographic extent of the Apache depredations. As for those known to have been killed at McEver's Ranch on September 11, 1879, they were: Steve Hanlon, Thomas Hughes, Thorton, Preissier, Green, Dr. Williams, and I. Chavez.

Other documented works by writers Dan Thrapp, Edwin Sweeney, and Joseph Stout make mention of an entire ranch family murdered and mutilated on Jaralosa Creek a mere few miles from McEver's Ranch that same day. The names of those victims are not reported.

The eastern front of the Black Range would see more action between Apaches, citizens of Hillsboro, and the U.S. Army for another seven years. But in the short-term, McEver's Ranch was the site of a heated battle with the 9th Cavalry, the famous Buffalo Soldiers, led by Maj. A.P. Morrow. If the brief New York Times account, you can sense a frustration that dogged the military in the Victorio campaign that lasted until late 1880. In October 1879, the Apaches attacked McEver's Ranch again, and burnt down its buildings. Because of its location--central to Ft. Cummings to the south and Camp Ojo Caliente and Camp Hillsboro/Camp Boyd to the north--McEver's Ranch would be occupied by the U.S. Army for much of the Victorio and the Geronimo Campaign to come in 1885-86. And coincidentally, September 11, 1885 was a significant date for several ranch families who lost kin to Geronimo near Lake Valley--Abeyta, Hollage, Horn, McKinn, Pollock.

You can read about these events and more in Around Hillsboro a new book written by members of the Hillsboro Historical Society. You can find it in local book stores, and the Black Range Museum.

September 2, 2011

Paper Hearts - 1991

It seems like only yesterday, but it's been 20 years since Sally Kirkland, James Brolin, Kris Kristofferson and all of the attending movie-making matter came upon Hillsboro. The outcome was "Paper Hearts." It wasn't the first movie made around Hillsboro, and it wasn't the last. Was it the best? That's a matter of taste, of course. You'll just have to rent it and see for yourself.  But before you do, you can watch this trailer here and get a glimpse of Hillsboro two decades ago.  -- Craig Springer

Making "Paper Hearts" (Cheatin' Hearts) 1991 from Rich Tamayo on Vimeo.

July 24, 2011

Panic of 1893

By Brandon Dupont, Ph.D.
While it was later eclipsed by the 1907 financial crisis and the Great Depression, the Panic of 1893 remains one of the most severe financial crises in American history. Its impact on Sierra County, New Mexico was lasting. Silver mining towns, like Kingston, were all but abandoned in short order.

This 1895 poster for the Broadway melodrama, The War of Wealth, depicted the national economic crisis, and the run on banks that effected lasting change at Kingston and silver mines in the West.  Library of Congress.

The panic, and the economic depression that followed through the year 1897, had wide-ranging effects on the national economy, including an unemployment rate that remained stubbornly above 10 percent for five consecutive years. Its impact goes beyond just the widespread bank runs and the negative effects of high, persistent unemployment; perhaps more importantly, the crisis brought the decades-long debate over the bimetallic standard to the forefront, culminating most colorfully in William Jennings Bryan’s 1896 presidential campaign. Bryan’s “Cross of Gold” speech ended with a flourish:  "Having behind us the producing masses of this nation and the world, supported by the commercial interests, the laboring interests and the toilers everywhere, we will answer their demand for a gold standard by saying to them: You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold."

Named for U.S. Mint engraver,
George Morgan, the Morgan Dollar was
common currency in 1890. U.S. Mint.
Since bimetallism was an important factor in 1893, as evident in Bryan’s speech, a quick review should be helpful. Starting with the first Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, the U.S. economy had been on a bimetallic standard. Under that standard, U.S. currency was equivalent to a certain quantity of gold and a certain quantity of silver; initially, the prices were set such that 15 ounces of silver were equivalent to 1 ounce of gold. Because of deviations between this official price and the world market price, only one of the two metals would circulate in the American economy at any given time. From Hamilton’s 1792 coinage act until 1834, silver was in circulation because gold was undervalued at its official price; therefore, it made economic sense to export gold coins to Europe, exchange them there for silver, then import that silver back into the U.S. This all changed in 1834 when the official ratio was changed to 16 ounces of silver per 1 ounce of gold, which then made gold overvalued so that it slowly began to replace silver, which was either hoarded or exported. Starting in 1834, the U.S. moved to a currency system where gold was the circulating coin. Silver dollars remained largely out of circulation from 1836 until the 1873 coinage act. 

At first, the 1873 act seemed only to legally recognize the demonetization of silver dollars; after all, they had not been used since 1834. Even the representatives of the silver interests in Congress did not object to the legislation. But in a curious twist of history, what was thought to be mere legislative housekeeping quickly became a highly politically charged issue. Silver prices had started to fall in 1872, but the decline accelerated shortly after the 1873 legislation mostly because of increased silver supplies from new mines in the American West. Because of the falling silver prices, U.S. silver producers had an incentive to bring silver to the U.S. mint for coinage. They did just that only to discover that they were legally barred from having silver coined by the 1873 legislation, which they quickly dubbed the “crime of ’73.” 
Kingston came to life in fall of 1882. Its roughly 1,200 residents circa 1890 were tucked in the narrow Middle Percha Creek canyon captured on a glass-plate negative here by photographer J.C. Burge. Photo Black Range Museum

By 1878, the silver interests were successful in getting Congress to pass the first of two significant silver purchase laws, the Bland-Allison Act, but the pro-silver interests were not satisfied because that legislation did not provide for unlimited coinage of silver. The second significant Congressional action did not come until the 1890 Sherman Silver Purchase Act. This legislation also failed to provide for unlimited silver coinage but it did increase the amount of silver purchased every month by the U.S. government, and by then, silver mining was in full-swing in Kingston and Lake Valley, New Mexico.

All of this led to considerable uncertainty by the early 1890s as to whether the U.S. economy could remain on the gold standard. Adding to the problems, the Treasury’s gold reserves had fallen to dangerously low levels by 1893; this was exacerbated by news that the Treasury would stop redeeming the notes issued under the 1890 act in gold if the reserves fell below $100 million. 

Lots of flags waved in Kingston at the patriotic event circa 1890. Only the Percha Bank building remains today, and is a beautiful museum.  The bank incorporated in 1886 by President McKinley pal, Jefferson Raynolds, and boasted holding $30,000 in cash in 1890. J.C. Burge photo courtesy Black Range Museum.
These long-running issues of gold versus silver certainly played a role in the 1893 crisis but there were many other contributing factors. Important among them were significant distress in western agricultural markets caused by declining crop yields and falling agricultural prices. Another factor in the depression was the slowdown in railroad construction that had peaked in the railroad boom of 1880s. Moreover, American exports to Europe had dropped as European economies struggled. 

The Percha Bank building stands on the left, looking west, in 1919. The Panic of 1893 devastated silver mining towns throughout the West. Kingston produced $6.2 million in mineral wealth, mostly silver, according to a 1904 report. Photo courtesy Black Range Museum.
The crisis culminated in the summer of 1893 with widespread bank runs. Of course, this was long before the introduction of federal deposit insurance (that does not arrive until 1933), so any risk that a depositor’s bank would fail tended to immediately lead that depositor to withdraw funds from the bank. Bank runs, wherein large numbers of depositors did just this, spread rapidly and, while they occurred nationwide, they were concentrated in the western states. In total, nearly 500 banks in the U.S. suspended their operations at least for a time to weather the storm. The economy officially went into recession in January 1893, a few months prior to the waves of bank runs that hit that summer. The affect was felt locally -- Kingston being a silver town was abandoned and never rebounded. After a brief economic recovery in late 1894 and into 1895, the economy plunged back into recession by the end of 1895 and would not officially climb out of recession until the summer of 1897. 

A legacy of the 1893 crisis remains with us today: the National Monetary Commission, whose work and recommendations led to the formation of the Federal Reserve System in 1914, noted in its report on financial crises that, while the causes of crises were varied, the method of handling them was simple. There should be, the report concluded, a reserve of lending power because the ability to increase loans from a central reserve to meet the demands of depositors “would have allayed every panic since the establishment of the national banking system [in 1864].”  Locally, the hillsides around Kingston are pocked with the work of expectant silver prospectors in what they left behind.

July 16, 2011

Fire Truck Returns Home

It's not news, but some things are worth repeating. The Hillsboro Historical Society located, bought, and brought home a 1946 fire truck in 2009. The signage reveals a history. Underneath newest, albeit well-worn, lettering were the words indicating the truck had first belonged to the Hot Springs Fire Dept.  You can read more about the truck and fire history on the New Mexico Centennial web site.  

July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day

Hillsboro has been known to throw a good party on the Fourth of July, and today will no doubt be the same. Here's a look at few images captured early in the 20th Century.

This 1919 Deming Headlight makes an invitation to Luna County residents to come visit. See bottom-right column. Courtesy Patti Nunn
Without a rodeo arena, cars parked along the Percha afforded a place to watch cowboys put on a show, in 1920. Courtesy Patti Nunn

Who needs fireworks when you have this? This image was taken moments apart from the previous image. Courtesy Patti Nunn
Near the present-day post office, folks gathered round to watch a drilling contest--miners competing bust rock faster than the other guy. Courtesy Patti Nunn

June 7, 2011

Gangs Violence in Hillsboro -- 1961

The El Paso Times reported it -- gang violence in Hillsboro. Trish Long, the El Paso Times' archivist posted this copyrighted newspaper story on her blog, Tales from the Morgue


April 22, 1961
Rival Bootlegger Gangs Battle In Hillsboro
Armed with clubs and whisky bottles, rival bootlegger battled on the main street at Hillsboro, N.M, over the ownership of a load of liquor, it was learned in El Paso, Wednesday.

Broken heads, bruised bodies and the loss of most of the liquor, which was used as ammunition, was the total casualties in the battle.

Henry Railston, star witness in the Hot Springs, N.M, conspiracy cases tried at Albuquerque, N. M. last year, was trailing the source of the whisky Wednesday. Railston is a prohibition officer.

The battle is reported to have begun when the Chihuahua settlement gang hijacked a load of liquor from the Main street gang in Hillsboro. Frightened by the crashing of glass, citizens ducked into doorways and alleys as the fight progressed.

The battle ended when the Chihuahua settlement gang withdrew from the field. ______________________________________________________

This begs the questions, who were in these gangs, and are these participants still living? What became of Henry Railston, and are there photos out there documenting this event? --Craig Springer

May 31, 2011

Meet the Press - Kingston

by Craig Springer
Any reader of area history is familiar with this phrase, or a derivation: "It had 7,000 people, 22 saloons, 14 grocers, and three newspapers." We speak of Kingston. Ghost Towns and Mining Camps by James and Barbara Sherman, exemplifies the snapshot ghost town profiles that pack in the interesting and arcane fun facts of a rip-roaring past in a small printed space. The Shermans even name the three periodicals. Theirs is the story twice-told. But we're not telling it again here, because the Shermans had it wrong: Kingston had 10 newspapers!

Meet the Kingston press by order of appearance--and disappearance. Also included in this list is the frequency of publication. This is thanks in large part to the University of New Mexico Press book, The Territorial Press of New Mexico, by Porter Stratton.

While prospectors were scratching around on the east face of the Black Range as early as the late 1870s, industry had picked up by 1880. In September 1882, the town of Kingston was platted. The boom was on. According to one early observer, writing for the Engineering and Mining Journal who was there in November 1882, a printing press had already lumbered into town. That press seems probable to have belonged to this first Kingston newspaper on our list.

January - October 1883. Weekly. Tribune. Moved to Deming.

January - November 1884. Weekly. Clipper. Renamed the Sierra County Advocate.

November 1884 - March 1885. Weekly. Sierra County Advocate. Moved to Hillsboro March 1885.

April 1885 - March 1886. No publications per Stratton.

April  - July 1886. Weekly. Percha Shaft. Merged with Ledge summer 1886.

July 1886. Daily. Ledge.  Merged with Percha Shaft summer 1886.

July - December 1886. Weekly. Percha Shaft and Ledge. Became Daily Shaft.

December 1886 - March 1887. Daily. Daily Shaft. Became Weekly Shaft.

December 1886 - February 1887. Weekly. Black Range Herald. Combined with Sierra County Advocate.

Fall of 1888. Weekly. Sierra County Democrat. An election campaign publication.

March 1887 - December 1893. Weekly. Weekly Shaft. Moved to Rincon.

Newspapers came and went in Kingston. Based on Stratton, 10 newspapers called Kingston home but never did any of them compete with one another for any length. Only one periodical had any lasting life, the Weekly Shaft. It too found its end as did much of the boom town with the Panic of 1893.

Comparably, in the same time period (1883 - 1893) Albuquerque with a population of 3,785 in 1890 had 16 daily and weekly English-only newspapers, according to Stratton, many competing with one another for readers. Also it's worth noting that during the oft-reported heyday of Kingston, c. 1885 - 86 where some writers say Kingston reached its peak population, that no newspaper published in Kingston for an entire 12 months.

It begs the question, what was different with Kingston? Did Stratton miss something? Email or comment with your ideas.