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.


Sources
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 http://northwestturners.org
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.

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