Eppie Archuleta (1922-2014) was an American master weaver and textile artisan. She was a fifth generation weaver. Her father was a school teacher until he became the postmaster in Medenales, New Mexico. He was also a weaver and taught his wife some of his native Chimayó styles and techniques. Growing up with her parents and nine siblings, Eppie made rugs and blankets to sell. Everyone helped support the family by weaving. At an early age, Eppie learned about collecting plants and using them to dye wool. She said: “I gather all the plants, mostly in New Mexico, because the plants have better colors, I think because of the hot place there.” In October 1940, Eppie married Francisco Archuleta. In the late 1940s,they moved to the San Luis Valley with their eight children. Eppie did her spinning and weaving at night, after a long day working and cooking for her family. She explained: “Everybody’s asleep so I can weave. All by myself. Nobody bothers me.” She purchased a wool mill in 1989 and produced wool yarn, which was sold to weavers throughout the United States. Her weaving incorporated several styles of Hispanic and Native American weaving, but also reflected more contemporary designs. The National Endowment of the Arts awarded Eppie a National Heritage Fellowship in 1985, the nation’s highest honor in folk and traditional arts. In 1997, she was inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame. Eppie was awarded a Master’s Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Spanish Market of Santa Fe in 2001. Among several locations, her work is on display at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC.
Diego José de Vargas Zapata Luján Ponce de León y Contreras was born in Madrid in 1643 to an illustrious family. In 1649, Vargas married Beatriz Pimentel de Prado Vélez de Olazábal and they had five children, which caused him to incur significant debt. Due to the pressure of his growing debt and his desire for social and political prominence, in 1673, he left his young family to pursue a royal preferment in the Americas. On the recommendation of the Queen, the viceroy in Mexico City appointed Vargas to the post of chief judge in Teutila (which is now Oaxaca). Although Vargas thought he would make his fortune and return to Madrid, he never did. His wife died unexpectedly a year later.
In 1679, six years after his arrival in New Spain, Vargas was promoted to justicia mayor of Tlalpujahua (which is now Michoacán). At the time Tlalpujahua was a declining mining area, but Vargas was able to significantly increase the royal receipts from the silver mines. His administrative abilities were recognized by the viceroy, who recommended Vargas for higher office and he eventually became governor of New Mexico.
In 1680, a massive Pueblo uprising succeeded in expelling the Spanish colonists and El Paso became New Mexico’s capital in exile. Vargas pledged to restore the Rio Grande Pueblo world to Spanish dominion when he applied to be the governor. Spain’s rivalry with France and other European powers for the control of the Americas moved the retaking of New Mexico to a high priority. Even though three previous attempts to reoccupy the Pueblo ended in failure, in 1692, Vargas led a modest force of 200 soldiers and Indian allies north. As they followed the Rio Grande, Vargas found southern pueblos abandoned due to their people having sought refuge in mountainous terrain in anticipation of his arrival. In mid-September, Vargas and his expedition reached Santa Fe, where at least 1,000 Pueblo people awaited him.
The native inhabitants initially refused to submit to Spanish rule, however Vargas threatened to cut off their water supply. Vargas issued an ultimatum—either submit and be pardoned or suffer an attack by his forces. Through long negotiations, Vargas was able to reach a peaceful settlement with the Pueblo people. On September 14, 1692, Vargas, the friars who were with him and the returning former residents of Spanish Santa Fe, performed a formal ceremony of submission and absolution on the Plaza. A mass was celebrated the next day and the friars baptized 122 Pueblo children, who had been born during the Spanish exile. Over the next month, Vargas and his soldiers visited twelve other pueblos throughout northern New Mexico and conducted the same rituals. The ritual repossession of New Mexico illustrates the effectiveness of diplomacy and personal relationships with the Pueblo Indian peoples.
However, peace did not last in New Mexico. In 1693, Vargas and his soldiers had to fight their way into Santa Fe. Warriors from four of the pueblos sided with the colonists, but most pueblo people opposed Spanish rule. After Vargas had taken the capital, he ordered 70 Pueblo men killed and distributed the women and children to the colonists to be servants. Similar fighting took place at many of the other pueblos. The Pueblo people continued to resent the heavy-handed treatment they received by the colonists, for example the plundering of Pueblo stocks of corn and other supplies in order to sustain the struggling colony.
By the middle of 1694, approximately 250 additional colonists arrived in New Mexico and another group of almost 150 colonists came the following year. In order to accommodate these new colonists, Governor Vargas authorized a second settlement north of Santa Fe at Santa Cruz de las Caňada, along the Santa Cruz River. This settlement displaced Tano Pueblo Indians, who had settled there after the 1680 uprising.
The colonists were not able to support themselves agriculturally and disease struck the Hispanic populous. Although Vargas himself almost died, he recovered, and in March 1696 he petitioned the viceroy to increase the number of colonists from 276 families to 500, which he asserted was the minimum number needed to ensure the safety of New Mexico.
The viceroy did not act on Vargas’ request and in June 1696, all of the pueblos, except for five, took up arms against the colonists. From June until November, Vargas and his soldiers were on a military campaign, which tried to exploit Pueblo rivalries and subdue each Indian town in turn. Eventually exhaustion and the arrival of winter brought peace, with many Pueblos fleeing the province. The fighting in 1696 marked the end of the Pueblos’ resistance to Spanish control in New Mexico.
Vargas wrote to the King and viceroy about his success in reconquering the province and asked for the rewards he thought he deserved, including a noble title and an annuity. He was shocked and angered to learn he was being replaced as governor by Pedro Rodriguez Cubero, who had arranged years before to take over the office. Upon his arrival in New Mexico, Rodriguez Cubero began an administrative review of Vargas’ term and brought forth a list of charges against the former governor. Vargas was placed under house arrest, which lasted from 1697 to 1700. Vargas went to Mexico City in 1700 for the investigation of the many complaints against him before the Tribunal of Accounts. In Mexico City, Vargas was reunited with his son Juan Manuel, who had recently arrived from Spain. In 1702, the Tribunal found in favor of Vargas and cleared the way for him to serve a second term as governor. Unfortunately, Vargas learned that his son Juan Manuel died on his return to Spain.
In late 1703, Vargas returned to Santa Fe to reassume the governorship of New Mexico. Colonists and Pueblos complained about Apache raids, and so when spring came, Vargas began a campaign against the raiders. As the expedition proceeded down the Rio Grande Valley, illness overcame the party, requiring several members to be sent back to Santa Fe. Vargas himself fell desperately ill on April 1, 1704, and he died on April 8th, at the age of 60.
Diego de Vargas
William “Billy” Adams (1861-1954) was born in Blue Mountain, Wisconsin. His father and mother were pioneers in the lead mining districts of Wisconsin. In 1871, the Adams family moved to Colorado where Billy briefly managed a hardware store in Pueblo. Billy moved to Alamosa in 1878 and worked to acquire land and cattle. In his spare time, Billy studied law, history, government and economics. Billy was first elected treasurer and later mayor of Alamosa before becoming a commissioner for Conejos County. In 1886, Billy was elected to the Colorado State Legislature for a two-year term. He was then elected State Senator and remained in that position until he was elected Governor in 1926. Billy was a Democrat, but he was elected even when Republicans swept other races. Billy only introduced one bill while he was in the Legislature—a bill creating Alamosa State Normal School, which was later renamed Adams State Teachers College. He was also instrumental in the development of the Colorado Agricultural College at Fort Collins, Colorado State Teachers College at Greeley, and Colorado State Normal School at Gunnison. Over his 50 years of public service, Billy was recognized for his interest in education and devotion to his district.
Lafayette Head was born in Hunter County, Missouri, in 1825. He came to New Mexico with the Second Regiment of Missouri Volunteers as a private during the Mexican American War (1846-48), and attained the rank of major. He spoke English and Spanish. He married Maria Juana “Juanita” de la Cruz Martinez, a Hispanic woman, in 1847.
In 1854, Head led families from Abiquiu, New Mexico, to what is now Conejos County to build permanent settlements. One of the first settlements was the Plaza de Guadalupe, which was built on the Mexican land grant that had been acquired in 1842. In 1855, Head partnered with Otto Mears to start the first sawmill and gristmill in southern Colorado; and in 1856, Head helped establish the first church in Colorado, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish.
Gold was discovered in Colorado in 1858, which led to an influx of Anglo-American settlers into the region. In 1860, Head was reassigned to the Tabeguache Ute tribe in Conejos. Head served in this capacity until 1868 while managing a general store, stables, and a school in connection with the agency.
As Indian agent, Head worked closely with Chief Ouray and together they traveled to Washington, D.C., in 1863, to meet with President Abraham Lincoln to discuss the Treaty with the Utah-Tabeguache Band, which established the boundaries for tribal lands at the 37th parallel. In October 1863, this Treaty was signed in Colorado with 1,500 Ute representatives and U.S. government officials. In 1868, Head also helped the U.S. government negotiate another treaty that established one reservation for all seven Ute bands on the Western Slope.
In 1874, Head served as Councilman for the Eleventh District (which included Conejos County) in the Tenth Colorado Territorial Assembly. He also attended the constitutional convention for the Colorado State Constitution. When Colorado officially became a state in 1876, Head was nominated to be the first state governor at the Republican Convention in Pueblo, but he lost to John Routt. Head served as Colorado’s first lieutenant governor. In 1879, Head retired from politics and returned to Conejos County to live with his wife. He died on March 8, 1897.
Christopher “Kit” Carson (1809-1868) was a famous trapper, explorer, Indian agent and soldier. When Carson was two years old, his family moved from Kentucky to Howard County, Missouri. Carson spent most of his early childhood in Boone’s Lick, which was also the home of William Becknell, who, in 1821, established the route that came to be known as the Santa Fe Trail. Life on the frontier was hard. Carson never learned to read or write. At 16 years of age, Carson signed on with a large merchant caravan heading to Santa Fe. As a trapper, Carson traveled and lived extensively among Native Americans. He married Singing Grass, an Arapaho woman, who died giving birth to their second child. Carson later married a Cheyenne woman called Making-Out-Road to care for his daughter Adaline, but she soon divorced him. In February 1843, Carson married his third wife, Josefa Jaramillo, the daughter of a prominent Taos family. Carson served in the Mexican-American War in 1846 in California. He also gained fame in the Battle of San Pascual later that year. In April 1847, Carson was away from home when the Taos Revolt broke out. His brother-in-law, Governor Charles Bent, was murdered while trying to protect Josefa and her sister.
In 1854, Carson was appointed Indian agent in Taos for the Ute and Apache. During the Civil War, he helped organize New Mexico volunteers and fought at Valverde in 1862. In 1863, the U.S. Army ordered Carson to wage an economic war against the Navajo and destroy their crops and round up their livestock. The Navajo were unable to defend themselves and, in 1864, most surrendered to Carson.
In 1866, Carson and his family were stationed with the New Mexico volunteers at Fort Garland. During this time, Carson accompanied Chief Ouray and other Utes to meet U.S. President Andrew Johnson. Carson died one month after Josefa in May 1868 at Fort Lyon.
Cuerno Verde (“Green Horn”) is the Spanish name given to Tavibo Naritgant, a Comanche leader, for the green horns he wore on his head-dress in battle. After Tavibo Naritgant was killed in combat with the Spanish at Ojo Caliente in 1768, his son inherited both his father’s name and the green horn head-dress.
The younger Tavibo Naritgant led a series of successful raids into Nuevo Mexico during the mid- to late 1770s. The Spanish Viceroy in Mexico offered Juan Bautista de Anza the governorship of Nuevo Mexico if he could deal with Tavibo Naritgant. De Anza moved to Nuevo Mexico as Governor in 1778 and studied Tavibo Naritgant’s expeditions and exploits for a year. In August 1779, de Anza led a mixed force of 500 to 800 Spanish troops, together with Ute, Apache, and Pueblo warriors, against Tavibo Naritgant.
Battles were waged between August 31st and September 3, 1779. On September 3, 1779, Tavibo Naritgant, his first-born son and fifteen others, were killed in combat somewhere between what is now Pueblo and Colorado City, Colorado.
The green horn head-dress was taken from the battlefield and presented to Viceroy de Anza, who in turn presented it to the King of Spain. The King of Spain then presented the head-dress to the Pope and it remains on display in the Vatican museum in Rome.
The Viceroy de Anza called Tavibo Naritgant a “cruel scourge” and noted many atrocities he committed. However, modern Comanches question the accuracy of de Anza’s reports and argue that Tavibo Naritgant was merely fulfilling the obligations of a responsible Comanche leader of the time.
Albert H. Pfeiffer was born in Holland. At 22 years of age, he came west as a soldier. Pfeiffer was an Indian Agent at Abiquiu in 1858 and 1859. He married Antonita Salinas at Abiquiu, New Mexico and later settled in Rio Grande County using the 1862 Homestead Act. He and Kit Carson followed U.S. General Thomas Carleton’s orders to expel the Navajos from Canyon de Chelly. In sum, the operation targeted 8,000 Navajos. U.S. military personnel burnt Navajo hogans, slaughtered sheep and goats, poisoned water wells, and chopped down prized peach orchards in order to force the population to abandon their homes. The subsequent march to Bosque Redondo became known as the Navajo Long Walk (1864-1868).
Pfeiffer is renowned for an incident on June 20, 1863, when Apaches attacked his party at the hot springs (now known as Truth or Consequences) and took his wife captive. One report says, without putting on any clothes, Pfeiffer grabbed his rifle and waded across the river in pursuit of the Indians. Pfeiffer made it to Fort McRae to sound the alarm and get reinforcements. Pfeiffer was pursued and he received an arrow in his back that came out his chest.
Albert H. Pfeiffer
Juan de Oñate y Salazar was the son of wealthy parents in Zacatecas, New Spain. He gained added status when he married a granddaughter of Hernán Cortés. He was a conquistador who established the colony of New Mexico for Spain.
Oñate’s request to conquer and govern New Mexico was approved in 1595. In January 1598, he set out with 400 settlors on the northern journey, crossing the Rio Grande at El Paso in May 1598. After establishing a headquarters at the river’s confluence with the Chama at San Juan, Oñate sent out small parties in search of treasure. Not finding any treasure, many settlers became disillusioned and wanted to return to New Spain. Oñate refused to let them go and even executed several of the more outspoken dissidents. However, his treatment of Native Americans was even harsher.
Following a dispute with the Acoma that led to the death of thirteen Spaniards, including Oñate’s nephew, Oñate ordered a brutal retaliation against the Acoma Pueblo, which destroyed the pueblo and killed between 800-1000 Acomas. At the trial of the approximately 500 survivors at Ohkay Owingeh, Oñate sentenced most of them to twenty years of forced “personal servitude” and ordered that all men over the age of twenty-five have a foot cut off.
In June 1601, Oñate set out to find the legendary treasure of Quivira, traveling as far east as modern Kansas, but returned empty-handed. In 1604, he led thirty soldiers on an expedition west to the Colorado River and south to the Gulf of Mexico, but again found no gold.
Oñate resigned in 1607 and stood trial for crimes committed while governor. He was found guilty of using “excessive force” against the Acoma people and other crimes, and exiled from the colony. In 1624, his appeals brought a reversal of his sentence, but he was never reinstated.
Don Juan de Oňate
Virginia was born in Derry, New Hampshire in 1916. Entering the Westchester Nursing School in Valhalla, New York at the age of 20, discipline in the nursing school was strict. After graduation, her first assignment was in the officers’ ward at Ft. Dix. When Pearl Harbor was bombed five nurses volunteered to go where the action was, Virginia was one of these volunteers. It would take a total of seven weeks before she would board a ship to Pearl Harbor along with the four other nurse volunteers and thousands of service men. When the ship finally arrived in Pearl Harbor, she was amazed at the terrible destruction. Temporary hospitals were set up in various locations. Virginia worked mostly taking care of orthopedic patients. After two and half years, Virginia was sent to Guam to be closer to the war zones; arriving in December 1944. There was mass destruction everywhere. Patients arrived by ships and planes from wherever the landings and battles were in the South Pacific; some were suffering terribly from open wounds, others had crawled through the dirt of the jungle or through the sand of a beach. Their wounds would be full of dirt and sometime infections. She worked long hours, under difficult circumstances, and gave the best care possible to her patients. Virginia formed lasting friendships. Soon after VJ Day, Virginia returned to the States. After the war Virginia married her husband Max, they settled in Jaroso on Max’s farm. Leaving the San Luis Valley for a few years, they returned to the farm. Virginia assumed nursing duties for Alamosa Schools and commuted to the farm on weekends. Virginia retired after nearly fifty years of nursing and the spent seventeen years volunteering as a Gray Lady at the Alamosa Hospital.
Reference: “The San Luis Valley Historian”. Volume XXVI. Number 2. 2004.
Virginia Piper West
“Hurry, Hurry, Georgiana, the baby is coming!” What did pioneer expectant mothers do when a baby was due and unable to go to a hospital? They called on Georgiana West. Many women of the southern end of the San Luis Valley called on this skilled mid-wife and nurse. She delivered over 1,000 babies, between 1915 thru 1963. Georgiana’s home was located about one mile north of the state line between Colorado and New Mexico. She attended also too many mothers who lived in New Mexico. The State of New Mexico licensed mid-wives, Colorado never licensed mid-wives, but required a filing of birth records. Georgiana assisted women in San Luis, San Acacio, Joroso, La Jara, and Antonito. Traveling to the homes where she was needed by such modes as horse and buggy, tractors, sled, jeeps, and in cars. Some deliveries had to be accomplished under primitive conditions with very little means for good sanitation; she tried to keep mother and baby as clean as possible. On rare occasions, there might be only one bed in the home, and it would be occupied with an ailing or elderly family member. Georgina never lost a mother; few babies were still born or died soon after birth. During the last ten years of her practice, she would take care of the mothers in her own home. She charged $25.00, which included delivery of the baby, room and board, and care for mother and baby for about three days after delivery. If a family was unable to pay Georgiana, she would accept whatever they could pay.
Reference: “The San Luis Valley Historian”. Volume IX. Number 4. 1977.
Throughout is life Mr. Moloney contributed significantly to the agriculture industry in the San Luis Valley. He was the first to import commercial fertilizer into the Valley and the first to ship produce out of the Valley. Born in Missouri in 1887 and married Casilda Salazar of San Luis in 1913. Returning to San Luis in 1915 where he worked with his father-in-law at his store, A.A. Salazar Mercantile. While working in the store he started a mail order garden seed business out of his home; calling it Maloney Seed Company with the tagline “Growers and distributors of fine garden seed.” Packing seeds in small packets with lithographed pictures and selling them for five cents each. He also packed peas, beans, and corn in manila envelopes. Selling the seeds, to Valley residents and to customers outside of the valley by 1926 his seed company was a success. Alex grew: Burpee string less beans, yellow wax beans, and Alderman and dwarf market peas in his own garden. His business expanded throughout the years; shipping fresh garden peas out of the Valley to St. Louise, eventually vegetables nationwide, and supplying seed to vegetable farmers in the San Luis Valley. Alex was always trying new varieties of vegetable seeds; when he liked a particular variety, he would send samples to his growers so they could try them out. Alex also started growing strawberries and selling them daily to the stories throughout the Valley.
Alex was an avid reader of agriculture literature. One day he came across an article in German and translated it; the article was about a chemical called Nitro-phoska (which was probably Diammonium phosphate). He was able to order a bag from Holland and used it in his garden; it surely made his garden grow. The fertilizer was too expensive to import, so he started buying ammonia sulfate, is a nitrogen fertilizer that is known for making leaves green. Mr. Moloney ordered the minimum shipment of eight tones by railroad to Ft Garland. He asked the Japanese-American vegetable growers in Ft. Garland, Alamosa, San Luis, and La Jara areas to mix the ammonium sulfate in the sprinkler cans they used to water their hotbed frames of cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli plants. The fertilizer helped produce very hearty plants. While continuing to sell ammonium sulfate Alex worked on the fertilizer to make a better plant food, he developed a ratio of nitrogen, phosphate, and potash to be right for the plants in the San Luis Valley. Eventually developing two successful mixtures for potatoes for sandy soil and one for heavy soil. Alex fertilizer business grew throughout the years; continuing to read and study. Alex contributed much to the San Luis Valley and to the heritage area.
Reference: “The San Luis Valley Historian”. Volume XXXIV. Number 3. 2002.
Photo by Paul F. Moloney
Alex I. Moloney
In 1939 the Yoshida family moved to the Waverly district. The Yoshida family: Frank and Isayo, along with their eight children worked on the farm; hoeing weeds, cutting lettuce, and tying cauliflower. They grew lettuce, cabbage, and cauliflower. Mr. Yoshida was known as the Lettuce King of the San Luis Valley. Daughter Bessie Miyeko Yoshida Konishi of Alamosa described the family’s farm as successful. The family carefully tended the crops, her job as a little girl before heading off to school was to cover the young plants with mats her sisters had woven from cattails. Cauliflower was a major crop for the Yoshida farm; the cauliflower leaves were laboriously sewn shut so the vegetable would go to market the preferred white color instead of a yellowish shade that it would turn on its own devices.
Frank used hot beds to start growing his vegetables. A hot bed, also known as a hot box, is a heated cold frame. A cold frame is a plant bed that is protected from the environment to keep it a little bit warmer than outside the frame. Essentially, a hot box is a miniature greenhouse. The main reason to use a hot box is to extend the growing season. Mr. Maloney.
Reference: “The San Luis Valley Historian”. Vol. XXV. Number 3. 1993, “The Crestone Eagle”. Web Accessed 2-26-2020.
Lettuce King of the San Luis Valley
Dr. Jack Kyle Cooper was born in 1932 in Beaumont, TX. He completed his dental schooling at Washington University in St. Louis and began his tour of duty with the US Army Dental Corps. In 1959, his wife Nita and daughter settled in Alamosa where he began his dental practice, which involved all aspects of dentistry except orthodontia. Dr. Cooper’s approach to treating any unusual dental problem was to explain the concern to his patient, he would even draw a detailed picture of what the procedure would be that he was about to undertake. He wanted his patients to understand what was involved in his providing proper dental care. In this respect, you could say Dr. Cooper was both dentist and teacher. In the early 1960s, he taught in the Biology Department at Adams State College. He taught various courses: anatomy, physiology, comparative anatomy, and medical terminology. After retiring from active dental practice in 1990, he continued teaching at ASC; he was awarded emeritus statue in 1994.
Jack Cooper had an enduring passion for American history. Besides immersing himself in history, he communicated this enthusiasm to others. In 1960, he established the Cooper Scholarship to be awarded to the outstanding Adams State history major as a way of recognizing and further encouraging young historians in the making.
Reference: “The San Luis Valley Historian”. Vol XXXIX. Number 3. 2007.
Dr. Jack Kyle Cooper
José Amarante Garcia
Buffalo Soldiers, refers to the African American cavalry regiments of the U.S Army, who mostly served on the Western frontier following the American Civil War. One theory states that the nickname “Buffalo Soldier” arose from the Native Americans as they thought the soldiers; dark curly hair resembled that of a buffalo mane. Another theory suggests that the Natives gave this nickname because the soldiers fought fiercely, similar to a Great Plain Buffalo. These soldiers
assisted in the United States’ Westward expansion by building roads, serving as the first National Park Rangers, and participating in military actions.
Black soldiers sought out military service as a strategy to obtain equal rights as citizens. For their service, the soldiers would often have access to better education, jobs, and were allowed to own property. On the flipside, some returning soldiers experienced discrimination and in some cases were lynched. African Americans had realized that even with military service, they were still seen as unequal.
Between 1876 and 1879, the 9th Cavalry of the famed Buffalo Soldiers were stationed in Fort Garland. The troops marched to the La Plata region to prevent conflicts between the Utes and white prospectors. The following year, the troops were instrumental in removing white settlers from Native American reservations. Learn more about the Buffalo Soldiers and the 9th Cavalry by visiting the Fort Garland Museum and Cultural Center.
(Information and Photos taken from: Fort Garland Museum, Smithsonian Institute, National
Museum of African American History and Culture.)
Jose Maximo Patricio Valdez (Patrick Valdez) was born on St. Patrick’s Day in 1949 in Conejos County, Colorado. Patrick was the first of eight children born to a farming couple, Maximo and Filomena Muniz Valdez. On his birthday, the family faithfully traveled a few miles from their farm to the St. Joseph Church in Capulin, where the future priest was baptized. Patrick attended school in Capulin and graduated in a class of eleven students. Patrick furthered his education at St. Andrews Avellino Seminary in Denver, where he took his first vows leading to priesthood. In 1971, Patrick received a B.A degree from St. Thomas Seminary. Reverend Patrick M. Valdez, C.R, commonly known as Father Pat, served in various parishes in the Denver area before arriving in San Luis, Colorado, at the Sangre de Cristo Parish in 1985. Quickly, Father Pat received admiration from his community as he combined his religious commitment with respect for rich Hispanic culture within the region. Father Pat inspired the people by bringing dedication, leadership, tradition, faith, and vision to the community. Father Pat was known to visit each parishioner and assign them a “task” of revitalizing their community. With Father Pat’s leading hand, parishioners were repairing and restoring historic structures. Father Pat was instrumental in keeping Hispanic traditions alive and preserved for generations,
including “Las Posadas,” a religious festival commemorating Mary and Joseph’s journey before the birth of Jesus. Father Pat initiated the creation of a new sacred space on the mesa above San Luis. This was a result of Father Pat’s religious devotion and creative impulses. Stations of the Cross, which was dedicated in 1991, included sculptures by Huberto Maestas, and the construction of the Capilla de Todos Santos, was dedicated in 1996. Stations of the Cross has become a religious pilgrimage for thousands. Alongside his role of priest and supporting the community with various programs and projects, Father Pat also mediated land right contentions. In his lifetime, Father Pat has humbly received numerous awards, including the Governor’s Award and was also named Time Magazine’s Young Man of the Year. Although Father Pat is no longer in San Luis, his memory, dedication, and passion lives on for generations to see.
(Information and Image: Denver Public Library, Virginia Simmons, and the Denver Post.)
Father Patrick Valdez
The Menke sisters grew up on Antonito’s River Street, which at the time was known as an affluent area. The Menke’s sisters grew up in a neighborhood full of wealthy families who were successful cattle and sheep herders. Their father’s name is Thomas David Lawrence Menke. He came to the San Luis Valley in 1880 where he first settled in Del Norte, and eventually moved to Conejos where he started his business “Menke Abstract Company.” It was there that Thomas also met his wife, a school teacher from Lovatos, Anna Denning. The couple married in 1890 and established a home in Antonito. Soon thereafter, the couple had three daughters. The first daughter, named Ella was born in 1891. Her father gave her a nickname of “Dutch” because she was his “little dutch girl.” Ella would be referred to as Dutch for the rest of her life. Two more daughters, named Hazel and Gladys came shortly after. The youngest of the Menke children was a boy named Thomas David Lawrence Jr (T.D.L, Jr.) Much of the Menke sisters’ childhood was spent at the St. Augustine Catholic Church. There was one young boy from Manassa who was known for causing trouble that the Menke parents kept their eyes on. His name was Jack Dempsey. Dempsey spent a lot of time at the Menke home and taught T.D.L, Jr how to take care of himself. Ms. Dempsey was worried that Dempsey would be a bad influence on her children, citing his foul language and rough housing. After completing high school in 1915, the Menke sisters moved to Detroit where they attended the Thomas Normal School. Right beside their apartments was one of the city’s top vaudeville houses.Vaudeville is a type of entertainment that was popular in the early 20th century. This type of live entertainment included a mix of comedy, song, and dance. Most of their time in Detroit was spent at these venues where they were in awe of the performers. It was during this time that the sisters felt empowered to take the stage. They had flair on stage with their bright personalities and adoration for song and dance. Their father was supportive for their passions and encouraged them to become trained stage performers. It was in the spring of 1916 when the Menke sisters hopped aboard the Denver and Rio Grande train to New York City. Soon upon arrival, the Menke sisters enrolled into the highly acclaimed Alvino School. After less than a year of training, the Menke sisters were booked at Brooklyn’s Myrtle Theater. The sisters were paid $10 (equivalent to $243 in 2021) for their eight minute performance. They were well received by the audience and immediately signed a deal with Lowe-Time, a national vaudeville circuit. After about a year on stage, Dutch, the youngest sister, returned to Antonito where she helped her father with his business and eventually worked as the treasurer for Conejos County in the 1930s. The two other sisters, Gladys and Hazel, were performing all across the country. One of their favorite places to perform was in Colorado as they would often spend time in the San Luis Valley for a break before heading back on tour. The sisters found that life on the tour was quite cumbersome as all travel was done by train late at night into the early morning. To combat this, the sisters purchased a Pontiac, one of the first hundred ever built. When movies became popular, vaudeville shows started losing their flair and over 12,000 performers lost their jobs. Even throughout this tremendous loss of interest in the vaudeville industry, the Menke sisters remained popular and continued to work. Dutch, experiencing the stress of her parents' health, running the family business, and working as County Treasurer, begged for her sisters to return to Antonito to help. The two sisters soon returned. It wasn’t long thereafter that the Menke sisters had another great idea of building a fishing resort hotel. All sisters were on board and during the summer of 1931, right in the middle of the great depression, the sisters opened “Menkhaven-on-the-Conejos.” The resort was quite successful and attracted people all across the country. The resort was built fifteen miles from Antonito on seventeen acres of land on the Conejos river. The resort could hold up to fifty people and the prices were set high to attract only the affluent. Each summer the resort would be completely booked up. The resort also had highly acclaimed food, brought in performers from Denver and Pueblo, and once in a while the Menke sisters would dress up and give the guests a private performance. Mrs. Menke was known to be an expert flycaster and would often guide the guests along the Conejos River. The resort was known to draw in famous politicians and performers of the time, including Colorado’s Governor Ralph Carr. In 1957, the Menke sisters sold the resort as they were in their 60s and stated that the resort took up more time than their life as performers. The Abstract Company that their father had started has been in business for over one hundred years. As for the resort, it still bears the name of Menkhaven and is fully operational. Dutch and Gladys both passed away in 1975. Hazel lived on until 1980. The three sisters, all so deeply involved and connected, are buried together in the La Jara cemetery.
(Information and Photos taken from the San Luis Valley Historian Volume XXVII Number 2,
William Harrison Dempsey, Jack Dempsey’s given name, was born on June 24th, 1895, in Manassa, Colorado. Jack was the ninth of eleven children born to Mary Celia Smoot and Hiram Dempsey. Jack’s mother was of the Scotch-Irish Cherokee background and his father was full Irish. The family came from Logan County, West Virginia after the parents had met a Mormon missionary and joined the Mormon faith. It is unknown if Manassa was intended to be their final destination, nonetheless they arrived into the town with other Mormon settlers. The Dempsey’s were completely destitute when their wagon pulled into Manassa. Some readings on Dempsey’s history suggest that the Mormon Church provided the family with a home. The home was bare and daylight could be seen through the slabs, but the Dempsey’s were thrilled to have shelter. The Dempsey family struggled financially, but they did everything they could to make ends meet. When Jack was fourteen he would frequently watch his older brother Bernie box, inspiring him to want to become a boxer. Bernie would coach Jack and soon became Jack’s biggest idol.
To help strengthen Jack, Bernie made his brother chew pine gum, wash his face and arms in beef brine, and soak his hands in solution to toughen his skin. By seventeen, Jack was boxing bare knuckled under the name of “Kid Blackie.” The famous American writer Damon Runyon was the one who gave Jack the moniker of the “Manassa Mauler.” Dempsey, an American professional boxer, competed from 1914 to 1927 and was the world heavyweight champion from 1919 to 1926. In 1919, Jack won the title in Toledo, Ohio beating Jess Willard, who had notoriously beat Jack Johnson. Jack Dempsey was seen as the underdog taking on Willard, who was 6”7 and 250 pounds compared to Jack’s 6”1 and 180 pounds. When they entered the ring, the crowd roared and made comparisons of the matchup being similar to David and Goliath. Willard left the fight with a broken jaw, eyes swollen shut, six missing teeth, and broken ribs. The fight was so brutal that Willard actually lost hearing in one of his ears due to the beating from Dempsey. Alongside beating Willard, Dempsey notoriously beat other fighters such as Thomas Gibson, in Shelby Montana, and Luis Firpo (Wild Bull of the Pampas) in 1924. Dempsey is ranked tenth on The Ring magazine’s list of all-time heavyweight fighters and seventh on its Top 100 Greatest Punchers. The Associated Press had voted him the greatest fighter over the past 50 years. Jack was famously known to be good friends with Babe Ruth. Babe and Jack were known to get together to socialize, which would draw large crowds who wanted to catch a glimpse of one of the two greatest sports legends. When Dempsey completed his boxing career, he became a referee, a freemason, was appointed to an executive position in the Irish Worker League (IWL), appeared in films, was on the board of commissioners for boxing, and in 1935, Jack opened his famous restaurant called “Dempsey’s” in New York, which was across the street from Madison Square Garden, and later moved to Times Square. It was reported that if you visited Dempsey’s restaurant and told the staff that you were from Colorado, you would get your meal for free. Dempsey also was a co-owner of the Howard Manor in Palm Springs, California. Jack was well known as a philanthropist following his boxing career. In June
of 1932, Dempsey sponsored the “Ride of Champions” bucking horse event in Reno, Nevada. The “Dempsey Trophy” went to the legendary bronc rider Pete Knight. In 1933, Dempsey was approached by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to portray a boxer in the film, “The Prizefighter and the Lady.” When Jack was in his forties he enlisted in the service and was told that he was too old. Jack responded: “If I pass my physical you have to take me.” Jack passed and served during
WW2 with the United States Coast Guard as a full commander, morale officer, and physical trainer. Dempsey authored a book on boxing titled “Championship Fighting: Explosive Punching and Aggressive Defense” which was published in 1950. Additionally, Dempsey collaborated with his daughter Barbara Lynn, to publish his autobiography, which was titled “Dempsey.” Jack Dempsey died on May 31, 1983, shy of his 88th birthday, due to a weak heart. Jack Dempsey,
Heavyweight Champion of the World, is buried in the Southampton Cemetery in Southampton, New York with a tombstone that reads “a gentle man and a gentleman.” There are many reasons why Jack Dempsey is celebrated around the world and especially in Manassa, no matter how popular or famous Jack Dempsey became, he never forgot where he came from. When Jack was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame, Jack remarked to the crowd: “All the good things that have happened to me came through the great State of Colorado.” Jack’s legacy has been defined by his relentless determination not only in the boxing ring, but throughout his life. Dempsey made his last visit to Manassa in 1964 for the annual Pioneer Days as well as the dedication of his birthplace. Be sure to stop by the birthplace and Museum of Jack Dempsey in Manassa, Colorado. To see the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area’s Jack Dempsey vignette, visit their Facebook page (by searching the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area) by visiting their website: sangreheritage.org, or by checking out their YouTube page (also by searching the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area.)
727 4th St.
State Register 3/13/1996, National Register 7/15/1998, 5AL.262
This Mission style interpretation was build between 1922 and 1928 architect Robert Willison. The interior of the main chapel includes stunning murals by local artist Josef Steinhage.
Sacred Heart Catholic Church
510 Main St. & 509 Hunt Ave.
State Register 9/13/1995, Boundary Increase: State Register 9/9/1998, 5AL.529
This was once the largest department store in the San Luis Valley. This building was made of recycled materials,. Original owner Victor Bain created this Depression-ear building for an affordable price, so that he would offer groceries, household and farm items and clothing to the people of Alamosa. The building is now Rainbows End Thrift Shop, owned and operated by the La Puente Housing Authority where profits from the store and second-story living quarters go back into the non-profit.
Bain’s Department Store
Alamosa Masonic Hall
514 San Juan
State Register 5/14/1997, 5AL.243
The building’s elaborate stamped metal upper story represents a period of construction associated with the arrival of the railroad and the resulting ability to import prefabricated architectural elements. Built in 1887, it was one of the first major buildings to be constructed on what would become Alamosa’s main street. The two story building had duel purpose, the street-level retail stores made money to support the the second-story Masonic Hall. The elaborate Italianate trim and cornice and cast iron façade, along with emergency doors, a new roof and windows were all restored with funds from the Alamosa Masonic Temple Association, city support, State Historical Fund Grants and a grant from the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area.
Alamosa Masonic Hall
702 4th St.
National Register 9/29/1995, 5AL.263
During the 1930’s the WPA Worker’s Administration added the largest of their additions to Alamosa. This U-shaped, Mission Style complex was started in 1936 and is made of more than 450,000 bricks that were made at a kiln located north of Alamosa. It underwent recent restoration to replace the roof, re-point brick masonry, restored windows and made the arcade handicap accessible. The county courthouse has been relocated to the south side of Alamosa and this original building is now under private ownership.
Alamosa County Courthouse
610 State St
National Register 2/11/1993, 5AL.251
The depot was the hub of Alamosa in its prime as it transferred passengers, agricultural goods, mail and other freight in and out of the remote San Luis Valley. The original depot was destroyed by a fire in 1878 and the current building was rebuild in 1908, which the west addition added in 1930. The interior as been remodeled and is used as city offices and as the Alamosa Colorado Welcome Center and loading area for the Rio Grande and Denver Railroad, who now gives nostalgic tourists train rides.
Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Depot
500 State Ave.
National Register 4/15/1999, 5AL.248
The Arcaded Block bank building was constructed in 1909. The building functioned as a bank and then was home to a flower shop. The building was restored and returned to being used as a bank by Ben and Alyce Fujii, who raised money from State Historical Funds and matching funds from the Alamosa Uptown & River Association. The restoration included replacing the roof and parapets, restoring the recessed arched windows and door and masonry work. It is now home to the Center for Restorative Programs.
American National Bank Building
State Register 8/9/2000, National Register 3/12/2001, 5AL.312.1
The Locomotive is now housed near the City Building as you enter Alamosa from the east on Hwy. 160. Decorated by lights during the winter, it is a town landmark. The narrow gauge ten wheeled steam locomotive was fired by coal and built in 1883. It represented the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad at the World’s Fair in New York City in 1939. In 1941, The No. 169 was a gift to the City of Alamosa in 1941 and was set to rest at its current location at Cole Park, nestled along the Rio Grande River.
Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Locomotive No. 169
Approximately 9 miles northeast of Mosca
National Register 2/4/2004, 5AL.301
The Medano Ranch Headquarters is an important part of the development of cattle ranching in the San Luis Valley from the open range days of the 1870s through the mechanized operations of the period following World War II. The Medano is one of the oldest continuously operated properties in the area and its buildings and structures reflect the evolution of ranching as a large-scale enterprise during the late 19th and 20th centuries. The history of the ranch incorporates the sweeping historical themes associated with ranching in Colorado, including the driving of Texas cattle to the area in the 1870s, the entrance of eastern investors into the region’s cattle ranching, the use of sham homestead claims and intimidation of earlier settlers to acquire immense tracts of land during the 19th century, the difficulty of surviving during periods of economic distress, the continued consolidation of lands during the 20th century, and the application of modern ranching techniques and participation in stockmen’s associations during the 20th century. Architecturally, the ranch headquarters is representative of the heart of a major San Luis Valley cattle ranch that began as a range cattle operation, grew greatly in physical extent as smaller holdings were consolidated, and evolved into a fed-cattle Hereford business in the early 20th century. The buildings are classic examples of the variety of materials and construction techniques found on ranches of great longevity. An important aspect of the buildings is their representation of the common ranch practice of recycling and reusing existing structures and joining smaller buildings together to create larger ones. One of the buildings, the draft horse barn, reflects New Mexican influences in its design.
Medano Ranch Headquarters
408 State Ave.
National Register 5/22/2005, 5AL.259
The church was built in 1907 in the Queen Anne style. The style is represented with the patterned shingles, corner tower, pitched roof and front facing gable. This is the only ornamental concrete block public building in Alamosa. The building is also the oldest standing church in Alamosa.
First Baptist Church
607 4th St.
National Register 3/4/2003, 5AL.260
This Mission Revival church was built in 1926, with the sanctuary added in 1930. Its stucco walls, curvilinear parapets, and round-arched window openings was designed by the Denver architectural firm of William E. and Arthur A. Fisher.
St. Thomas Episcopal Church
8681 Main St.
National Register 2/1/2006, 5AL.788
This well-preserved 1891 storefront is a textbook example of a small 19th century commercial building with its recessed central transomed entrance flanked by large display windows above paneled wood kickplates. The building possesses the distinctive characteristics of the False Front Commercial type. Its facade rises to form a parapet wall with a decorated cornice extending above the gabled roof and side walls. Three sides of the building are sheathed in sheet metal siding stamped to resemble rock-faced stone masonry. Manufacturers and retailers promoted this economical means of ornamentation as a durable and fire-resistant material. The building is the town’s best preserved example of embossed sheet metal siding and is one of the town’s oldest and longest operating general merchandise establishments.
Howard Store (Hooper Town Hall)
Colo. Hwy. 150, southwest of Mosca
National Register 11/2/1989, 5AL.414
Constructed in the Territorial Adobe style, the building features a gabled roof, an Anglo modification of the traditional Hispanic flat roof. It was the largest project undertaken by the WPA during its late 1930s work at Great Sand Dunes. It represents the Rustic Movement, championed by the National Park Service’s first director, Stephen T. Mather, who advocated the use of native materials and vernacular building traditions wherever possible. There is an adjacent fee station.
National Register 2/4/2004, 5AL.706
The Trujillo Homestead is an important part of Hispanic settlement in the San Luis Valley in the latter half of the 19th century. Pedro Trujillo, a first generation Hispanic-American, established the property in 1879. The homestead is representative of small-scale pioneer cattle enterprises which typified the first ranches established in the area. The homestead is also associated with the pattern of violence and intimidation experienced by early Hispanic ranchers as large Anglo-American cattle operations expanded and consolidated their holdings. The two-story log ranch house represents a rare resource type in the San Luis Valley and in the state as a whole. The fact that a Hispanic-American settler on an isolated ranch erected the two-story log house instead of building a traditional adobe dwelling typical of the first era of construction in the vicinity adds to the building’s significance. The archaeological component of the site provides a unique opportunity to study cultural change and adaptation by examining possible historic use of Native American technology by a Hispanic ethnic group.
5303 Colo. Hwy. 150
National Register 4/5/1993, 5AL.297
Zapata Ranch was one of the first and largest cattle ranches in the area. It also served as a stage coach stop and post office. Some of its buildings date back to the 1870s, and all of the historic ranch buildings are of log construction.
Zapata Ranch Headquarters
County Rd., over Rio Grande River
National Register 2/4/1985, 5CN.628
This is the oldest vehicular truss in southern Colorado. It was constructed in 1892 in the unusual style of pin/rigid connected, eight panel Thatcher trough truss. This style of truss was patented in 1884 by Edwin Thatcher who was a that time the chief engineer of the Keystone Bridge Company. Through joint efforts of Conejos County and Costilla County, the bridge was refurbished in 2006 and is open to one-lane traffic.
Costilla Crossing Bridge
(Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad)
Antonito to Chama, New Mexico, over Cumbres Pass
National Register 1/16/1973, additional documentation and boundary increase 4/24/2007, National Historic Landmark 10/12/2012, 5AA.664 / 5CN.65
This nationally significant 64 mile, narrow-gauge railroad segment exists as one of only two operating sections of what was once a state wide network of three foot gauge tracks built and operated by the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. it was completed in 1880 to help support logging, mining, oil and ranching efforts in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. with transportation of to Farmington and Denver. The Cumbres and Toltec Railroad began operation as a tourist railroad in 1971 and is America’s longest and highest scenic railroad. The states of Colorado and New Mexico jointly own and operate this rail segment today.
Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad San Juan Extension
State Register 8/31/2006, 5CN.499
The 1880 Denver & Rio Grande Railroad (D&RG) Antonito Depot is an important and distinctive masonry example of a combination-type depot active in the San Luis Valley. The depot served for over sixty years as the junction point for the branch line to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the D&RG’s San Juan Extension from Alamosa to Durango and Silverton. In addition to providing passenger and express package service, and housing the local office of the Western Union telegraph, the depot also served as the office for railroad freight operations originating or terminating in the Antonito area. The depot also housed the local office of the Western Union telegraph whose communication lines ran along side much of the C&T.S.R.R. route. The depot was the western-most station on the Rio Grande’s San Juan Extension accommodating both standard and narrow gauge trains.
Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Antonito Depot
Junction of County Rd. 3S and Rd. 103S, Alamosa vicinity
National Register 5/3/2006, 5AL.89
Built in 1911, eight miles west of Alamosa, the Mt. Pleasant School building served as the area’s only school until 1965 and was the last one-room school area. This rural school building is a prime example of a school house from the first half of the 1900s. predominant features is the corner belfry with a concave roof slope.
Mt. Pleasant School
Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad rail yard
National Register 8/10/79, 5CN.1650 (formerly 5EP.203)
As is the case with many small, early locomotives, we know little of their operating history. In the case of the 168, what we know comes entirely from photographs taken of it. The first shows it in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River in 1904. The second photos show it in Montrose, CO, west of Gunnison, at the head of a special train taking President William Howard Taft to the opening of the Gunnison Tunnel which, at the time, was the longest irrigation tunnel in the world. There are also photographs taken by Otto Perry, showing it in Alamosa in 1923 and Salida in 1929. It was retired in 1938 after a service life of 55 years, later than most in its class. D&RGW Locomotive No. 168 was constructed by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1883. It pulled trains within the D&RG narrow gauge system from 1883 until 1933, when it was retired and nearly scrapped. At the time of its nomination the locomotive was located in Antlers Park, Colorado Springs, but was moved in 2015 with prior approval by the Keeper of the National Register to the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad rail yard so that it could be restored to service on its historic rail line, the D&RGW’s San Juan Extension.
Denver & Rio Grande Western Locomotive No. 168
US Hwy. 285 (Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad)
National Register 5/12/1975, 5CN.68
Built in 1903 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia, Engine No. 463 is one of only two remaining locomotives of the K-27 series originally built for and operated by the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad. The K-27 series was a departure from the design most prevalent on Colorado’s narrow gauge lines, resulting in a locomotive with one and one-half times more power. The arrival of this series marked a significant turning point in the operation of the D&RGW’s narrow gauge lines that was to remain in effect until the end of Class I narrow gauge steam locomotion in 1968. The Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad restored the engine to operating condition.
Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad Engine 463
429 Main St.
National Register 8/19/1994, 5CN.774
Expanding railroad service created the need for construction of the Palace Hotel. Due to its location at the junction of the Rio Grande Railroad’s line to Chama, Durango and the San Juan Mountains and its branch to Santa Fe, Antonito became an important trade center in the southern San Luis Valley. The Palace Hotel provided overnight accommodations for salesmen, wool merchants, and tourists beginning in 1890.
603 Main St.
National Register 3/29/2001, 5CN.817
As the headquarters for La Sociedad Proteccion Mutua de Trabajadores Unidos since 1925, the building represents an important aspect of Hispano history. Originally created to combat exploitation of Hispanic workers by mine owners and barons, in the San Luis Valley. This fraternal organization later expanded to provide mutual aid, thereby playing an important role in the overall social history of Colorado. Construction of this building popularized the use of steel trusses, introduced changes in massing, and promoted hybridized Southwest vernacular designs subsequently utilized in other Hispano enclaves.
La Sociedad de Proteccion Mutua de Trabajadores Unidos(SPMDTU) is the oldest Hispanic mutual aid society in the United States. It was founded by Celedonio Mondragon on November 26, 1900. The first meeting was held that day in Antonito at the home of Apolonio Quintana, over the first few years, meetings were held at the homes of members, each one receiving a turn.
Mondragon and other Spanish-American men created the organization out of necessity, to fight discrimination, through non-violent actions, that was happening in the region through usurpation of Hispanic land ownership and discrimination against wage laborers
After meeting in homes, the society bought the Fidelia Marquez residence on the west end of town and a few hundred feet from the railroad tracks. The organization gained hundreds of members throughout the San Luis Valley and northern New Mexico, and it was decided to seek funds to construct the assembly hall for the newly formed Concilio Superior. The building, which still stands on Hwy 285 in downtown Antonito, was finished in 1926 and has since been home to many meetings and celebrations.
After World War II the SPMDTU had more than 1,500 members. The SPMDTU had concilios locales (local councils or chapters) in 36 towns in northern New Mexico, three towns in Utah and 41 towns in Colorado. They were numbered in order of their founding. Those in Colorado included the following: No. 1 Antonito, No. 2 Capulin, No. 3 Mogote, No. 4 Saguache, No. 5 Ortiz, No. 6 La Isla, No. 7 Los Sauces/Salida, (later became No. 7 in Denver), No. 8 Del Norte, No. 8 Los Valdezes, No. 10 La Jara, No.11 Fort Garland, No. 12 Del Norte/Nos. 8, 30, No. 15 Center/No 41, No. 16 La Garita, No. 17 Lobatos, No. 18 La Jara, No. 19 Alamosa, No. 20 Oak View, No. 21 Ignacio, No. 22 Conejos, No. 24 Pagosa Springs, No. 27 Monte Vista, No. 28 San Pablo, No. 29 Los Pinos/Valle, No. 30 Del Norte, No. 31 Chama, No. 32 Fort Collins, No. 34 Pagosa Springs, No. 35 Durango, No. 36 Montrose, No. 41 Center, No. 45 McPhee, No. 48 Aguilar, No. 49 San Luis, No. 50 Cañon, No. 52 Leadville, No. 54 Garcia, No. 60 Brighton and No. 60 Walsenburg.
The three concilios locales in Utah were: No. 59 Clearfield, No. 61 Odgen and No. 63 in Salt Lake City
Towns in New Mexico that had concilios locales include: No. 4 Rodarte, No. 9 La Madera/ Vallecitos, No. 10 San Miguel, No. 11 Las Tusas, No. 12 Costilla, No. 13 Ojo Caliente, No. 14 El Rito, No. 15 Placitas, No. 18 Ranchos de Taos, No. 20 Ranchos de Taos No. 21 Española Valley ((Española, Alcalde, Velarde, Lyden), No. 23 Lumberton, No. 24 No Agua/ Tres Piedras, No. 25 Chama, No. 26 Española, No. 29 Los Pinos, No. 30 Chamita, No. 30 Ratón and Dawson, No. 32 Arroyo Hondo, No. 33 Las Cruces, No. 34 Chamita, No. 37 Rosa, No. 38 Tierra Amarilla, No. 39 Alcalde, No. 40 Velarde, No. 42 Arroyo Seco, No. 43 Cerro, No. 44 Questa, No. 45 Dulce, No. 46 Embudo/Dixon, No. 53 Taos, No. 57 Nambé, No. 58 Peñasco, No. 63 Amalia, and No. 64 Lyden.
Today, the organization is still active. Its concilios locales conduct monthly meetings and functions, in order to further the organization’s vision.
“As a young boy growing up in Placitas, New Mexico, I remember attending burials of elders who had passed away in our community. I was very much impressed by the perfect respect exhibited by the members of La Sociedad de Proteccion Mutua de Trabajadores Unidos during the ceremonies they performed at the gravesite. The hermano who delivered the eulogy and read the resoluciones de condolencia did it in such a way that it produced goose bumps on those of us in attendance. All of the society members weore a siempreviva leaf, an evergreen representing fraternity, pinned next to the devisa on their clothing. As the formation of members walked around the grave, each hermano placed his leaf on the coffin of the departed member and then bid him a last farewell: ‘Hermano, descanse en paz’ (Brother, may you rest in peace).
I also remember the anniversary dances at the meeting hall of the local Council No. 14, an affiliate of La Sociedad located nearby at El Rito, New Mexico. The members started the dance by entering the hall in formation and singing the official La Sociedad hymn. It was very moving to hear those strong baritone voices all in unison….
The rich heritage portrayed in this book is truly an integral part of our Hispanic culture and a legacy for our youth and children.” From the forward by Lucas O. Trujillo, Sr., President, Cuerpo Legislativo Superior, 2001-2010
Excerpt taken from the back cover of La Sociedad: Guardians of Hispanic Culture Along the Rio Grande by Jose A. Rivera
SPMDTU Concilio Superior
515 River St.
National Register 8/30/1974, 5CN.69
This large 1912 brick and stucco home, with a red tile roof, was built for Fred B. Warshauer, a German immigrant who rose to county prominence in the sheep business. Denver architect George F. Harvey drew the plans according to Warshauer’s specifications. Unusual for the period, the house boasts a central vacuum cleaning system and a fire control system. This building is now owned and operated by the Town of Antonito.
Broadway & Main
National Register 5/12/1975, 5CN.67
La Jara traces its birth to the arrival of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad in 1880. Located on part of the San Juan Extension between Alamosa and Silverton, the 1911 depot served as a shipping point for area ranchers and farmers. Gradually the automobile and truck replaced the railroad as the primary mode of transportation, and the railroad eventually closed the depot. In 1970, the town acquired the building and transformed it into the town hall.
La Jara Depot
County Rd. 28
State Register 12/10/1997, 5CN.477
Incorporating a wall of the original 1880 church, construction began on this adobe chapel in 1928. The building reflects the importance of churches as centers and symbols of southern Colorado Hispanic communities. It is the only remaining public/community building representing the village of Los Sauses.
This building is still used by the community for special events, community gatherings, and masses celebrating special religious events.
La Capilla De San Antonio De Padua
County Rd. 9
State Register 6/9/1999, 5CN.894
The circa 1895 church, which was lengthened in 1911, is one of the oldest extant adobe churches in Conejos County. The oblique entry and bell tower, with its pyramidal roof and tall spire, create an asymmetrical composition that is quite different from the typical territorial adobe church. The building also represents the inroads made by the Presbyterian Church into Hispanic southern Colorado, which was predominantly Catholic. It is the only remaining Spanish-speaking Presbyterian church in Conejos County.
San Rafael Presbyterian Church
County Rd. V, Sanford vicinity
National Register 3/26/2008, 5CN.793
The McIntire Ranch was constructed in 1880 by Governor Albert McIntire and his wife Florence McIntire. The Ranch is located in the Southern end of the San Luis Valley, specifically, 4.5 miles NorthEast of Sanford. The McIntire home is an example of Territorial Adobe, which utilizes Hispano and Anglo building traditions. Despite the deteriorating conditions of the house, the adobe construction remains visible in many of the standing walls.
Albert McIntire entered local politics and was elected as the Conejos County judge. Albert was eventually elected Governor of Colorado in 1895 until 1897. Florence, Albert’s wife, was simply not interested in politics and reported that she did not want to “be put on the bonds of social life.” While Albert was governing from Denver, Florence decided to stay in the San Luis Valley in order to keep the ranch running.
Florence McIntire rejected the traditional roles of a woman, such as domestic duties in the private realm of the household, and chose a public management role. Florence was single handedly responsible for the management and success of the McIntire ranch as an economic venture. Contrary to the accepted female roles of the time, Florence developed a level of self-sufficiency that allowed her to thrive until her death in 1912.
Coinciding closely with the increase in women homesteaders, was the American Female Suffrage Movement, a social reform movement that extended social, economic, and political rights to women. Governor McIntire was instrumental in strengthening the movement, and watching his former wife thrive in her ranching achievement, may have been in force in shaping his ideas and actions. As a result, women in Colorado gained the right to vote in 1893.
Florence McIntire is credited with altering the conventional landscape and influencing the development of women’s rights within the state of Colorado.
Colo. Hwy. 136, 4 miles east of Sanford
National Register 10/15/1966, National Historic Landmark 7/4/1961, 5CN.75
Located along the north bank of the Conejos River, the site marks the spot where, in 1807, Zebulon Pike raised the American flag over what was then Spanish territory. The site is now owned by History Colorado and a replica of the stockade exists near the location of the original structure. The stockade represents one of the first documented structures built by Americans in what is now Colorado. It also serves as a reminder of Colorado’s role in North American exploration.
Pike’s Stockade Site
6631-33 Cty. Rd. 13
Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in the small community of Conejos, though considered Colorado’s oldest Catholic parish, it had not officially been listed in the National Register of Historic Places until now. The present building dates to 1927/48. After an 1863 adobe church in this location partially burned, the rear portion of the building was constructed and attached to twin adobe towers in 1926. Later in 1948 the façade and towers were redone in concrete brick. The stained glass windows were mostly likely crafted by Frank Watkins of the Watkins firm in Denver.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Church
7527 Cty. Rd. 16
Antonito, Colorado 81120
Site Number: 5CN.1919
Beginning in the late 1840’s until the early 1850’s, Hispanos from Northern New Mexico began the Euro-American settlement of the San Luis Valley. Pobladoes (settlers) brought with them unique traditions, language, agriculture, arts, architecture, and religion.
Josȇ Victor Garcìa acquired the land comprising the ranch in 1882, and transferred it to his two sons, Celestino and Lafayette Garcìa in 1887. Lafayette sold the family ranch to the Espinosa family in 1925, and they proceeded to live there until 1941. In 1941, the Espinosa family sold the ranch to the Garland family, and to this day is still continuing to function as an operating cattle and hay ranch.
Throughout the years, the ranch has produced cattle, sheep, potatoes, and hay, and to this day the land remains cultivated. The ranch included various building types including a potato shed, sheep shed, and other support facilities. The architecture throughout the ranch is a classic Hispano adobe with a vernacular frame. The Ranch includes the Ranch Headquarters, the site’s most intensive development, a dwelling, garage, potato shed, sheep shed, privy, granaries, and a grain bin. This historic ranch pays tribute to the rich agricultural history and for its ethnic/ Hispano heritage within the San Luis Valley. The ranch is listed on Colorado’s Most Endangered Places through Colorado Preservation Inc. Reyes Garcia was of huge assistance in gathering the history of this site as well as sharing his family stories.
19895 County Road 8
Saint Joseph’s Church was considered significant for its contribution to broad patterns of history for the Hispanic and Catholic populations in Colorado. It also embodies distinctive architectural characteristics for its Gothic Revival stone construction, built in 1912-13 and its original stained glass windows. The nearby cemetery is also included for its significance from 1878 to 1968. The architect for the church is not known. The community, parishioners, and the Diocese were very supportive regarding the nomination and the research process.
St. Joseph’s Church
County Rd. 12, Blanca vicinity
National Register 1/6/2004, 5CT.398
This structure is a perfect example of a timber stringer standard gauge railroad bridge construction. It was built in 1910 and was used to haul both freight and passengers until 1939 when the railroad closed. It is the only remaining San Luis Valley Southern Railway trestle in existence.
San Luis Valley Southern Rattlesnake Trestle
Hwy. 142 & Cty. Rd. 7
National Register 3/12/2012, 5CT.201
Iglesia de la Inmaculada Concepción was built in 1938 after the original church burned down in 1935. A community baseball team called the Chama Kitos sold game tickets to raise money under the direction of Father Onofre Martorell. It has a single-story cruciform plan with an eastern nave entrance. It is significant for Hispanic Heritage and was used as a religious center and social gathering location for the Chama community. In the summer months a priest from the Sangre de Cristo Parish conducts a Mass, in Spanish, at each local mission church in the area. The community still gathers at the church during Holy Week before carrying a model of the church to San Luis for religious observances. They also gather in July for the Feast of St. James and in December for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. (2002 photograph.)
Iglesia de la Inmaculada Concepción
603 Main St.
National Register 3/29/2001, 5CN.817
Sociedad Protección Mutua de Trabajadores Unidos (Society of Mutual Protection of United Workers or SPMDTU) was established in 1900 by Celedonio Mondragón and fellow Hispanos in Antonito. The function of the SPMDTU was to bring solidarity within Mexican and Spanish American communities in the fight against exploitation and injustices. Membership was limited to those who were male, Hispano, and between the age of eighteen and fifty-five. The SPMDTU was vital for rural communities, as members band together as hermanos (brothers) in the fight against equality within the agricultural, political, labor, and land and water rights sector.
The group (SPMDTU) provided community members with assistance with life, sickness, and burial insurance. The group also played a social role within the San Luis Valley by hosting popular dances that were open to the community within the vicinity. Construction of this building popularized the use of steel trusses, introduced changes in massing, and promoted hybridized Southwest vernacular designs subsequently utilized in other Hispano enclaves.
- SPMDTU Constitution:
“To protect each other against the injustices of tyrants and despots, the usurpers of law and justice, and those who steal our lives, honor, and property, so that it may serve as the guardian protector of our families and our interests.”
Colo. Hwy. 159, south of US Hwy. 160
National Register 2/26/1970, Boundary Increase: State Register 12/11/1996, 5CT.46
Built in 1858, the adobe fort served as a base of military operations in the San Luis Valley until 1883. Lt. Kit Carson commanded the fort from 1866-1867, entertaining great names like Cheif Ouray Lt. Gen. William T. Sherman. Carson stepped down as commander due to declining health and passed six months later. Company G of the Ninth Cavalry, a unit of Buffalo Soldiers, operated out of the fort from the spring of 1876 until September 1879. Buffalo Soldiers were African American troops who received their nickname from Southern Plains Indians who perceived similarities between the soldiers’ curly black hair and the matted fur between the horns of the buffalo. Today History Colorado operates Fort Garland as one of its regional museums.
Fort Garland Museum
1750 County Road 13
State Register 9/24/2015, 5CT.335
The Garcia School is located in the original location of the Plaza de Los Manzanares, which was settled in 1849. It is one of only a couple original territorial adobe buildings that remains and still maintains its architectural integrity. The construction date is believed to be around 1913. The property was sold to Costilla County School District Number Two under the express condition that it be used for a public school. It closed in 1963, but later served as a community library and location for a Head Start program.
21801 Cty. Rd. K.5
National Register 7/23/2013, 5CT.195
Capilla de San Isidro was the social and religious center of the Los Fuertes community and is still used for community gatherings. Originallly it was a single story Hispanic Adobe construction with a flat roof. Father Samuel Garcia, pastor of Sangre de Cristo Parish form 1849-1921 added a gabled roof and cupola, Anglo design elements that make it Territorial Adobe style. The interior had brown plaster walls, a flat ceiling and wooden floors and benches. Later, in the 1930s, cement stucco was added to the walls to seal out moisture and support the foundation. In the summer months a priest from the Sangre de Cristo Parish conducts a Mass, in Spanish, at each local mission church in the area.
Capilla de San Isidro
Hwy 142 & County Rd. 15
National Register 3/12/2012, 5CT.131/132
The Capilla de Viejo San Acacio is the oldest continually used non-Native American religious space in Colorado. As the symbolic and actual center of the Viejo San Acacio community, the church and cemetery (capilla y campo santo) are the location for ongoing cultural use and the site of repeated community gatherings since the village formed circa 1850. Additionally, due to representations of a regional folk art tradition as expressed through hand-carved gravestones in the cemetery, it is artistically significant. In the summer months a priest from the Sangre de Cristo Parish conducts a Mass, in Spanish, at each local mission church in the area.
Founded between the 1850s and 1860s by Hispano settlers near the Culebra River, the Catholic Capilla de Viejo San Acacio is the oldest non-Native American religious space in Colorado. It is said that this early settlement was attacked by a band of Ute’s in 1853. While all of the men in town were tending to their sheep, women, children and the elderly in the village saw the attackers approaching. They began to pray to Saint Agathius (Santo Acacio), a saint that is popular among New Mexicans. According to tradition, the Ute attackers suddenly halted their attack and fled before they reached the town. After the town was saved, the village was renamed to San Acacio, and decided to build a mission church in honor of the Saint.The community has utilized the church for over 150 years and continues to celebrate Mass and the annual fest day of Santo Acacio there. The church was completed sometime after 1868, and the San Acacio
villagers built higher walls and installed vigas (wooden beams) near the church’s roofline. Architecturally, the San Acacio church followed plans typical of mission churches in northern New Mexico. When the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad arrived in 1878, it brought an influx of new towns and settlers. The village of San Acacio benefited from the valley’s developing nfrastructure, but remained culturally separate from the new towns. By 1896, the Capilla de Viejo San Acacio was showing signs of deterioration, and Father Samuel Garcia oversaw major alterations to the building between 1904 to 1912. Father Garcia added a pitched roof of tin, replaced the original earth floor with wooden planks, added a choir loft, and a new bell to the San Acacio mission church. In 1939, Father Onofre Martorell stabilized the church’s walls, added a layer of concrete stucco, and provided the adobe walls with more support. In 1989, Father Patrick Valdez oversaw major restoration of the church under the supervision of a local architectural consulting firm. Since the church was next to a community irrigation ditch, moisture would often seep into the walls. The restoration of the church allowed for water to drain properly, provided the church with a concrete foundation, added new support structures, and replaced stucco with mud plaster to allow for better evaporation. The community has utilized the Capilla de Viejo San Acacio for more than 150 years. Mass is still conducted in Spanish, the community gathers at church during Holy Week, and the town celebrates the feast day of Santo Acacio each year.
Capilla de Viejo San Acacio
North of Colo. Hwy. 142
State Register 12/9/1998, 5CT.22
Built in 1910, it is the largest depot constructed by the San Luis Southern Railway, a 32-mile standard gauge railroad built to serve the towns and farms planned by the Costilla Estates Development Company. The two-story depot also served as railway headquarters until 1950, and it is all that is left in San Acacio to represent the railroad and the company that created the town.
San Acacio San Luis Southern Railway Depot
23531 County Rd. J.2
National Register 3/27/2012, 5CT.447
Iglesia de San Francisco de Assisi is significant for Hispanic Heritage as the central gathering place for the community of San Francisco (La Valley). The church remains the location for ongoing cultural use and is a site of regular community gatherings. In the summer months a priest from the Sangre de Cristo Parish conducts a Mass, in Spanish, at each local mission church in the area. It is an example of vernacular church constructed for the San Luis Catholic mission churches after World War II and has Gothic and Mission Revival elements. It shows how after WWII they adopted modern building concrete block rather than adobe bricks.
Iglesia de San Francisco de Assisi
Colo. Hwy. 159
National Register 12/22/1978, 5CT.47
Established in 1851, San Luis is the oldest continuously inhabited town in Colorado. The district contains an important collection of buildings that includes the county courthouse, the convent and Church of Most Precious Blood, numerous residences, and the town’s commercial core. The district also includes the Vega, a common ground for animal grazing, and the San Luis People’s Ditch.
Plaza de San Luis de la Culebra Historic District
Colo. Hwy. 142
National Register 10/15/2002, 5CT.322
The bridge is comprised of two 18-foot spans, the steel arch culvert is faced with local volcanic fieldstone. Constructed in 1936, the culvert remains intact as a good example of one of the smaller bridges built by the Works Progress Administration during the years of the Great Depression.
Rito Seco Creek Culvert
603 Main St.
State Register 5/14/1997, National Register 1/23/1998, 5CT.265
Constructed in 1906, the house is an example of an ornamental concrete block residence. The house design was inspired by Queen Anne which is possibly the most ornate design from the Victorian Era in Colorado.
Colo. Hwy. 159
National Register 2/4/1985, 5CT.141
Completed over Culebra Creek on the western edge of San Luis in 1911, this segmental, reinforced concrete open spandrel arch is one of the earliest unaltered bridges of this type in Colorado. This bridge spans 57 feet over the Culebra creek. The bridge originally cost Costilla County $2,860 in 1911.
San Luis Bridge
San Pablo vicinity
State Register 3/8/2000, 5CT.200
This circa 1908 building represents an important aspect of Hispano history in southern Colorado. The building reflects the limited religious and governmental support in poor rural areas of predominately Hispanic populations and the aid societies that formed as a result. Los Hermanos Penitentes (a lay religious, fraternal organization) constructed and used the building as a chapel and meeting hall. The organization also served as a cultural force, preserving language, lore, customs, and faith within the isolated communities. The elongated adobe building was constructed following the traditional linear plan of northern New Mexico.
Sociedad de Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno (San Francisco Morada)
Built in the late 1800s and early 1900s, potato cellars were an essential element for a successful farm operation. Usually built by the farm family, the cellars provided a protected space to deposit crops and allowed farmers flexibility to demand the highest price for their crops.
The adobe structures are unique to Colorado and their workmanship has withstood the test of time. As many as one hundred adobe potato cellars may be present in the area. The adobe walls are air pocketed and the interior walls keep the structures naturally cold and insulated. By the 1930’s, four counties in the region (Alamosa, Conejos, Rio Grande, and Saguache) accounted for 47% of Colorado’s potato production. Today, the San Luis Valley is responsible for 90% of Colorado’s potato output.
Adobe Potato Cellars
Hwy 142 & County Rd. 21
National Register 3/12/2012, 5CT.183
Iglesia de San Pedro y San Pablo is significant for Hispanic Heritage as the communal gathering place for the communities of San Pedro and San Pablo. The 1933 church remains the location for ongoing cultural use and is a site of regular community gatherings.
Iglesia de San Pedro y San Pablo
As a part of the original Sangre de Cristo Land Grant in 1902, a group of investors from Colorado Springs purchased over 500,000 acres within Costilla County, Colorado and Taos County, New Mexico. The San Luis Railroad was also purchased by the same group of investors in order to develop over 70,000 acres of land within Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico. The railroad was created in order to connect the rural communities and create more access to water and agriculture. The developers had been given bad weather data and the dream of creating a connected rural agricultural community was not fully realized. The trestle was developed in 1910 to span out the Rattlesnake Canyon. The San Luis Railroad was constructed by Japanese-Americans, who were paid disproportionately lower than other ethnicities. The trestle was the San Luis Railroad’s most expensive asset. In 1949, the San Luis Railroad filed for petition of abandonment due to bleak agricultural conditions, and the rising cost of upkeep for the trestle. The petition to abandon the trestle was finally granted in 1957 and the County took over the trestle as a vehicular bridge to transport produce to and from local farms. The overall cost of maintaining the trestle became too hefty as Costilla County began to develop a dual covert crossing to replace the trestle in 1983. Rattlesnake Trestle has been abandoned since 1983 due to its conditions and high upkeep for Costilla County.
In 1874, James Maddux settled on a ranch one mile north of present day Alamosa, the first post office was located at Maddux’s ranch and was called “Wayside” with Elijah R. Williams as the postmaster. The Wayside Stage Stop predates the city of Alamosa, it is located on North River Road and was utilized as a post office and as the Barlow & Sanderson Stage station from 1874-1878. It is said to have been the first building in Alamosa. The post office delivered mail and the occasional passenger twice daily. The mail and passenger stagecoach stopped at Wayside and then followed the stage route along the Rio Grande River and Del Norte and eventually to Lake City over the mountains from Creede. When the railroad came from Garland City to Alamosa the United States Post office was located in Alamosa and Wayside was no more.
Wayside Stage Stop
Associated with significant persons: While the house is primarily associated with Lafayette Head, who lived in the house, along with his wife, Maria Juana de la Cruz Martinez from an important Abiquiu family, Chief Ouray, Jesus Velasquez, Father Machebeuf, the first Bishop of Denver , Bishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy, John Evans, John Routt, and Abraham Lincoln are all directly associated with the history of the house.
Early Settler in the San Luis Valley:
Lafayette Head was born in Head’s Fort, Missouri in 1825. He served in the Mexican-American War as a young adult and stayed in Santa Fe under the Missouri Regulars, a regiment designed to keep peace within the newly established New Mexico. Head soon became a prominent businessman in Santa Fe.
Head eventually moved to Abiquiu, where he met and married Doña Juana Martina Martinez and became good friends with the local Hispano community. During their time in Abiquiu, Head served as a representative and senator in the New Mexico legislature, a U.S. Marshal, trader, and agent for the Jicarilla Apache. Lafayette Head also was selected to serve in the legislature after moving to the San Luis Valley. Along with Don Jesus Velasquez, he and his family founded one of the first settlements in the Valley, naming it Guadalupe.
Lafayette Head was already established in the San Luis Valley by 1859, when two Catholic priests, Father Machebeuf, who later became the first Bishop of Denver, and Father Ussell traveled to visit Guadalupe from Santa Fe. On arrival, they met with Head and Velasquez. Ussell notes that Lafayette Head had converted to Catholicism and had been baptized. He describes the houses of Head and Velasquez to be rather simple, with only two rooms — a kitchen and a large hall. Head’s house in Guadalupe served as a temporary church for Machebeuf and Ussell, who heard hundreds of confessions from the community.
The town of Guadalupe was subject to multiple floodings as it was located in a low area near the Conejos River. During the priests’ stay, a new town site was chosen on higher ground, south of the Conejos River, and between it and San Antonio Creek. Father Machebeuf chose a new site for the church, and Head selected a site for what was to become his new home and headquarters. The town site is now Conejos, the county seat of Conejos County.
In 1859, Lafayette Head was appointed as Special Agent to the Ute and Jicarilla Apache tribes. He served in this position for nine years and specifically worked with the Tabeguache Ute. Head used his new home in Conejos as the agency headquarters. Although Head was quite fluent in Spanish, he was not in the Ute language. Per the recommendation of Kit Carson, Lafayette Head hired Chief Ouray as an interpreter. Ouray spoke fluent Spanish, Apache, Ute, and some English.
During Head’s tenure as Indian Agent, complaints about settlers trespassing on Ute lands were prominent. In 1863, Lafayette Head, along with John Evans, Governor of Colorado Territory, John G. Nicolay, President Abraham Lincoln’s Private Secretary and Secretary to the Commission, Colonel John. M. Chivington (who would later lead the Sand Creek Massacre), and Lieutenant Colonel Samuel F. Tappan, then-commander of nearby Fort Garland, all signed the “Treaty with the Utah-Tabeguache Band.” This treaty relinquished the San Luis Valley lands to the United States, giving them control over mines in the area.
In 1868, Head was part of the group that established the Ute Reservation in what is now southwestern Colorado. He accompanied a Ute delegation to Washington D.C., where they met with President Lincoln. Head and the delegation returned to D.C. later that year to sign the treaty that laid out the borders of the Ute Reservation. Lafayette Head signed the treaty as a member of the Commission and as U.S. Indian Agent. The delegation was photographed and is now part of the collection of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. (See attached picture.)
When the Colorado Territory was established in 1861, the Head Home and Conejos became part of it. In 1872, Lafayette Head was elected to the Colorado State Legislature. He was one of the 39 delegates to serve during the 1875 constitutional convention for Colorado statehood. Head was instrumental in drafting portions of the Colorado Constitution relating to agriculture and irrigation. Lafayette Head was elected to be the first Colorado Lieutenant Governor under Governor John Routt. Head was also chosen to be one of six Colorado delegates to the Republican National Convention, which nominated James Garfield and Chester Arthur as candidates for President and Vice President of the United States.
Although Lafayette Head was of Anglo descent, he was intertwined with these three cultures that occupied the San Luis Valley during settlement and statehood. Head was also known as “Rafael Cabeza” within the Spanish-speaking communities he lived in, which is noted in several historic documents (cabeza means “head” in Spanish and La-fa-yette, is easily mis-heard as Ra-fa-el, by a native Spanish speaker).
Through Head’s many involvements in the Conejos community and his marriage to an Hispano woman, he was baptized Catholic and was also allowed to join the Hermandad Piadosa de Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareo, more commonly known as the Los Penitentes.
Lafayette Head found himself at the epicenter of indigenous slavery throughout his life. During his time in Santa Fe, Head owned the Roque Tudesqui House, which was central to indigenous slavery in New Mexico. The town of Abiquiu, Head’s second home, was one of three Genízaro settlements. Genízaros were hispanicized Native Americans who were captives, slaves, or servants to Hispanic households. Head later brought 50 families from Abiquiu to Conejos to solidify his claim on the Conejos land grant.
In 1865, Lafayette Head was tasked with creating a list of the captive Iindigenous people living in the San Luis Valley. Named the “List of Indian Captives Acquired by Purchase and now in the Servitude of the Citizens of Conejos County,” Head named 1495 Genízaros living in the Valley. These lists have been some of the most important historical documents of indigenous slavery in the Southwest that exist today and were written in his home and office.
The remaining structures on the Lafayette Head Home and Ute Indian Agency site consist of a portion of the original buildings. They include the original corner of the Head House, comprising a kitchen, salon, bedrooms, and possibly servants quarters, outbuildings, and the foundation of one of the first grist mills in Colorado. Construction on the site began following the year after the settlement of Guadalupe, (1855), and all of the existing structures are present on the Sanborn Map of 1895 (see attached). The Head House itself is representative of Indo-Hispano, Native American, Territorial, and early Colorado architecture. As with most structures of the period built in Colorado, the house originally had a flat, earthen roof with large vigas, or logs used as beams spanning the rooms, and was constructed of adobe. The building was in the shape of a fort, enclosed on all sides with most openings to the interior courtyard, where a historic well can still be seen.
Later, and as indicated on the Sanborn Map of 1895, a pitched roof of milled wood was added over the flat earth roof. Early photos show the interior of the house to be lavish and heavily decorated. A large front porch spanned the entire site, a possible waiting area for the hundreds of Utes who visited the site.
The Head Home and Ute Indian Agency still reflects its diverse heritage and the now exposed vigas in the interior of the thick adobe-walled house. A portion of the large porch, constructed using mortise and tenon joints, still faces the courthouse (see attached photos). Evidence of the large windows were revealed beneath the plaster, and shards of indigenous pottery and artifacts from the late 19th century can be found in the former courtyard.
In 1865, Lafayette Head partnered with young Russian Jew immigrant Otto Mears to build a gristmill and sawmill on the site. The mills were operated using the Head’s Mill and Irrigating Ditch, established ten years earlier. Known as the Head’s Mill Ditch, it is the number two priority water right on the Conejos River and one of the earliest ditches incorporated in Conejos County. The mill was crucial in supporting local agriculture and food supply for the community. The mill later developed a coal powered electrical plant, which provided electricity to the area and was one of the earliest power plants in the state.
Lafayette Head Home and Ute Indian Agency
The historic Sanford Town Hall building was constructed in 1937 as part of the Works Project Administration (WPA), an organization dedicated to improving infrastructure and employing citizens during the wake of the Great Depression. Built of adobe and plaster, the building has served as a community center, town hall, church, band meeting place, polling location, firehouse, and a museum.
Around 1955 during the Cold War, Sanford was asked by the Civil Defense Project to erect a lookout tower to aid in spotting Russian aircraft. A lookout tower was built on to the historic town hall building to serve that purpose. Two people, usually an adult and a Boy Scout, manned the tower in shifts. They were provided with a telephone and a manual with aircraft silhouettes for proper identification if any were spotted. Stories of these watches are dear to Sanford’s residents and have been passed down through generations.
In 1995, the building was converted into the Sanford Museum, and presently continues to serve as such. The museum is in close proximity to a replica of Zebulon Pike’s Stockade, a History Colorado and National Park site located four miles away from the building. The historic Sanford Town Hall serves as one of the community gathering places during Pioneer Days, an annual event that celebrates the San Luis Valley’s Latter Day Saints heritage and culture.
The Day the Treaty of Guadalupe was signed
On February 2, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed, ending the two year Mexican – American War. The treaty added an additional 525,000 square miles to the United States territory, including present day California, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wyoming. The treaty also recognized the Rio Grande as America’s Southern boundary. In return, the United States paid Mexico 15 million dollars and agreed to settle all claims of U.S citizens against Mexico. The Treaty promised to protect the 80,000 citizens who lived within the area, but the protections failed to honor civil and property rights of former Mexican citizens.
Many of these residents had been given land grants from Spain, Mexico, or from the New Mexico Governor. These grants provided individual family plots as well as communal plots for hunting and grazing. American law did not recognize communal plots and in result lands were lost, impoverishing the communities and families that utilized them. In the 1960s and 1970s, Chicano activists from Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico, fought to regain access to their communal lands. However, it wasn’t until 2002 when activists from the San Luis Valley successfully regained access to some of their communal lands.
National Day of Remembrance
February 19 is National Day of Remembrance (Tsuioku no hi in Japanese), which observes the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. On this day in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which gave the United States Army authority to remove civilians from militaryzones in Washington, Oregon, and California.This led to the incarceration, removal, and displacement of 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry.
In the San Luis Valley, the ripples of this executive order were felt within the Japanese American community. The Buddhist Church in La Jara could no longer hold services as it would result in too many Japanese gathering in one location. The Church was boarded up and only used for funerals. Bessie Konishi, who was born in 1935, recalls the prejudice she felt during this time as her family was not allowed in certain stores, had to sit in the balcony at the movies, denied services, and was cat-called on the streets of Alamosa. Every February, the Japanese American communities commemorate Executive Order 9066 by reflecting on the impact that incarceration had on their families and communities, as well as providing educational opportunities on the importance of protecting and preserving civil rights and liberties.
(Information and Photos from: Japanese American Citizen League, The Crestone Eagle, and the National
Museum of American History.)
The Maestas Case
By Sylvia Lobato The nation’s earliest and longest-unheralded victory in the war against educational segregation took place in the San Luis Valley between 1912 and 1914 and the big winners were Alamosa’s children.
In 1914, “The Denver Catholic Register” called the decision “historic,” noting that it “was the first time in the history of America that a court fight was made over an attempt to segregate Mexicans in school.” The suit grew from grassroots concern for equal education of Alamosa’s children.
Lying unnoticed from 1914 to 2016 and labeled Francisco Maestas et al vs. George H. Shone et al, the suit dates back to 1912 when Alamosa was still part of Conejos County, 10-year-old Miguel Maestas was forced to walk seven blocks from his home on the north end of Ross Ave. to the “Mexican” school building at the intersection of Ninth and Ross. The McKinney directory listed the “Mexican Preparatory School” as being at Ninth and Ross. There was no telephone number.
On Sept. 2, 1913, went to the Superintendent of Schools and asked to enroll his son. The request was refused and Maestas was told he had to enroll his son in the “Mexican School.” Land for the school was purchased in 1909 to serve only “Mexicans.” Maestas filed suit and was soon joined by fellow Hispanics and the Catholic Church.
Despite the fact that the area had long been part of the United States and the persons involved were born here, the reference was made to “Mexican” children and “American” families.
After a lengthy trial, District Court Judge Charles Holbrook determined that the plaintiffs had made a sufficient case for admittance of the students and issued an order to the school board and superintendent to admit the children to the public school most convenient to their homes. Holbrook stated that “in the opinion of the court … the only way to destroy this feeling of discontent and bitterness which has recently grown up, is to allow all children so prepared, to attend the school nearest them.”
For more information on the Maestes Case, visit: https://www.maestascase.com/
To donate to the commemoration state visit its Go Fund Me Page
To learn more case from these attached files:
McKinney’s Directory Notation re Mexican School
Alamosa Independent Article 1912