Acequias and the Sangre de Cristo Acequia Association
Filming by #ChristiBode, Moxiecran Media
The original settlers of Southern Colorado brought with them a form of land settlement and irrigation that was based on principles of equity, shared scarcity and cooperation in which water was viewed as a resource in place, rather than a commodity. It is here, in the villages surrounding San Luis, where Colorado's oldest continuous water rights have existed since the mid-1800's. This type of water system is called an acequia. Acequias continue to be the lifeblood of residents in Southern Costilla County – they not only serve to provide the water for the farms on which hundreds of families depend on, but they also serve as a conduit for community services and support.
Acequias and the Sangre de Cristo Acequia Association
Filming by #ChristiBode, Moxiecran Media
As the holiday season approaches, the Rio Grande County Museum would like to invite the people of the area to come and enjoy the Museum. Christmas trees of various ethnicities are shown from the Gift Shop and into the exhibits.
One tree that is interesting is decorated with ornaments collected by Steve Nicolais as he worked in Russia for an oil company. His collection includes hand carved and painted Russian Santas, nutcracker nesting dolls and the tree ornaments. These were particularly interesting to him as they are excellent examples of the handicrafts cottage industries throughout Russia. The Santa figures are made for the tourists and are the Russian interpretation of the western world’s Santa Claus. The Christmas tree skirt with this tree was crocheted by Judy Nicolais.
The figure that Nicolais says is his favorite is the beautifully carved “Ded Moroz” which translate to “Grandfather Frost” in English, but is usually called by “Father Frost.” He delivers gifts on New Year’s Eve rather than Christmas because of the Soviet policies.
Other trees in the Museum are a silver and blue American style, native peoples’, Hispanic, German and Swedish. These trees are placed with exhibits in the main exhibit that show these ethnic groups in the main exhibit room. One tree features lace snow flakes and delicate ribbons birds and these decorations are for sale with the proceeds going to the newspaper sleeves fund. This tree along with items in the gift shop are available and would make excellent gifts.
Rio Grande County Museum, located at 580 Oak Street in Del Norte, is open Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and on Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. For more information please call (719)657-2847 or contact us on Facebook.
November 11th, 2018, marked the 100th anniversary of the ending of the “Great War”. Now called “Veterans’ Day” to honor all veterans, this day was originally called “Armistice Day”. The Germans realized that they had no chance of winning the war and asked the Allied Powers for an armistice or agreement to stop the fighting. This was signed on the 11th day, of the 11th month at 11:00 a.m. The Treaty of Versailles was signed the following June.
Rio Grande County had many of their young men and women serve in this war in various capacities. So that they are not forgotten, Rio Grande County honors them this holiday season with three memorial trees decorated with the names of those who served. The staff's research has found community members who have not been listed before. One of these brave young men was Frank Chavez, Jr. who died in France. He was found while during research in the San Juan Prospector. This is an ongoing project and more names may be found.
The stories of these men as being compiled through resource being done by the museum staff and will be placed into notebooks to become part of the permanent collections at the Museum. If anyone has a story of a World War I veteran to be shared, please contact the Museum.
The exhibit of “WWI: On the Home Front” is also featured through November and December.
For more information, please contact the Rio Grande County Museum at 580 Oak Street in Del Norte or call at (719)657-2847. Facebook can also be used to contact the Museum and remember to like us on Facebook to stay in contact with the Museum happenings. Hours are Tuesday through Friday 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Click here to read the Rio Grande County Museum's newsletter for November/December 2018.
The Rio Grande County Board Members invite the public to the inaugural “Gateway to the Holidays” event to kick-off the upcoming holiday season. As Del Norte is known as the “Gateway to the San Juans”, it seems appropriate to recognize and celebrate that distinction.
Saturday, November 17th, 2018, 7 p.m.
580 Oak, Del Norte, CO -- Join us for an evening of ethnic holiday goodies, music provided by local artists, and take advantage of the opportunity to purchase some unique holiday items from the Museum gift shop. The Museum will be decorated with ethnic Christmas decorations, and there will be fun for all. Free admission.
by Estevan Rael-Galvez
I am writing to ask your assistance on an important project focused on a foundational and complex part of the history and experience of our region. Please pardon the long post, but for those interested in this topic, I ask you to read all the way through, particularly those with a personal connection.
I am writing to ask for your help in gathering more STORIES, PHOTOS and OBJECTS that help illustrate this story of Native American captivity and slavery.
By way of introduction for those that may not know about my work in this field, among other positions I have had the honor of holding, I served nearly a decade as the State Historian of New Mexico. Prior to holding that position, I completed my PhD in Anthropology and History. My doctoral dissertation was entitled, “Identifying Captivity and Capturing Identity: Narratives of American Indian Slavery,” and focused on the experiences and meanings of Native American slavery and a unique legacy and identity in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. After a couple of decades serving as an administrator of cultural based organizations, I am returning to the writing of the book, building not only on the original dissertation, but on nearly 30 years of continual archival and ethnographic research.
Since returning back to New Mexico, I have also created my own consulting firm and over the past several years have worked on projects globally and nationally, though I love it most when I am close to home. I am writing today about one project in particular. I have been engaged by History Colorado to begin some exciting work toward developing a renewed vision for the Fort Garland Historic Site. One key part of this work will entail my designing and curating a new exhibit and memorial featuring this story of Native American captivity and slavery as part of their exciting focus on Borderlands.
The story of our region is one of astonishing complexity. It is set within a magnificent and sovereign landscape that is both ancient and modern. Its people are the heirs to unique and richly woven histories, traditions and a depth of wisdom and memories, all manifest in the physical and social landscape.
A foundational part of this story is based on the experiences of thousands of Native American women and children who were captured and held in these communities. Many of them became our ancestors and every single family and community was impacted in one way or another. This is a significant part of our legacy and yet, these stories have been quieted over the years by whispers as much as by silence, hushed aside even by those who have inherited it — carrying if not their geography in their faces and hands, certainly its memory in an aching consciousness.
I have over the years interviewed some of your abuelos, tios and tias and as I pick this project back up, social media offers an opportunity to engage even more broadly, perhaps. Given how this story has been obscured, and in my work on this subject over the past three decades, I have realized that it is one of fragments and yet these pieces form in composite a more complete picture.
Over the past decades, I have also amassed a huge database of individuals who were named in church records, civil records like censuses and much more. This database is essentially thousands of interconnected family trees. I have spent years interviewing people as well and for those of you looking for information, I am happy to help you as well.
While these captivities and their legacy span time and space, part of this project is focused on our local villages of southern Colorado, including places like San Luis, Conejos, Trinidad and all of the valley communities of Huerfano, San Luis and Las Animas Counties.
Church records, including baptisms, marriages, death are revealing of how individuals were ritually incorporated into these communities and a couple of samples are illustrative:
• In 1862, a 5-year-old Navajo child was baptized with the name MARIA DOLORES in Conejos to Vicente Sanchez and Maria Juana Vigil
• At her marriage in 1880 in Costilla, NM to Jose Marcelino Valdez, MARIA RITA ESQUIBEL is still noted as “india de Juan Esquibel”
• In 1878, 15-year-old Indian JOSE FRANCISCO is listed in the Walsenburg burial records, still being listed as a servant of Manuel Gonzales.
Census records are also revealing and I have looked at every single census record for NM and CO documenting this. Here are some few examples of the many I have from Colorado census records:
• JOSE GREGORIO, a 25-year-old Indian servant is listed in the 1860 census in Conejos in the household of Jesus Maria Olguin and Maria Ramona Valdez
• MARIA ANTONIA is enumerated in the 1870 Census in San Luis de la Culebra as a 12-year old domestic servant in the family of Narciso Gallegos and Rafaela.
• JOSE ANTONIO is listed in the in the Valley of Apishapa River, as an 8-year-old Indian herding cows in the family of A. J. Archuleta.
• RITA, a 12-year old Indian and LIBRADA, an 11-year-old Indian are listed in the 1870 Census of Cucharas in the household of Louis Marie Cabeza de Baca.
• FRANCISCO, an 18-year old Indian servant, is listed in the 1880 census of San Acacio in the household of Luciano Lucero and Francisca Martinez
• EUSTACIO, a 29 Indian servant is listed in the 1880 census in Trinidad in the household of Antonio Padilla
LAFAYETTE HEAD LISTS
In 1865, in an effort to end the practice of capturing and enslaving Native Americans in the mid 19th century, an even more targeted and focused census was created in July of 1865 documenting the enslavement of 149 individuals in Costilla and Conejos Counties. In my dissertation I fully examine these lists and its larger context in tremendous detail. The enumerated included 149 individuals across both Costilla and Conejos Counties. What follows is this enumeration for both Costilla and Conejos Counties. While the lists have amazing data, which I have greatly augmented over the years with extensive research, including genealogies. I have only listed their names, age, identified tribal affiliations and the name of their owner below, but may be helpful for folks..
• Rita, 10 year old Navajo in the household of Teodoro Maes;
• Juan Tomas, 8 year old Navajo in the household of Teodoro Maes
• Juan Bautista, 4 year old Navajo in the home of Teodoro Maes;
• Guadalupe, a 10-year-old Navajo in the household of Juan Andres Manzanares;
• Resiona, a 20-year old Navajo in the household of Joseph Bourcy and Maria Agustina Arellano;
• Leonor, a 10-year old Navajo in the household of J. Santos Maes
• Antonia, a 20-year old Navajo in the household of Benito Maes
• Margarita, a 15-year old Navajo in the household of Juan Trujillo
• Maria Antonia, a 14-year old Navajo in the household of Juan Trujillo
• Maria Refugio, a 20-year old Navajo in the household of Pedro Duran
• Juan Miguel, a 12-year old Ute in the household of Pedro Duran
• Juana Maria, a 17-year old Navajo in the household of Mariano Pacheco
• Maria Guadalupe, a 30-year old Navajo in the household of Amador Sanchez
• Maria Lucia, an 8-year old Ute in the household of Amador Sanchez
• Pablo, a 7-year old Ute in the household of Juan M. Vigil
• Juan Antonio, an 8-year old Navajo in the household of Juan Miguel Vigil
• Juliana, a 12-year old Navajo in the household of Juan Miguel Vigil
• Nicolas, a 7-year old Navajo in the household of Francisco Sanchez
• Dolores, a 10-year old Navajo in the household of Francisco Sanchez
• Maria Alcaria, a 11-year old Navajo in the household of Maria Guadalupe Vallejos (widow of Juan Angel Vigil)
• Juan Antonio, a 6-year old Navajo in the household of Maria Guadalupe Vallejos (widown of Juan Angel Vigil)
• Maria Paula, a 14-year old Navajo in the household of Francisco Vallejos
• Pedro, a 7-year old Navajo in the household of Jose W. Jacques
• Maria, a 40-year old Navajo in the household of Maria Dolores Vallejos (widow of Ricardo de Jesus Vigil)
• Maria Rosario, a 7-year old Navajo in the household of Maria Dolores Vallejos (widow of Ricardo de Jesus Vigil)
• Francisco Antonio, a 7-year old Navajo in the household of Tomas Vigil
• Jose Antonio, a 9-year old Navajo in the household of Maria Dolores Vallejos (widow of Ricardo de Jesus Vigil)
• Margarita, a 16-year old Navajo in the household of Juan Cordova
• Cayetana, a 7-year old Navajo in the household of Juan Cordova
• Juan Jose, an 8-year old Navajo in the household of Juan Cordova
• Miguel, a 4-year old Apache in the household of Juan Montoya
• Antonio, a 7-year old Navajo in the household of Topolo Trujillo
• Piedad, a 10-year old Navajo in the household of Topolo Trujillo
• Macaria, a 6-year old Navajo in the household of Julian Lucero
• Maria Louisa, a 35-year old Navajo in the household of Juan J. Esquibel
• Carmel, a 14-year old Navajo in the household of Jose R. Esquibel
• Jose Rafael, an 11-year old Ute in the household of Vicente Chavez
• Margarita, a 12-year old Navajo in the household of Jose A. Martinez
• Dolores, a 15-year old Navajo in the household of Antonio Vallejos
• Josepha, an 8-year old Navajo in the household of Miguel J. K. Vallejos
• Felipe, an 8-year old Navajo in the household of Miguel J. K. Vallejos
• Hilario, an 4-year old Navajo in the household of Antonio J. Martin
• Juan Felipe Gonzales, 12-year-old Navajo in the household of Desiderio Gonzales and Tomasa Madril
• Rosalia Vallejos, 18-year-old Navajo in the household of Jose Maria Vallejos and Maria Louisa Archuleta
• Guadalupe Martinez, 18-year-old Navajo in the household of Antonio J. Martinez and Maria Sefarina Martinez
• Antonio, 7 year old Navajo in the household of Damacio Sanchez
• Dominga, 25 year old Navajo in the household of Tomas T. Tobin
• Margarita, 16 year old in the household of Faustin Medina
• Guadalupe, 50 year old Navajo in the household of Buenaventura Medina
• Maria Antonia Quintana, 20-year-old Navajo in the household of Vicente Quintana and Maria Rita Martinez.
• Maria, 30-year-old Navajo in the household of Maria P. Padilla
• Lupita, 11-year-old Ute in the household of Maria P. Padilla
• Jose Antonio, 12-year-old Ute in the household of Maria P. Padilla.
• Catalina, 17-year-old Navajo in the household of Maria P. Padilla
• Maria Tomas, 30-year-old Ute in the household of Pedro Manzanares and Isabel Martinez
• Miguel, 8-year-old Navajo in the household of Juan M. Madrid
• Juan del Carmel, 6-year-old Ute, in the household of Phelipe Gonzales and Maria Dolores Vigil
• Juliana, 6-year-old Navajo in the household of Phelipe Gonzales and Maria Dolores Vigil
• Maria Dolores, 11-year-old in the household of Abaristo Gonzales and Ursula Chalifoux.
• Jose Antonio, a 6 year old Navajo in the household of Francisco Estevan Aragon
• Agapita, 18 year old Navajo in the household of Pedro Aragon.
• Maria Dolores, 10 year old Ute in the household of Manuel Archuleta
• Guadalupe, 15 year old Navajo in the household of Manuel Archuleta
• Rafaela, 25 year old Navajo in the household of Hilario Atencio
• Juan Quaro, 15 year old Navajo in the household of Hilario Atencio
• Jose Antonio, 11 year old Navajo in the household of Hilario Atencio
• Madelina, 8 year old Navajo in the household of Jose Buenaventura Borrego
• Francisco Antonio, 4 year old Navajo in the household of Miguel Casias
• Juana, 4 year old Navajo in the household of Miguel Casias
• Dolores, 15 year old Navajo in the household of Juan Gabriel Chacon
• Juliana, 15 year old Navajo in the household of Juan Bautista Chacon
• Antonia Rosa, 16 year old Ute in the household of Rafael Chavez
• Guadalupe, 4 year old Ute in the household of Antonio Jose Chavez
• Maria Rosalia, 4 year old Navajo in the household of Antonio Jose Chavez
• Guadalupe, 16 year old PahUte in the household of JM Chavez
• Librada, 4 year old Navajo in the household of JM Chavez
• Maria J. de Gracia, 60 year old Navajo in the household of V. Chavez
• Juan, 7 year old Navajo in the household of Jesus Maria Cordova
• Ramon, 13 year old Navajo in the household of Domingo Diego Antonio
• Maria Mta, 12 year old Navajo in the household of Jose Victor Garcia
• Maria Gertrudes, 8 year old Navajo in the household of Jose Victor Garcia
• Jose Antonio, 10 year old Ute in the household of Jose Victor Garcia
• Guadalupe, 8 year old Navajo in the household of Pedro Garcia
• Rita, 9 year old Navajo in the household of Jose Serafin Garcia
• Jose Antonio, 4 year old Navajo in the household of Juan Gomez
• Maria Cuaran, 7 year old Navajo in the household of J.L. Jacon
• Maria Reyes, 15 year old Pah Ute in the household of Jose Maria Jaquez
• Cayetano, 4 year old Ute in the household of Jose Maria Jaquez
• Ramon, 12 year old Navajo in the household of J. Francisco Jaramillo
• Guadalupe, 15 year old Navajo in the household of A.J. Lobato
• Polito, 9 year old Ute in the household of A.J. Lobato
• Catalina, 7 year old Navajo in the household of Jose Policarpio Lobato
• Jose Maria, 5 year old Ute in the household of Ramon Lopez
• Miguel, 7 year old Navajo in the household of Manuel Lucero
• Guadalupe, 38 year old PaiUte in the household of Antonio Domingo Lucero
• Dolores, 12 year old Navajo in the household of Delos Lucero
• Refugio, 18 year old Navajo in the household of Gabriel Lucero
• Guadalupe, 6 year old Navajo in the household of Juan Lucero
• Maria Guadalupe, 5 year old Navajo in the household of Maria Encarnacion Lucero
• Jose Rafael, a 3 year old Ute in the household of Jose Fr. Lucero
• Maria Benina, 15 year old Ute in the household of Jose Maria Lucero
• Ana Maria, 14 year old Ute in the household of Juan Ysidro Lucero
• Maria Escolastica, 16 year old Navajo in the household of Juan Ysidro Lucero
• Juliana, 12 year old Apache in the household of Felipe Martin
• Dolores,10 year old Navajo in the household of Miguel Antonio Martin
• Rita, 45 year old Navajo in the household of J.M. Martin
• Maria Antonia, 16 year old Ute in the household of Joseviano Martinez
• Estefana, 11 year old Ute in the household of Joseviano Martinez
• Margarita, 18 year old Navajo in the household of J.G. Martinez
• Serafina, 28 year old Navajo in the household of Querino Maes
• Gregorio, 18 year old Navajo in the household of Querino Maes
• Jose, 15 year old Navajo in the household of Querino Maes
• Rafael, 15 year old Navajo in the household of Q. Maes
• Guadalupe, 11 year old Navajo in the household of N. Montoya
• Catalina, 35 year old Navajo in the household of Guadalupe Olguin
• Guadalupe, 20 year old Navajo in the household of Martin de Jesus Rodriguez
• Ma. Guadalupe, 10 year old Ute in the household of Ml. Romero
• Rosalia, 19 year old Navajo in the household of Ml. Romero
• Rosaila, 6 year old Navajo in the household of G. Ruiz
• Lorenza, 9 year old Navajo in the household of Salvador Salazar
• Juan, 7 year old Navajo in the household of Salvador Salazar
• Trinidad, 10 year old Navajo in the household of Miguel A. Salazar
• Guadalupe, 17 year old Navajo in the household of Francisco Salazar
• Juana, 5 year old Navajo, in the household of Francisco Salazar
• Guadalupe, 25 year old Navajo in the household of Cresencio Sisneros
• Jose Maria, 8 year old Navajo in the household of Chepito Sisneros
• Jose Sino, 5 year old Pah Ute in the household of Antonio Sisneros
• Encarnacion, 16 year old Navajo in the household of M.M. Sisneros
• Juan, 11 year old Navajo in the household of Manuel Trujillo
• Gertrudes, 8 year old Navajo in the household of Jose Trujillo
• Maria Guadalupe, 52 year old California in the household of S. Trujillo
• Felimena, 14 year old Navajo in the household of S. Trujillo
• Nestor, 12 year old Navajo in the household of S. Trujillo
• Gertrudes, 24 year old Pah Ute in the household of Seldonio Valdez
• Paula, 11 year old Pah Ute in the household of Seledonio Valdez
• Luis, 9 year old Half Breed in the household of Seledonio Valdez
• Rafaela, 10 year old Navajo in the household of J.M. Valdez
• Ma. Antonia, 12 year old Navajo in the household of Jesus Valdez
• Catalina, 24 year old Navajo in the household of J.Ma. Velasquez
• Vicente, 4 year old Ute in the household of J.T. Vigil
• Lucas, 4 year old Ute in the household of J de J Vigil
• Maria Rosalia, 5 year old Navajo in the household of F. Vigil
• Juliana, 22 year old Navajo in the household of J. Maria Vigil
• Lucas, 18 year old Navajo in the household of J. Maria Vigil
• Catalina, 19 year old Ute in the household of James B. Woodson
• Gabriel, 12 year old Navajo in the household of James B. Woodson
• Andres, 10 year old Navajo in the household of James B. Woodson
This list was consciously left incomplete by the enumerator at the time, since he too was complicit in the practice.
There are many more lives that I have researched in the region, but I thought I would start here with these glimpses. So while I have talked to some of you over the many years, others may have new stories, memories and more that you would be willing to share.
by Louise Colville
The Old Spanish Trail is known to have been the longest, crookedest, most arduous pack mule route in the history of America. It was approximately 2,700 miles of high mountains, deserts, deep canyons and changing climate. It ran through what is now New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and California. Some caravans lost their way and all of the suffered, men and animals.
The Native peoples who lived in present New Mexico, Colorado and Utah were the first to use a system of trails in the region for hunting, trading and travel. It could have just as easily been called the Old Ute Trail.
Juan Antonio Maria de Rivera in 1765 with his group of unarmed men traveled north from Abiquiu to the “Piedra Parada” (Standing Rock) that is now known as Chimney Rock in the Pagosa Springs, Colorado area. Then they traveled west along the south edge of the San Juan Mountains to present Animas River where they headed west to a big bend in the Dolores River at an “important” trail junction. The route eventually became part of the Old Spanish Trail.
Father Francisco Atanasio Dominguez and Father Silvestre Velez de Escalante traveled as an expedition to establish an overland route between Santa Fe and the Catholic Mission at Monterey, California. Their route took them through some the country that would also be part of the Old Spanish Trail. They were unable to make it to California because of the lateness of the season and returned to Santa Fe by a southern route.
These expeditions did create amicable relationships with the Native people that they encountered.
The middle part of the trail through Nevada and California was worked out by trappers led by Jedediah Smith about 1827.
Santa Fe area had been a long-time hub of trading starting back in the 1700s with the trading fairs and then the trappers.
With the Mexican Independence from Spain in 1821, trade between the eastern United States and Mexico was flourishing. The Santa Fe Trail was established in 1822 bringing United States merchandise into the Santa Fe and Taos areas and then down into Mexico by the El Camino de Tierra Adentro, a popular wagon, immigration and trade route that the Spanish had used since 1598 and probably longer than that. The trading hub was Santa Fe for both the Santa Fe and the Old Spanish Trail.
The Old Spanish Trail was officially traveled in 1829 when Antonio Armijo, a Santa Fe merchant, combined information from previous explorers and led a trade party of sixty men and one hundred mules to California. Santa Fe was no longer “land locked” for trading and selling goods. California had their sea ports to be able to trade. Now, the North American markets were extended across the Pacific to Asia. This was in the plans when the exploration on the Santa Fe Trail has started.
The Old Spanish Trail’s primary use was to have a trade route between Los Angeles and Santa Fe. Sheep and high quality woven goods such as the Rio Grande blankets were traded for horses and mules raised by the California ranchers. These animals brought high prices in New Mexico and on the western frontier of the United States.
Armijo avoided the worst part of the Mojave Desert by traveling south of Death Valley. He followed intermittent streams and located new springs to support the party. He did successfully get his expedition to San Gabriel Mission at Los Angeles with his group intact, but they did have to survive on mule meat during the last days of the trip.
After trading blankets and other goods, they returned to Santa Fe. Armijo was rewarded by the recognition of being the “Commander for the Discovery of the Route to California.”
With the successful trip, more expeditions with regular trips were done. Some emigrate travel occurred as well. Not everything was legal along the trail with criminal activities including raiding California ranchos for horses and for an extensive Native slave trade with trading at both ends of the trail even though this practice was officially discouraged.
Caravans usually left Santa Fe in the fall so the deserts could be crossed when temperatures were lower and return in the spring for the new grass to fed the large herds of animals be driven back to New Mexico. Mules were loaded with goods and they had to climb up narrow paths, swing across streams and rivers and at times drag their muleteers across roaring, flooding rivers.
Over the years with more use, several main routes and alternate routes were developed. One route was following the Colorado River to Needles, California. This route became the preferred route. If trading with the Utes was the purpose of the trip, then the route further to the north to Salt Lake was the chosen route.
The main route began at Santa Fe, looped northward through Colorado and Utah to avoid the deep river gorges of the Grand and Glen Canyons on the Colorado River before dropping down to the area that now has present Las Vegas, Nevada. From here it crossed the Mojave desert before reaching the San Gabriel Mission.
In 1830-31, William Wolfskill and George Yount developed another route, but used some of the same landmarks. Their route followed the Colorado River to Needles, California and up the Mojave River to Cajon Pass.
In research work written by Angie Krall, archeologist for Rio Grande National Forest, she explains that the “North Branch” of the Old Spanish Trail is identified as a variant to the “Northern Route” that was blazed by George C. Yount and William Wolfskill in 1831. The North branch ran through the San Luis Valley and the Gunnison River Valley of Colorado into eastern Utah, and then crossing Nevada and California. The North branch was largely open during the winter when other passes were snowed in. It then went up the Gunnison River Valley, rejoining the Northern route near present Green River, Utah. The North Branch is the one that is focused on primarily as it relates to the history and development of the settling of the San Luis Valley and the Plaza areas in and around the present Del Norte and Monte Vista.
The Americans became aware to the trail after John C. Fremont published his report of the 1844 expedition from California to the United States which was the final leg of the expedition to Oregon for the United States Topographical Corps. His report helped to trigger more Manifest Destiny excitement in the United States. Fremont had taken the trail across Utah. In his report, he called it the “Spanish Trail”. Some says that Kit Carson gave the trail the name.
After the Mexican-American War, the use of the trail for trade diminished. There were less dangerous and shorter routes that became available. Because there were better emigration routes to the north and the south, it was not other used for the purpose.
The OST in the San Luis Valley
Two ancient routes ran the length of the San Luis Valley. The East Trail followed the Sangre de Cristo mountain range through the sage covered land at their base. It stayed close to the base of the mountains for the availability of firewood and protection from enemies. It also kept the travelers and their animals out of the marshy areas of the middle part of the San Luis Valley. North of the present town of Crestone, the trail turned west and headed to the area of present town of Saguache. It then went over Coochetopa (Cochetopa) Pass.
The other ancient route was the West Fork that came across the San Luis Valley through the open area in the western part. It crossed the Rio Grande and then continued along the foothills of the San Juan Mountains to the junction of the east branch at present Saguache.
According to Krall, the West branch is still under study and yet to be classified as part of the Old Spanish Trail because of insufficient data. However, it is documented as a trail or road on various maps. Many local historians feel that this branch does exist and are calling for more studies.
For thousands of years, these trails were well use by ancestral natives, then the Spanish colonists and military, fur trappers, explorers, herdsmen, prospectors, invaders, slave traders and settlers. In the Gunnison-Beckwith expedition in 1853, they traveled this area. One name for these trails could be “The Ancient Way”.
In his book, “Retracing the Old Spanish Trail” author Ron Kessler shows the West Fork coming through Ojo Caliente to Tres Piedras to a small unnamed spring just west of Tres Piedras where travelers could fill their water supply for the trip across the arid, dry land, the “No Agua Land” ahead of them. The trail would come across land that now has the settlements that would have started as people ventured into the “Land of the Yutas” starting in the 1840s with the Conejos or Guadalupe Land Grant. This was a Mexican land grant given to a large group of individuals.
Eventually, the Rio Bravo del Norte or Rio Grande del Norte was reached, crossed at good fords and the trail continued on through the wild and untamed country following the low mountains that define the edge of the Valley.
The West Fork is probably the route that families who settled in present Rio Grande County would have used. Historians disagree as to where they actually settled after they arrived and made their permanent homes, farms and ranches in area that were called “plazas”. Several maps made in 1870s show a major plaza called “San Jose” at the location of present Swede Lane and County Road 3 West area. A map done by the Rio Grande County Surveyor in 1875 also shows a “plaza” in this area with the legal description appropriate for this to be the San Jose Plaza.
Other evidence for this to be San Jose includes the San Jose Ditch which was adjudicated April 30th, 1866 with priority #3. One of the original people to claim the water right was Manuel Lucero. The ditch later became known as the Lucero Ditch. The legal description for the Lucero Ditch at the headgate is “takes its supply of water from a natural stream known as the Rio Grande River and its headgate is located in the southwest quarter, section 16, township 39, Range 7 New Mexico Meridian.
The Atencio Ditch was Priority #2, dated April 15th, 1866 with the legal description shown as being located in the southwest quarter of section 22, township 39, range 7, 31 degrees 58 feet e. 4028 feet from the northwest corner of said section 22. It also shows that the water is taken from the Rio Grande.
The #1 priority on the Upper Rio Grande was the Silva Ditch was a date of March 12th, 1866. The water was taken from the Rio Grande with a legal description of the location of the headgates as follows: N. 39 d. 50” E. 36 chains from corner to sections 6-7 1 &12, township 30 N. Ranges 5 and 7 New Mexico Meridian.
Native people would have traveled these ancient trails to follow game for hunting, for trading and for travel. Governor de Anza pursued the Comanches north in 1779 along this trail.
It was not by chance that these families would have found the location for their homes along this trail. They would have followed a major trail used for years. With the coming of modern conveniences such as the stage coach, the railroad and finally motorized vehicles, the use of these trails decreased and they became roads for transporting people and goods. The Old Conejos Road was what was left of the Old Spanish Trail.
In Krall’s article in the Crestone Eagle about the Bunker site on the East Branch, she states “that this site would have been as a camp site on the Old Spanish Trail, but has history much older than the 1828-1848 period of time”. She states that it is difficult to distinguish sites occupied by Native people participating in Euro-American trade networks from other Native people sites during the early contact period. Jicarilla Apaches often had a similar material cultural to early Hispanic settlers. A diverse assemblage of artifacts at the site pre-dates the use of the Old Spanish Trail, suggesting it has been a popular campsite for hundreds, if not thousands of years. The entire article is attached.
The site gets its name from Bob and Judy Bunker, local ranches in the Baca Ranch. Bob Bunker is an “old cowboy” who rode on the Baca Grande when it was private land prior to becoming Federal Lands. He discovered many sites in the area.
The Old Spanish Trail of Today
Interest in the trail was only sporadic over the years. In 1921, with the publication of an article by Joseph J. Hill and the 1930 and 1931 work of Eleanor F. Lawrence, and the publication of George Brewerton’s “Overland with Kit Carson” in 1930 interest was sparked in the trail. William R. Palmer of Cedar City, Utah organized the Spanish Trail Association in 1946. This group placed one hundred markers along the trail between Santa Fe and Los Angeles. By 1950, the organization disappeared.
Leroy and Ann Hafen published their book with a definitive history of the trail in 1954. This work inspired other research and with the use of post WWII jeeps, the general public could follow the routes.
Efforts to mark the trail were revived. Nevada marked the Fremont Route in 1964-65 to celebrate the State’s centennial. Emory County Historical Society in Utah placed markers in the Green River area in the early 1990s. This all focused on the North Branch of the trail.
Beginning in 1992, a strategy for attaining National Historic Trail designation was laid out by individuals connected with the Riverfront Commission at Grand Junction, Colorado and the Colorado Board of Parks and Outdoor Recreation.
In 1993, this group convinced Colorado’s Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell and Representative Scott McGinnis to introduce a bill authorizing the National Park Service to study the feasibility of including the Old Spanish Trail in to the National Trail System as a National Historic Trail.
In 1994, Colorado supporters founded the present Old Spanish Trail Association. This group teamed up with the Colorado delegates and senators from New Mexico, Utah and California kept the bill alive.
After several years of work, Congress passed the Old Spanish Trail Recognition Act in 2002. Locally, the La Vereda del Norte Chapter is active and is helping to keep the Old Spanish Trail history alive and is working on the documentation of the West Fork of the North Branch to have it added to the trail system.
On Saturday August 25, 10 AM - Douglas Knudson will lead us to San Antonio Mountain (Cerro de San Antonio). We will follow a route west of the mountain which was used for thousands of years of travel. Discussions will be held by Suzanne Colville Off of historians Helen Blumenschein and Ruth Marie Colville who gathered historic data and impressions of this area for many years and by historian Knudsen of these travelers.
Directions for Colorado drivers: (New Mexicans are welcome.) The turnoff of US 285 is 21 miles and approximately 35 minutes south of Antonito, CO. Turn West on rural road 418, a gravel road going westerly. Go a short distance (about 120 yards) to a pull-out. We will wait there until 10 am. High clearance vehicle is necessary.
If the weather is good (usually) plan on bringing sandwiches and liquids. If weather is unbearable, we may retreat to an Antonito restaurant. Bring plenty of water, etc. Preparation: La Vereda A Trail Through Timeby Ruth Marie Colville (1995).
For information call Douglas Knudson 719-873-5239
With the efforts of Coreen Donnelly and Carol Clark, National Park Service sign plan coordinator from Santa Fe, a plan for the East Fork Trail has been formed for signage from the summit of North Cochetopa Pass to Costilla just north of the Colorado/New Mexico Border.
House Bill 18-1351 was recently passed by senators and representatives of the General Assembly of the State of Colorado “Concerning signage for the Old Spanish Trail.” Noted in the bill “it is the intent of the general assembly to recognize the complex history of the Old Spanish Trail and present the full history to the public for educational purposes.”
The East Fork Signage package has been presented to the Colorado Department of Transportation and county road jurisdictional authorities. Once funding is available local groups will be working with state departments of transportation, counties, cities, or other landowners/managers for installation.
This information was taken from a step-by-step guide to sign planning and implementation of the National Park Service and U.S Department of the Interior and from Correen Donnelly.
La Vereda del Norte Chapter Events for the 2018 summer
On Saturday July 15, 1806 a young Army Lieutenant left Ft. Bellefontaine, Missouri to begin an expedition that would forever change the southwestern United States. On August 18 Douglas Knudson will lead folks on a field trip to locate the area of explorer Zebulon Pike’s winter exploration in the San Luis Valley. Gather at the park entry gate of Great Sand Dunes National Park at 9:15. We will group caravan to the winter shelter across the valley.
On Saturday, August 25 he will lead us to Cerro de San Antonio (San Antonio Mountain, just south of the Colorado/New Mexico border, on US Hwy 285). San Antonio Mountain is west of the Highway and a route west of the mountain was used for thousands of years of travel. Discussion will be held by Suzanne Colville of historians Helen Blumenschein and Ruth Marie Colville who gathered historic data and impressions of this area for many years.
If the weather is good (usually) plan on bringing sandwiches and liquids. If weather is unbearable, we may retreat to an Antonito restaurant. High clearance vehicle is necessary. Bring plenty of water, etc. Preparation: La Vereda A Trail Through Time by Ruth Marie Colville (1995). This is available from the San Luis Valley Historical Society.
September 3-5 a tour will lead folks through southwestern Colorado complex and will follow the main branches of the Old Spanish Trail. A major feature will be Churro Sheep—the source of the wool used in the time period of the OST. One or more sheep farms in the four corners show their special sheep in national and Navajo contests each year. Some of the best should be at the Arriola Sunshine Farm, north of Cortez. The owners used to live and work in the San Luis Valley. Cindy, the main shepherdess now assists Navajo shepherds to help recuperate and show off this special kind of sheep-churro sheep. Call Douglas at 718-873-5239 for details.
Article from the Valley Courier