Mora County Notebook: Old Mora Courthouse has interesting history

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By Ruth Fort

The most beautiful building Mora has ever had was the old courthouse that is just a memory for some of the older people. There have been old photos and paintings made to remind the younger generation of the past. This beautiful painting was done by the artist Sylvia Ortega who lives in Guadalupita.

She not only does lovely oil and water colors but she is teaching a group of people, who are also producing beautiful work. There are other drawings, photos and  paintings  around Mora and they are treasured by those who made them and the owners of those pictures as one remembers the beautiful edifice.

According to one of our historians and author, Manuel Alcon, the courthouse was built in 1889.The builders were two Italian men who used local labor. The beautiful rocks that were used for the building came from La Cueva.

A local man hauled them into Mora with teams and wagons. Inside the building there was a circular staircase that led up to the tower. The jail was built with the same material as the court house but was behind the courthouse. When it came to disrepair in the ‘30s and ‘40s they had the jail in the basement of the court house. The WPA built a new building for the court house and the old court house was abandoned.

It was still used for some things. For example, the boys in the high school used the second floor for a basketball court. Manuel Alcon said that there were no windows as they had all been broken. As a result,  when they missed the ball, it often flew out the window, and they had to stop and wait until someone went to retrieve the ball before they could  continue playing.

Flavio Vigil was their coach. There were several boys who are still here who played basketball on that big second floor room of the old abandoned court house. They named their team the Mavericks at the suggestion of Sister Anna Marie because she saw them romping around after the ball as it hit rocks or rough spots on the ground when they played outside. They were just like the Mavericks.

In the ‘50s the structure burned. They had to tear the building down. The people were given the stones and parts that were taken out for their own use. They could do whatever they wanted with it as souvenirs or building on their own place.

The spot where the old court house stood was then used for a new building. The contractor was Nick Martinez. It was built to house the fire department with a truck bought by the American Legion with the help from the state.

Damion Pacheco went to Detroit to buy the fire truck. The rest of the building was used for offices. The senior center used the building for awhile. After the present senior center building was built and the seniors moved to the new building, the building then held the Home Education Livelihood Program.  

After Governor David Cargo offered to help Mora have a public library, the library was housed in that building along with literacy classes. When environmental officers found toxic mold,  the building had to be abandoned.

Now that building has been taken down and a new building that holds the Cargo Library books and the Mora site for Luna Community College has taken its place. It was built by Franken Construction Company of  Las Vegas, with our own Dante Vigil as the project manager. There is much history and experience from the past connected with the different court houses that have been in Mora. I have only touched the surface and there is much more. It would be an interesting story if others would like to share their memories, photos, drawings  and paintings.

Mora native gets another honor
Since she began her work as a  lawyer, Antonia Roybal-Mack, a native of Mora, has received several honors. In the latest prestigious honor she was one of the five  lawyers from all over the United States who was chosen to join the 2013-14 American Bar Association Fellowship Program.

The fellowship represents their commitment to increase participation in division activities and membership for new and diverse lawyers developing effective and efficient volunteer leaders.

The candidates are chosen on criteria that establish them as exceptional lawyers with a history of bar involvement, public service and professional excellence.

Some of the other honors she has received during her practice are Best of Bar in 2011, as outstanding litigation lawyer.

She was only 29 at that time. The other lawyers who received this award were much older. At a banquet at the Hispanic Cultural Center, she was named the Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year. She has been president of the Hispanic Bar Association. This is just to name a few of the other honors she has received. We can be proud of her and the many others in Mora who have achieved much because of their work ethic, concern for others and ability.

Ruth Fort is a Mora County correspondent. She may be reached at (575) 387-6523 or ruthfortchacon@yahoo.com.