The Las Vegas Land Grant was made in 1835 to 36 grantees, who were for the most part from San Miguel del Bado.
Known as the “original 36,” they were Juan Pedro Archuleta, Arcenio Baca, Juan José Baca, José Guadalupe Baca, Tomás Baca, Simón Blea, José Antonio Casaus, Foribio Crespín, Juan Crespín, José de Jesús Durán, José María Durán, Manuel Durán, Francisco López, José Lucero, Juan de Dios Maese, Antonio Martín, José Martín, José María Martín, Juan José Martín, Juan Nepomuceno Martín, Miguel Martín, Miguel Martín II, Santiago Ortega, Teodocio Quintana, Cruz Rendón, Miguel Rendón, Rafael Rendón, Antonio Romo, Simón Romo, Rafael Sarracino, Eulogio Segura, Felipe Tafoya, Antonio Ulibarrí, Faustín Ulibarrí, José de Jesús Ulibarrí, and Pablo Ulibarrí.
After the initial grant to the original 36, but also in 1835, some 118 other individuals received Las Vegas grant land from the constitutional justice. Many of these grantees were from the Santa Fe area, and included Miguel Romero, patriarch of the famed Romero family. His five sons would later be known as the Romero Brothers, and would establish in Las Vegas a financial and political empire not seen again in our fair city and county, and perhaps in all New Mexico.
(The story of the Romero dynasty will be told in later columns).
One of the original 36, Juan de Dios Maese, was immediately designated as the constitutional justice of the new settlement, and since that time he has been known as the first alcalde or mayor of Las Vegas. It was atop our first mayor’s roof on the north side of the plaza, that 11 years later Brigadier General Stephen Watts Kearny, leading the Army of the West, would first proclaim the occupation and annexation of New Mexico by the United States. (Kearny’s march into Las Vegas on the morning of August 15 1846, will be related later).
As the first colonists continued to settle Las Vegas, they were joined by others seeking a new life and new lands on the eastern frontier of New Mexico. By 1841 a group of them, including one or more Baca families, established themselves a few miles northeast of the original settlement, at what would become known as Upper Las Vegas, Upper Town, or San Antonio. There José Albino Baca would later erect the famed Baca Mansion, which stands to this day as a remarkable example of the territorial style architecture which had its birth in Las Vegas and later spread to Santa Fe and other parts of New Mexico.
(Many of you will remember Eloisa Myers, who lived on Valencia Street by the church, and was José Albino Baca’s great-granddaughter. Her daughter, Marian Ackerman, still lives in Las Vegas).
During these first years, raids by Native Americans on the new Las Vegas settlement were commonplace. In fact, several times during the first two or three years, the colonists retreated to San Miguel for safety, and did not begin a continuous and uninterrupted occupation of their settlement until about 1838. (In 1836, Navajo warriors raided Santiago Montoya’s Las Vegas home site, stole his sheep and kidnapped his two young nephews. A group of settlers led by Miguel Romero pursued the Navajos to present day Wagon Mound, and after an all-day battle the two boys were rescued and returned to Las Vegas).
But the early settlers persevered, and soon many americanos began trekking through Las Vegas on their way to San Miguel and then on into Santa Fe, and the quiet settlement along the Rio Gallinas soon became an important way stop along the Santa Fe Trail.
Within a couple of decades, the small frontier hamlet would be much more than just a way stop along the famous route. Las Vegas would become one of the foremost locations west of St. Louis, Mo., the eastern terminus of the Santa Fe Trail.
It was this circumstance, combined with hard work and entrepreneurship, which allowed several early Las Vegas settlers to establish large-scale freighting operations, and mercantile and commercial houses of enormous significance. Many of them became extremely wealthy within a very short time, and expanded their freighting and mercantile businesses to include vast ranching, timber and other business interests. The foremost of these was the great Romero family, whose story will be told in later columns.
But next in our chronology is the fascinating story, unknown to many, of the futile 1841 invasion of San Miguel County by 300 Texans, in the first attempt to occupy and claim New Mexico, five years before Kearny rode into Las Vegas and proclaimed the annexation of New Mexico in 1846.
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Next: The Texas invasion of San Miguel County in 1841, and the futile attempt to claim New Mexico
Jesus L. Lopez is a native of Las Vegas and a local historian. He may be reached at 425-3730.