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Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA
1901 - Santa Fe - The City of the Holy Faith by Frederick Webb Hodge

There is probably no settlement within our domain over the history of which so much mystery has hovered as the capital of New Mexico. Some historical writers early claimed for the ancient city a reputation for antiquity exceeding that of St. Augustine, Florida; others were content to give it second place in point of age, and this position it really holds, not withstanding the strong but groundless belief, still somewhat prevalent, that Santa Fe had a teeming aboriginal population when the Spaniards under Coronado first made their appearance in New Mexico in 1540.

The actual founder of Santa Fe, so far as we can determine, was Juan de Onate, a wealthy resident of Zacatecas, who married Dona Isabel, granddaughter of Hernan Cortés, and great granddaughter of Montezuma, the Aztec chief. In the autumn of 1595 Onate was granted authority and viceregal support to raise an army and to explore and colonize New Mexico, but theintrigues of his rivals caused many delays and it was not until February, 1598, that, with a force of some four hundred colonists, accompanied by eighty three wagons and seven thousand cattle, he was ready to proceed from the Rio Conchas in Chihuahua, bound for the Rio Grande del Norte and New Mexico.

It is not essential to follow the little army in its northward journeying up the river, across the terrible Jornada del Muerto, where, as scores of times later, the bones of some were left to whiten the trail. The new country was formally taken possession of, for the fifth time at least, in the name of the King of Spain, and on July 11, 1598, Onate with his vanguard reached the still inhabited Indian pueblo of San Juan, some thirty miles northwest of the present Santa Fe.

A month later work was begun with Indian aid on the construction of ditches to supply water for a new settlement, the site for which had been selected at the confluence of the Rio Chama with the Rio Grand; on the west bank of the latter stream; where the hamlet of Chamita now stands. On August 23d the erection of a chapel for this new town of San Francisco de los Espanoles was begun; it was finished September 7th, and on the following day was consecrated.

This town, which was built on the site of the abandoned Tea pueblo of Yukewingge (or Yuqueyunque as Coronado's chroniclers called it in 1541), was thus the first European settlement in New Mexico, and the second within the limits of the United States. In 1599 the village became known as San Gabriel, a name which it retained for several years.

The exact date of the founding of Santa Fe is not known, ignorance of the fact probably being due to the destruction by the Indians of the local Spanish archives in 1680. In October, 164 Onate started on a journey to the head of the Gulf of California, returning to Sane Gabriel on April 25, 1605. The return route took the explorer past El Morro, or "Inscription Rock," thirty five miles east of Zuni, where he carved his name on April 16th. It seems likely that the building of Santa Fe was begun shortly afterward, although there is also good authority that San Gabriel remained the only settlement of Europeans until 1608, in which year, it is said, the Crown fixed the governmental regulations of the province and assigned a salary of two thousand ducats a year to the Governor, who immediately departed for Santa Fe. About this time Ovate was relieved by Governor Pedro de Peralta.

The prospects of the new capital during its infancy were not promising. Although the Franciscan missionaries manifested such zeal that by 1617 eleven churches had been established in New Mexico and fourteen thousand natives are said to have been baptized, there were only forty eight soldiers and colonists in the entire province. On January 3, 1617, the King was petitioned to grant succor to the settlement, and by royal decree of May 20, 1620, his Majesty ordered the Viceroy to render the necessary aid, with the result that by 1630 it was recorded by Fray Alonso de Benavides that the town contained 250 Spaniards (some fifty of whom were armed), in addition to seven hundred Indians, "so that, between Spaniards, half breeds, and Indians, there must be a thousand souls." The expense of the garrison was not borne by the Crown, but by means derived from an ?, or trusteeship over the Indians, who paid an annual tribute of a vara of cotton cloth and a fanega of corn per family in return for their teaching and "civilization."

As at San Gabriel, among the first structures reared in the new town was a chapel. The first edifice of this character was an unpretentious affair, a mere hut, which served its purpose until 1622, when Benavides, having become Father Custodian of the province, commenced to build a new church and monastery which, after its completion in 1627, "would shine in whatsoever place." This is believed to have been the Parroquia, which stood on the site of the present cathedral; indeed, some of the walls of the old building are incorporated in the present structure. The chapel of San Miguel, greatly modified in recent years, dates from the middle of the seventeenth century.; while the Capilla de los Soldados, which formerly faced the plaza, opposite the Palace, with its grand altar tablet erected by Governor Francisco Antonio Marin del Valle in 1761, probably dates, from about 1730. As already mentioned, there is no ground for the belief that Santa Fe was established at a populous Indian pueblo, the "capital" of all the village dwellers of New Mexico, the only excuse for such belief, still popular in New Mexico, being that, in prehistoric times, the town was the site of at least one Indian pueblo.

Of the history of Santa Fe between Benavides's time (1622-1630) and the year 1680 not much is known. More than a dozen governors served the kingdom of Spain in the administration of the affairs of the colony during this period, and knowledge of the geography was somewhat increased by expeditions from the seat of government into parts little known. The Pueblo Indians, always friendly when well treated, cherished the religion of their fathers, which the Spaniards tried in every way to supplant, so that comparatively little progress was made in this rich missionary field aside from the erection of massive churches of stone and adobe and the baptism of many of the natives. Jealousy arose between the civil and ecclesiastical authorities, and so bitter became the feeling that the friars were accused of inciting a rebellion of the Indians in 1642, which resulted in the killing of Governor Luis Rosas. Henceforward the hatred of the natives for the whites became deeper and deeper; many of the natives were hanged from time to time for alleged religious offences, and in 1675 many others were whipped and imprisoned. From this time affairs assumed such a serious aspect that the sedentary tribes, under the leadership of Pope, a native of San Juan pueblo, finally determined to throw off the Spanish yoke by effecting an organization that is still noteworthy in Indian annals.

Pope was a medicine man of no mean capacity. His story of the wrongs of his people fell on eager ears, and it was not long ere his plan to exterminate the Spaniards received support from all, the northerly Pueblo, tribes. The day of reckoning was 40 have been August 13th, while the mystic means of communication was a knotted yucca cord which was dispatched by fleet runners to the outlying tribes. Although all were enjoyed to the strictest secrecy, treachery lurked in the Indian ranks, and before the time allotted for the outbreak the Spaniards became aware of its approach through neophytes loyal to their cause. Pope saw that immediate action was necessary to the fulfilment of his designs; news that the secret had been divulged was heralded afar in true Indian fashion, and on August 10th, three days before the time originally fixed, more than four hundred of the twenty five hundred settlers, soldiers, and friars were cruelly massacred.

On the 13th the refugees at Santa Cruz were taken to Santa Fe, and on the day following the enemy appeared in the suburb of Analco, in the vicinity of the present chapel of San Miguel, which had been erected for the Tlascalan or Mexican members of the colony. A parley was held with a deputation of the Indians, who bore a white cross of peace and a red cross of war: of these they gave the Spaniards their choice, but on condition that if the former were selected their country must be immediately evacuated. Every effort was made by the Spaniards to bring about peace, but the Indians, encouraged by the success of their bloody enterprise, were determined to drive the Spaniards forever from the home of their fathers.

Failing in his efforts at conciliation, Governor Otermin endeavored to dislodge the natives from the outskirts; but already the warriors had arrived by hundreds, and the first desperate effort of the Spaniards to drive off the natives resulted in their own retirement to the great adobe Palace where the surviving women and children had already taken refuge.

The siege continued until the 19th. The Indians grew bolder with the continued arrival of warriors until three thousand were massed in the outskirts of the town. The city was beleaguered; the chapel of San Miguel had been destroyed, and the water supply of the town cut off; consequently the trembling thousand within the Palace walls under the protection of only a hundred armed men were in desperate straits. The 19th passed. Otermin and his imprisoned colonists spent the night in planning the escape which seemed almost impossible. On the following day the brave hundred made a sortie which met with such success that three hundred of the enemy were slain, and nearly fifty captured and afterward hanged in the plaza, while the main body was driven in confusion to the heights. The Indians became demoralized, by this first blow, thus affording the Spaniards the opportunity, on August 21st, of gathering their belongings, and starting on their march of six weeks down the river, under a midsummer's sun and through a ravaged country, to the mission of Guadalupe near the present El Paso, Texas.

The Pueblos were at last in possession of Santa Fe and of the dearly bought independence which they had so long been craving. Everything Spanish was laid aside under strict taboo the language of the white man was to be forgotten and his religion forever buried; his houses of worship and the civil and ecclesiastical archives were to be fed to the flames, and their own rites revived in the ceremonial chambers which the Spaniards had caused to be abandoned; even the clothing and the crops of the foreigners were to be discarded, and only indigenous products consumed as of old, while soap weed and the rivulet which flows through Santa Fe provided the means for effacing their baptism into Christianity. The Palace (which then occupied the entire block north of the plaza) seems to have been at least partially spared and was occupied by the Tanos of Galisteo, who built a kiva or ceremonial chamber in its courtyard.

More than one attempt was made to reconquer the province and to reestablish the seat of government during the next few years, but nothing of marked importance was accomplished until after Diego de Vargas Zapata Lujan Ponce de Leon became Governor in 1691. Accompanied by some sixty soldiers, one hundred Indians, and three friars, Vargas started up the Rio Grande from El Paso August 21, 1692, and on September 13th appeared before Santa Fe with part of his force. The fortified Tanos at first showed hostility, but moral suasion soon resulted in effecting their surrender and even in inducing the apostates to renew allegiance and to submit to baptism. Vargas then withdrew for the purpose of extending the conquest over other parts, and it was not until October, 1693, that he was enabled to gather his force of a hundred soldiers, and to renew the journey from El Paso with the seventy families and seventeen friars (about eight hundred souls) who were to form the new colony. On December 16th the little army entered Santa Fe under the very banner borne by Onate nearly a century before. Although the Tanos were now found to be friendly in the main, they manifested little enthusiasm in providing the Spaniards with food, or in rendering aid in the restoration of San Miguel Chapel, offering, however, their pagan kiva for the white man's worship.

It was midwinter, and, the altitude being over seven thousand feet, many children perished. As the Indians were occupying the official quarters and such of the dwellings as had not been razed, they were ordered back to Galisteo, but refused to go. Their stronghold was attacked; reenforcements from the kindred Texas arrived, but the combined force was overpowered, seventy prisoners were made an example of, and four hundred women and children were distributed among the colonists. Hostilities continued with the outlying tribes until September, 1694, but before the year closed the missionaries were enabled to resume their fields of labor.

The winter of 1695-96 was one of discontent by reason of a failure of the crops during the previous season. This probably in large measure was the cause of another revolt in the following June, when twenty six Spaniards, including five friars, were murdered; and not until the new century dawned were the last embers of the rebellion smothered. Vargas's term as Governor expired in 1696; but he remained in Santa Fe, where serious charges were preferred against him by his successor, Cubero, which resulted in his imprisonment until 1700. In 1703 he was reappointed Governor, but died April 8, 1704, and was buried in the Parroquia, which meanwhile had been restored to its former condition. San Miguel Chapel remained in ruins until 1708, when its restoration was commenced by Governor Jose Chacon Medina Salazar y Villasenor, Marques de Permela. The edifice was completed in 1710, as the following inscription on a gallery beam still testifies:

DE 1710.

The eighteenth century was marked by expeditions from Santa Fe in various directions (including one' in the year of American Independence that resulted in the discovery of Utah Lake), which added materially to geographic knowledge of the period; by an extension of missionary work among some tribes and the chastisement of others who had been conducting their raids uncomfortably close to the capital with its little garrison of eighty soldiers; and by controversies between the authorities of Church and State which did not tend to promote the peace of mind of either side or of the colonists.

In 1767 a freshet so seriously threatened the town that the citizens were called to divert the course of the stream and thus saved the settlement. As in the case of a previous proposal to move the capital to Sia, it was planned in 1780 to transfer the seat of government to Santo Domingo, but Governor Ugarte decided against the project and expended two thousand pesos in improving the plan of the town and in establishing a presidio therein. Before the middle, of the century French-Canadian traders had found their way to the Rio Grande, and sporadic bartering with the plains Indians gradually developed into the important industry later known as the "commerce of the prairies." A brisk trade also sprang up between New Mexico and Chihuahua, which in 1780 aggregated $30,000 in value. Santa F6, therefore, at an early period became the seat of an inland commerce, mainly in sheep, wool, wine, and pelts. In 804 William Morrison of Kaskaskia dispatched to New Mexico a consignment of goods, which were confiscated; various attempts to introduce merchandise from the United States during the next few years shared a like fate, the participants usually being imprisoned. This action on the part of the New Mexican officials was later probably more or less due to the ill feeling engendered by the exploit of Lieutenant Zebulon M. Pike, who in January, 1807, while conducting an exploration under military orders, erected a stockade fort in Spanish territory. He and his command were arrested, conducted to Santa Fe, and later taken to Chihuahua as prisoners.

But all efforts to prevent the inroads of traders from the United States were in vain; even the almost prohibitory duty, for a time, of $500 per load of merchandise, regardless of its value, was overcome, and the overland trade conducted by way of the great Santa Fe trail, first by pack animals from Franklin, and later by wagon from Independence, Missouri, increased from $15,000 in 1822 to $750,000 in 1844. The names of McKnight, Pursley, Choteau, Beard, Lalande, Chambers, Cooper, the Bents, Joel Walker, Sublette, Kit Carson, and many other hardy pioneers will long be remembered in the early history of the old Santa Fe trail.

Santa Fe had so long been the hotbed of revolt that its inhabitants must have been lonely for several years without one to engage their attention. The rebellion of 1837 was due to political intrigue for which a former Governor, Manuel Armijo, was held to be largely responsible. The Pueblo Indians participated as usual, and the Governor, Albino Perez, as well as the chief justice and nearly a dozen others, were wantonly murdered. Santa Fe once more fell into the hands of the enemy, who elected Jose Gonzalez, a Taos Indian, as Governor. Armijo now deserted the rebel cause, and, raising a sufficient force to overcome the Gonzalez faction, declared himself the administrative head. The revolt was quelled in January, 1838, Gonzalez and several of his adherents paying the death penalty, while Armijo's "loyalty" was rewarded by a confirmation of his self imposed governorship, which he retained for eight years.

Meanwhile the Texas troubles had been brewing, and discontent prevailed in that quarter over boundary disputes, and because the large Santa Fe trade came and went by the northern route. In 1841, President Lamar equipped a force, known as the Texan Santa Fe Expedition, consisting of three hundred rangers under General McLeod, for the main purpose of taking New Mexican affairs into their own hands; but before reaching the capital the entire "army" was captured by Armijo's militia, their belongings confiscated, and the command marched to Mexico, where they were released in June, 1842.

The Mexican War and American occupancy followed closely on these exciting episodes. Save during the brief periods of the arrival and departure of the caravans at Santa Fe, with the resultant hubbub and flow of gold, the capital was more dead than alive. The people, for the greater part, were densely ignorant; in 1832 there were only half a dozen schools in the whole territory, and although the salaries of the Santa Fe teachers aggregated only $500 in that year, even this sum, from lack of funds, was unavailable in 1834 and the schools were closed. By 1844 the only schools were "of the lowest primary class," and a keen observer asserted that three fourths of the people were illiterates. Santa Fe was without a newspaper, although a sheet called El Crepusculo ("The Dawn") was printed at Taos for four weeks in 1835 on the only press then in the territory of seventy thousand inhabitants. Possibly the press later found its way to Santa Fe to become the principal part of the equipment of a "government printing office" which existed in one end of the Palace in 1846, and from which Kearny published his "Code," the first Spanish-English production of the territory.

In its appearance Santa Fe had changed but little since 1807, when Pike described its aggregation of low adobe houses as resembling from a distance a fleet of flat bottomed Ohio river boats. The Palace occupied then, as it did early in the seventeenth century and does today, the northern side of the plaza. Besides being the only building in New Mexico that could boast the luxury of glass windows, it contained the governmental offices as of yore, as well as quarters for the guard and the government printing office. In Pike's time the opposite side of the plaza was occupied by the houses of the clergy and the public officers, in addition to the military chapel, but with the advent of trade these gave way, before 1846, to the shops of merchants and traders.

General Stephen W. Kearny left Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. in June, 1846, with his "Army of the West," comprising about eighteen hundred men (mostly volunteers), equipped with a supply train of a thousand mules, and overtaking en route the Santa Fe caravan of four hundred wagons. A small force was sent forward to open the way, and although it was favorably received, Kearny later learned that his advance toward the capital would be contested. Nevertheless, the army continued its march and entered the town on August 18th without the slightest opposition on the part of Armijo, who had fled precipitately. The Stars and Stripes were hoisted over the Palace, which Kearny made his headquarters, and the now seasoned volunteers encamped on an eminence overlooking the town. On the following day the inhabitants were assembled in the plaza, where the oath, of allegiance was administered to the former Mexican officials, including the acting Governor, Juan B. Vigil. On the 22d Kearny issued his famous proclamation declaring himself Governor and the inhabitants of News Mexico citizens of the United States.

Meanwhile, Captain W. H. Emory selected, as the site for a fort, an eminence on the northern edge of the town, and the construction of defensive works was immediately begun. The fort, named in honor of William L. Marcy, then Secretary of War, was built principally of adobe; the only approachable point was guarded by a blockhouse of pine logs, and the magazine was erected of the same material. The embankments of old Fort Marcy are still plainly traceable, but there is nothing to mark the graves of the two hundred brave Missouri volunteers who were laid to rest at the foot of the slope during the cruel winter of 1846-47.

Kearny took almost immediate steps to provide civil government for New Mexico by appointing as Governor Charles Bent, who had for many years been a prominent trader in the country. But as the months passed many of the New Mexicans grew tired of their new allegiance, and conditions ripened for another revolt. On January 19, 1847, Bent, with other officials, was foully murdered at Fernandez de Taos by Mexicans and Taos Indians, but retribution swift and terrible followed, and the battle scarred and ruined church at Taos pueblo practically repeated the story of the Alamo. Although it remained under military control until 1850, New Mexico very soon began to feel the effects of American influence. In 1847 a legislative assembly was held at Santa Fe; the first English newspaper, The Santa Fe Republican, was founded, and the New Mexicans had their first opportunity of becoming familiar with the mysteries of a sawmill, which was placed in operation on Santa Fe Creek. In August, 1848, the treaty of peace was proclaimed from the Palace, and the ancient city formally changed masters for the fifth time in its history. The volunteers were glad to return to their homes, the Santa Fe trade resumed its busy march, and modern ways made further impress on the manners of the old adobe town. In 1848 the first English school was put in operation at the capital; later in the year the New Mexican was founded, and, save for a few intermissions, has ever since been published; while the ecclesiastical importance of the town was augmented by the establishment of the Roman Catholic vicariate apostolic of Santa Fe, with Bishop Lamy at its head. On March 3, 1851, after much wrangling and many attempts, New Mexico was organized into a full fledged territory of the United States, James S. Calhoun becoming its first civil governor, and on July. 4th the first legislative assembly fixed Santa Fe as the seat of the new government.

Next came the Civil War, the principal operations of which were not so far away that Santa Fe failed to participate. The severe defeat of the Federals under Canby by the Texans under Sibley, at Valverde, in February, 1862 (where Kit Carson's bravery made him a brigadier), opened the northern way to the Confederates. Santa Fe was abandoned by the Union forces on March 3d, and Sibley took possession a week later. On the 22d Colonel Slough's Federal force of thirteen hundred men marched from Fort Union toward the town. On the 26th the vanguard of four hundred met the enemy in Apache Cannon, and in the severe engagements which followed on that day and on the 28th, the Federals were victorious and the way was again opened to their occupancy of Santa Fe. on April 11th, the Confederates having evacuated three days earlier. This practically closed the war in New Mexico, the Texans returning to their homes minus half their number.

The recent years of Santa Fe's history have more than ever marked the passage of the ancient town from the lethargy characteristic of the century of its founding to the enterprise which one expects in an American settlement of the present day. The contrast between the sleepy Mexican village in the wilderness during the early years of American occupancy and the progressive, substantial, picturesque town of nowadays is vast. The great awakening came with the first screech of the locomotive on February 9, 1880, which forever hushed the rumble of the long caravan as it rolled its weary way into the crooked streets of the City of the Holy Faith. New Mexico's capital was enabled at last to make the acquaintance of the outer world, although rival settlements, created by the new trail of steel, robbed it more and more, as year after year passed, of the trade which had helped to make it famous. Its genial climate and other advantages attracted many from the East schools and hospitals were established, and as the seat of federal and territorial administration, as well as of military and ecclesiastical importance, its social advantages became widely recognized.

Despite its modern buildings devoted to various uses, there are parts of the town which have not changed greatly during the half century of American influence. The plaza, of tragic memory, has evolved from a barren common to a bower of beauty ornamented with a monument dedicated to the heroes of Indian and civil strife. The old Palace, in which the gallant Vargas was dungeoned, and in which Lew Wallace wrote the last chapters of Ben Hur, has been refurbished, but probably no walls within our domain hold in hiding such a wealth of cruelty and horror, of treachery and suffering, of valor and chivalry, as the great adobe structure which still overlooks the historic plaza of our oldest western town.

American Historic Towns Edited by Lyman P. Powell, G. P. Putnam' Sons, Knickerbocker Press, 1901

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