Historic Era

Southwest Archaeology

Euro-Anglo Period

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This section is drawn from the BLM Farmington Field Office's Proposed Resource Management Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement EIS. We will rewrite this section as we get an opportunity.

There is obvious overlap between events that occurred during the preceding Navajo historic periods and events more closely associated with Euro-Anglo occupations of the planning area. While reference is made to related Navajo events, the primary focus of this section is on events related to post-contact (A.D. 1540) Euro-Anglo activities. This general period, in turn, is segmented into Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo (A.D. 1848-present) periods.


Spanish Colonial Period (A.D. 1540- 1821)


The earliest evidence of Spanish entry (entrada) into New Mexico is associated with the appearance of Coronado’s expedition in 1540 (Winship 1990). Initial contacts with the inhabitants were not promising insofar as the Spaniards, prompted by Marcos’ reports of great wealth, viewed the region’s inhabitants as potential sources of wealth or information about where such wealth could be found (Winship 1990). Greeted by showers of arrows at some pueblos, Coronado’s men soon found that reports of gold were overstated and that their likely reception in other villages would be equally confrontational (Winship 1990). In 1542, after smaller expeditions into the surrounding country revealed no great wealth, Coronado’s expedition withdrew to Mexico.


The Spanish did not return to the region until several decades had passed. In 1598, Oñate arrived with a large party of colonists, soldiers, and priests, to establish the village of San Gabriel, near the modern-day Pueblo of San Juan. This marked the first serious attempt to establish permanent settlements in the region. According to Salmerón (1966), Oñate found little of the wealth that had prompted Coronado’s expedition some 50 years earlier. In 1604, Oñate traversed portions on the planning area on his way to the Hopi Mesas and thence westward to California (Salmerón 1966). He returned by the same route, but did not establish any new Spanish settlements along the way. It is during Oñate’s travels that we find the first written reference to the presence Navajo Indians in what is today the Navajo heartland; they were referred to by Salmerón as “Apache Indians of Nabaju” (1966).

There is almost no documentary evidence regarding the planning area between Oñate’s arrival in 1598 and the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Seventeenth century Spanish settlements in the area were minimal and concentrated almost solely along the eastern margin of the planning area in or near the Rio Grande valley. During this period, small settlements such as San José de Guisewa (1620) pushed westward into the planning area, only to be abandoned shortly thereafter (Williams 1986).

It is reasonable to assume that Spanish settlement brought new technologies and ways of life to indigenous peoples. Among the most important introductions were the use of metal, the introduction of domestic animals and, to the detriment of the region’s inhabitants, Old World diseases. By 1650, sheep and goat husbandry appear as progressively more important components of Navajo subsistence. This inference is further supported by the archaeological recovery of European goods at seventeenth century Navajo sites, although it is unclear whether these goods were obtained by raiding or trading with Puebloan groups along the Rio Grande.

The Pueblo Revolt of 1680, as well as the 1694 rebellion that followed Vargas’ 1692 Reconquest of New Mexico, was accompanied by the relocation of the inhabitants of some Rio Grande pueblos. Including both Tanoan- and Keresan-speaking elements, this population dispersal probably accelerated the adoption of Puebloan cultural elements—notably masonry architecture and painted pottery—into Navajo culture during the eighteenth century. Vintage Spanish documents, supported by substantial archaeological evidence, suggest defensivelysited Navajo hogans and pueblitos, likely in response to raiding by both Utes and Comanches, as well as threats from the Spanish. In addition, there appears to have been some Navajo dislocations southward during the eighteenth century as a result of intensive raiding by the Utes.

Spanish activities during eighteenth century focused primarily on consolidating their holdings in the Rio Grande valley. Settlements in the heart of the planning area were almost non-existent. Exceptions to this generality include, for example, the settlement of Ranch de la Posta (1780). Yet, two activities—new land grants and new trading routes—emerge as important events affecting the planning area during this period.

As in the seventeenth century, new land grants were established in the eighteenth century, mostly along the eastern margin of the planning area (Williams 1986). These included Plaza Colorado (1739), Plaza Blanca (1739), Cañada de Cochiti (1740), Abiquiu (1754), Polvadera (1766), and Piedre Lumbre (1766). Some, such as Ponderosa (1768) were established and have remained occupied, while others such as La Ventana (ca. 1778) were soon abandoned due to raiding (Julyan 1996, Swadesh 1974).


It was also during the eighteenth century that the Old Spanish Trail was established (Crampton and Madsen 1994) (Map 3-10). The Old Spanish Trail is a collective assortment of pack routes that connected Santa Fe and Los Angeles. It was first traversed in its entirety in 1829 and experienced about 20 years of use by traders, slavers, trappers, and immigrants until being replaced by other trails. It undoubtedly followed older Native American trail routes in some areas and portions that had been used by earlier Spanish exploring and trading ventures. In the FFO, the Old Spanish Trail has not been physically identified, but segments of the trail followed Largo Canyon (Armijo route) and Carracas Canyon (Northern Route). On December 4, 2002, President Bush signed Public Law 107-325 designating the Old Spanish Trail as a National Historic Trail. Spanish Colonial components comprise less than one-half of 1 percent of the total components known in the planning area. On FFO lands, there is 1 SMA, Santos Peak, that is actively managed to protect outstanding examples of cultural resources from this period.

Other examples may be found that merit special designations. Still other examples of resources from this period are managed according to continuing management guidelines.


Mexican Period (A.D. 1821-1848)

Mexico’s declaration of independence from Spain in 1821 was accompanied by the opening of the Santa Fe Trail. This inaugurated a period of progressively greater interaction between Euro-Anglos from America and New Mexico’s Native American and Hispanic residents.

Excluding events taking place in Navajo country, discussed earlier, this period is not particularly noteworthy with respect to Mexican activities in the planning area. There were additional Mexican land grants finalized during this period, including most notably the San Joaquín del Rio Chama (1806, Swadesh 1974), Tierra Amarilla grant (1832, Swadesh 1974), Baca Location #1 (1835), and the Lobato grant (Williams 1986). As well, small towns such as Gallina (1818) and Cabezon (1826) also appeared in the planning area.

Trading across the Old Spanish Trail, discussed above, intensified during the Mexican Period and included both Mexican and Anglo traders (Swadesh 1974). Many of the alternate routes along the trail, which shortened its distance, were identified and used by traders traveling to California. According to the Frenchman, Duflot de Mofras (BLM 2002a): Caravans traveled once a year from New Mexico to Los Angeles. These consist of 200 men on horseback, accompanied by mules laden with fabrics and large woolen covers called serapes, jerzas, and cobertones, which are valued at 3 to 5 piasters each. This merchandise is exchanged for horses and mules on a basis, usually of two blankets for one animal. Caravans leave Santa Fe, New Mexico, in October, before the snows set in, and finally reach the outlying ranchos of California from where the trail leads into El Pueblo de los Angeles. This trip consumes two and one-half months. Returning caravans leave California in April in order to cross the rivers before the snow melts, taking with them about 2,000 horses.

Thus, while trade expanded during the Mexican Period, settlements and associated populations remained largely restricted to the Rio Grande valley and its major tributaries. Aside from periodic trading expeditions, the planning area was instead typified by Navajo settlements.

Old Spanish Trail

Like their Spanish Colonial predecessors, Mexican period components are notably scarce across the planning area, comprising less than one-half of 1 percent of the total components known in the planning area.

On FFO and AFO lands in the planning area, there are no ACECs or SMAs that are actively managed to protect outstanding examples of cultural resources from this period. Other examples may be found that merit special designations. Still other examples of resources from this period are managed according to continuing management guidelines.


Euro-Anglo Period (1848 to Present)

In 1846, Doniphan’s California Column entered New Mexico, ushering in a new era in the region’s history. With the subsequent defeat of the Mexican Army, New Mexico officially became a territory of the U.S. Conditions during the period between 1848 and the outbreak of the Civil War remained largely unchanged from those observed during the Mexican Period. Anglo or Hispanic settlements were very few in number and still concentrated mostly in the Rio Grande basin. At the same time, largely in response to raiding by Native Americans, there was an increasing presence of U.S. military forces. Indeed, this period is marked by the appearance of a succession of forts (Acrey 1994, Williams 1986). These included Ft. Defiance (1851), Ft. Wingate (1849, 1862, 1868), Ft. Lowell (1866) and an unnamed Army post west of Haynes Station (1870s). The chaos that seemed to characterize the newly-acquired territory grew even worse with the outbreak of the Civil War. Between 1861- 1862, Confederate forces seized a series of Union posts beginning in El Paso, TX, and extending northward up the Rio Grande toward Santa Fe. Only after the Confederates were defeated at the Battle of Glorieta Pass in the spring of 1862 did any semblance of order return to the territory. By 1865, the Santa Fe- Durango stage route extending from Santa Fe northwestward through San Ysidro, Cuba, Haynes Station, Truby Stop, and Largo to Aztec had been established in an effort to improve communications and travel in the planning area (Williams 1986). This stage line was to remain in operation until 1881. Perhaps the most notable event of the Civil War period was the attempt to remove all Navajo from their homelands. Termed “The Long Walk,” this saw the removal of upwards of 10,000 Navajo from the eastern part of their traditional homeland (Ackerly 1998, Bailey 1988). This effort proved largely a failure, due in no small measure to Carleton’s gross underestimate of the population of the Navajo Nation. By 1868, the reservation at Bosque Redondo (Ft. Sumner) was abandoned and the Navajo returned to their homeland. The initial impetus for Anglo settlement in the planning area can be traced to passage in 1862 of the Homestead Act. Intended to promote settlement of the American West, the Act provided 160 acres to claimants once they “proved up” their claim by living and working on it. In the planning area, however, homesteading was inhibited by deteriorating conditions between settlers and Navajos, as well as constraints imposed by the outbreak of the Civil War in 1862. Further, since land ownership was unclear, settlements remained tenuous until passage of the 1868 treaty that allowed the Navajo displaced by the Bosque Redondo experiment to return to their homelands.

Accordingly, Anglo and Hispanic (Lucero phase) settlements in the planning area did not emerge until the late 1870s. Among the earlier Hispanic settlements in the region are Blanco (1879), Cuba (1887) and Rosa (1888). Anglo settlements included Aztec (1879), Bloomfield (1879), Farmington (1879), Lumberton (1881), Dulce (1883), Cedar Hill (1887), San Luis (1890), Fruitland (1891), and Sheep Springs (1892). Others such as Fairpoint (1894-1898), Pendleton (1903-22), Liberty (1907-1920), Haynes (1908-1929), and Gobernador (1916- 1942) were established only to be abandoned within a few years or decades (Williams 1986).


Many initial economic activities typical of the mid-late nineteenth century focused on farming and ranching. Farming varied from rainfall-based dryland farming in upland areas to irrigated agriculture in river valleys that had relatively permanent flows. The establishment of the settlements listed above were almost invariably accompanied by the immediate construction of irrigation ditches (Ackerly 2002). For example, the La Plata Indian and McDermott ditches in the La Plata basin are believed to date to the late 1870s. In the Animas basin, the Star ditch is believed to date to the late 1870s. Irrigation systems drawing water from the San Juan River and dating to ca. 1880 include the Hammond Conservancy District, Castiano Ditch, San Juan #4, and Cuadi Ditch.

Ranching focused almost exclusively on sheep, although some cattle were also raised. Sheep ranching expanded rapidly, with totals in the state increasing from 250,000 in 1830 to upwards of 4,000,000 in 1880. Beginning in the 1850s and persisting through the 1860s, there were trail drives of large herds westward along a route that closely paralleled the Old Spanish Trail (Williams 1986). By the early twentieth century, there were 1.8 million head of sheep on the Navajo Reservation, comprising almost 93 percent of all livestock (Acrey 1994).

The rapid pace of settlement, accompanied by expansion of both farming and ranching, led to the construction in 1881 of the “Farmington Branch” of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. Intended largely to transport commodities, particularly fruit, northward and manufactured goods into the San Juan Basin, a spur line extending from Durango, CO, southward to Aztec and Farmington was completed in 1905 (Myrick 1990). What is perhaps most notable is that this spur was standard gauge, a novelty on the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad’s system of narrow-gauge rails; it was replaced with narrow-gauge rails in 1923 (Myrick 1990).

In Navajo county, the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century were characterized by the establishment of numerous trading posts. Beginning in 1869, trading posts associated with army garrisons at Ft. Defiance and Ft. Wingate were opened for Navajo trade (Acrey 1994). In the mid-1880s, a trading post was opened in Fruitland (Acrey 1994), soon followed by trading posts at Crystal (1892) and Two Gray Hills (1897). Trading posts provided both an outlet for goods, notably blankets and jewelry, produced by Navajo craftspeople, as well a source for manufactured Anglo goods. Historic Euro-Anglo components comprise only 3.1 percent of the known components in the planning area. Most are situated along the eastern margins of the planning area, mirroring the locations of early settlements as described above.

On FFO and AFO lands, there are 11 ACECs or SMAs that are actively managed to protect outstanding examples of cultural resources from this period. These include the:

1. Margarita Martinez Homestead

2. Dogie Canyon School

3. Rock House-Nestor Martin Homestead

4. Gonzales Canyon-Senon S. Vigil Homestead

5. Martin Apodaca Homestead

6. Jones Canyon (AFO)

7. 1870s Wagon Road Trail (Recreation) (AFO)

8. Historic Homesteads (Recreation) (AFO)

9. Azabache Station (Recreation) (AFO)

10. Headcut Prehistoric Community (AFO)

11. Cañon Jarido (AFO)


Other examples may be found that merit special designations. Still other examples of resources from this period are managed according to continuing management guidelines







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