Saturday, March 14, 2015

Acomilla Historical Marker, Socorro County

The Acomilla historical marker can be viewed at a rest stop on Interstate 25 about 45 miles south of Albuquerque.
The marker reads as follows:
Named Acomilla by the Spanish, these buttes form the walls of a narrow passage for the Rio Grande, along which Spanish encountered the Apache. Travelers organized armed caravans to assure their safety along this section of the Camino Real. An earlier pueblo named Alamillo sat below the black basaltic buttes of San Acacia to the southwest.
For many years, all I thought of this area was the neat wooden rest stops that sit on the sands on both sides of the interstate. Headed north, it's the last decent restroom break before hitting Albuquerque (unless you like to exit in Belen or Los Lunas), and heading south, it's the first convenient rest stop. But there's so much more than that here. One look in any direction tells you as much.

For more than 100 years, not much lay between this point and El Paso (a run of nearly 150 miles). As the marker states, around this point, the river and the buttes set up something of a bottle neck that made for a convenient attack location for the Apache raiders along the route. It was partly because of this spot that caravans would wind their way up and down the Camino Real in large, armored groups, to ensure the safety of travelers.

Modern day San Acacia is near this location, less than 2 miles to the south. The small town sprung up with the addition of rail lines in the latter 19th century. By this time, of course, the Apache threat had been removed.

It's a small and simple reminder about New Mexico's origins (the Camino Real leading to Santa Fe), and the dangers that travelers faced in the most treacherous and famed part of the royal road.

My sources for this post are as follows:

Lozen Little Sister Historical Marker, Otero County

Lozen Little Sister, "A Shield To Her People," is part of the newer Historic Women Marker Initiative, which was founded in 2005. The initiative sought to recognize women's contributions to the state of New Mexico, and I always look forward to finding one, because nine times out of ten, it's a piece of history I've never encountered before.

The text of this marker reads as follows:
Lozen, a warrior and sister of the famous Warm Springs Apache chief Victorio, fought alongside her brother until his death in 1880 and later his successors, Nana and Geronimo. Lozen also was a medicine woman and healer and, it was said, with outstretched hands she could determine the location of an ememy. She died a prisoner at Mt. Vernon Barracks in Alabama.
At the time of Lozen's birth, the area of New Mexico / Arizona / North Mexico that she was born in was known as Apacheria. The exact location of her birth was known to be within sight of the Sacred Mountain near Ojo Caliente where her People began (Apache Indian Leaders).

Lozen was known in her village as a warrior. She refused to fulfill traditional female roles, and instead chose the warrior path from an early age.

Growing up in the Chiricahua, Lozen learned to fight and defend her people at a tumultuous time full of imperialist atrocities by the ever expanding United States of America. Her brother, Chief Victorio, famously said, "Lozen is my right hand ... strong as a man, braver than most, and cunning in strategy. Lozen is a shield to her people." In 1880, Victorio's band was entirely wiped out at Tres Castillos in a brutal defeat to the Mexican's, who didn't only kill the warriors, but shot the elderly, women, and children. After her brothers death, Lozen rode out of Mescalero land into the Sierra Madre's of northern Chihuahua, Mexico. Here, she fought alongside tribal patriarch Nana in a trail of vengeance with the decimated and famished remainders of her warrior tribe.

She also fought alongside Geronimo in the last campaign of the Apache Wars. She surrendered along with the last of the great Apache warriors in 1886, and was taken into US custody.

Lozen died in 1889 of tuberculosis at the age of 50 while in custody at the Mount Vernon Barracks in Alabama, in what basically amounted to a concentration camp. 

On a personal note, it's very difficult to read the stories of these great Native American leaders, and to think that they met their demises at the hands of the United States government. We look back on such horrific atrocities as the Jewish Holocaust and shake our heads at the wonton evil destruction that man can inflict on his brother. Yet, right here in New Mexico, we bore witness to the same thing. It's forever a part of our history, something we shouldn't gloss over. Lozen gained fame in part by fighting against the United States, in defense of her people. Lozen Little Sister remains a revered figure in the Apache history, and stands as a strong example of the power of women in our world, and the resolve people have when fighting for the lives of their people and culture. 

The photo you see of Lozen was taken after her surrender en route to Alabama. 

My sources for this post are as follows:

  • Apache Indian Leaders: My primary source for the story of Lozen's birth and travels.
  • The Story of Lozen: This is on Facebook, and goes a little deeper and spiritual, it's a good piece.
  • Chiricahua entry on Wikipedia: I found some information on the ancestral homelands of Lozen here. 
  • Once They Moved Like the Wind, by David Roberts: Some in depth information on not just Lozen, but many great Apache warriors. 
  • Warrior Woman Lozen on Cheyenne Gathering: Another primary source of information. The article for her on Wikipedia is basically lifted verbatim from this source. 
  • Dahteste: I recommend this as a starting place to find more information on the background and the aftermath of much of what I wrote about here. Dahteste was another Apache woman and warrior companion of Lozen. Dahteste survived her incarceration in Flordida, and lived into the mid-1900s, but was always thought to have mourned her friend deeply for many years. Dahteste was a central figure in helping negotiate Geronimo's surrender, and lived her later years on the Mescalero Reservation.
  • Complete List of Women Historical Markers

Friday, March 6, 2015

Hatch Historical Marker, Doña Ana County

Hatch, New Mexico, apart from being home to the world famous Hatch green chile (actually world famous, not just colloquially speaking), and my single favorite hamburger in the world (more on that in a minute), is a quaint and interesting little town tucked in along the Interstate 25 corridor and the Rio Grande River in south central New Mexico. Hatch is in Doña Ana County, located 40 miles north of Las Cruces.

The historical marker tells the story better than I could:

Originally established as Santa Barbara in 1851, Apache raids drove the settlers away until 1853 when nearby Fort Thorn was established. Abandoned again in 1860 after the fort closed, it was re-occuped in 1875 and re-named for General Edward Hatch, then Commander of the New Mexico Military District.

So Hatch has a history of being raided, abandoned, reclaimed, abandoned again, and finally settled for good. The village of Hatch wasn't incorporated officially until 1928, and has since grown into a major player in the growing of chile, especially green chile.

When driving through Hatch, one becomes immediately aware of the agriculture surrounding the village. Besides green chile, Hatch also grows onions, pecans, alfalfa, lettuce, cabbage, sweet potatoes, wheat, and cotton. It's hard not to notice the miles and miles of green fields and pecan orchards that dot the landscape around Hatch for miles in all directions.

My favorite road to reach Hatch is New Mexico State Road 185, which hugs the Rio Grande for awhile, and ends up going through Radium Springs before entering the western edge of the village of Doña Ana and eventually Las Cruces. When you reach Las Cruces, 185 turns into Valley Drive. It's a beautiful road that takes you right along the edge of the Robledo Mountains, and it is the only place in Doña Ana County I've encountered javelinas along the road side. I recommend this beautiful road.

Nowadays Hatch is known for its food. So I need to discuss a Hatch institution, Sparky's. Sparky's is home to the best green chile cheeseburger on the face of the planet as far as I'm concerned. It has a nice atmosphere as well. Sparky's was named as the third best burger joint in America on TripAdvisor this past summer.

Apart from Sparky's, another personal favorite is Pepper Pot. The Pepper Pot is located right around the corner from Sparky's on Hall Street. I first saw Pepper Pot on Anthony Bourdain's show No Reservations, and we decided to try it. There are many choices for Mexican food in Las Cruces and even in Hatch, but what I liked about Pepper Pot was how insanely good their green chile selection was. But seriously, when in Hatch, you can't go wrong, good food is everywhere you turn.

My sources for this post are as follows:

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Sierra Blanca Historical Marker: Otero County

The Sierra Blanca historical marker is placed in the perfect location for a stunning view of the mountain. The text of the marker says it all:
Sierra Blanca, a complex ancient volcano, rises more than 7,300 feet above Tularosa Basin to peak at 12,003 feet. Vertical geologic movement between ranges and basin is about 2 miles. San Andres Mountains on the west side of Tularosa Basin are uplifted on east side and tilted westward. Elevation 4,670 feet.
As non-poetic as that is, it really does tell the story of Sierra Blanca. The Tularosa Basin that lies to the west is part of the larger Rio Grande Rift, which formed many millions of years ago as the land in what is now central New Mexico was ripped apart along a fault line. The Sacramento Mountains, of which Sierra Blanca is the highest peak, make up the eastern uplifting of the Tularosa Basin, with the San Andres Mountain range making up the western uplifting about 50 miles away. The mountain itself is a heavily eroded volcano that was active up to about 26 million years ago.

Sierra Blanca is the highest mountain in southern New Mexico and the highest mountain in the state not located in the Sangre de Cristos. Sierra Blanca does have the highest prominence in the state. Prominence is the distance from the lowest point around the mountain to its highest peak. Its name means "White Mountain," and it is home to a popular ski destination known as "Ski Apache" which is run by the Mescalero Tribe.

I grew up 5 miles north of Carlsbad, and could see Sierra Blanca off in the distance from my front yard, although it was a 150 mile drive away (not as the bird flies of course).

I didn't have to refer to any sources outside of Wikipedia (to get a few statistics and other facts). 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Blazer's Mill Historical Marker: Lincoln County

I'll begin this post by quoting the text of the historical marker itself:
An early fight in the Lincoln County War occurred near this sawmill on April 5, 1878, when several men of the McSween faction, including Dick Brewer and Billy the Kid, attempted to arrest Buckshot Roberts. Roberts and Brewer were killed, and two others wounded, in the battle that followed.
Blazer's Mill is primarily known as the site of Buckshot Roberts death, and has been immortalized on paper and in film. In what was one of the best scenes from the 1988 movie Young Guns, the depiction of Roberts death set the stage for the legend of Billy the Kid. And although there are allegations that the entire story has been embellished, it makes for a great tale.
On February 18, 1878, John Tunstall was murdered by members of the Dolan-Murphy faction at the onset of the Lincoln County War. Tunstall factions members immediately assumed Buckshot Roberts was party to the murder due to his close connections to the Dolan faction. Roberts, however, wanted nothing to do with the conflict, and put his ranch up for sale. Roberts stayed at Blazer's Mill on his way out of town, where he was confronted by the Regulators on April 4, 1878, including Dick Brewer, who led the group, and of course, William H. "Billy the Kid" Bonney, the most famous participant in the Lincoln County War.
A few different stories about why Roberts was at Blazer's Mill exist, but the two prevalent ones are, first, the one I told above, about him leaving town after selling his land, and the second, almost as plausible, was that he went to the mill to collect some money owed to him. Whatever the truth was, he was ambushed by the Regulators, being shot at from both sides. 
Frank Coe of the Regulators had asked Buckshot to give up his weapons, and when he refused, he was ambushed from behind. Roberts returned fire on the twelve or thirteen men, initially wounding two and, had the gun not misfired, could have shot Billy the Kid. Charlie Bowdre wounded Roberts, who then retreated into the house. 
At this point, Dick Brewer, leader of the Regulators, made a move at Roberts, creeping his way up to the house. Buckshot saw Brewer hiding behind a pile of logs, and with one well timed fire, shot through Brewer's eye and took the top of his head off. At this point, de facto leader Billy the Kid ordered the retreat. 
Buckshot Roberts died the following day in a great deal of pain. Later, the distances of shots and the stories seemed verified through independent investigation. According to historical sources, Buckshot Roberts was later found to have had nothing to do with John Tunstall's murder.

Blazer's Mill now exists as old adobe ruins, and the historical marker sits on US Highway 70 about 2.5 miles south of Mescalero, between Mescalero and Tularosa near a village called Bent, New Mexico. It's a great bit of Americana and New Mexico history.

My sources for this post are as follows:

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Atlas Missile Silos Historical Marker: Chaves County

During the height of the Cold War, the United States developed a series of intercontinental ballistic warheads called Atlas Missiles. The missiles were made in series, the primary series of deployment were D, E, and F. The Atlas D missiles were housed in various silos through 3 main locations.
Series E missiles were also housed in 3 main locations run by different bases of operations. Then came the final series, series F. The Series F of the Atlas Missiles were housed in silos out of 6 bases. First, there was Schilling AFB in Kansas. Next up, Lincoln AFB in Nebraska, Altus AFB in Oklahoma, Dyess AFB in Texas, Plattsburgh AFB in New York, and finally, Walker Air Force Base in Roswell, New Mexico. Each of these bases would have various silos spread throughout the surrounding country side.

Roswell and Walker Air Force Base was home to the 579th Strategic Missile Squadron (579th SMS for short). The 579th SMS consisted of 12 Atlas F complexes spread throughout the countryside of Chaves County surrounding Roswell.

These silos were 180 feet deep, and housed missiles capable of reaching over 9,000 miles and dropping nuclear payloads. These silos were a major player in the tensions of the Cold War, and the nuclear threat posed by the United States.

The Atlas Program was phased out in 1965. Walker Air Force Base in Roswell was closed due to funding cutbacks during the Vietnam War in 1967.

The interesting thing here is that these silos are still out there, either shuddered permanently by the government, or are owned privately. The silos that have been sealed are inaccessible due to their sealing by massive concrete doors (check out some very cool photos of a now closed silo outside of Roswell at The Military Standard photo gallery HERE).

The historical marker is located at a rest stop approximately 15 miles west of Roswell on US Highway 70 headed to Ruidoso. It's hard to imagine when driving through these rolling hills that such a sinister and interesting past exists in those hills, a past that held the power to forever change the face of the planet.

I recommend the following sources if you'd like to pursue more information on the Atlas Missile Program, the silos, or the history of the program overall. These are also the sources I consulted for this post:

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Fort Stanton Historical Marker: Lincoln County

I'm going to start off by saying that Fort Stanton is one of my favorite historical sites in all of New Mexico. This place is accessible, remote (but not too remote), creepy at night, and has a rich, interesting, little known history.

Fort Stanton got its start in 1855, when it was founded as a fort and a base of operations against the raiding Mescalero Apaches of the area. The namesake for the fort was Captain Henry W. Stanton, who was killed near present day Mayhill (about 50 miles south east of Fort Stanton) fighting the Mescalero Apaches. 

In 1861, the fort was taken by the Confederate Army until the Confederacy moved their base of operations further west to Mesilla, when it was abandoned.
During the occupation, the Mescalero Apaches were finally pacified. An odd little bit of side history is that the fort was used as a reservation for those same Mescalero Apaches when they were being relocated to Bosque Redondo, and was part of the infamous "Long Walk of the Navajo" (you can read more on that at Native American Legends).

Fort Stanton continued to find use, through smaller campaigns like the Chiracahua Campaigns, various disturbances with the Mescalero, and is known for various reasons. New Mexico Governor Lew Wallace stayed at Fort Stanton while successfully negotiating for peace to end the Lincoln County War. Later on, General John J. Pershing was stationed at Fort Stanton, years before becoming America's first five star general following World War I.

By 1890, the need for Fort Stanton had been exhausted, and it was shut down. The story obviously does not end here...

From 1899 until 1953, Fort Stanton was run by the US Public Health Service, and served as a tuberculosis hospital for the Merchant Marine. Fresh air and sunshine were the only known cures for TB, and the climate of this part of New Mexico was perfect. Visitors to Fort Stanton today will pass the Merchant Marine cemetery 1/4 of a mile east of Fort Stanton on Highway 220. Over 1,500 are buried in this cemetery.

Fort Stanton had a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) work camp during the Great Depression, and, more famously, as an internment camp for German marines, prisoners of war, and even Japanese-American families threatened by American mobs during World War II. The German's being held in Fort Stanton, during their time there, seriously upgraded the grounds, installing a pool, gardens, and a recreation hall. Although the pool no longer exists there, remnants of it do, and you can see many of the facilities built by them still standing.

After World War II, the Fort was used primarily as a hospital for the developmentally handicapped until the early 1990s. Finally, in 2007, the site was made a monument, and a museum is now run on site (it's actually a very nice museum, full with a gift shop and educational video that I recommend sitting through if you go).

In being a little more candid, I can also say that Fort Stanton can be a very creepy place to visit, especially at night (I'm not openly recommending this because people live there and they probably don't like people snooping around at night, but I've done it).

I highly recommend this visit if you happen to be in Ruidoso, as it's near the airport, which is located about 20 miles north of Ruidoso. It's a beautiful drive with a stunning view of the Capitan Mountains (origin of Smokey the Bear as well). The road is well maintained, and you're never too far off the beaten path. The Fort itself is well maintained, and museum hours can vary by season (check them out HERE).

I consulted the following sites for information on this post, and give credit to much of the information to them: