COMMERCE OF THE PRAIRIES, by Josiah Gregg: Volume I



Sketches of the Early History of Santa Fe First Explorations Why called New Mexico Memorial of Onate His Colony Captain Leyva's prior Settlement Singular Stipulations of Onate Incentives presented by the Crown to Colonizers Enormities of Spanish Conquerors Progress of the new Colony Cruel Labors of the Aborigines in the mines Revolt of the Indians in 1680 Massacre of the Spaniards Santa Fe Besieged Battles Remaining Spanish Population finally evacuate the Province Paso del Norte Inhuman Murder of a Spanish Priest Final Recovery of the Country Insurrection of 1837 A Prophecy Shocking Massacre of the Governor and other distinguished Characters American Merchants and Neglect of our Government Governor Armijo: his Intrigues and Success Second Gathering of Insurgents and their final Defeat.

     HAVING resided for nearly nine years in Northern Mexico, and enjoyed opportunities for observation which do not always fall to the lot of a trader, it has occurred to me that a few sketches of the country the first settlements the early, as well as more recent struggles with the aboriginal inhabitants their traditions and antiquities together with some account of the manners and customs of the people, etc., would not be altogether unacceptable to the reader. The dearth of information which has hitherto prevailed on this subject, is my best apology for travelling


out of my immediate track, and trespassing as it were upon the department of the regular historian.

     The province of NEW MEXICO, of which SANTA FE, the capital, was one of the first establishments, dates among the earliest settlements made in America. By some traditions it is related that a small band of adventurers proceeded thus far north shortly after the capture of the city of Mexico by Hernan Cortes. The historian Mariana speaks of some attempts having been made, during the career of this renowned chieftain in Americas to conquer and take possession of these regions. This, however, is somewhat doubtful; for it is hardly probable that the Spaniards, with all their mania for gold, would have pushed their conquests two thousand miles into the interior at so early a day, traversing the settlements of hostile savages, and leaving unexplored intermediate regions, not only more beautiful, but far more productive of the precious metals.

     Herrera, writing of the events of 1550, mentions New Mexico as a known province lying north of New Galicia, though as yet only inhabited by the aborigines. It was probably called New Mexico from the resemblance of its inhabitants to those of the city of Mexico and its environs. They appear to have assimilated in their habits, their agriculture, their manufactures and their houses; while those of the intermediate country (the Chichimecos, etc.) were in a much ruder state, leading a


more wandering life, and possessing much less knowledge of agriculture, arts, etc.

      The only paper found in the archives at Santa Fe which gives any clue to the first settlement of New Mexico, is the memorial of one Don Juan de Onate, a citizen of Zacatecas dated September 21, 1595, of which I have been furnished with a copy through the politeness of Don Guadalupe Miranda, Secretary of State at Santa Fe. This petition prayed for the permission and assistance of the vice-regal government at Mexico, to establish a colony on the Rio del Norte in the region already known as New Mexico; which having been granted, it was carried into effect, as I infer from the documents, during the following spring.

     This appears to have been the first legal colony established in the province; yet we gather from different clauses in Onate's memorial, that an adventurer known as Captain Francisco de Leyva Bonillo had previously entered the province with some followers without the king's permission, whom Onate was authorized to arrest and punish. Some historians insist that New Mexico was first visited by a few missionaries in 1581; and there is a tradition in the country which fixes the first settlement in 1583 both having reference no doubt to the party of Leyva.

     Onate bound himself to take into New Mexico two hundred soldiers, and asufficiency of provisions for the first year's support of the colony; with abundance of horses, black


cattle, sheep, etc., as also merchandise, agricultural utensils, tools and materials for mechanics' purposes; and all at his own cost, or rather at the ultimate expense of the colonists.

     This adventurer, in the course of his memorial, also stipulates for some extraordinary provisions on the part of the King: such as, artillery and other arms, ammunitions, etc. six priests, with a full complement of books, ornaments and church accoutrements a loan of $20,000 from the royal treasury a grant of thirty leagues square of land wheresoever he might choose to select it, with all the vassals (Indians) residing upon it his family to be ennobled with the hereditary title of Marquis the office of Governor, with the titles of Adelantado and the rank of Captain-general for four generations a salary of 8,000 ducats of Castile per annum the privilege of working mines exempt from the usual crown-tax permission to parcel out the aborigines among his officers and men; and, besides other favors to his brothers and relatives, to have "Indians recommended to their charge," which, in other words, was the privilege of making slaves of them to work in the mines with many other distinctions, immunities and powers to himself, sufficient to establish him in an authority far more despotic than any modern monarch of Europe would venture to assume. And although these exorbitant demands were not all conceded, they go to demonstrate by what incentives of pecu-


niary interest, as well as of honors, the Spanish monarchs sought the "descubrimiento, pacificacion y conversion," as they modestly termed it, of the poor aborigines of America.

     The memorial referred to is extremely lengthy, being encumbered with numerous marginal notes, each containing the decree of assent or dissent of the Viceroy. All this, however, serves rather to illustrate the ancient manners and customs of the Spaniards in those feudal days the formalities observed in undertaking an exploring and christianizing enterprise than to afford any historical data of the expedition.

     In every part of this singular document there may be traced evidences of that sordid lust for gold and power, which so disgraced all the Spanish conquests in America; and that religious fanaticism that crusading spirit, which martyrized so many thousands of the aborigines of the New World under Spanish authority.

     But to return to Onate: In one article, this adventurer, or contractor, or whatever else we may choose to call him, inquires, "In case the natives are unwilling to come quietly to the acknowledgment of the true Christian faith, and listen to the evangelical word, and give obedience to the king our sovereign, what shall be done with them? that we may proceed according to the laws of the Catholic Church, and the ordinances of his Majesty. And what tributes, that they may be christianly borne, shall be imposed upon them, as


well for the crown as for the adventurers?" showing that these 'missionaries' (as they were wont to call themselves) not only robbed the Indians of their country and treasure, and made menial slaves of them, but exacted tribute besides promulgated the gospel at the point of the bayonet, and administered baptism by force of arms compelling them to acknowledge the 'apostolic Roman Catholic faith,' of which they had not the slightest idea Cervantes, who wrote his Don Quixote about this time, no doubt intended to make a hit at this cruel spirit of religious bigotry, by making his hero command his captives to acknowledge the superiority of his Dulcinea's beauty over that of all others; and when they protest that they have never seen her, he declares, that "the importance consists in this that without seeing her, you have it to believe, confess, affirm, swear and defend."

     It is much to be regretted that there are no records to be found of the wars and massacres, the numberless incidents and wild adventures which one would presume to have occurred during the first three-quarters of a century of the colonization of New Mexico. It is probable, however, that, as the aborigines seem to have been at first of a remarkably pacific and docile character, the conqueror met with but little difficulty in carrying out his original plans of settlement. Quietly acquiescing in both the civil and religious authority of the invaders, the yoke was easily riveted upon them, as they had neither


intelligence nor spirit to resist, until goaded to desperation.

     The colony had progressed very rapidly, the settlements extending into every quarter of the territory villages, and even towns of considerable importance were reared in remote sections; of which there now remain but the ruins, with scarce a tradition to tell the fate of the once flourishing population. Many valuable mines were discovered and worked, as tradition relates, the locations of which have been lost, or (as the Mexicans say) concealed by the Indians, in order to prevent a repetition of the brutal outrages they had suffered in them. Whether this was the case or not, they surely had cause enough for wishing to conceal those with which they were acquainted; for in these very mines they had been forced to perform, under the lash, the most laborious tasks, till human strength could endure no more. Even then, perhaps, they would not have ventured upon resistance, but for the instigations of an eloquent warrior from a distant tribe, who pretended to have inherited the power of Montezuma, of whose subjects all these Indians, even to the present day, consider themselves the descendants. Tecumseh-like, our hero united the different tribes, and laid the plan of a conspiracy and general massacre of their oppressors; declaring that all who did not enter into the plot, should share the fate of the Spaniards. I have been furnished, through the kindness of the Secretary of


State before mentioned, with an account of this insurrection and consequent massacre of the Spanish population, taken from the journal of Don Antonio de Otermin, governor and commandant at the time, which was preserved in the public archives at Santa Fe.

     It appears that the night of the 13th of August, 1680, was the time fixed for a general insurrection of all the tribes and Pueblos.* At a stated hour the massacre of the Spanish population was to commence. Every soul was to be butchered without distinction of sex or age with the exception of such young and handsome females as they might wish to preserve for wives! Although this conspiracy had evidently been in agitation for a great while, such strict secrecy had been maintained, that nothing was known or even suspected, till a few days before the appointed time. It is said that not a single woman was let into the secret, for fear of endangering the success of the cause; but it was finally disclosed by two Indian chiefs themselves to the governor; and about the same time information of the conspiracy was received from some curates and officers of Taos. Gov. Otermin, seeing the perilous situation of the country, lost no time in dispatching general orders for gathering the people of the south into the Pueblo of Isleta, where the lieutenant governor was stationed, and those

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* A general term for all the Catholic Indians of N. Mexico, and their villages.


of the north and adjacent districts into Santa Fe. A considerable number collected in the fortifications of Isleta, and many families from the surrounding jurisdictions were able to reach the capital; yet great numbers were massacred on the way; for the Indians, perceiving their plot discovered, did not await the appointed time, but immediately commenced their work of destruction.

     General hostilities having commenced, every possible preparation was made for a vigorous defence of the capital. The population of the suburbs had orders to remove to the centre, and the streets were all barricaded. On the evening of the 10th two soldiers arrived from Taos, having with much difficulty escaped the vigilance of the Indians. They brought intelligence that the Pueblos of Taos had all risen; and that on arriving at La Canada, they had found the Spaniards well fortified, although a great number of them had been assassinated in the vicinity. The governor now sent out a detachment of troops to reconnoitre, instructing them to bring away the citizens who remained at La Canada. They returned on the 12th, with the painful information that they had found many dead bodies on their way that the temples had been plundered, and all the stock driven off from the ranchos.

     The massacre of the Spaniards in many neighboring Pueblos, was now unreservedly avowed by the Indians themselves; and as those who remained in Santa Fe appeared in


the most imminent danger, the government buildings were converted into a fortification. By this time two friendly Indians who had been dispatched in the direction of Galisteo, came in with the intelligence that 500 warriors of the tribe called Tagnos,* were marching towards the city, being even then only about a league distant. By conversing with the enemy the spies had been able to ascertain their temper and their projects. They seemed confident of success "for the God of the Christians is dead," said they, "but our god, which is the sun, never dies;" adding that they were only waiting the arrival of the Teguas, Taosas and Apaches, in order to finish their work of extermination.

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* The Pecos and several other populous Pueblos to the southward of Santa Fe were Tagnos. These embraced nearly all the Pueblos between Santa Fe and Taos.

     Next morning the savages were seen approaching from the south. On their arrival they took up their quarters in the deserted houses of the suburbs, with the view of waiting for their expected allies, before they laid siege to the city. A parley was soon afterwards held with the chief leaders, who told the Spaniards that they had brought two crosses, of which they might have their choice: one was red, denoting war, the other was white and professed peace, on the condition of their immediately evacuating the province. The governor strove to conciliate them by offering to pardon all the crimes they had com-


     mitted, provided they would be good Christians and loyal subjects thereafter. But the Indians only made sport of him and laughed heartily at his propositions. He then sent a detachment to dislodge them; but was eventually obliged to turn out in person, with all the efficient men he had. The battle continued the whole day, during which a great number of Indians and some Spaniards were killed. But late in the evening, the Teguas, Taosas and others, were seen pouring down upon the city from the north, when the troops had to abandon the advantages they had gained, and fly to the defence of the fortifications.

     The siege had now continued for nine days, during which the force of the Indians had constantly been on the increase. Within the last forty-eight hours they had entirely deprived the city of water by turning off the stream which had hitherto supplied it; so that the horses and other stock were dying of thirst. The want of water and provisions becoming more and more insupportable every moment, and seeing no chance of rescue or escape, Governor Otermin resolved to make a sortie the next morning, and die with sword in hand, rather than perish so miserably for want of supplies. At sunrise he made a desperate charge upon the enemy, whom, notwithstanding the inferiority of his forces, he was soon able to dislodge. Their ranks becoming entirely disordered, more than three hundred were slain, and an abundance of


booty taken, with forty-seven prisoners, who, after some examination as to the origin of the conspiracy, were all shot. The Spaniards, according to their account of the affair, only had four or five men killed, although a considerable number were wounded the governor among the rest.

     The city of Santa Fe, notwithstanding a remaining population of at least a thousand souls, could not muster above a hundred able bodied men to oppose the multitude that beset them, which had now increased to about three thousand. Therefore Governor Otermin, with the advice of the most intelligent citizens in the place, resolved to abandon the city. On the following day (August 21), they accordingly set out, the greater portion afoot, carrying their own provisions; as there were scarcely animals enough for the wounded. Their march was undisturbed by the Indians, who only watched their movements till they passed Isleta, when nothing more was seen of them. Here they found that those who had been stationed at Isleta had also retreated to the south a few days before. As they passed through the country, they found the Pueblos deserted by the Indians, and the Spaniards who pertained to them all massacred.

     They had not continued on their march for many days, when the caravan became utterly unable to proceed; for they were not only without animals, but upon the point of starvation the Indians having removed from the route everything that could have afforded


them relief. In this emergency, Otermin dispatched an express to the lieutenant-governor, who was considerably in advance, and received from his party a few carts, with a supply of provisions. Toward the latter end of September, the Governor and his companions in misfortune reached Paso del Norte (about 320 miles south of Santa Fe), where they found the advance party.

     The Governor immediately sent an account of the disaster to the Viceroy at Mexico, soliciting reinforcements for the purpose of recovering the lost province, but none arrived till the following year. Meanwhile the refugees remained where they were, and founded, according to the best traditions, the town of el Paso del Norte, so called in commemoration of this retreat, passage from the north. This is in an extensive and fertile valley, over which were scattered several Pueblos, all of whom remained friendly to the Spaniards, affording them an asylum with provisions and all the necessaries of life.

     The following year Governor Otermin was superseded by Don Diego de Vargas Zapata, who commenced the work of reconquering the country. This war lasted for ten years. In 1688, Don Pedro Petrir de Cruzate entered the province and reduced the Pueblo of Zia, which had been famous for its brave and obstinate resistance. In this attack morethan six hundred Indians of both sexes were slain, and a large number made prisoners. Among the latter was a warrior named Ojeda, cele-


brated for valor and vivacity, who spoke good Spanish. This Indian gave a graphic account of all that had transpired since the insurrection.

     He said that the Spaniards, and especially the priests, had been everywhere assassinated in the most barbarous manner; and particularly alluded to the murder of the curate of Zia, whose fate had been singularly cruel. It appears that on the night of the outbreak, the unsuspecting padre being asleep in the convent, the Indians hauled him out, and having stripped him naked, mounted him upon a hog. Then lighting torches, they carried him in that state through the village, and several times around the church and cemetery, scourging him all the while most unmercifully! Yet, not even contented with this, they placed the weak old man upon all-fours, and mounting upon his back by turns, spurred him through the streets, lashing him without cessation till he expired!

     The discord which soon prevailed among the different Pueblos, greatly facilitated their second subjugation, which closely followed their emancipation. These petty feuds reduced their numbers greatly, and many villages were entirely annihilated, of which history only furnishes the names.

     In 1698, after the country had been for some time completely subdued again by the Spaniards, another irruption took place in which many Pueblos were concerned; but through the energy of Governor Vargas Zapata it was soon quelled.

Page 129 INSURRECTION OF 1837.

     Since this last effort, the Indians have been treated with more humanity, each Pueblo being allowed a league or two of land, and permitted to govern themselves. Their rancorous hatred for their conquerors, however, has never entirely subsided, yet no further outbreak took place till 1837, when they joined the Mexican insurgents in another bloody conspiracy. Some time before these tragic events took place, it was prophesied among them that a new race was about to appear from the east, to redeem them from the Spanish yoke. I heard this spoken of several months before the subject of the insurrection had been seriously agitated. It is probable that the Pueblos built their hopes upon the Americans, as they seemed as yet to have no knowledge of the Texans. In fact, they have always appeared to look upon foreigners as a superior people, to whom they could speak freely of their discontent and their grievances. The truth is, the Pueblos, in every part of Mexico, have always been ripe for insurrection. It is well known that the mass of the revolutionary chief Hidalgo's army was made up of this class of people. The immediate cause of the present outbreak in the north, however, had its origin among the Hispano-Mexican population. This grew chiefly out of the change of the federal government to that of Centralismo in 1835. A new governor, Col. Albino Perez, was then sent from the city of Mexico, to take charge of this isolated department; which was not very agreeable


to the 'sovereign people,' as they had previously been ruled chiefly by native governors. Yet while the new form of government was a novelty and did not affect the pecuniary interests of the people, it was acquiesced in; but it was now found necessary for the support of the new organization, to introduce a system of direct taxation, with which the people were wholly unacquainted; and they would sooner have paid a doblon through a tariff than a real in this way. Yet, although the conspiracy had been brewing for some time, no indications of violence were demonstrated until, on account of some misdemeanor, an alcalde was imprisoned by the Prefecto of the northern district. His honor of the staff was immediately liberated by a mob; an occurrence which seemed as a watchword for a general insurrection.

     These new movements took place about the beginning of August, 1837, and an immense rabble was soon gathered at La Canada (a town some twenty-five miles to the north of Santa Fe), among whom were to be found the principal warriors of all the Northern Pueblos. Governor Perez issued orders to the alcaldes for the assembling of the militia; but all that could be collected together was about a hundred and fifty men, including the warriors of the Pueblo of Santo Domingo. With this inadequate force, the Governor made an attempt to march from the capital, but was soon surprised by the insurgents who lay in ambush near La Canada; when his own


men fled to the enemy, leaving him and about twenty-five trusty friends to make their escape in the best way they could. Knowing that they would not be safe in Santa Fe, the refugees pursued their flight southward, but were soon overtaken by the exasperated Pueblos; when the Governor was chased back to the suburbs of the city, and savagely put to death. His body was then stripped and shockingly mangled: his head was carried as a trophy to the camp of the insurgents, who made a foot-ball of it among themselves. I had left the city the day before this sad catastrophe took place, and beheld the Indians scouring the fields in pursuit of their victims, though I was yet ignorant of their barbarous designs. I saw them surround a house and drag from it the secretary of state, Jesus Maria Alarid. He and some other principal characters who had also taken refuge among the ranchos were soon afterwards stripped and scourged, and finally pierced through and through with lances, a mode of assassination styled in the vernacular of the country, a lant zadas.

     Don Santiago Abreu, formerly governor, and decidedly the most famed character of N. Mexico, was butchered in a still more barbarous manner. They cut off his hands, pulled out his eyes and tongue, and otherwise mutilated his body, taunting him all the while with the crimes he was accused of, by shaking the shorn members in his face. Thus perished nearly a dozen of the most conspicuous


men of the obnoxious party, whose bodies lay for several days exposed to the beasts and birds of prey.

     On the 9th of August about two thousand of the insurgent mob, including the Pueblo Indians, pitched their camp in the suburbs of the capital. The horrors of a saqueo (or plundering of the city) were now anticipated by every one. The American traders were particularly uneasy, expecting every instant that their lives and property would fall a sacrifice to the ferocity of the rabble. But to the great and most agreeable surprise of all, no outrage of any importance was committed upon either inhabitant or trader. A great portion of the insurgents remained in the city for about two days, during which one of their boldest leaders, Jose Gonzalez of Taos, a good honest hunter but a very ignorant man, was elected for governor.

     The first step of the revolutionists was to seize all the property of their proscribed or murdered victims, which was afterwards distributed among the victors by a decree of the Asamblea general that being the title by which a council summoned together by Governor Gonzalez, and composed of all the alcaldes and principal characters of the territory, was dignified. The families of the unfortunate victims of this revolutionary movement were thus left destitute of everything; and the foreign merchants who had given the officers credit to a large amount upon the strength of their reputed property and salaries, remained


without a single resource with which to cover their demands. As these losses were chiefly experienced in consequence of a want of sufficient protection from the general government, the American merchants drew up a memorial setting forth their claims, which, together with a schedule of the various accounts due, was sent to the Hon. Powhattan Ellis, American Minister at Mexico. These demands were certainly of a far more equitable character than many of those which sometime after occasioned the French blockade; yet our Government has given the unfortunate claimants no hope of redress. Even Mexico did not dispute the justness of these claims, but, on the contrary, she promptly paid to the order of General Armijo, a note given by the late Governor Perez to Mr. Sutton, an American merchant, which Armijo had purchased at a great discount.

     In the South, the Americans were everywhere accused of being the instigators of this insurrection, which was openly pronounced another Texas affair. Their goods were confiscated or sequestered, upon the slightest pretexts, or for some pretended irregularity in the accompanying documents; although it was evident that these and other indignities were heaped upon them, as a punishment for the occurrence of events which it had not been in their power to prevent. Indeed, these ill used merchants were not only innocent of any participation in the insurrectionary movements, but had actually furnished means to


the Government for the purpose of quelling the disturbances.

     As I have observed before, the most active agents in this desperate affair were the Pueblo Indians, although the insurgent party was composed of all the heterogeneous ingredients that a Mexican population teems with. The rancheros and others of the lowest class, however, were only the instruments of certain discontented ricos, who, it has been said, were in hope of elevating themselves upon the wreck of their enemies. Among these was the present Governor Armijo, an ambitious and turbulent demagogue, who, for some cause or other, seemed anxious for the downfall of the whole administration.

      As soon as Armijo received intelligence of the catastrophe, he hurried to the capital, expecting, as I heard it intimated by his own brother, to be elected governor; but, not having rendered any personal aid, the 'mobocracy' would not acknowledge his claim to their suffrages. He therefore retired, Santa Anna-like, to his residence at Albuquerque, to plot, in imitation of his great prototype, some measures for counteracting the operation of his own intrigues. In this he succeeded so well, that towards September he was able to collect a considerable force in the Rio-Abajo, when he proclaimed a contra-revolucion in favor of the federal government. About the same time the disbanded troops of the capital under Captain Caballero, made a similar pronounciamento demanding their arms,


and offering their services gratis. The 'mobocratic' dynasty had gone so far as to deny allegiance to Mexico, and to propose sending to Texas for protection; although there had not been any previous understanding with that Republic.

     Armijo now marched to Santa Fe with all his force, and Governor Gonzalez being without an army to support him, fled to the north. After his triumphal entrance into the capital, Armijo caused himself to be proclaimed Governor and Comandante General, and immediately dispatched couriers to Mexico with a highly colored account of his own exploits which procured him a confirmation of those titles and dignities for eight years.

     In the meanwhile news of the insurrection having reached Mexico, the Escuadron de Vera Cruz, from Zacatecas, consisting of about two hundred dragoons, with an equal number of regulars from the Presidios of Chihuahua, under the command of Colonel Justiniani, were ordered to New Mexico. Having arrived at Santa Fe, these troops, together with Governor Armijo's little army, marched in January, 1838, to attack therebels, who, by this time, had again collected in considerable numbers at La Canada.

     The greatest uneasiness and excitement now prevailed at the Capital, lest the rabble should again prove victorious, in which case they would not fail to come and sack the city. Foreign merchants had as usual the greatest cause for fear, as vengeance had been openly


vowed against them for having furnished the government party with supplies. These, therefore, kept up a continual watch, and had everything in readiness for a precipitate flight to the United States. But in a short time their fears were completely dispelled by the arrival of an express, with the welcome news of the entire defeat of the insurgents.

     It appeared that, when the army arrived within view of the insurgent force, Armijo evinced the greatest perturbation. In fact, he was upon the point of retiring without venturing an attack, when Captain Munoz, of the Vera Cruz dragoons, exclaimed, "What's to be done, General Armijo? If your Excellency will but permit me, I will oust that rabble in an instant with my little company alone." Armijo having given his consent, the gallant captain rushed upon the insurgents, who yielded at once, and fled precipitately suffering a loss of about a dozen men, among whom was the deposed Governor Gonzalez, who, having been caught in the town after the skirmish had ended, was instantly shot, without the least form of trial.

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