Documents from the Spanish period of New Mexico, 1500-1841
Scope and Contents note
From Lucille Pratt's report: Most of the documents in this register are dated within the 19th century, with a substantial portion from the 17th and 18th centuries, and a small portion from the 20th century. The documents pertain to the area now known as the state of New Mexico of the United States of America. Many of the documents were created when this area was part of the Presidencia of Nueva Galicia under the Viceroyalty of New Spain, as a part of the overseas empire of the European nation of Spain. Other documents were created when control was exercised by the United States of Mexico. This political jurisdiction was changed in 1848, when the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo served to officially end the Mexican War between the United States and Mexico. The Territory of New Mexico was created in 1840 and the area became the forty-seventh state in 1912, a part of the United States of America. A large portion of these manuscripts originated during the Mexican War. Some were created by personnel assigned to the U.S. Army traveling from Fort Leavenworth via Santa Fe and San Diego to Monterey, California. Other documents were created by U.S. Army personnel assigned to work in Matamoros during the war. Matamoros is located across the Rio Grande River in the area now known as Brownsville, Texas. Other documents were created by U.S. Army officers, under the command of General Winfield Scott, during his march from the Veracruz to Mexico City in the Mexican War. A final portion of the documents pertain to the area of Chihuahua, both before and after it became the North-Central Mexican state bordering on the United States.
The author of the finding aid chose to describe the following contents of the collection by accession number (ex. A76-29) and then by type and subject of the material.
(Pratt) A75-53: (Now MSS SC 167) This small collection contains 39 autographed letters and signed documents plus two franked envelopes. Most of these are from ex-Colonel William Davenport, seeking compensation for expenses incurred as military governor of Matamoros between 1848 and 1849. A few of the replies are signed by Secretary of War Charles Conrad, and later by Secretary of War Jefferson Davis. Davis apparently rejected the balance of the claim in 1855, since an initial settlement had been arranged in 1852.
(Pratt) A76-29: Baca/Stapleton folder: This folder contains documents, newspaper clippings, obituaries, poems, and printed forms. The documents include the settlements arranged at the time of the marriage of Robert H. Stapleton and Paula Baca; then in 1884, documents of the divorce suit brought by Robert. Other documents indicate that Stapleton held various local offices in and around Socorro, New Mexico. The folder does not include translations.
A74-97: The two folders contained 55 miscellaneous Santa Fe documents and deeds, circa 1815-1850. The container list indicates that there were 62 documents, some of which originate in Mexico City, and many of which deal with purely local affairs, as well as affairs in the localities of Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and La Canada. Some documents are signed by governors of the area, while it belonged to Mexico. Other documents bear Antonio López de Santa Anna's name, although they were probably signed by the contemporary (Ministry) Ministro de Hacienda.
The documents give evidence of the army led to Texas by Santa Anna, which met with initial success and was eventually defeated at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836 by a Texas army under the command of Sam Houston. Although the documents fail to deal with the local or territorial feeling about the Mexican War they do deal occasionally with cautions and military actions against local Indians.
A75-133: Six Hollinger-style cartons of Spanish-Mexican documents date from the 1600s through the 1800s, mostly from the Spanish era when the New Mexico territory was part of the Nueva Galicia Presidencia. Others originated after Mexican independence was achieved in 1821, and some of these include Anglo names, thus indicating frontiersmen (mostly from the United States) had entered and were entering the area. Some of the documents are purely local in nature, usually from the Chimayo district. Many documents have English translations, as well as photocopies of the original documents.
Box 2 contained Packet 3, with letters and documents from L. Bradford Prince and his friends addressed to Theodore Roosevelt, originally selected as Vice President but serving as President since the assassination of McKinley. Prince charged Miguel Otero, the incumbent governor of the territory of New Mexico, with doubling his salary by having the territorial legislature pass a bill giving Otero a $3000 salary regularly due. Prince had been a governor earlier, and felt that such dishonesty should be rectified. He indicated his intent to recommend a name for the governorship in place of Otero, but the individual had just died, so he had to leave the matter to President Roosevelt.
Another packet (4) contained documents which show the largest of Prince with the Normal School at Española, New Mexico. Other documents in the packet relate information regarding lands sold in Colfax County in 1869 to L(ucien) Maxwell, possibly the same Maxwell of Texas panhandle fame.
Packet 5 contained some of the Chihuahua papers, mostly warning of Indian uprisings in the 1800s. One of the papers is signed by a Juan Jose Terrazas, who may be a relative of Don Luis.
Another packet contained papers referred to as the Taos papers, involving the New Mexico militia occasionally, but even more involving land matters. Another packet contained reports made of prisoners being caught, their attempted escape, their pursuit and their execution. The final document is an official inquest statement, which could be a case of the Latin American
Ley Fuga (Escape Law), whereby prisoners are executed while they attempted to escape.
The documents in the New Mexican Period of New Mexico part of the collection consist of national and local political decrees and correspondence concerning the area of New Mexico between 1821 and 1834. Other papers are included, which deal with judicial cases, receipts, wills and military affairs in the northern territory of New Mexico.
Most of the documents are originals, handwritten or printed in Spanish, and vary in size from 3" x 5" to 12" x 16". Some of the documents include transcriptions and/or translations, which are indicated by TS and TL.
The New Mexico part of the collection has a geographic focus and includes many decrees created in Mexico City and Santa Cruz de la Cañada and sent to various officials in the New Mexico Territory.
The majority of documents in the Mexican period (1840-1847) of the New Mexico collection consist of handwritten copies of decrees from the various governmental departments, such as the Ministry of War and Navy, Ministry of Exterior Relations, Ministry of Interior Relations, Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Justice and Public Instruction, and the Prefectures of various districts. When the copies were sent to a city they would be copied and signed by a government official, who would then send the copy to the next city. This part of the collection did not contain the original copy of any of these decrees. The remaining documents were signed testimonies from court cases, letters, deeds, and bills created by civilians. These documents can be found in the miscellaneous section of the collection.
The greatest significance of this collection is the background it provides on the Mexican period of the history of New Mexico. The researcher can discover how the people were threatened by the
savage Apaches, how they reacted to the invasion of the Texans, and how they profited by trade with the United States, but were afraid of being taken over by the latter. Because of this fear, the New Mexican inhabitants closed the borders, which led to disaster because they did not have the money to support the government during the time of invasion.
The decrees provide information on the governing of the New Mexican territory. The court cases provide information on valuable items during that time period, one such item being mules. The collection contains information on the
common man and his daily life.
- Other: 1500-1841
- Santa Anna, Antonio López de, 1794?-1876 (Person)
- Vargas, Diego de, 1643-1704 (Person)
- Otero, Miguel Antonio, 1859-1944 (Person)
- Fernández de la Cueva Enríquez, Francisco, |c duque de Alburquerque, |d 1666-1733 (Person)
- Oñate, Juan de, 1549?-1624 (Person)
- Houghton, Joab, 1810-1876 (Person)
- Anza, Juan Bautista de, 1735-1788 (Person)
- Prince, L. Bradford (Le Baron Bradford), 1840-1922 (Person)
- Bent, Charles, 1799-1847 (Person)
Conditions Governing Access note
Open for public research.
Conditions Governing Use note
It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from the Collection on New Mexican territorial history must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Board of Curators.
Information from Lucille Pratt's report.
Antonio López de Santa Anna (1794-1876). Active in the independent Mexican government on numerous occasions between 1822 and 1855, Santa Anna was notable on several counts. He serviced twice as President of the Republic of Mexico; dictator in 1841 and 1853, with the title of Serene Highness in the last Epoch of his Rule (Twitchell, p.?) He changed political philosophies at will, in order to take control of the government. He also enjoyed participating in battles or physical activities or ceremonies to enhance his stature and (for the most part) left the administration of the government to subordinates. When he was not attacking or celebrating, he was usually found in retirement at his hacienda in the State of Veracruz, and the ministers (the equivalent of the United States Cabinet) would manage the government until the next crisis led to Santa Anna's re-appearance on the scene of action. He served as unofficial president more often than as official president, and was the head man about seventeen different times, often leading a revolt against the contemporary official president. He commanded the Mexican army which surrendered to General Sam Houston in 1836 in Texas. The nation of Mexico refused to recognize his terms of surrender, and in the next decade sent several armies northward to attempt to re-take Texas or else to defend New Mexico against Texan attackers. Santa Anna lost an arm in the Pastry War in 1838, and was in control of the government between 1841-1844 and 1853-1855 and served as provisional president while he commanded the Mexican army against the United States in 1846-1847, suffering defeats near Monterrey, Nuevo León, and at Mexico City.
Francisco Fernández de la Cueva Enríquez (1666-1733), Duke of Albuquerque, Marquis of Collear and of Caderyeta. The Duke of Albuquerque was the 34th viceroy of New Spain. He was the second of his title to hold the office. He arrived at Veracruz on October 6, 1702, and assumed control of the government on November 27 of the same year. He enjoyed the confidence of Felipe V, and continued in the viceroyalty until 1710, when he was succeeded by Don Fernando de Alencastre Noroña y Silva, duke of Linares and marqués of Valdefuentes (Twitchell, 421).
Miguel Antonio Otero (1859-1944). A native of New Mexico, Otero served as the territorial representative to the United States Congress on several occasions. He was notable for his influence in getting funds appropriated for road-building within the area. He also served as Governor of the Territory in the early 20th century. Arizona and New Mexico areas were both originally represented by him, but the Territory of Arizona was created in 1863. During his term as governor, he faced charges brought against him by an ex-territorial governor of New Mexico, L. Bradford Prince.
L. (LeBaron) Bradford Prince (1840-1922). Prince was born in New York City and graduated from the law school at Columbia University. He served as both a legislator and senator within the state before he moved to the frontier areas and settled in the Territory of New Mexico. He had been offered the governorship of the Idaho area, but preferred the areas of Santa Fe and Albuquerque. He served as governor of the territory and also as the chief justice of the judicial system there. He was especially notable for his strong religious feelings, his collection of stone idols, (which is said to be the largest in the United States), and his support of schools and historical associations. He authored several books dealing with Christianity, the U.S. government system, and the history of New Mexico and its laws. He and his friends brought charges before Theodore Roosevelt against Territorial Governor Miguel Otero. By reading the letters, one may feel that racial prejudice was involved in the case.
Joab Houghton (1810-1876). Houghton, born in New York state, received a college education and worked as a civil engineer. When he was thirty-three years of age, he came to New Mexico and was then appointed United States consul at Santa Fe in 1845. At this time, he engaged in merchandising with Eugene Leitensdorfer, and from 1846 to 1848, theirs was one of the leading mercantile houses west of the Missouri. Their store was located in Santa Fe. Houghton was chief justice of the superior court by appointment of General Kearny; his associates were Carlos Beaubien and Antonio José Otero. He held his first term of court for Santa Fe county in December 1846, and continued to hold court regularly at the appointed terms until he retired from the bench in 1852. Judge Houghton presided at Taos in the trials of the men accused of the murder of Governor (Charles) Bent. He was not educated to the bar, and his court records from 1846 to 1850 demonstrate crude entries. From these entries, it appears that his experience in practicing justice in those turbulent times was not satisfactory to himself or to litigants. During the Civil War he was a staunch Union man, expressing his sentiments when it required nerve to maintain his patriotism. In 1862 Judge Houghton was an acting U.S. district attorney and as such drew several indictments against prominent citizens. In the year 1865, when Judge Houghton was again appointed to the bench, he was assigned to the Third judicial district and while officiating as judge, various suits were brought to him under the act of congress of March 3, 1863, authorizing the confiscation of property in certain cases. By his rulings, he laid himself open to the severest criticism, much of which was brought about through his lack of legal knowledge. His court was called a
prize court; and so great was the indignation in certain quarters against the judge, the U.S. attorney, and the marshal, that on December 5, 1865, they were denounced to their faces as unmitigated scoundrels. It is impossible now to realize how overwhelming was the excitement and prejudice of those days. The exercise of calm judgment seems to have been almost an impossibility. In his two official terms he appears to have filed but one written opinion; that was in the case of Archibeque vs. Miera, in 1869, in which year he was succeeded by Judge Bergen, appointed by President Grant. Houghton, along with Murray F. Tuley, worked on creating a constitution for the state of New Mexico. A convention was held at Santa Fe on May 15, 1850 for this purpose. James H. Quinn was elected president. (Twitchell, 272).
Charles Bent (1798-1847). Bent was born in Charlestown, Virginia, in 1798. His father was of English ancestry; his mother was part French. He was a highly educated man and graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point. He resigned from the army and engaged in mercantile pursuits at St. Louis, Missouri. In 1828 he left for the far west over the Santa Fe trail, looking for a location for the establishment of business. With his brother William, he built the post known as Bent's Fort on the Arkansas. He went to Santa Fe in 1832, where the Bent brothers established a general merchandising business. Bent had six brothers. He was afterward a business partner of Colonel Ceran St. Vrain and so continued until the day of his death. The firm of Bent and St. Vrain was one of the most important engaged in the fur trade. It ranked next to the American Fur Company. They also had a fort on the South Platte. Governor Bent was married to Maria Ignacia Jaramillo, a daughter of Don Francisco and Apolonia (Vigil) Jaramillo, who died at Taos, April 13, 1883. Mrs. Bent's sister, Josefa Jaramillo, was the wife of Colonel Kit Carson. His remains are buried in the National cemetery at Santa Fe. L. Bradford Prince Address at ceremonies attending the unveiling of the painting of Governor Bent which hangs in the capitol at Santa Fe said,
The leaders in the north stirred up the Indians of the pueblo of Taos, and were only waiting for the proper time to strike a decisive blow. The people were evidently very excited, and their animosity was directed not only against the Americans among them, but also against those of their own people who had accepted office under the new government. During the day Governor Bent was advised to leave town for his own safety, but he had no thought of personal danger. All through the night of January 18th the village of Taos was in an uproar. Nearly all the Indians from the pueblo were in town and the saloons and public halls were filled with people. Demagogues were haranguing the populace and inflaming their passions. Whisky and wine were flowing without stint and the excitement and tumult increased with the passing hours. Under the incendiary persuasion of Pablo Montoya, "The Santa Anna of the North," and Tomasito Romero, an influential Pueblo Indian, the Mexicans and Indians were aroused to a condition of frenzy. The persons killed at Taos were Louis Lee, acting sheriff of Taos, Cornelio Vigil, prefect, J.W. Leal, district attorney, Pablo Jaramillo, a brother of Mrs. Bent, and Narcisco Beaubien, a son of Don Carlos Beaubien, circuit judge, and Governor Bent (Twitchell, 234).
Juan Bautista de Anza (1735-1788). Anza was born in Sonora, joined the military and became captain of soldiers posted in Tubac, what is now southern Arizona. The other three Spanish outposts were located in Texas, New Mexico, and California. These areas needed security against the Indians and the Russians from Alaska, and French from Canada, and English from the east coast of U.S. Anza's idea was to open an overland route from Tubac to California in order to transport supplies. The viceroy in Mexico City accepted the idea and gave Anza permission to take a group of volunteers to explore the trail, which he did successfully. The viceroy promoted him to the rank of lieutenant colonel and permitted him to lead a colonizing expedition to California to support the Franciscan missions and provide security against Russian aggression. Anza made the expedition and founded a colony which later became San Francisco. In 1778, Anza was appointed as governor of New Mexico, and attempted to carry out Croix plan to make allies of the Comanche Indians. In August 1779, Anza organized a large group of soldiers, settlers and Indian allies and led them to Colorado, near the Arkansas River, where they battled successfully against the Comanches. He founded a presidio at Tucson, Arizona, which became a route to California via the crossing at the Colorado River. This crossing place had been overrun by Apaches, so Anza frightened away the Apaches and encouraged expansion of the colony.
Juan de Oñate (1549?-1624). In 1595, Oñate won the contract (from the Crown) for colonizing New Mexico. The contract went to the highest bidder. Oñate was a personal friend of the viceroy and his wife was a descendant of Hernando Cortez, the conqueror of Mexico City. He organized a colonizing expedition in 1598. On August 18, his group named the area of the Rio Grande and the Chama River, San Juan Bautista. Oñate, desiring to become rich, sent a company to explore what is now Arizona, where the captain thought he found a rich mine. Another company was sent to attack the Indians of Acoma. He led other expeditions as well. However, he was not recompensed for his efforts, and the Council of the Indies considered abandoning New Mexico and led an investigation against Oñate, who resigned from the Council. The Council decided to create a missionary settlement in the area. In 1612, a trial began that led to Oñate's conviction for engaging in immoral conduct, for mistreating the Indians, for exaggerating the riches of New Mexico, and for mistreating his officers. As a result of the conviction, Oñate lost his titles, was banished from Mexico City for four years, and was fined 6,000 ducats. He did however, succeed in his part of colonizing New Mexico, which became a permanent colony that antedated both Jamestown, Virginia, and Plymouth, Massachusetts.
Diego de Vargas (1643-1704). Governor of El Paso, Vargas was a wealthy Spanish landowner who was burdened by debts, including his attempt to make money in New Mexico. He subdued the hostile Indians in the El Paso area, and conquered Santa Fe, along with over 20 pueblos. He was active in several other attacks against the Indians. In 1697, he was replaced as governor by Pedro Rodriguez Cubero, who accused Vargas of many misdeeds and jailed him for three years, after which Cubero fled to Mexico. He is famous for his attacks against the hostile Indians and making the colony secure for a significant length of time. He abolished the encomienda system by which Spaniards had exacted exploitive tribute from the Indians consigned to them. He ultimately sacrificed his life for the welfare of the colony subjects and was killed by hostile Indians during a defense campaign against the latter.
Miguel A. Otero, Jr. Served as territorial governor for nine years, was one of the most efficient administrators in New Mexico political history. During that time, much groundwork was laid for the statehood of New Mexico. When President William McKinley requested Miguel Otero to recruit volunteers in the Spanish-American war, Otero did so, and many Hispanics responded to the call. Many of these Hispanics formed the group of Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders in the Battle of San Juan Hill.
1 box (19 folders)
Language of Materials
Arranged in two subseries: 1. Spanish colonial documents, 1526-1841; 2. Assorted Spanish documents, 1713-1820 (chronological, geographic locality, type of document).
Other Finding Aids note
A more detailed finding aid is available in print in the repository.
Other Finding Aids
File-level inventory available online. http://files.lib.byu.edu/ead/XML/MSS1509.xml
- Apache Indians -- History
- Governors -- New Mexico -- Correspondence
- Mexican War, 1846-1848
- Mexico -- History -- 19th century
- Mexico -- History -- Spanish Colony, 1540-1810
- New Mexico -- History
- New Mexico -- History -- 19th century
- Pino, Pedro Baptista
- Politics, Government, and Law
- Presidents -- Mexico -- Correspondence
- Santa Fe (N.M.) -- History
- Spain -- Colonies -- History -- 16th century
- Spain -- Colonies -- History -- 17th century
- Spain -- Colonies -- History -- 18th century
- Spain -- Colonies -- History -- 19th century
- Territorial Government
- Vigil, Donaciano, 1802-1877