Fray Angélico Chávez History Library obtains “rediscovered” letters by Billy the Kid

July 31st, 2009 by admin

Santa Fe, NM (July 29, 2009) – The New Mexico History Museum’s Fray Angélico Chávez History Library has obtained several documents pertaining to Billy the Kid and the Lincoln County War from the Lincoln State Monument. The Library and Monument are both New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs properties.

 

Librarian Tomas Jaehn said the documents had been acquired by the defunct Lincoln County Heritage Trust, which was absorbed by the Hubbard Museum in Ruidoso in 1999. Two years ago, the Lincoln State Monument took over several buildings and their contents from the Hubbard Museum and has since cared for them under professional storage conditions – but not, until now, for public viewing. Among them are Pat Garrett’s cattle-brand certificate, an arrest warrant for John Chisum and, most important, two letters by Billy the Kid to Governor Lew Wallace.

 

Staff at the Monument and the History Library felt the library was a more conducive environment for those rare items and they are now housed at the library at 120 Washington Ave., in Santa Fe. They can be viewed upon request during regular public hours (Tue-Fri, 1-5pm).

 

English author Fred Nolan, notable for several books on Billy the Kid, John Tunstall and the Lincoln County War, recently made a courtesy visit to the Chávez Library, along with his fellow Billy the Kid aficionado Bob McCubbin. Nolan and McCubbin had seen the letters years ago and were the first members of the public to see them again after all these years. They declared themselves extremely pleased to see the items in a safe library environment where historians and others interested in the Lincoln County War can view them.

 

“A significant ‘rediscovery’” is how Nolan characterized the letters, and he praised their new resting place as one “which will make two letters written by Billy the Kid available to an even wider audience.”

 

The letters reveal a literate writer with good penmanship as he sought to hold Governor Wallace to a purported promise of a pardon. The two met once in Lincoln as Billy tried to parlay his willingness as a prosecution witness into an official amnesty, but the territorial governor eventually did not prevent the judge from signing his death warrant.

 

The Lincoln County War in 1878 had been a battle built on the competing economics of two mercantile businesses, represented by the Murphy-Dolan faction and the Tunstall-McSween faction, which William H. Bonney (known to history as Billy the Kid) supported. The prize worth fighting for was government contracts, but dozens of deaths and the lingering legend of one participant was the main result. The final chapter of the Lincoln County War was written when Pat Garrett shot Billy the Kid on July 14, 1881 in Ft. Sumner, N.M..

 

The story of the Lincoln County War and Billy the Kid is included in the New Mexico History Museum’s main exhibition, Telling New Mexico: Stories from Then and Now at 113 Lincoln Ave., Santa Fe. Many of the buildings that were once the backdrop to the conflict are still standing along Main Street in Lincoln, N.M., where the Lincoln State Monument Lincoln State Monument (http://www.nmmonuments.org/inst.php?inst=7) serves as a world-class draw for tourists and scholars – an attraction confirmed by the New Mexico Tourism Department’s new Web site devoted to Billy the Kid: http://www.newmexico.org/billythekid/.

 

This weekend is the annual Old Lincoln Days event at the Monument. Call 575-653-4372 for information.

 

The Fray Angélico Chávez History Library is the institutional successor to New Mexico’s oldest library (1851). A non-circulating, closed-stack research facility, it preserves historical materials in many formats documenting the history of the state, the Southwest, and meso-America from pre-European contact to the present.

 

For more information on the acquisitions and the Library, contact Tomas Jaehn at 476-5090.

 

The New Mexico History Museum is a 96,000-square-foot addition to the Palace of the Governors’ campus, which includes the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library and Photo Archives, the Palace Print Shop & Bindery, and the Portal Program. The New Mexico History Museum/Palace of the Governors is a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs. The Museum is at 113 Lincoln Ave., just north of the Palace at 105 W. Palace Ave., on the Santa Fe Plaza. For more information, visit www.nmhistorymuseum.org or www.palaceofthegovernors.org.

 

 

Media contact: Kate Nelson

New Mexico History Museum/Palace of the Governors

(505) 476-1141

(505) 554-5722 (cell)

kate.nelson@state.nm.us

www.media.museumofnewmexico.org

 

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A Moment in Time, Etched in Stone

July 23rd, 2009 by admin

A 1968 work of historian Marc Simmons, Report on the barrio de Guadalupe, was just added to the online catalog of the Fray Angelico Chavez Library. One of the chapters describes the Albino Perez monument, “a small boulder with a polished face and inscription lies enclosed within a rusting iron fence in the 1400 block of Agua Fria Street. The words carved in stone read: Governor Perez was assassinated on this spot on Aug. 9, 1837. Erected by sunshine Chapter, DAR, 1901”.

This chapter from the Report about the Perez monument tells th interesting story of the “Chimayo Rebellion” of 1837. Sometimes called a tax rebellion, the Revolt of 1837 opposed the administration sent by Mexican President Santa Anna to New Mexico. Governor Albino Perez and approximately 20 other government supporters were killed in the insurrection.

There is a letter from an eyewitness to the Chimayo Rebellion on display in the Linking Nations, Perils of Independence area in the New Mexico History Museum Core Exhibit, Telling New Mexico. This letter is part of the manuscript collection of Carl Blumner Letters in the Fray Angelico Chavez History Library, which can be found online at http://rmoa.unm.edu/docviewer.php?docId=nmsm1ac231.xml

Recently, while relaxing in the Courtyard of the Palace of the Governors, my eye caught sight of a rock which bore the inscription commemorating the assassination of Governor Perez. On Agua Fria Street no more, the Albino Perez Monument now rests safely in the peaceful courtyard that links the Palace of the Governors with the New Mexico History Museum.

About the Author:

Patricia Hewitt is the Cataloger at Fray Angelico Chavez History Library in the New Mexico History Museum, Santa Fe, NM

Texas vs. New Mexico

July 10th, 2009 by admin

TEXAS vs. NEW MEXICO

One botched land survey plus two neighboring states
equals 160 years of fussin’ and fightin’

Santa Fe, NM – You’d think, after 160 years, that state borders are set in stone. Think again.

As visitors to the New Mexico History Museum (www.nmhistorymuseum.org), at 113 Lincoln Ave. just off the Santa Fe Plaza, will discover, the blurry borders between Texas and New Mexico have fueled a century of mostly good-natured feuding that has continued into the new millennium. The museum’s computer-interactive exhibit, “Shifting Boundaries,” includes an examination of the intertwined histories of the two states, which at times have acted like contentious neighbors squabbling over the placement of a backyard fence.

While the Texas-New Mexico border officially was established by the Compromise of 1850, its precise boundaries were subject to interpretation, the whims of Mother Nature, and – whoops! – simple human error. It turns out that when surveyor John H. Clark in 1859 established the nation’s 103rd meridian as the border between Texas and New Mexico, he accidentally set the boundary about three miles too far west.

The narrow strip of debated land runs along New Mexico’s now-eastern border for 320 miles and encompasses the now-Texas towns of Farwell, Texline, Bledsoe and Bronco.

“That’s our land!” declared officials of the territory of New Mexico, after the error was uncovered during their bid for statehood in 1910. “Don’t even think about it,” replied the state of Texas, which hadn’t been keen about relinquishing slavery or the territory of New Mexico in the first place. “Drop it – or else forget about becoming a state,” Congress told the New Mexicans in 1911.

And so the matter festered for the next 100 years, erupting most recently with a 2005 bill in the New Mexico Senate suing Texas for the land, which died in the legislative process. Two years before, the land commissioners of the two states had proposed to settle the dispute with an old-fashioned duel using antique pistols, followed by a skeet shoot. Fortunately, no modern-day blood was shed, but neither was the issue resolved.

“The exhibit shows that we are still fighting border wars,” said Dr. Frances Levine, director of the New Mexico History Museum. “We don’t always have guns drawn, but our states haggle over political boundaries all the time. The same thing happened with water rights. Many people don’t know that this is an issue that simply won’t die.”

Another point of contention between the two states has been New Mexico’s southwestern border, defined in the 1850 Compromise by the winding Rio Grande. Nice idea, but shouldn’t somebody have imagined that the river, over time, might very well change its course and muck up a perfectly sensible boundary?

Visit the New Mexico History Museum to learn how the boundaries of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona – the entire Southwest – have changed over time and to ponder what our shared heritage reveals about our future. Get into the stories that defined the American West.

New Mexico History Museum
at 113 Lincoln Avenue, just behind the Palace of the Governors on the Santa Fe Plaza.

For more information about the New Mexico History Museum, including a selection of user-ready high-resolution photographs, log onto http://media.museumofnewmexico.org/nmhm. More than 8,000 additional, high-resolution photographs illustrating the history of New Mexico are available by keyword search at www.palaceofthegovernors.org (click on “Photo Archives” then on “Digitized Collections”). Most requests for scans from this site can be delivered the same day, and usage is free for publicity purposes only.

Previous releases:
The Long Walk of the Navajo and Mescalaro Indians and its Enduring Mark on Western History

It’s History in the Making as the Nation’s Newest Museum Opens its Doors

Spiritual Blessings and Pilgrimage Kick Off Museum’s Second Day of Grand Opening Events

Riding the Rails … In Style

Duty, Sacrifice, Honor

Where ancient artifacts meet cutting-edge art

Fashioning New Mexico

The Tiffany Ties that Bind

The Railroad Wars

Other Sites:

NM History Museum on Twitter

NM History Museum on Facebook

NM History Museum on Youtube

NM History Museum on Flickr

Media Contacts:
Kate Nelson
New Mexico History Museum
505 476 1141
Kate.Nelson@state.nm.us
www.nmhistorymuseum.org


The Long Walk of the Navajo and Mescalaro Indians and its Enduring Mark on Western History

July 9th, 2009 by admin

SANTA FE – The story was born in one man’s misguided notion of a utopia for Native Americans. It ended with one of the most shameful chapters in the history of the American West – the Long Walk.

More than a century after, the disastrous relocation of Navajo and Mescalero Apache Indians to Bosque Redondo, its scars still haunt the memories of the Navajo and Mescalero people, and the history of Kit Carson – who he was and what his rightful legacy might have been. The stories of Carson and of the Long Walk are among the many told at the New Mexico History Museum now open at 113 Lincoln Avenue on the historic Santa Fe Plaza.

In 1862, Col. James H. Carleton, then in charge of the U.S. “Department of New Mexico,” perceived a threat to settlers from the Native Americans who had long called this place their home. Clothing his solution in the form of a benevolent future, he created a vision of an agricultural reservation in eastern New Mexico, a sparsely populated area fed by the slender Pecos River. His intent, now seen through the darker lens of history, was to force the tribes “to give way to the insatiable progress of our race.”

To carry it out, Carleton turned to Christopher Houston “Kit” Carson, a Kentucky-born frontiersman and ally of the near-mythical John C. Frémont. At first, Carson resisted the order, which read in part: “All Indian men of that tribe (the Mescalero Apache) are to be killed whenever and wherever you can find them. The women and children will not be harmed, but you will take them prisoners.”

Carson could not bring himself to abide in full. Instead, he took Apache men prisoner and eventually persuaded the tribe to surrender and move from their southwestern New Mexico homelands to Bosque Redondo. In 1863, more than 400 arrived at an incomplete military fort and put to work.

Carleton then issued a similar order for the Navajo, but had to play upon Carson’s duty to country. He complied – again, in part. In the siege of Canyon de Chelly, the spiritual heartland of the Navajo people, Carson burned the tribe’s crops and peach orchards, shot their livestock and destroyed wells. Eventually, the Navajo surrendered and 10,000 of them began the 350-mile walk from northwestern New Mexico to Bosque Redondo. Marched at a constant pace, the people were poorly clothed and fed. One in five died. One account says a woman in labor was shot to death because she could not keep up.

Once at the 400-square-mile Bosque Redondo, the futility of Carleton’s utopia was exposed. The two tribes had longstanding rivalries and different languages. Little firewood was available, there were no tents, and the only water source, the Pecos River, was laden with salt that weakened the soil and caused intestinal trouble. Comanche raids cost the tribes what little they had. Smallpox infected them. An estimated 1,500 perished in the winter of 1863-64 alone.

Carleton’s own soldiers, perhaps sensing this last gasp of Manifest Destiny, dubbed the place “Carletonia.”

In 1865, all of the Mescalero Apache escaped, despite the death warrant it carried. The Navajo remained until 1868, when Gen. William T. Sherman crafted a treaty granting both tribes permanent rights to a portion of their ancestral lands. On June 18, 1868, freedom in hand, the Navajo people began yet another long walk, this time home.

Today, the Bosque Redondo Memorial at the Fort Sumner State Monument southeast of Santa Rosa, N.M., recounts the suffering – and the resilience – of the people who endured Carleton’s “utopia.” The National Park Service is exploring the creation of a National Historic Trail commemorating the Long Walk. And on the Mescalero and Navajo reservations, people continue to practice their traditional ways and speak their traditional languages, while fully engaging in 21st century life.

As for Carson, the debate over his legacy continues. In his 2006 book, “Blood and Thunder,” award-winning author Hampton Sides examines the many sides of the story, which continue to confound. Of Carson, he writes: “He was the prototype of the Western hero. Before there were Stetson hats and barbed-wire fences, before there were Wild West shows or Colt six-shooters to be slung at the O.K. Corral, there was Nature’s Gentleman, the original purple cliché of the purple sage. Carson hated it all. Without his consent, and without receiving a single dollar, he was becoming a caricature.”

Without resorting to caricatures, the New Mexico History Museum aims to lay out the facts and let visitors come to their own conclusions. In its 96,000 square feet, the Museum shares more than 400 centuries of cultural interactions among Native Americans, Spanish colonists, frontier settlers, nuclear scientists and the artists, writers and photographers who continue to plant new and fruitful roots. Get into it!

New Mexico History Museum
at 113 Lincoln Avenue, just behind the Palace of the Governors on the Santa Fe Plaza

For more information about the New Mexico History Museum, including a selection of user-ready high-resolution photographs, log onto http://media.museumofnewmexico.org/nmhm. More than 8,000 additional, high-resolution photographs illustrating the history of New Mexico are available by keyword search at www.palaceofthegovernors.org (click on “Photo Archives” then on “Digitized Collections”). Most requests for scans from this site can be delivered the same day, and usage is free for publicity purposes only.

Previous releases:
It’s History in the Making as the Nation’s Newest Museum Opens its Doors

Spiritual Blessings and Pilgrimage Kick Off Museum’s Second Day of Grand Opening Events

Riding the Rails … In Style

Duty, Sacrifice, Honor

Where ancient artifacts meet cutting-edge art

Fashioning New Mexico

The Tiffany Ties that Bind

The Railroad Wars

The New Face of History

The Tales that Made the American West

New Mexico History Museum’s Core Exhibits

Telling the People’s Stories: A Message from the Director

Creating a Place for Our Past, by Dr. Frances Levine, El Palacio, Summer 2006

Other Sites:

NM History Museum on Twitter

NM History Museum on Facebook

NM History Museum on Youtube

NM History Museum on Flickr

Media Contact:
Kate Nelson
New Mexico History Museum
505 476 1141
Kate.Nelson@state.nm.us
www.nmhistorymuseum.org

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