Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/New Mexico

Plate IX. NEW MEXICO, a Territory of the United States, is bounded on the N. by Colorado, on the E. by Texas and unorganized “public lands” adjacent to the Indian Territory, on the S. by Texas and Mexico, and on the W. by Arizona. It forms nearly a square, being about 335 miles in width from east to west and 345 miles in length from north to south on the eastern border, which lengthens to 390 miles on the west. As formed originally by the Organic Act of 1850, the Territory embraced Arizona and southern Colorado. In 1854 the “Gadsden Purchase” from Mexico added a strip along the southern boundary. In 1863 Arizona was detached and made into a separate Territory, and in 1867 the portion of New Mexico north of the 37th parallel was added to Colorado, leaving the Territory with its present boundaries, and an area of 122,460 square miles.

Physical Features.—The whole area is elevated far above the ocean, the table-lands of the north being 6000 to 6500, those of the centre 5000, and those of the south about 4000 feet above sea-level. The fall in the Rio Grande from the Colorado line to that of Mexico is about 3500 feet. The whole except the eastern portion is traversed by mountains, passing from north to south, not continuously but in broken ranges, which, for convenience of description, may be divided into three parts. The main range of the Rocky Mountains enters the Territory from the north, the highest peaks being the Costilla (12,615 feet), Taos, Mora (12,020), Truchas (13,150), and Baldy (12,661). This range disappears as a continuous chain near Glorieta. Running east from this as a kind of spur along the Colorado line are the Raton Mountains, the pass in which, south of Trinidad, is 7893 feet high. The railroad crosses this range through a tunnel. Commencing about 20 miles south of Santa Fé, and extending southwards on the east side of the Rio Grande, is a broken range, known variously in localities from north to south as the Cerrillos, Placer, Sandia, Chilili, Manzana, Jumanes, Oscura, San Andres, and Organ Mountains,—the last-named crossing into Mexico near El Paso. Nearer to the Rio Grande in Socorro county are the Fra Cristobal and Caballo Mountains. East of the above chain is a series of ranges, generally short, locally known as the Gallinas, Jicarilla, Carrizo, Capitan, Sierra Blanca, Sacramento, Hueco, and Guadalupe Mountains. On the west of the Rio Grande another broken range runs south, commencing at the singularly conspicuous San Antonio mountain, close to the Colorado line, and known in its several parts as the Petaca, Valles, Nacimiento, Jemez, San Mateo, Ladrones, Oso, Madalena, Socorro, San Mateo (of Socorro), Black Range, Mimbres, and Florida Mountains, the latter extending into Mexico. Still farther to the west, and near the Arizona boundary, yet another series of comparatively short ranges is found, consisting of the Carrizo, Tunicha, and Chusca Mountains, which constitute part of the “great continental divide” separating the waters flowing into the Gulf of Mexico from those running into the Pacific, and more to the south the Zuñi, Datil, San Francisco, Escudilla, Tulerosa, Luera, Mogollon, Diablo, Pinos Altos, Burro, Sarampion, Hacha, Perro, Animas, and Peloncillo Mountains. These mountains are seamed with great “cañons,” which also penetrate the larger “mesas” or table-lands in various places, where in some way the covering of lava which is their usual protection has been removed. Between contiguous ranges or spurs of the same range are frequently found “parks” of great beauty and fertility. These specially abound in the western part of Colfax county.

New Mexico, while generally requiring irrigation for its cultivation, is more fully provided with rivers than any of the other mining States or Territories. Its waters flow east to the Mississippi, south to the Gulf of Mexico, and west through the Colorado and Gila to the Gulf of California and the Pacific Ocean. The Rio Grande, called also the Rio Bravo del Norte, passes completely through the centre of the Territory from north to south. It receives many tributaries, the principal being the Santa Fé and Galisteo from the east, and the Chama, Jemez, Puerco, and Alamosa from the west. Its valley is of great fertility, and capable of supporting a large population. The north-eastern part of the Territory, including the greater part of the counties of Colfax, Mora, and San Miguel, is drained by the Canadian or Red River, which flows into the Arkansas. The branches of this stream are very numerous, the principal ones being the Cimarron, Mora, Concha, Pajarito, and Ute. The Pecos rises north-east of Santa Fé , and, flowing south, gives value to a vast belt of land, until it crosses the Texas line and finally joins the Rio Grande itself. Its valley is unsurpassed for fertility and agricultural worth. Among other streams, the Tecolote, Gallinas, Hondo, and Penasco are tributaries to it. In the north-west is the Rio San Juan, from which that whole section is called the “San Juan country.” It flows west to the Great Colorado, and has as its principal branches in New Mexico the Animas from the north and the Chaco from the south. In the central west are the headwaters of the Little Colorado, and in the south-west those of the Gila, with the Mimbres, which flows south into Mexico.

Minerals.—In almost all parts of the Territory, except the pastoral plains, the precious metals are found, the mineral extending from the extreme north to the southern boundary. The eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains, in Colfax county, abounds in gold, and Elizabethtown, its chief village, was the scene of great mining prosperity a few years ago. The metal is found in “leads” as well as in extensive “placers.” On the opposite side of the range arejboth gold and silver, and a little farther south, near Picuris, are large deposits of copper. Travelling southwards we find various minerals of value in the mountains east of Santa Fé; and the Cerrillos mining district, about 20 miles south of the capital, presents a rich deposit of silver not as yet fully developed. Here also are the famous turquoise mines, the largest in America, which played so important a part in the early history of the Territory. To the west in the Nacimiento region is a great body of copper. At the “Old Placers” and “New Placers,” in the southern extremity of Santa Fé county, are inexhaustible supplies of placer gold, which were washed for many years by the rude methods of former times, but work here has been suspended pending the completion of extensive works now in progress which will provide a sufficient supply of water for large operations. The Manzana, Ladrone, and Madalena ranges, and, indeed, nearly all the mountains on both sides of the Rio Grande, contain rich mineral. Silver mines of great value are worked in the Socorro Mountains, directly west of the city of that name. The Black Range country is rich in silver and copper; and the more recent discoveries on the Percha river and at Lake Valley promise to be of extraordinary richness and extent. The vicinity of White Oaks in Lincoln county is specially noted for its free gold, and the San Andres, Caballo, and Organ ranges abound in valuable ores. The greatest development has taken place in Grant county, whose “Santa Rita,” “Hanover,” and other copper mines are well known; the vicinity of Silver City and Georgetown produce great quantities of silver, while the newer districts in the south-west, in the vicinity of Shakespeare and Lordsburg, are also rich in the last-mentioned metal. To the north of Silver City are the Mogollon Mountains, where valuable mineral deposits are found. The mines, especially those of silver, were extensively worked by the Spaniards down to the year 1680, when the revolt of the Pueblos, caused by the cruel slavery to which they were reduced in working for the precious metals, resulted in the filling up and concealment of every mine in the country during the thirteen years of Pueblo control. The shafts of these mines are frequently discovered. Development in recent times has been greatly retarded by Indian occupancy in some sections and their incursions into others; but now that these difficulties have ceased it is very rapidly progressing.

Bituminous coal is found in inexhaustible quantities in very many sections of the Territory, notably near Raton in Colfax county, along the Galisteo river on the line of the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, and near the Chama river in the north-west. Anthracite coal of an exceedingly fine quality exists in large amounts near Cerrillos station, being superior to many of the coals of Pennsylvania, and by far the best fuel thus far discovered west of the Mississippi river. Iron is found in many localities, but has not yet been worked, the more valuable metals monopolizing attention. Mica mines of large extent and excellent quality are at Petaca, Mora, near Nambé, and in other localities. Lead abounds in many sections carrying silver, and notably in the Cerrillos mines. Plumbago is found in Colfax county; and cement of a very superior quality is made at Springer. Gypsum, fire-clay, and mineral paints are among the mineral resources of the Territory; and marbles and other excellent building stones abound.

Mineral springs of various kinds of great excellence are found in different localities. Prominent among them are the Las Vegas hot springs, the Ojo Caliente in Taos county, the Jemez hot springs, and the Hudson springs. These all have special medicinal qualities, and are of high temperature, the Ojo Caliente water being of 114° and the Jemez 168°. There are also important springs south of El Rancho in Taos county and east of Santa Fé.

Climate.—The climate is dry and the air clear through out almost the entire year. The temperature at Santa Fé, which is considered to have the best climate in the Territory, is sometimes as low in the winter as at New York, but the dryness of the atmosphere prevents the cold from being felt to anything like the same extent. The more southerly towns are of course warmer, not only on account of the difference in latitude, but also because of their decreased altitude.[1] The rainy season occupies about a month, varying in time from the middle of July to the middle of September, but even then a wholly cloudy day is seldom seen, the mornings being bright, with showers in the afternoon. The comparative death-rate from tubercular diseases in New Mexico is less than anywhere else in the United States, the proportions being—New England 25, Minnesota 14, Southern States 6, New Mexico 3.[2] The average rainfall at Santa Fé for eight years (1874-81) was a little less than 14½ inches, whereas the average at New York was 43, Boston 45, Philadelphia 44, Washington 37, St Louis 42, and Savannah 48. The mean temperature was 48½°. The atmosphere is so clear and pure as to be proverbial. From the first characteristic arises the deception as to distances so generally experienced by strangers; and the second is evidenced by the fact that everywhere throughout the Territory the natives hang up their meat out-of-doors to dry, and use pieces of it as required, not the slightest taint arising from it during a series of months.

Agriculture, &c.—The greater portion of New Mexico is pastoral, being unfitted for agriculture from lack of water for irrigation. Wherever there is sufficient water either in streams or springs to supply the wants of animals, the grass is amply sufficient to support either cattle or sheep. The Territory abounds in the most nutritious grasses, which retain their virtues during the winter; and the climate is such that shelter is not required other than that afforded by nature, in valleys and woods. The number of sheep is variously estimated from 7,000,000 to 10,000,000, and they are raised in every county. Within the past few years the breed has been much improved by the introduction of merino, Cotswold, and other fine-woolled varieties. The cattle business has reached enormous proportions within a few years, and is steadily advancing in importance. The immense profits received have induced the investment of large amounts of capital, and all the desirable ranches are being rapidly taken up and stocked. The business is changing in its character in two ways. Large corporations are taking the place of small owners, and, instead of ranging over the plains, the cattle are now generally confined to tracts exclusively owned or occupied, and fenced. Colfax county alone is thought to contain nearly 100,000 head of cattle, and the number in the whole Territory is very large, and rapidly increasing.

Agriculture is mainly limited to the valleys. Those of the Rio Grande, the Pecos, the Canadian, the San Juan, and their tributaries, though generally narrow, contain large areas of arable land of extraordinary fertility. They produce large crops of grain and of most kinds of vegetables, especially onions, beets, turnips, cabbages, cauliflowers, &c. Potatoes succeed best in the mountainous regions. The Taos valley is an exceptionally fine wheat country, and before the advent of railroads supplied a great part of the Territory with its flour. The Mora valley is also celebrated for its wheat. It is as a fruit-producing region, however, that a large portion of the irrigated land in the Territory specially excels. The Rio Grande valley from Embudo to Mesilla is particularly adapted to this purpose. The area of fruit and vine culture is being yearly extended. Peaches, plums, and apricots come to great perfection in the north, and pears, apples, quinces, cherries, &c., as well as the stone fruits, throughout the middle and southern sections. Grapes flourish from Bernalillo to El Paso, and in some favoured spots like La Joya farther north. The grape principally cultivated is the “Mission,” which produces excellent wine. Hardy American varieties like the Concord will do well anywhere, and the less hardy European varieties, such as the White Muscat, Flamed Tokay, &c., succeed admirably in the vicinity of Las Cruces. The Pecos valley also produces fruit of extraordinary size and beauty.

The supply of timber, especially of pine, is almost inexhaustible.

It exists in nearly all the hilly and mountainous parts of the Territory, but is of very superior quality as regards both height and straightness in the vicinity of Tierra Amarilla. Cedar abounds in many localities, and the piñon makes an excellent fuel. Oak, maple, walnut, and ash are found to a more limited extent. The varieties of poplar commonly known as cottonwood and quaking aspen are the most common deciduous trees, and grow in almost all parts of the Territory. Several other native plants are proving of value. The Yucca of different varieties abounds,—Y. filamentosa, commonly called amole or soap-weed, covering immense tracts. Experiments have recently been made with a view to utilizing the fibre of the large serrated variety abundant in the south in the manufacture of rope, and the smaller kinds in paper-making, as well as using the root in preparing a substitute for soap. These bid fair to make this very abundant plant of large commercial value. The cañaigre has long been known to possess powerful tanning properties, and recent experiments by the department of agriculture and elsewhere have demonstrated its value as a substitute for bark and other agents. The plant grows wild over a large extent of country, and its importance in a district producing so many hides and skins can hardly be overestimated.

Government and Administration.—The executive officers are a governor and a secretary. The higher judiciary consists of a chief justice and two associates, each of whom presides over the courts in one district, all three sitting together as an appellate supreme court in January of each year. The legislature consists of a council of twelve members and a house of representatives of twenty-four, elected by counties biennially. The governor possesses the veto power. The territorial officials are a treasurer, auditor, attorney-general and two district attorneys, and an adjutant-general. In each county there are a probate judge, sheriff, and other local officers, the chief authority being vested in a board of county commissioners of three members elected by the people. The counties are divided into precincts, in each of which there is a justice of the peace and a constable. At present there are twelve counties in the Territory. Public education is in charge of a board of three school commissioners in each county. A tax of ¼ per cent. is levied for the support of public schools. Precincts may become independent school districts at their option.

Population.—The population of the Territory was 91,874 in 1870 and 119,565 in 1880. Since that time it has steadily increased. The capital, Santa Fé, had 6635 inhabitants in 1880.

History.—The first European that traversed the Territory was Cabeza de Yaca (Nuñez), the treasurer of the unfortunate expedition of Panfilo Narvaez to Florida, who, being cast ashore on the coast of Texas, crossed the continent with three companions, and after encountering infinite difficulties and dangers arrived at Spanish settlements near the Gulf of California. On the way he passed through a land of “fixed habitations,” which were evidently the Pueblo towns, followed the Rio Grande for many miles, and on his return to civilization gave such an account of his travels that great interest was excited. In consequence, Coronado, the governor of New Galicia, sent Marcos de Niza, a Franciscan monk, with Stephen, a negro who had been one of Yaca's companions, to reconnoitre the country. They penetrated as far as Zuñi, then called Cibola, where Stephen was killed; but Marcos made up for the lack of substantial success by the marvellous nature of the report he presented. The next year. 1540, Coronado himself headed an expedition of 300 Spaniards and 800 Indians, and started from Culiacan on Easter Monday. He succeeded in finding Cibola, which he subjugated with the surrounding country, and then proceeded to the province of Tiguex (on the Puerco river). After this expedition several friars at various times entered the country, establishing missions, often at the cost of their lives. Among them one of the most prominent was Agustin Ruiz, who was killed in 1581. Almost immediately after this came the expedition of Espejo, who was sent by the viceroy to protect the missions. The next expedition of note was that of Oñate, toward the close of the century, which carried a large number of additional colonists into the Territory. From this time the Spanish population increased rapidly, and mining was extensively engaged in, the natives being reduced to a virtual condition of slavery in the mines. In 1680 the Indians, who had long been on the verge of rebellion, revolted, and under the lead of Popé, a chief of large influence, marched on Santa Fé, and there besieged Governor Otermin and the Spanish army, who were finally compelled to evacuate the town and retreat to El Paso. For thirteen years the Pueblos continued to control the country, defeating successive Spanish expeditions, until in 1693 Diego de Vargas, the new governor, succeeded in conquering them and a peace was made, one of the terms of which was that there should be no more slavery in the mines. In fact the Indians had filled up all the shafts in the meantime. For over a century afterwards little occurred to disturb the tranquillity of the Territory, except occasional wars with the surrounding savage tribes. In 1804 Lieutenant Pike, exploring the head-waters of the Arkansas, by mistake camped on Mexican soil and was brought into Santa Fé and sent to Chihuahua as a prisoner. About this time the first

goods were brought across the plains to the New Mexican market, being the commencement of the overland traffic of the Sante Fé “Trail,” which increased yearly in importance until the railroads took the place of the “prairie schooner.” In 1820 Mexico became independent, and New Mexico began to be governed by political chiefs instead of Spanish “Gobernadores.”

By a change in the constitution in 1835, governors were appointed instead of elected, and Albino Perez was sent from Mexico as the new ruler. This excited much discontent, which was increased by the enactment of a new tax law two years later. About August 1, 1837, a revolutionary movement commenced in the north of the Territory among both Mexicans and Pueblos, having for its centre the town of Cañada or Santa Cruz. Governor Perez marched to meet the insurgents, but was deserted by nearly all his troops and compelled to fly, and was soon after overtaken and killed near Agua Fria. A number of other prominent officials were also killed; and on August 10 Jose Gonzalez, a Taos Indian, was installed as governor in the palace. General Manuel Armijo, who had held high positions before, raised troops at Albuquerque to suppress the revolt, and finally defeated the rebels at Cañada. The Mexican Government confirmed his acts and appointed him governor, which office he held with some intermissions until the coming of an American army in 1846 under General Kearney, who marched from the Missouri and took possession of the Territory without bloodshed,—General Armijo retiring southwards. A provisional government was established by the Americans, and Charles Bent, an old resident, appointed governor, but he was killed in a revolt in January 1847. The treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo made New Mexico a part of the United States, and by an Act of Congress of September 9, 1850, it was organized as a Territory with a regular government. Early in 1862 a Confederate army from Texas invaded the country and occupied Santa Fé, March 10; they were defeated, however, at Glorieta on March 28, and evacuated the capital April 8. The people of the Territory were commendably loyal, and supplied 6000 men to the Union army.

The first rail was laid in New Mexico, November 30, 1878, by the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fé Railroad, which reached Las Vegas July 1, 1879, Santa Fé February 9, 1880, and connected with the Southern Pacific at Deming March 18, 1881. This, and the construction of the Denver and Rio Grande and the Atlantic and Pacific Railroads, have given a great impetus to the Territory. (J. B. PR.)

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  1. The elevations at some of the principal points are—Costilla, 7774 feet; Tierra Amarilla, 7455; Glorieta, 7507; Santa Fé, 7044; Fort Wingate, 7037; Taos, 6950; Las Vegas, 6452; Fort Stanton, 5800; Bernalillo, 5104; Albuquerque, 4918; Socorro, 4655; Las Cruces, 3844.
  2. The army statistics for six years lead to the same result, the ratio of deaths per 1000 from diseases of the respiratory organs being—west coast of Florida, 6.9; New York, 5.9; New England, 4.8; Great Lakes, 4.5; Texas coast, 4; western Texas, 3.9; East Florida, 2.3; New Mexico, 1.3.