Monday, October 30, 2017

A Walk Through The Family Cemetery And Family History

One of my favorite things to do is to spend a quiet night at home doing ancestry research in hopes that I end up traveling through the 1800's while reading stories that I never dreamed could have taken place in my extended family history. Tonight I hit the jackpot once again.

While on a trip to New Mexico last week, I made a point to stop by the family cemetery located on a hill across the road from the church in my parent's home town of Puerto de Luna, NM.

The Family Cemetery
"Nuestra Senora de Refugio Cemetery"
Photo taken in 2017 of Christina Fajardo 
and younger brother, Larry Fajardo's grave
Next to our Padilla grandparents

"Nuestra Senora de Refugio Cemetery"
Puerto de Luna, New Mexico

"Nuestra Senora de Refugio Cemetery"
Puerto de Luna, New Mexico

"Nuestra Senora del Refugio Church"
Puerto de Luna, New Mexico

My little brother, my maternal grandparents and countless other relatives dating back to the 1800's are buried  in the "Nuestra Senora de Refugio Cemetery." My parents are buried at the Llano Cemetery in Amarillo, TX. I was sad to see that my little brother's gravestone had recently been vandalized. The head of the little lamb had been knock off and was in pieces, so I gathered the pieces and wild flowers to take this photo.

My little brother, Larry Fajardo's grave

My maternal grandparents
Ascencion Padilla and Rosita Valdez Padilla

Some of the grave stones are so old
that the names have been worn off.

The newest grave was that of my second cousin, William Dodge. He passed away just this month and his older brother, James passed away in August. RIP Will and James. They were the grandson's of my mother's oldest sister Marcelina Padilla Page and her husband Joseph Page and sons of my first cousin Marcelina Page Dodge and her husband, Antonio Dodge.

My Aunt Marcelina Padilla Page

My mother's oldest sister Marcelina Padilla Page passed away in 1939 at the age of 36. She left seven child and her husband, Joseph Richard Mares Page behind. My mother was 18 at the time and went to live with her brother-in-law for a time just down the road in Puerto de Luna to help him with the children. She became very close to her nieces and nephews, the Page family. Her niece Marcelina, was close to her age and they were more like sisters. Marcelina married Antonio Dodge. I remember visiting Marcelina when I was young and thinking how cool it would be to have a piano teacher as a mom.

Marcelina Page Dodge and
Antonio Page

Marcelina Page Dodge and
Antonio Dodge

So last week, as I was walking around the cemetery, I noticed that my grandparents were buried just to the right of my little brother, some first cousins and uncles to the left. My Aunt Marcelina Padilla Page and her husband Joseph Page are buried just above him on the hill and below him was this grave with "Henry Dodge - Catholic" inscribed on it.

I thought it was interesting that it would say "Catholic" on the gravestone since most everyone in my family is Catholic. So I decided to snap a photo and do some research on Henry. Keeping in mind that I am related to all the Dodges in this small community, but sometimes we are related 2 or 3 times over. With that being said, I am sure that if any of my cousins from New Mexico read this, they will get a chuckle because of all my "research" is uncovering what is common knowledge to those that have lived there their whole life.... except for the stuff that goes back to the 1800's, then only a handful of my history buff cousins even care about it and will be sure to contact me if I get any of this information mixed up. At any rate, this is basically transcribed for those of us who have moved away and don't know much about our family history and hold it dearly in our hearts. I missed out attending most family weddings and funerals where most of the information is shared amongst the relatives that may have had one too many drinks during the celebration.

So I discovered that the mysterious headstone baring the name "Henry (Enrique) Dodge" was Antonio Dodge's father and my first cousin Marcelina Page Dodge's father-in-law. 

Henry (Enrique) Dodge was born in Puerto de Luna in 1910, his father was Roman Antonio Dodge was the first
of many Dodges to be buried in the Nuestra Señora del Refugio Cemetery, appropriately enough, for he had donated the cemetery land to the church. Roman's father was Captain Henry Lafayette Dodge, born in 1810 in St Genevieve, Missouri, 60 miles south of St Louis, on the west bank of the Mississippi River. My son and two of my grandchildren now lives in St Louis. I am occasionally in St Louis for months at a time because I like late summer and winter in St Louis better than in Texas. On a trip to St Louis a while back, we took a drive out in the counties to Ste Genevieve. It is a beautiful little town and it's Missouri's oldest permanent settlement.

Ste Genevieve is the oldest
permanent settlement in Missouri

"The Old Brick House" is the first brick
house built west of the Mississippi.
The Dodge family lived upstairs and the sheriff's
office was downstairs.  

"The Old Brick House"

Christina having coffee in Ste Genevieve

Christina having coffee in Ste Genevieve

My son, Christian Ethridge
having coffee in Ste Genevieve

My son, Christian Ethridge
having coffee in Ste Genevieve

My son, Christian Ethridge
having coffee in Ste Genevieve

So I have to back up and tell you how the Dodge family ended up in New Mexico. Henry Lafayette Dodge was the son of Henry Moses Dodge. His mother was Christiana McDonald born in 1785 in Nelson County, Kentucky. There are many family connections here. My son's name is Christian and his paternal grandmother was a McDonald. Through my years of ancestry research, I've discovered that my children and grandchildren are related to the McDonald, Nelson, Dodge and Page families on both my side and their father's side of the family. Those connections also link us to many of the US founding fathers such as Thomas Jefferson and the Randolph family. I will get into all of that in another blog. It's not unusual for those of us from New Mexico to have many cousins in common but I met my ex-husband in Austin in the early 70's and he was born in Houston to Marie McDonald Ethridge and Dr. Elmore Ethridge. What were the chances of us having any family connections?

Henry Moses Dodge was the son of Israel Dodge born in 1760 in New London, Connecticut. The Dodge family owned the salt works on the saline river in St Genevieve around 1800 and created quite a business providing salt for the people of St Genevieve. Salt was a very important commodity at that time in the preservation of foods and curing of animal hides. Israel was elected the first sheriff of the St Genevieve and his son Henry Moses Dodge became a deputy sheriff from 1804 to 1821.Henry Moses was United States Marshal for the territory of Missouri while he was sheriff. Then he became a delegate to Congress, then elected to the Senate upon admission of Wisconsin to the Union in 1848. In the same year, his son Henry Lafayette Dodge married Adele Bequette. His father had chosen his younger brother, Augustus Caesar Dodge, as his political heir and began grooming him. Henry Lafayette continued to run the family business. Augustus became Iowa's first territorial delegate to the U.S. Congress and then one of the state's first senators after its admission to the Union. Augustus Caesar and Henry Moses Dodge are the only father and son to serve in the U.S. Senate at the same time.

Meanwhile, Henry Lafayette Dodge and Adele had four children. He owned an inn and store in Dodgeville. The post office was housed in the store so he also served as postmaster. Like his father and brother, Henry Lafayette was politically active in Democratic party. In 1843 he was elected Sheriff of Iowa County, in 1844 he became clerk of the U.S. District Court for Iowa County. 

Then, in May 1846, Henry Lafayette Dodge vanished, never to be seen again by his wife and children. He went west and showed up August 1846 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In the process of establishing a civil administration for the newly conquered territory, it was announced that Henry L Dodge was appointed Treasurer of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Then he was appointed an Indian Agent for the Navajo tribe in 1853 by President Pierce. He learned the Navajo language and was determined to make sure the people were treated fairly. In turn, the Navajos liked and respected Dodge and called him Bi'ee lichii (Red Shirt), because he always wore a red flannel shirt. 

There is a book written about Henry L Dodge called "Red Shirt, The Life and Times of Henry Lafayette Dodge" by Lawrence D Sundberg. It took the author twenty years to write. I have to ask myself... where have I been and why didn't I know anything about Henry L Dodge? Oh yeah, I was in Texas where they taught Texas history.

"Red Shirt, The Life and Times
of Henry Lafayette Dodge"
Written by Lawrence D Sundberg

As one of the earliest and most effective Indian agents to the Navajo, HL Dodge has been portrayed as a congenial, sympathetic and compassionate advocate for the tribe. The Navajo knew him as Red Shirt, a man they came to respect, appreciate and trust. Those who knew Dodge admitted he had unrivaled influence over the tribe. He had been looked upon as the 'Great Father' of the Navajo tribe, who were at war with the Apaches, hence their hostility towards him.  

In November 1856, after Coyotero Apaches attacked the Zuni Pueblo, Henry L Dodge joined army soldiers in their pursuit. He left the group to go deer hunting, and was killed by the Apaches. 

A few months after Henry L Dodge's death a Navajo woman named Bisnayanchi, gave birth to a boy who became known as Henry Chee Dodge born in 1857 in Fort Defiance, Arizona. His name was a combination of his Navajo name, Kiilchii' (which meant red), and Henry L Dodge's name.

This might explain why the Henry (Enrique) Dodge, who is buried in my family cemetery had "Catholic" written his grave, not to be confused with Henry Chee Dodge who had been one of the most famous and revered Navajo tribal leaders. Henry Chee Dodge served as a translator and interpreter, providing a bridge between the United States Army and the Navajos. Later he served many years as the last official Navajo Head Chief and was also the Tribal Chairman of the Navajo Tribal Council, an organization that he helped establish. Sadly, there's always been a stigma attached to being a person of color. It was once thought that Henry Chee was Henry L Dodge's son, however, there were DNA tests done on Chee Dodge ‘s offspring and there was no connection to Henry Lafayette Dodge. My understanding is that Chee was Henry L Dodge's Navajo interpreter when he was an Indian agent. Chee was an orphan and adopted the Dodge name.

Henry Chee Dodge

In 1864, the Navajos' world was ripped apart by the U.S. Army invasions, which were launched in response to Navajo raids that took place around Fort Defiance. They were part of the "Long Walk" to Fort Sumner, where Navajos were being sent by the U.S. Army. A group of officers forcibly marched the surviving Navajos to the Bosque Redondo Reservation at Fort Sumner, which was essentially a concentration camp. Henry Chee Dodge and his mother, Bisnayanchi,  were part of one such group. Their fugitive existence entailed hardship and starvation. One day, Henry Chee's mother set out across the desert to look for food, and she left him with relatives. She never returned. Henry Chee was passed from family to family, until one day he got separated from his people and wandered alone in the wilderness for several days. Fortunately, he was found by an old man and his eight-year-old granddaughter.  He was subsequently raised by his aunt. He was chosen as a pre-teen to become an interpreter for white agents governing the Navajos. This led to him becoming official Interpreter of the Tribe, and then official Navajo Chief. 

Chairman Henry Chee Dodge died on January 7, 1947. His funeral was two days later while quiet tears flowed down many faces. The procession of automobiles to the Fort Defiance cemetery after the church service was a mile long, carrying hundreds of his friends to say their last farewells. He was buried in the cemetery at Fort Defiance. He had walked with his people from Fort Sumner into a future none had dreamed of, teaching them how to master their destiny. He became a legend to his Navajo people.

Family Tree from

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Independence Day

During the month of July I pondered Independence Day being celebrated on the 4th of July. I celebrated myself in the tradition of going to the Willie Nelson 4th of July Picnic with my sister.

Willie Nelson 4th of July Picnic 2017

Nita and Christina at the Willie Nelson 4th of July Picnic 2017
It's commonplace to commemorate Independence Day. on July 4th. Our history books tell us that in 1776 the Continental Congress declared the THIRTEEN American colonies to be a new nation, the United States of America. No longer part of the British Empire. Okay cool. That seems like a good reason to celebrate. However, my personal history is very different and I am just wondering when is it appropriate to celebrate my history. My ancestors are from the sort of khaki colored western side of the USA on the map below labeled "NEW SPAIN." During the 1700's and 1800's and into the early 1900's, there was a whole different dynamic going on over in the southwest.

Twenty-eight years before the Declaration of Independence, my paternal 4th great-grandmother, Maria Micaela Padilla was born in the high mountain valley of El Rito, Rio Arriba County, New Spain. (Present day New Mexico.) I have chosen Maria Micaela to tell you about because I love her name and her descendants were prominent citizens of New Mexico. She was born in 1748 and lived forteen miles south of Abiquiú, eighteen miles northwest of Espanola, fifteen miles northwest of Ojo Caliente and fifty-six miles northwest of Santa Fe. With the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the east. With those very detailed directions being given, the locals will tell you, tongue in cheek, the very small community of El Rito is about three hundred years northwest of Santa Fe. Much of the current day population lives off of the grid.

Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Maria Micaela Padilla was from a prominent founding family in New Mexico, so it is no surprise that when the handsome young twenty-seven year old doctor, Dominique Labadie, relocated from St Louis to New Mexico in 1765, he would pick Maria Micaela to be his wife. He was born in Veloc, Gascony, in the southwest of France. They were married in November of 1766 in a church in Santa Fe called La Parroquia, built between 1714 –1717. The very popular present day Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi was built by between 1869 and 1886 on the site of La Parroquia church. The new cathedral was built around La Parroquia, which was dismantled once the new construction was complete. A small chapel on the north side of the cathedral was kept from the old church. Maria Micaela and Dominique Labadie had 15 children in Santa Fe and they were all baptized in this location.
Looking North on San Francisco Street in Santa Fe
La Parroquia Church stands at the end of the street
The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, Santa Fe, New Mexico
now stands where La Parroquia Church used to be

In January of 1795 the French were lobbying for the return of Louisiana to France. Spain was fearful of the encroachment of the United States and the France. Since Dominique was French yet married to Maria Micaela Padilla, their property was inventoried and the couple and their 15 children were confined to their residence for a period of time.

Again, I can't help but think that the information that's been written in our history books is extremely slanted. In 1776, the same year Maria Micaela Padilla married her handsome Frenchman in Santa Fe, King Charles III of Spain gave my maternal 5th Great Uncle, Captain Antonio Montoya, 50,000 acre Piedra Lumbre (Shining Stone) Land Grant. Did you read anything about that in your history books? Yeah, probably not. On a side note, The 21,000 acres that comprise Georgia O'Keefe's Ghost Ranch is part of the Piedra Lumbre Land Grant, now owned by a Presbyterian Church. I won't go into how it went from being a land grant to being owned by a church. I don't spend my time thinking about all the land and livestock taken from my family Instead I study those that have given back to their communities and made a huge difference in their lifetime. I pray that I have retained some of their character in my DNA. 

Lorenzo Labadie is one of those ancestors that I have grown to know and love through my research. He was my 3rd great uncle and the grandson of Micaela and Dominique Labadie. Lorenzo was described as a handsome, honorable man who wore many hats. In 1851 he was the Sheriff in Valencia County where he served 3 terms. Like his friend Kit Carson, he was a sympathetic and a loyal friend to many Native Americans. In 1855 he was appointed as a U.S. Indian Agent for 15 years and gained respect and confidence seldom obtained by the Native Americans as an Agent. Under his watchful eye, the Native Americans worked side-by-side with soldiers, damming the Pecos River to irrigate crops, planting trees, and building a slaughter house. They had 94 gardens spread over a 100 acre area and grew melons, pumpkins, chile and green beans. Lorenzo was removed as an Indian agent because he protested against the Native Americans being furnished unwholesome food by the government.

Lorenzo Labadie's Grave
Born August 10, 1825
 Tome, Valencia County, New Mexico
Died August 10, 1904
Puerto De Luna, Guadalupe County, New Mexico

In1871 Lorenzo took out merchants license and opened a wine shop. There were vineyards and orchards in Puerto de Luna. I became very familiar with Puerto de Luna in those days because in 1880, 1890 and 1900 Lorenzo was the most precise census taker of Puerto de Luna and the surrounding areas of San Miguel County. (current day Guadalupe County) There is so much family history in these documents, including a records of Billy the Kid living and working on my great-great uncle's ranches. He taught my great uncle Hilario Valdez to speak and read English at the age of 7 in the evenings when the work day was done. Puerto de Luna was a thriving community at the time. I hope to some day write a book based on the information that Lorenzo collected in the pages of his census. I learned that my paternal grandmother Josefita was actually a Labadie and adopted by her mother's second husband in the 1900 Puerto de Luna census. He was her uncle and the information was very precise. He was also the Post Master of Santa Rosa from 1884 until 1898. In 1885 he signed a petition to get Rifles for Puerto De Luna. On February 2, 1893 he won a case against Celso Baca for cheating on the Election for seat on the 30th. Legislation Assembly of New Mexico as representation for Guadalupe County. Lorenzo was elected. It has been written that Benjamin Baca was the founder of Santa Rosa, New Mexico in 1890 but a historian from Santa Rosa says that Lorenzo Labadie was the founder. Nonetheless, they have both been named as two of the first settlers of Santa Rosa.

That was a very condensed version of what was going on with just a very few of my ancestors in "New Spain" when the thirteen colonies became the United States and shortly thereafter. It wasn't until January 6, 1912, three and a half short years before my father, Felipe Montoya Fajardo was born in Puerto de Luna, New Mexico that New Mexico became the 47th state.

Now when do we celebrate our "Independence?" 

Monday, January 23, 2017

An Open Letter from a Brown Writer to His Brown Daughters

 Women's March - January 21, 2017
Austin, Texas
I went to the Women's march on January 21, 2017, the day after perhaps one of the saddest days for America, if not the world. I thought the timing was a little off and I didn't know what to expect. What I experienced was possibly one of the most uplifting and healing days of my life. It was in perfect timing. I experienced solidarity and love. After the march, I sat under a tree on the Texas Capitol grounds and listened to Lloyd Doggett, then the next speaker was announced. There were hundreds of people in front of me so I couldn't see the stage, but like the voice of an angel, it seemed that Joaquin Zihuatanejo spoke to me and me only with his open letter to his daughters. It was as if the 18 year old version of me was hearing his words. I found myself wishing that someone would have said these words to me as a child. It touched me on a very deep level. Tears flowed down my face. I felt like a brown girl, in a sea of white friends, who never really felt like I belonged because the stories I read and heard my whole life, were not my stories. Texas history books didn't interest me, they didn't tell my story. It wasn't until I discovered Rudolfo Anaya's "Bless Me Ultima" that any story came close to telling my story.

Luna Chick
By Christina Fajardo

For the past 3 years, I have been researching my very rich Hispanic history that spans over a 500 year time period from Spain to New Mexico and then finally, in my generation, to Texas.  I thought that in a couple of years I would have all my information collected and organized, I would write a book about my ancestors to pass down to the generations that come after me. I have come to realize that I will never be finished collecting information, however, the information keeps coming to me and I will continue to write until I leave this Earth. I have come to realize that I am the chosen one of my generation, the spirit and the words of my ancestors come through me and I must respect that. I have a responsibility to write. My mother was the one of her generation, my son Christian keeps our heritage alive by cooking our native food at his restaurant and now I see that my great-niece Ava is at prolific writer. She wrote a story about her trip to Big Bend and presenting it to her grandmother for Christmas.

Christian - Taco Circus - St Louis

Ava writing on the floor at our Christmas family gathering

I am taking Joaquin's advice. I am just going to write. Thank you Joaquin from the bottom of my heart. You will find the transcript of his essay/poem written to his daughtersAiyana and Dakota
And 50,000 of his closest friends in Austin, Texas, as read from the steps of the Texas State Capitol Building for Women Rising

Click here to see the---> video of Joaquin Zihuatanejo
speaking at the Women's March
Produced by ZGraphix Productions
An Open Letter from a Brown Writer
to His Brown Daughters
Who Both Dream of Writing

Father, Teacher, Poet
© 2017 by Joaquín Zihuatanejo

1. Write. Just write. Be it poem or prose, true or false. Get it out of you and onto the page. I firmly believe we would have more Brown readers if we had more Brown writers. You have a responsibility here, as do I, not to ourselves but to that skinny 10 year old girl from the barrio or from the fields who has read 27 books from beginning to end in her short life and never loved one of them completely because she has yet to read a story that sounds like hers.

2. For every white male writer a teacher assigns you to read, find a Latina writer to read as well. Don’t let anyone tell you the numbers will never add up. I’ll get you started with a short list here:

Julia Alvarez, Sandra Rodriguez Barron, Sandra Benitez, Ana Castillo, Sandra Cisneros, Denise Chavez, Judith Ortiz Cofer, Angie Cruz, Cynthia Cruz, Natalie Diaz, Laura Esquivel, Christina Garcia, Ada Limón and Esmeralda Santiago

Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.....
Estos son sólo algunos entre la multitud.
These are merely a few among the multitude.

3. You don’t have to go to far off galaxies in your mind’s eye for ideas for poems. Start in your grandmother’s kitchen, en el jardin de su madre. Listen to lovers quarrel at the taquería, watch closely as the tortillas bubble and blacken on the comal, feel your tía’s hands as she returns home from the fields, or the classroom, or the office. There are poems and stories all around you just waiting to be found. Sometimes you don’t even have to look for them. We are a loud people. We argue loudly. We love loudly. We live loudly. Sit in the middle of all that noise. Silence yourself, and the poem will find you.

4. In many stories they, and in some instances we, assign our women characters to the role of curandera, or field worker, or maid, or nanny. And they are those things. Those things are honest and good and worthy of being written about. They should be written about. But I challenge you to remember that they are also poets, and teachers, and doctors, and senators, and dreamers, and song singers, and majority vote getters in Presidential elections. When you are creating your characters, many times inspired by living breathing women, you must remember who you come from, who you are, and who you are destined to be.

5. When writing a story or poem you must know that sometimes the word for what you want to say does not exist in English, in those moments I implore you to fall back en la lengua de sus Abuelas, the tongue of your grandmothers. A little white cross beside the road to mark the spot where someone has tragically died, is sixteen English words trying to say one thing, one undeniably tragic and poetic thing, but even with all those words, it still falls short. Pero la palabra in Español, but the word in Spanish...descanso...yes, that says it all perfectly.

6. It won’t always be this way, but for now, many editors, many publishers, many men will see you as Brown. See you as woman. Before they see you as equal. Before they see you as anything else. Perhaps for your daughter or theirs it will be different, but you must know at times the fight is rigged. Unfair. But you are your mother’s daughters, even before you are my daughters. If that means anything, it means this: you will fight. You will write.
You will write the wrongs of this world.

7. You come from women who grew things from the land. Food from the earth. Food for their people. Something from nothing. Photosynthesis is a fancy word they made up to define our magic. A magic that exists in you. Remember that magic when you stare at the blank page. Remember that magic when they try to make you feel less than. You, strong Brown women, were born to rise. 

8. Your strength is stronger than their ignorance.

9. Trust your voice my daughters. It took me a lifetime to learn that. Don’t let it take you as long. Know that the world is ready for your voice. Your time is now. We are listening. I am listening. I am listening to every single one of you. I’ve grown weary of my own voice. I want to hear yours. Like you, I hope that my writing changes someone, heals them, charges them to act. But I’m too close to my own writing for it to have that affect on me. I’m waiting for your poem, your story to save me in every way a person can be saved. So speak, sing, write. Press the pencil down hard when you do. Trust me when I say, you will leave an impression on things you were not intending to impress.

10. Your heart is free. Have the courage to write from that place inside you where love resides, where beauty resides, where freedom resides. When you do, you will come to the undeniable truth that no man can ever build his wall around your voice.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Billy the Kid in Puerto de Luna - Part Two

I am hoping that one day my family's story will become a book. It makes it all that more interesting when you have a character like William Bonney woven into every corner of the story in the 1880's when Puerto de Luna was a lively community. I only wish my mom and dad were alive so they could see it on paper. 

As I mentioned, William Bonney spent a lot of time at the Grzelachowski General Store. When I was 16 years old, living with my Grandma Rosita, there was a small store/gas station next door to what used to be the Grzelachowski General Store called "Mercado Coronado." 

I have thought of making
a piece of art that looks like this,
with just a little crescent moon

My first cousin Percy Padilla and I worked there on the weekends. It was a light green, 2 roomed adobe building. We sold gasoline to the locals and there was a pool table in one room and in the other room were a cash register, shelves of canned goods and candy, a refrigerator full of generic sodas.  There were the regulars who would come by to put their quarter on the table to take their turn at pool and another quarter for a soda. I had not a clue what had taken place in that very location a century before. I would have asked a lot more questions of the old men that came in for cigarettes and gas. Bobby Gerhardt (my second cousin) was one of my favorites. He was a tall, blue eyed rancher with the a golden farmer's tan. He always wore a grin and joked with everyone he met. He spent evenings at my grandma's smoking cigarettes and drinking a cold one with with my uncle Jose Padilla out on the screened in porch.
The memory of Bobby Gerhardt's nightly visits took on a new light when I realized William Bonney had also spent time on a ranch just down the road from Puerto de Luna in Los Ojitos. The ranch was owned by Dr. John Gerhardt, a German immigrant born May 23, 1830. He and two of his brothers were from a family of twenty children. I am guessing they were looking for a better life when they landed in New York before he moved to New Mexico. He lived in Fort Sumner for a year working as baker-pastry maker, the profession for which he had been trained in Germany. He then bought a ranch in Guadalupe County and spent the remainder of his life as a rancher and physician. John was the only practicing doctor in the vicinity. I remembered stories of my Grandma Rosita Valdez Padilla's older brother Hilario Valdez being married to Dr. John Gerhardt's daughter Katie, They were married in February 1900. Hilario was the Gerhardt Ranch foreman for many years prior to marrying Katie Gerhardt. Later Hilario and his wife Katie had a ranch in Los Ojitos and my Grandma Rosita Valdez Padilla and my Grandpa Ascencion Padilla had an adjoining ranch. I'd heard the old folks speak of all of these characters my whole life but didn't pay much attention to the Spanglish (half English and half Spanish) conversations and private jokes that they had shared for years. 

Oddly, when I started doing the research I adopted a cat named Katie and then another named Rosita. It wasn't planned. It felt like it was a little private cosmic joke on me from the Universe that they came with the names of my grandma Rosita and her sister-in-law, Katie. Often, as I drank tea engrossed in my late night research, I imagined the sister-in-laws, Kate and Rosita, cooking posole together as they tended to fire in the wood burning stove and the children playing on the dusty wooden floors of their adobe houses while their husbands, Hilario and Ascencion worked the ranch. My grandparents later moved to Puerto de Luna because the ranch in Los Ojitos was flooded.

Los Ojitos Ruins more than a century after the flood

I found the following information on a New Mexico University Department of Anthropology website:

The rural community of Los Ojitos in Guadalupe County, New Mexico was settled in the late 1860s by a few families who filed homestead claims on public land just north of the Bosque Redondo Indian Reservation. The availability of land along the Pecos River appealed especially to Hispanic farmers and ranchers, some of whom looked south for new territory as a wave of American immigrants pushed into what is sometimes called the “Hispano homeland” in northern New Mexico. The site’s proximity to Fort Sumner/Bosque Redondo was also a factor; the first homestead claim in the area was made by a former soldier, John Gerhardt, and the fort purchased local meat and produce until the reservation was abandoned in 1868.
The Hispanic families who settled Los Ojitos were part of the first generation of Hispanic homesteaders in New Mexico. Many of these founding families came from Spanish- and Mexican-era land grant communities where grantees shared the rights to common lands and the responsibility to build and maintain irrigation ditches and other public structures. In contrast to the Spanish community land grants, the American homestead acts provided a mechanism for granting plots of land to individual families. The original version of the act in 1862 provided individual applicants with uniform, 160-acre parcels of land (some with access to water, many without) on which they were expected to establish self-sufficient family farms. In order to receive title to these lands, applicants were required to build a residence, improve the land for agriculture, and remain on the claim for at least five years.
Los Ojitos grew from a handful of homesteading families in 1870 to dozens between 1880 and 1910. Most of these families owned sheep or cattle or else managed livestock for other, wealthier families in the area. The heart of the community was a stretch of small springs (“ojitos”) that emptied into the Pecos River, providing clean, sweet water for the residents, their animals, and the subsistence gardens they maintained. On occasion the community was served by a small general store or a rural, one-room public school, but for most services (including church services), community members traveled by horse, wagon, or (in later decades) automobile to the larger towns of Puerto de Luna, Santa Rosa, or Fort Sumner.
New Mexico was finally admitted to the Union as a state in 1912, five years before the U.S. entered World War I and seven years before veterans returning from that conflict introduced the Spanish flu to the region. War, disease, and economic depression hurt the community during the early twentieth century, and many of those who remained in the late 1930s were forced out by the construction of a large reservoir downstream. By the mid-twentieth century, the site was abandoned.
The primary goal of fieldwork at Los Ojitos was to explore the impact of changing land tenure rules on these first-generation Hispanic homesteaders by looking at how their settlement and land-use practices shifted (or didn’t) from traditional strategies employed on Spanish land grants. Fieldwork at Los Ojitos included detailed documentation of architectural features, limited survey and surface collection, documentation of rock art, and excavation of test units in and around residential features included within the original Valdez and Ronquillo land claims. Most of the artifacts recovered from domestic contexts dated to the peak occupation of that community (1880–1910), with smaller numbers dating to the continuing occupation of the settlement between 1910 and 1950.

Needless to say, I have spent many late nights researching my family history. It took me years to piece together information which  was immensely important in a collection of the 1880, 1890 and 1900 census records. All of these census documents were filled out by my 3rd great-uncle, Lorenzo Labadie. Fortunately, since he was related to many of the people in the area, all the information was extremely accurate. These documents gave me not only the timeline for the family history but a birds eye view of the the closeness of the small community that my mother and father's families lived in.

In the wee hours of the night while doing research, I felt like I came to know Lorenzo and grew to love and respect him as a person. He was a key player in helping me piece together my family history. Our family history. Because of Lorenzo's accurate accounts of my family a century ago, I have been driven to do the same for my children, grandchildren and all my other relatives that will live long after I am gone.

Lorenzo was described as a handsome, honorable man who wore many hats. He was the grandson of my 4th great-grandfather, Dr. Dominique Labadie, an immigrant from Gascony, France. Lorenzo married Rayitos Giddings, a beautiful blue-eyed 14-year-old called "one of the fairest daughters of the territory," in February 1852. Rayitos was just as colorful in her own right. She was raised and educated by her great aunt, Maria Gertrudis Barcelo, AKA Madame La Tules, an intriguing, free-spirited woman who dominated Society in Santa Fe. She was known as one of the best professional gamblers in New Mexico. Rayitos later became a well known doctor. On the day of their wedding, as a wedding gift, Lorenzo received a commission from Governor James S. Calhoun as colonel of the territorial commission. In 1851 he was the Sheriff in Valencia County where he served 3 terms. Like his friend Kit Carson, he was a sympathetic and a loyal friend to many of the Native Americans. In 1855 he was appointed as a U.S. Indian Agent and served for 15 years. He gained respect and confidence seldom obtained by the Native Americans as an Agent. Under his watchful eye, the Native Americans worked side-by-side with soldiers, damming the Pecos River to irrigate crops, planting trees, and building a slaughter house. They had 94 gardens spread over a 100 acre area and grew melons, pumpkins, chile and green beans. He was removed as an agent because he protested against the Native Americans being furnished unwholesome food by the government.

Lorenzo was also the Post Master of Santa Rosa from 1884 until 1898. In 1885 he signed a petition to get Rifles for Puerto de Luna. On February 2, 1893 he won a case against Celso Baca for cheating on the Election for seat on the 30th Legislation Assembly of New Mexico as representation for Guadalupe County. Lorenzo was elected. On June 29, 1896 he wrote a letter concerning the Agua Negra Land Grant. Juan Patron, his son-in-law who had been killed, owned part of that land grant.

Page 2 - June 1 and 2, 1880
Census Taken by Lorenzo Labadie
Santa Rosa, NM

So without the census that was recorded of 1880, in Santa Rosa, Puerto de Luna, Los Ojitos, Cedar Springs and Ft Sumner I would just have some scattered stories. However, on June 1 and 2, 1880, Lorenzo recorded the census of Santa Rosa which included himself, his wife Rayitos and their children including Beatriz and her husband Juan Patron. (There's a book called "Juan Patron: A Fallen Star in the Days of Billy the Kid" Juan was a hero of the the Lincoln County War and was killed at a young age)

Page 22 - 1880 Census taken by Lorenzo Labadie
Ft Sumner, Cedar Springs and Los Ojitos

On June 17 and 18, 1880, he recorded Charles Bowdre, Manuela Bowdre and William Bonney. The two men stated that they worked in cattle. On the same page John Gerhardt and his family are listed (my Uncle Hilario's wife not listed because she wasn't born until 1882.) It took me over a year to find the next page of the census showing that on the next day, June 19, 1880 he was in the home of my Great-Grand Grandparents Febronio and Maria Valdez recording the various details of their home and 6 of their children (my grandmother wasn't born until 1884)

Page 23 - 1880 Census taken by Lorenzo Labadie
Puerto de Luna

The census for Puerto de Luna 1885 above shows many of the residents of Puerto de Luna. My Great-grandmother Dorotea Chavez is shown to be the wife of Juan Labadie y Sanchez, my great grandfather. My grandmother Josefita Labadie wasn't born until 1894. My Great-grandfather died in 1898, when my grandma was only 4. This is interesting because my grandma died when my dad was 3. Anyway, on this census there is a boarder at the home of Alexander Grzelachowski named Antonio Montoya. He married my Great-grandmother Dorotea Chavez after Juan Labadie y Sanchez died.

Lorenzo Labadie was also the census taker in 1900 in Puerto de Luna. This was probably the most important discovery of all for me on my journey to discover my father's past. My father's name was Felipe Montoya Fajardo. We were always told that my paternal grandmother's last name was Montoya, I never knew her since she died when my father was 3 of the Spanish Influenza.

1890 Census taken by Lorenzo Labadie
Puerto de Luna

On the 1900 Puerto de Luna census, Lorenzo recored Antonio Montoya as head of household with wife Dorotea. I thought I had hit the jackpot, finding my great-grandparents but with further examination, I saw that the six children were listed as step-children to head of household, 
Antonio Montoya. The children's last names were listed as Labadie. That was when I discovered that my grandmother Josefita was in fact a Labadie not a Montoya and this started my long journey down the Labadie branch of my family history. My great-grandfather Juan Labadie y Sanchez died and my grandma, Josefita and her siblings were adopted by their stepfather Antonio Montoya. I've often wondered what kind of relationship Lorenzo had with Dorotea, his deceased older brother's widow and mother of his nieces and nephews listed as Montoya's stepchildren. On the 1880 census Antonio Montoya was not yet married to Dorotea and and working at the Grzelachowski General Store.

Lorenzo died on his birthday, August 10, 1904
In Puerto De Luna, New Mexico.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Billy the Kid in Puerto de Luna - Part One

In 2014 my friend, Danny Santos sent this song to me that he had written about Billy the Kid. It prompted me to compile written documentation and photos that surrounded the life and times of Billy the Kid, as it pertains to my family history. Working on my genealogy and learning about these characters has been fascinating. Thanks for sharing your song with me Danny!

Billy he rode that New Mexico line
There was no truer friend of mine
There was no truer friend of mine

Billy Fandangoed and loved the ladies too
But to only one heart was he true
But to only one heart was he true

Outlaw with notches on his gun
Outlaw were more than twenty one
Outlaw but when his days were up
Billy the Kid died for love

Billy he laid sheriff Brady in his grave
To honor a promise that he made
To honor a promise that he made

Billy he busted his Lincoln county chains
To see his senorita again
To see his senorita again


Billy rode to Puerto De Luna that night
To Paulita's casita to hide
To Paulita's casita to hide

Billy yelled quien es who goes there my friend
A pistol his answer did send
A pistol his answer did send


Billy the Kid's legend parallels that of such ancient rogues as Robin Hood. In my personal history books, his actions have been condoned and his loyalty to the Hispanic community of New Mexico is treasured in affectionate memory. My personal favorite story is that of William Bonney teaching my Great-Uncle Hilario Valdez how to speak and read in English. Until recent times, I thought that happened when Hilario was an adult. After a couple of years of research, I realized William Bonney was about 20 and Hilario was about 7 and they lived on neighboring ranches. That makes him an even more endearing character to me. You can always trust the innate instincts of children, cats and dogs to gravitate towards the kind hearted souls to hang out with late in the evening, when the work day is done.

"Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid," the movie, was released in 1973, the year I graduated high school in Amarillo, Texas. The previous year, as a high school junior, I lived with my 90 year old grandmother Rosita Valdez Padilla in Puerto de Luna, New Mexico. PdL, as the locals call it, is located on the Pecos River 12 miles southeast of Santa Rosa,NM. It is hard for me to grasp that my grandson Dylan had just finished his junior year in high school in June of 2014, when I started seriously trying to piece together the parallels of "The Kid's" life and that of my ancestors in New Mexico. Yes, my grandson is named after Bob Dylan, partially because "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid" was one of my favorite movies and albums. I was touched on a level that I couldn't explain. I listened to the album day and night and watched the movie a hundred times. A very young, handsome 
Kris Kristofferson played Billy the Kid and Rita Coolidge played his girlfriend and they to me, were very cool. The sound track is still hauntingly beautiful to me. I actually fell in love with someone once because he danced with me in his kitchen to the soundtrack on our first date. Now Townes Van Zandt's "Pancho and Lefty" is my grandson Dylan's favorite song and even though the song isn't about Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, the story is similar. One of my favorite Willie Nelson movies is "The Red Headed Stranger" so I have this deep-seeded belief that the memory of those days in Puerto de Luna is a memory that my grandson and I carry in our DNA. It seems that we live in a parallel Universe and it bleeds over into our reality on occasion.

One evening in 2014, I was looking for a green chile recipes on the internet while my cats Katie and Rosita played on the floor at me feet. I started my search with "Hatch Chile" and the thought what the heck, I should search "Puerto de Luna Chile." It's a pride thing, sort of like having your favorite football team. My family has been growing "Puerto de Luna Chile" for generations. One thing lead to another, finding out that "Hatch Chiles" and "Puerto de Luna Chiles" are basically one in the same - Anaheim Peppers. While wine lovers celebrate wines from different regions, for whatever reason, the hot days and cool nights and red dirt does wonders for the flavor of the chiles in New Mexico and until recent years most grocery stores sold Anaheim peppers from California and Mexico. Now at the end of every growing season, every HEB and Central Market in Texas has a "Hatch Chile Festival." hour or so into the search, I forgot about the chile recipes when I discovered that an autographed tintype photo of William H. Bonney was being auctioned for millions of dollars. The tintype is believed to have been taken in 1873 in New Mexico when he was 14 years old. The article said that researchers believed Bonney had a crush on a young girl named Dona Valdez, who took food to him when he was in the custody of Sheriff Pat Garrett's jail in San Miguel County, N.M.
The back of the 2" X 2" photograph
bears a faint engraving reading:
"To Dona Valdez  Love, William Bonney

This peaked my interest because my Grandma Rosita's maiden name was Valdez and according to my cousin, Davy Delgado, Dona Valdez was probably a relative. After much research I realized it couldn't have been my grandmother because she wasn't born until 1884 but I thought there might be a chance that it was her older sister Carmelita.

It's a well known fact that Billy the Kid spent a lot of time in Puerto de Luna, the thriving County Seat of San Miguel County, NM in 1880. There were an abundance of sheep, cattle and horse ranches occupied by my maternal and paternal ancestors. There were gardens, apple orchards and vineyards along the muddy waters of the Pecos River. The gathering place was the Grzelachowski General Store, owned and operated by Alexander Grzelachowski, (Gre-ze-la-hof-ski), also known as Don Alejandro or Padre Polaco. Everyone in New Mexico obtains a nickname, especially if you have a surname like Grzelachowski.
Grzelachowski General Store, Puerto de Luna, NM
Grzelachowski General Store, Puerto de Luna, NM
Alexander Grzelachowski  (Don Alejandro)

Don Alejandro was a big blue eyed, bearded, hospitable Polish immigrant who had been a Catholic priest before settling in Puerto de Luna in 1872. He married Secundina Cabeza de Baca and they had eight children. Their daughter, Leticia Grzelachowski was married to my Great Uncle Adecasio Juan Padilla, my maternal grandfather Ascencion Padilla's brother. Both Pat Garrett and William Bonney frequented the Grzelachowski General Store and Don Alejandro had instructed the store clerks to allow Bonney to take whatever supplies he needed without interference. My father's step-grandfather, Antonio Montoya, worked at the Grzelachowski General Store.

Grzelachowski died in 1896
of injuries suffered when he was thrown
from the wagon he was riding
on the way to his Alamogordo ranch.

After spending a year in Puerto de Luna in high school, it had been a dream of mine to invest some time and money in the tiny community to bring it back to the glory days of the 1800's. Puerto de Luna, approximately ten miles south of Santa Rosa, held the county seat for Guadalupe County. Santa Rosa was smaller than Puerto de Luna until 1901 when the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad was built through Santa Rosa from the east, quickly followed by arrival of the El Paso and Northeastern Railway in February 1902, from the southwest, thereby creating a transcontinental connection. In 1991 my parents along with several hundred people attended the the unveiling of "The Grzelachowski General Store Historical Marker" in Puerto de Luna. I was hoping a surge of artist would discover PdL at that time and move away from the over priced Santa Fe area, but nothing ever came of it. I was busy raising 2 children in Austin, Texas.... dreaming of someday returning to New Mexico.

Pat Garrett

Pat Garrett and William Bonney were friends of the Grzelachowski family. Bonney loved visiting Don Alejandro because he spoke at least six languages, including fluent Spanish. He told stories about Europe. Bonney attended the dances at the Grzelachowski General Store and Garrett was known to often stop by the store to talk and eat dinner. Grzelachowski is best remembered by historians as the Puerto de Luna merchant who served Billy the Kid his last Christmas dinner. December of 1880 was a bitterly cold in New Mexico. Bonney was being transported to jail in Las Vegas by Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett, the lean, tough, 6-foot-4-inch sheriff of Lincoln County.  He was nick named “Juan Largo.” He and his posse arrived at Grzelachowski's General Store on Christmas Eve, 1880. They rested their horses in Puerto de Luna that day while defrosting themselves with mesquite fires and whiskey. On Christmas Day Grzelachowski served Christmas dinner. Bonney was sentenced to be hanged on May 13, 1881 but he escaped.

On July 14, 1881, Garrett told his deputies that he had killed the Kid. Some historians have questioned Garrett's account of the shooting, alleging that Billy the Kid was never shot. There has been much dispute over the details of the Kid's death. There were also popular stories that Garrett and Billy had once been friends, and that the shooting was a kind of betrayal. Legends persist that Billy the Kid was not killed that night, and that Garrett staged it all so the Kid could escape the law. Although Garrett was trying to help the community, most people in the area saw him as a villain for killing a favorite son.