Monday, January 17, 2022

...and without a single shot

The cold month of January in St Louis, during a pandemic leaves me with a lot of time on my hands so I have been doing a lot of ancestry research and reading. I began my leisure reading about the American artist of the American Old West, Charles Marion Russell. He created more than 2,000 paintings of cowboys, Native Americans, and landscapes set in the western United States. A Charles M Russell print of "The Wagon Boss" hung in my parents living room most of my childhood. I spent hours gazing at that art, thinking about the cowboy out on the range. 

The Fajardo's Thanksgiving dinner
1970 with "The Wagon Boss" 
on the wall on the knotty pine wall.
1804 Magnolia, Amarillo, TX

"The Wagon Boss"
Painted by Charles Marion Russell 

Charles Marion Russell 

This week I discovered that the artist, Charles Marion Russell was a nephew of Charles Bent, the first United States governor of the New Mexico Territory. This is of interest to me because Charles Bent was also the brother-in-law to my cousin, Josepha (Josephine) Jaramillo and her husband Kit Carson. Josepha's older sister, Maria Ignacia Jaramillo was married to Charles Bent. These 2 sisters, descended from one of New Mexico's oldest and most respected families played an important role in the history of New Mexico.

Charles Bent

The Bent family was both powerful and controversial. Charles Bent and his younger brother William Bent were fur traders from St Louis, Missouri. Though the Bent brothers grew up to become the stereotypical traders and mountain men of the West, their father, Silas Bent was a prominent land surveyor and Supreme Court judge for the Missouri Territory. 

Bent's Fort

The brothers established mercantile contacts and began a series of trading trips back and forth on the Santa Fe Trail. In 1830, they formed a partnership with Ceran St. Vrain, another trader from St. Louis and their new endeavor was called "Bent, St. Vrain & Company." In addition to their store in Taos, New Mexico, the trading company established a series of trading posts to facilitate trade with the Native Americans. The largest of them all was the 170 sq. ft. adobe structure called Bent's Fort. Located strategically at the  junction of the Arkansas and Purgatory rivers, this settlement in southeast Colorado served as a major trade center between trappers and Plains tribes. For much of its 16-year history, the fort was the largest American permanent settlement on the Santa Fe Trail.

The Santa Fe Trail

Then, in 1846, the Mexican-American War broke out. This marked the first United States armed conflict chiefly fought on foreign soil. It pitted a politically divided and militarily unprepared Mexico against the expansionist-minded administration of United States under President Polk. The U.S. had annexed Texas, which Mexico considered part of its territory. This spurred the long and bloody American-Mexican War. Mexico relinquished all claims to Texas and recognized the Rio Grande as the southern boundary with the United States. What we now consider the Southwest wasn’t part of the United States until 1848. It was the northernmost part of Mexico until then. Mexico ceded 55% of its country to the U.S. without a shot being fired. The governor of New Mexico, Manuel Armijo surrendered to Brigadier General Stephen Watts Kearny at the Battle of Santa Fe. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed in February 2, 1848. It was a triumph for American expansion, to say the least. The conquest of land west of the Rio Grande was called, included the current states of New Mexico, California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and portions of Colorado and Wyoming.

The tan portion on the map was taken
from Mexico in the American-Mexican War


This is why when WE, as a nation, celebrate events from the year 1776 in the United States, I cringe. The Declaration of Independence means nothing to me and my ancestors. I don't know much about the history of the other states but after the American invasion of New Mexico many of its inhabitants were not pleased to have to give allegiance to the United States. This was made worse when a measles outbreak – believed to have been carried to the southwest by US troops. It raged through Santa Fe, killing many New Mexican children.

The volunteer troops from Missouri added to the already building tension once their payroll arrived, causing a wave of drinking and gambling. The rowdiness led to resentment from the Hispanic population. The newly appointed Governor Charles Bent was concerned.
On the surface, peace had been maintained, however below the surface tensions were raging. It was too much change too fast for the locals. On January 19,1847, Bent traveled from Santa Fe to his hometown of Taos without military protection. An angry group of Taos Pueblo natives and local Hispanic residents marched on the governor's house. Bent tried to calm them down but they grabbed him from the house, shot him and scalped him, dragging his body through town. Meanwhile Josepha Carson and her sister Ignacia Bent used a poker and spoons to dig a hole through the adobe wall to escape with the children. They were left in their night clothes and all of their belongings were stolen. The family tragedy did not end with Charles Bent’s assassination. Josepha and Ignacia's brother, Pablo was also killed.

When the federal Government tried to seize Bent’s Fort, William Bent burnt it to the ground. It has been called the "Taos Revolt" however they weren't rebelling against a legitimate government. What happened was more of a beginning of a resistance.

As strange as it seems to me, Kit Carson played a pivotal role in American victory simply because he served as a United States military guide for Captain John Fremont. Carson was dispatched to Washington, D.C. to announce the acquisition of California to the United States. On the way, he intercepted General Stephen Watts Kearney's expedition near Yuma, Arizona and returned with him to California. This kept Carson away from his family for 2 years. Carson and Kearny confronted a Mexican force at the Battle of San Pasqual in December 1846 and with Kearney’s forces surrounded, Carson crept through enemy territory to alert United States forces in San Diego. The combined force drove the Mexican army north where they eventually surrender to John C. Fremont in the Treaty of Cahuenga January 13, 1847.

I can only imagine what home life was like during those trying times. Kit Carson had settled in New Mexico with the intent to live a peaceful life of farming and sheep herding. That didn't happen. I feel like the political climate was much like it is today. They just had to pick a side even if they didn't fully believe in all of the policies. In the long run, the Bent and the Russell families disowned Charles and George Bent. Their nephew, Charles M Russell, was born March 19, 1864, almost 20 yrs after the Mexican-American War. Charles grew up in Missouri and art was always the focus of his life. He drew sketches and made clay figures of animals. He left home at the age of 16 to seek his own adventure in Montana and lived the life of a painter. He also became an advocate for Native Americans in the west, supporting the bid by landless Chippewa to have a reservation established for them in Montana. In 1916, Congress passed legislation to create the Rocky Boy Reservation. And you thought your family had political differences.

Still, as I research this history, I find it disturbing that I have discovered so many men in my family tree who migrated from Missouri and married into our large Hispanic family, who just happened to be extremely rich in land and cattle. 

Today I found a report on the series by ABC News,  "Turning Point," examining the racial reckoning sweeping the United States and exploring whether it can lead to lasting reconciliation.

The agreement between the United States and Mexico was immortalized in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which gave around 100,000 Mexican nationals living in those territories citizenship if they decided to stay. My family stayed. The agreement was supposed to protected the rights of anyone's whose land became a part of the U.S. in the Mexican-American War. That didn't happen. When Mexico negotiated the treaty in good faith, they thought that all of people's rights would be respected. After the treaty, the government systematically disenfranchised Mexican citizens. When the treaty was sent to Congress, the Senate removed the article that laid out the process by which the land grants would be protected. In 1848, there were 154 communities in New Mexico to whom the U.S. government guaranteed land. But most of those land grants, were never honored. Today, only 35 land grants remain. This is more than heartbreaking to me. So just to keep my sanity, I can't think of lost property. I reflect back on the love story of Kit Carson and his wife, my cousin, Josepha (Josephine) Jaramillo.

Josepha (Josephine) Jaramillo
There's no doubt that it was love at first sight for Kit and Josepha. She was only 15 when she married the 33 yr old, well-known frontiersman. Her father, Francisco Jaramillo would not permit them to marry because Carson was illiterate. Francisco was an educated man and very well respected in the community. He was aware that Carson was an accomplished scout, traveling the western territories, but hoped his daughter would marry someone with a scholastic background and a member of the Catholic faith. Kit was determined to make Josefa his wife and decided to convert to Catholicism and they were married. Their padrinos were George Bent and his wife María de la Cruz Padilla.Three months after the wedding, Carson left on the first of many expeditions he would participate in during his married life. During the Mexican-American War he was gone for at least 2 years. Their love remained  unscathed until they died, within a month of each other in 1868. The Carsons welcomed their seventh child into the world on April 13, 1868.  Two weeks after their daughter was born, Josefa died of complications from that birth. Kit was heartbroken over the loss of his wife.. He died of a ruptured abdominal aneurism on May 23, 1868. Kit and Josefa are buried in the Kit Carson Park in downtown Taos, New Mexico. Josepha's sister Ignacia became the Carson children’s guardian. She cared for them until her death in 1883.

Kit Carson