Monday, July 24, 2023

Lucien Bonaparte (Luciano) Maxwell - Sept 14, 1818 - July 25,1875

The other day I was discussing my ancestry with a friend and they asked if I knew anything about Lucien Maxwell. I thought to myself, "Where do I begin?" Lucien Maxwell's life read like an old western story, because it was one of the best. 

Lucien Bonaparte (Luciano) Maxwell 

Lucien Bonaparte (Luciano) Maxwell was born on Sept 14, 1818, in Kaskaskia, Illinois, just south of St Louis and just west of the Mississippi River. He was the son of Hugh Maxwell, an Irish immigrant and Odile Menard, a French Canadian. 

Lucien's grandfather, Pierre Menard, was the first Lieutenant Governor of the State of Illinois. Lucien's parents were from neighboring towns of Kaskaskia, Illinois and Ste Genevieve, Missouri. I have always taken notice of ancestors who came from this area because my son his two children live St Louis and we have visited Ste Genevieve. It is the oldest permanent European settlement in Missouri.

Lucien's father and grandfather had trading businesses so it was only natural that the skills of fur trade were instilled in him. His father died at age 43 and Lucien went to St. Mary’s of the Barrens School for 2 years. At the age of 17, he left school and moved west. He was employed by the American Fur Company which had been purchased by a relative, Auguste Chouteau. While trapping in the Rockies Luciano met Kit Carson. They became friends for life. 

Lucien and Kit were in Taos for an annual fur trade fair. Lucien met a French Canadian merchant named Carlos Hippolito Trottier Beaubien. Carlos was married to Maria Paula Lovato. She was from a wealthy Hispanic family in Taos (she was my cousin on both sides of her family) Her parents were Buenaventura de Jesus Valdez (my 2nd cousin 6 generations ago) and Maria Juana Catarina Lovato my 2nd cousin 4 generations ago)

Luciano occasionally worked at Beaubien’s store and while working there, he met Beaubien’s daughter, María de la Luz Beaubien. At about the same time, his friend Kit Carson met Josefa Jaramillo, the daughter of a prominent, well-respected merchant father, Francisco Jaramillo and her mother, Maria Apolonia Vigil, who owned many acres in the Rio Grande area.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church
Taos, NM

On March 27, 1842, Luciano and Kit had a double wedding at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church next to Taos Plaza. Luciano married the beautiful, young, dark haired, hazel eyed Luz Beaubien and Kit married the beautiful, young, dark haired Josefa Jaramillo. The event was hosted by Josefa's older sister Ignacia and her husband, Charles Bent.

Both girls just happened to be from my large, prosperous Hispanic family. 

Maria de la Luz Beaubien’s 3rd great grandfather, Jose Luis Valdez was my 7th great grandfather. 

Josefa Jaramillo was related to me on both sides of her family. Her maternal great great grandfather, Domingo Montes Vigil was my 5th great grandfather. Her father, Francisco Estevan Jaramillo was my 2nd cousin 4x removed.

As a wedding gift, Luz's parents gave the couple 15,000 acres of the Miranda-Beaubien Land Grant which consisted in part the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. 

Charles Beaubien died in 1864. He left his share of the grant to his six children. However, Lucien and Luz bought out the other five heirs for amounts ranging from $3,000 to $6,000 dollars over the next five years, paying a total of $35,245 for 1,714,765 acres. They became the largest landowners in the world. They renamed the property "The Maxwell Land Grant" with headquarters in Cimarron.

Land grants have been an ongoing controversy in New Mexico for centuries. This one was no exception. The land was inhabited. In the 1800s, northern New Mexico and southern Colorado was the territory of the Apache and Ute Indians, later the Comanche. Development involved displacement and provoked violent confrontations between settlers and the native inhabitants.

It was such a crazy time in this continent's history. Soon after their weddings, Luciano and Kit Carson signed up with John C. Fremont for western expeditions. Fremont's explorations of the West in the 1840s were undertaken with the sponsorship of the United States government to expand the boundaries of the country, to make maps for Americans who wanted to settle in the area, and to notify Great Britain and Mexico that the U.S intended to expand its borders. Carson served as guide and Maxwell as chief hunter. 

Meanwhile, back home in Taos, Kit's brother-in-law, Charles Bent had been appointed Governor of the New Mexico territory during the Mexican-American War by the Americans. An Anglo American government rule came as a culture shock to the Native Americans who had lived on the land for centuries and then coexisted with Hispanic people during the Spanish colonization and then possession by Mexico. In January, 1847, protesting of the American's possession of the territory, the Taos Revolt broke out and an angry mob mob attacked the home of Charles Bent. They murdered his guards, and then assassinated and scalped Charles Bent, dragging Bent’s mangled body through the streets of Taos. The mob called for a full-scale rebellion against the American occupation and by the end of the evening, 15 others had been killed including Josefa's brother, Pablo Jaramillo and  Luz Beaubien’s 13 year old brother, Narcisco Beaubien. Ignacia and Josefa begged the mob to not kill them. Luz’s grandfather, Buenaventura de Jesus Valdez entered the Bent house too late to save Charles Bent but he intervened and saved the women and children. The attackers left, leaving the family in a state of shock. They went to stay with Luz’s grandparents, Maria Juana Catarina Lovato and Buenaventura De Jesus Valdez for three days until they could escaped to Santa Fe. Luciano returned to New Mexico, just as the Taos Revolt ended. 

After the American takeover of New Mexico, Kit Carson and 
Luciano moved their families to Rayado, on the southern portion of the land grant. They built a trading post and supply station for travelers on the Santa Fe Trail. 

Lucien Maxwell House in Rayado, New Mexico

In 1848 they were doing a very prosperous business as a merchant and contractor for the troops. A small army post existed at Rayado from 1847 to 1850. The other grantee of the land grant, Guadalupe Miranda sought refuge near El Paso after the American invasion and didn't return to New Mexico, eventually selling his portion of the grant to Maxwell. When Luciano's father-in-law, Carlos Beaubien died, Lucien bought out the rest of the family and became sole owner of the Maxwell Land Grant. It took two acts of Congress to validate his ownership.

Luciano and Luz's first child, Peter, was born in 1848, followed by siblings Virginia, Emilia, Sofia, Paulita, Odile. By 1851, about 20 families had settled at Rayado. 

I have extremely mixed emotions about this chapter of my family history, as I do most chapters. Simply because I had ancestors on both sides of the aisle. However, it's an informative history lesson and considering our county's current state of affairs with Mexico, it's a history lesson worth knowing. I really do believe that memories are carried in our DNA and I believe our purpose is to learn from mistakes and whatever we don't learn is carried on for generations. That is why I do ancestry research. I want to know what I am working with. I have spent years reading about my family history. What I know to be true is that Wikipedia gives a very white washed version, yet when I read Native American websites the story is very different, graphic and real. For instance, the Native websites brought to my attention that official permission to enter the New Mexico Territory to set up trade would have had to come from Mexico City, 1600 miles away. The opening of the Santa Fe Trail not only allowed American traders set up shop illegally, it very conveniently opened up the west to be invaded by the United States from the east. It's obviously that I had family members on both sides of the aisle just as and I have family members on both sides of the aisle today. 

My thoughts .... Greed is ugly and expecting everyone to think like you and share your beliefs is shallow, selfish and ignorant. 

... back to the story...

A decade after the founding of Rayado, the Maxwells moved to a new town, Cimarron at the spot where the Santa Fe Trail forded the Cimarron River, on a 22-square-mile tract they purchased from Luz’s parents. The Maxwells invited other families to settle on their land, but only rarely transferred ownership. Eventually, up to 500, mostly Hispanic, families lived and worked the land.

When Carlos Beaubien died in 1864, his six children inherited his share of the grant. Over the next 5 years Luciano and Luz bought out the other 5 heirs. The Maxwells now owned it in its entirety. They ran some 20,000 sheep, 1,500 cattle, and 400 horses and mules. A gristmill was completed in 1864. They ran a store in Cimarron and bought the Kitchen Brothers Hotel in Las Vegas. They owned a spacious home, with one room reserved for Luciano’s favorite diversion, poker. The Maxwell home in Cimarron was a meeting place for all sorts of people, from sheep herders to Native Americans, from wagon drivers to wealthy lawyers. They prospered, especially during the Civil War, because Maxwell furnished supplies to U.S. Army forces and grain and beef to the Fort Sumner Reservation while Navajos and Mescalero Apaches were interred there. Luciano also served as Indian agent at Cimarron for the Jicarilla Apaches and Utes who lived on and around the grant.

Life on the Maxwell Land Grant might have continued placidly with only moderate changes as the years passed, but it didn't. In 1868 there were signs of gold and a rush was on. The Maxwell-owned Aztec Mine opened. The Aztec produced about a million dollars in gold during its first year of operation. The Maxwell's income in 1868 was about $50,000, a fortune at the time.

In addition to a surge in income, discovery of gold on the grant meant an unprecedented influx of people. Elizabethtown and Red River sprang from nothing to a total population of about 10,000 people almost overnight. Maxwell leased claims to miners, sold them goods at a handsome profit, put up smelters, opened new ditches, built roads and sawmills. But life on the ranch was forever changed. 

Luciano Maxwell

Luciano and Luz realized how valuable the grant had become, and decided to sell and move. In April 1869, they were approached by a group headed by Senator Jerome Chaffee of Colorado seeking to buy the grant. Before Luciano was aware of what happened, he was no longer owner of the grant…receiving only $650,000 for the 1.75 million acres.

Luciano and Luz purchased the abandoned buildings and property of Fort Sumner and moved there. They remodeled the adobe officers’ quarters, creating a luxurious 20-room home, with corrals, storehouses and stables. Accompanying the Maxwells to Fort Sumner were a loyal group of employees, 25-30 Hispanic and Native American families from Cimarron. They established a cattle ranch and built an irrigation system five miles north of the post, including a dam. The 12-foot-wide acequia is more than six miles long with 15 miles of secondary ditches. 

Among his visitors at the new home were such legendary figures as Texas cattleman Charles Goodnight and New Mexico cattle baron John Chisum. But it was a legendary old west outlaw who left his mark most permanently on Maxwell’s home, Billy the Kid.

After the move to Fort Sumner, Lucien turned over most of his business affairs to his only son, Peter. His semi-retirement didn’t last long. He died unexpectedly on July 25, 1875 at the age of 56 of kidney failure. He didn’t leave a will. Luz outlived her husband by 25 years. She was a partner in the Maxwell and Brazil Cattle Company that ran 2,000 cattle on the Fort Union Reservation. Both she and Luciano were buried at Fort Sumner.

Lucien Maxwell's grave
In Old Fort Sumner Cemetery

After Luciano's death, his Fort Sumner mansion became the home of his son, Peter. He continued managing the family's cattle and sheep ranching and was responsible for many employees, but he mostly lived quietly in the shadow of his famous father.

Peter "Pedro" Menard Maxwell

Billy the Kid had long been taken in my the Hispanic families in and around Ft Sumner and Puerto de Luna and “The Kid” and Peter Maxwell were friends. More importantly, Billy knew Pete's sister, Paulita, even better. She is thought to have probably been the main reason Billy stayed so close to Fort Sumner even when he knew that Sheriff Pat Garrett was on his trail.

Paulita Maxwell

Billy the Kid was born on the east side of New York City, in 1859, as Henry McCarty. He moved west with his mother and stepfather, reaching New Mexico in 1873. By 1877, using the name William Bonney, he had killed his first man and launched his brief but colorful career as an outlaw. Over the next 4 years, he became one of the most notorious of the Old West’s outlaws. 

Billy the Kid

There are those who say Pat Garrett didn't kill Billy the Kid. I hope he didn't, however, the movie of 1973 "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid" not only had my all time favorite soundtrack but Kris Kristofferson, Rita Coolidge and Bob Dylan starred in the movie. So as the story goes... if you are a believer.... One night July 14, 1881, Garrett burst into Peter Maxwell’s home in Fort Sumner looking for Billy the Kid. He woke Peter and asked him if Billy was around. Just as he was asking, “The Kid,” who was visiting Paulita, sleepily stumbled into Pete’s bedroom and asked "Quien es? Quien es?"  Sheriff Pat Garrett spun around, fired his gun, and killed Billy the Kid on the spot.

The Maxwell House
Ft Sumner, NM

The Maxwell’s house in Fort Sumner would have been significant enough for just having been the final home of the West’s largest land baron, however it gained far greater attention as the place where one of the old west’s most famous outlaws was gunned down.

Legends persist that Billy the Kid was not killed that night, and that Garrett staged it all so the Kid could escape the law. Most people in the area, including my family still see Billy the Kid as a favorite son.

That is my very abbreviated version of how the Maxwells became part of my extended family. It's a story that has been repeated time and time again in my personal  written history for over 500 years ...... A cowboy rides into town, marries into the large, prosperous Hispanic family .... The End.