Visit the Old West Town of Las Vegas, New Mexico

Las Vegas, New Mexico is an historic old west town that just so happened to be on a very important overland trail and it’s a must stop during your next tour of New Mexico. The old Santa Fe Trail passed directly through town used by traders going between Santa Fe, New Mexico and points in Missouri to the east. The Santa Fe Trail had it’s roots extending all the way back to the 1820’s shortly after Mexico took over rule from Spain.

las vegas new mexico history

Las Vegas, NM

The Santa Fe Trail

Las Vegas New Mexico was a major location long before the railroad arrived. Las Vegas found itself directly on the Santa Fe Trail and was considered the largest town between it and Dodge City Kansas.

The Santa Fe Trail was established as a trade route between the U.S. states to the east and Mexico. Quite a lot of trading went on there during the Santa Fe Trail days. There are several locations in New Mexico today where tourists can still see the wagon ruts dating back to the 1800’s.

The Railroad Reaches Las Vegas, NM

When the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad reached Las Vegas New Mexico much later in 1880, everything changed. During the late 1800’s, the railroads out towns of the old west on the map.  What was at one time a small settlement would become a booming town almost overnight. In some respect, the railroad laying it’s tracks through a town had the same effect as the excitement of the California Gold Rush.

In addition to the building construction, the railroad helped make Las Vegas a cattle rail head. Between the railroad cattle trade, the key geographic location on the Santa Fe Trail and the colorful characters of the old west attracted to this new boom town, it’s probably an understatement to say that Las Vegas New Mexico was one of the New Mexico towns that changed dramatically during all the way from the 1820’s to the twentieth century.

las vegas new mexico historic buildings

Many buildings on the National Register

Today, when you visit Las Vegas, New Mexico, many of the old buildings you see were constructed shortly after the railroad arrived. Today, Las Vegas New Mexico is a treasure trove of nineteenth century structures, the town now has more than nine hundred buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. Las Vegas also found it’s place in early Hollywood film making. The legendary Hollywood cowboy Tom Mix shot some of his movies in Las Vegas New Mexico and to this day the town is a popular movie shoot location.

Outlaws and Gamblers of Las Vegas’ Past

A case could be made that Las Vegas was one of the wilder old west towns of New Mexico. Actually, many well known characters passed through the town at one time or another.

Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid

There was the well known incident when sheriff Pat Garrett was transporting the arrested  Billy the Kid to the Santa Fe jail from the Fort Sumner area to the southeast. Las Vegas was a stop on the trip to Santa Fe. The story is that one of the prisoners Pat Garret was transporting along with the Kid had a lot of enemies in Las Vegas. Garrett, his deputies and the prisoners after riding up from Fort Sumner boarded the train in Las Vegas for the 55 mile trip to Santa Fe. To get out of the Las Vegas train station in one piece, the party had to hole up in one of the train cars with shotguns at the ready. The Las Vegas mob was intent on not letting the train depart. There were serious threats made to Garrett and violence looked imminent but the train car wasn’t rushed. Eventually Garrett made his way to Santa Fe safely where Billy the Kid and the others were jailed.

Doc Holliday Moves to Las Vegas

There’s another tale about the well known Doc Holliday and Las Vegas New Mexico. It seems that Doc Holliday relocated to Las Vegas in 1879 and opened up a saloon in the middle of town with a partner. He wasn’t there but a few months when an argument erupted between Holliday and a well known and locally liked gunman. The story is that Holliday invited the gunman to begin shooting whenever he was ready. The gunman did and so did Doc Holliday and the gunman was killed. Holliday left Las Vegas shortly after this shooting to avoid being killed by the gunman’s friends.

See the Trips Into History articles found on the links below…

The Doctors on the Old American Frontier

Fort Union, NM Santa Fe Trail Wagon Ruts

la castenada harvey house

The old Harvey House, Las Castenada

The Notorious Silva Gang

Another noted outlaw from Las Vegas was Vicente Silva. In this case, Silva was a local saloon owner who gathered together a group of Hispanics into what was referred to as the Silva Gang. The gang also had other names such as Society of Bandits, Forty Bandits and Silva’s White Caps.

Their dubious credits included rustling, murder and theft in general. The distinction of the Silva gang was that it’s leader ran a prosperous business in Las Vegas during the day and then at night turned into one of the most feared outlaws in the area. The saloon obviously served as a good front. It also came to be known that Silva had connections with a few local lawmen that aided the gang’s survival. Vicente Silva died in 1893 and that pretty much spelled the end of his gang.

las vegas new mexico amtrak

Amtrak’s Southwest Chief in Las Vegas, NM

Your Visit to Las Vegas, NM

You will find the railroad tracks and train station a short distance away from the town’s plaza. Directly next to the train station is the Castenada which at one time was a large and first class Harvey House Hotel.

Today, Amtrak’s Southwest Chief makes a daily stop from each direction on it’s route between Chicago and Los Angeles. There is van service available from the train station to the Plaza.

The Las Vegas Plaza area is surrounded by many historic buildings including the Plaza Hotel. Six miles outside of town is the old ornate Harvey House Montezumas Castle which today houses the United World College.

For more detailed information on planning your visit to Las Vegas, New Mexico see…www.visitlasvegasnm.com

(Article and photos copyright Trips Into History)

Historic Attractions and Events in Georgetown, Texas

Georgetown, Texas was founded in 1848 and was named for George Washington Glasscock. Glasscock had donated the land of which the new town was built. Interestingly enough, the site had much earlier been a village for the Tonkawa Indians.

georgetown texas shops

Shops around the Georgetown Square

The people who originally settled Georgetown were immigrants comprised mostly of  Swedish, German, Austrian, Swiss, Moravian and Czech. Other early settlers were  Americans from the southern states.

The growth of Georgetown, Texas was spurred by the founding of Southwestern University in 1873 and with a railroad line coming through in 1878. By 1904 a railroad connected down to Austin, the state capital.

 

In addition to these, cotton was a huge economic driver and brought jobs and money to Georgetown.

When you visit Georgetown, Texas, the structures on all four sides of the courthouse square are a part of the Town Square Historic District. Below are stories about two of these major historic structures…

Williamson County Courthouse

The Williamson County Courthouse is one of the many beautiful old county courthouses you’ll see throughout the state. The town became the county seat in the year of it’s founding. This was some twelve years after the Texas Revolution which freed the land from Mexican rule. The first of what would be five courthouses was built in 1849. Court was first held under a live oak tree one block south of the courthouse square until the county’s first courthouse, a very small one-room log house, was completed in early 1849.

williamson county courthouse history

Williamson County Courthouse in Georgetown, Texas

The second courthouse for Williamson County Texas was a one story, 14 x 30 foot, wood frame home just off the square on the same block as the log courthouse. This second courthouse was used from 1851 to 1857.

The third courthouse was constructed directly on the square in 1857. This third structure was a 50 foot square, two-story limestone building with 2 foot thick walls and a hipped  roof and it was the first stone building in Georgetown. The third courthouse had various structural problems which had to be completed over several years. In 1873, four iron rods that were the length of the building had to be installed to stabilize the entire structure.

The county’s fourth courthouse was designed in 1877 by Austin architect Frederick E. Ruffini and his partner Jasper N. Preston. Ruffini himself was involved in the design of many courthouses in Texas including the Bell and Bastrop County structures. The cost of this fourth Williamson County Courthouse was $27,500 and was a was a large three story Second Empire style building made of stone with pediments, roof cresting, an elaborate cornice, corner pavilions with Mansard cupolas and a large rounded cupola over the front entrance. The new building was completed in 1878. By 1909, the fourth courthouse was no longer considered safe and plans were made to erect a new courthouse.

See more Trips Into History Articles on the links below…..

Visit Historic Round Rock Texas

Visit the National Ranching Heritage Center

The current and fifth Williamson County Courthouse was completed in 1911. The corner­stone was laid Oct. 6, 1910. The building has gone through several renovations and modifications. The architectural style is Greek Revival. With the assistance of the Texas Historical Commission and the dedication of preservation minded county citizens and officials, the fifth courthouse of Williamson County has been returned to its original 1911 splendor, once again becoming a focal point of the county.

masonic building georgetown texas history

Historic Masonic Building

Historic Georgetown Texas Masonic Lodge Building

Prior to 1900, the Lodge had a two story wooden building on the same lot, used the upper story for meetings, and rented the first floor to the post office.The current San Gabriel Masonic Lodge building was built in 1900 and is one of the most interesting structures on the Georgetown Courthouse Square. Masonic ceremonies for lay­ing the cornerstone were held July 6, 1900, and the building was completed December 8, of that year.The building is topped off with an onion dome, an architectural element common in Eastern Europe. One hundred and three years after it’s construction, the Masonic Lodge building was renovated in 2003.

Georgetown Texas Events

Located just 27 miles north of Austin, Georgetown is a fun town to visit and features many events throughout the year. Georgetown hosts some of the biggest family friendly events and festivals in the Texas Hill Country. Walk around the Georgetown Square and visit the unique shops including antique stores. You’ll find many great dining choices when in Georgetown which offers kid menus and ranges from American classics, Mexican, French and more.

An excellent website for a calendar of events is…http://visit.georgetown.org/events/

(Article and photos copyright Trips Into History)

 

Three San Francisco Sightseeing Stops Not to Miss

For those with the opportunity to visit San Francisco, California..one of the unique cities in the U.S… they will not find a shortage of historic, fun and one of a kind sites to visit. In this article we wanted to highlight three of these sites...Nob Hill…the Cable Car Museum and the World War Two submarine, U.S.S. Pampanito.

nob hill hotels

Fairmont Hotel,, San Francisco, CA

Nob Hill

The Nob Hill area came into being in the late 1800’s when the city of San Francisco was growing rapidly. New neighborhoods were being created every year and would eventually reach westward all the way to the Pacific Ocean.Nob Hill was originally the location where wealthy San Franciscan’s once desired to build their mansions.

The views from Non Hill were second to none. From Nob Hill you could have great views of both the city and bay.

The Fairmont Hotel

One of the most well known hotels on Nob Hill is the Fairmont. This outside of this hotel has been seen featured in movies and television over many years. The Fairmont Hotel was still in it’s final construction stage when the great earthquake and fire of 1906 destroyed San Francisco.

After the earthquake, the building itself remained intact. The interior however was severely damaged by fire and as a result the hotel’s opening was pushed back one year until 1907. During this time the building was also reinforced with concrete that could help it survive another earthquake. For those wondering how the hotel received it’s name, it was named after U.S. Senator James Graham Fair. It so happened the hotel was constructed by his daughters, Virginia Fair Vanderbilt and Theresa Fair Oelrichs.

The Mark Hopkins Hotel

Another well known hotel you’ve most likely heard of is the Mark Hopkins. The Mark Hopkins Hotel had a very different history than it’s neighbor the Fairmont. The land where the Mark Hopkins sits was at one time the home of Mark Hopkins, one of the Big Four investors and founders of the famous Central Pacific Railroad.It was the Central Pacific which met the Union Pacific in Utah to form the nation’s first transcontinental railroad.

Cable Car Museum

If you have an opportunity to visit San Francisco, one very fun and educational stop to make is the Cable Car Museum. There is no charge to visit the museum.The Cable Car Museum not only showcases vintage San Francisco cable cars, cable car mechanisms and their fascinating history but also lets you see for yourself just how the system operates today.

cable car museum photos

Power House at Cable Car Museum

The museum is also a cable car power house which operates the underground cable system today. The museum is obviously unique where you can get a feel for the old cable car days as well as the ones you ride today.

The power house itself is off limits to visitors, there are two galleries which allow you to see the cables and machinery in action. There is also an area underground where visitors can see the cables operating under Washington and Mason Streets pulling along the cable cars up above.

The Cable Car Museum is truly one of the most unique you’ll come across during your travels.

 

 

You may also enjoy the Trips Into History articles on the links below…

One of a Kind Stops Along Old Route 66

See the USS Midway / San Diego’s Premiere Attraction

Submarine Museum / U.S.S. Pampanito

If touring an old World War Two diesel submarine interests you than be sure to see the U.S.S. Pampanito. Located at Fisherman’s Wharf, this submarine is open for tours inside the submarine from front to back. The USS Pampanito is a treasure and has quite a patrol record in the Pacific during the war. This self guided tour will give you a great feel for what it was like serving on her and living in cramped quarters for extended periods.

world war two submarines

World War Two submarine U.S.S. Pampanito

The history of the U.S.S. Pampanito is as follows… The vessel was built in 1943 at the Navy Yards in Portsmouth New Hampshire. The cost of her construction was six million dollars which was quite a lot of money in the early 40’s but probably sounds like a rock bottom bargain price for a submarine today. The Pampanito is 311 ft 9 inch in length and her beam is 27 ft 3 in. Her typical crew compliment was 70 enlisted men and 10 officers.

The submarine’s operating depth was about 400 feet and her speed was 21 knots on the surface and about 9 knots while submerged.

After the Pampanito’s shakedown cruise in the Atlantic, the new submarine headed directly for Pearl Harbor via the Panama Canal and arrived there in February 1944. Her deployment therefore was during the latter part of the Pacific War. Between 1944-45 the Pampanito completed six war patrols in the Pacific Theater. There are maps that show the areas of each one of her patrols.

(Article and photos copyright 2016 Trips Into History)

Rancher Women of America’s Old West

When the American Civil War ended, the era of the big western ranches began. There were large ranches prior to the war but not many. The King Ranch of southeast Texas is probably the largest ranch of note prior to the war. Being located in Texas at the time of the war, the King Ranch and it’s owner, Richard King, were indeed involved in the conflict.

old ranch bunkhouse

Cowboy bunkhouse exhibit from old Goodnight Ranch

King’s ranch was raided several times by Union forces in Texas. They considered it a stopping off site for traveling and resupply for Confederate forces. In fact, Union forces arrived at one time with orders for Kings arrest. Lucky for King he was learned in advance of the raid and fled.

Female Contributions to the Western Expansion / Rancher Women of the Old West

Women were certainly a part of the western frontier and they made very important contributions. There are some interesting stories about the introduction of women on the American western frontier and particularly as wives of ranchers. The women we are referring to here are not the typical cowgirls.

What the frontier woman did do was work hard in difficult settings and contributed in a big way to the civilizing of the west. To understand the settling of the American frontier outside of Hollywood stereotypes, a look at how the wives of ranch owners adapted to their new surroundings is quite enlightening. The presence of someone in the old west who could cause a cowboy to act more gentlemanly had to be appreciated.

cattle drive cowboys

Cattle drive structure

For the most part, women married to ranchers were brought into the frontier “after” the male established himself. Conditions were rough in the decade after the Civil War and the man striving to get a herd together and start a ranch had all he could do to provide suitable living conditions for himself.

Most aspiring ranchers thought the conditions just too harsh and dangerous for their wife or new bride. The idea at the time was to establish oneself in the ranching industry and then return to one’s hometown to find yourself a bride, or if you had a wife, make arrangements to take her out west. This was the beginning of adventure for many a frontier woman.

Mrs. Charles Goodnight

In the book Cattle Kingsby author Lewis Atherton, several observations are made as to the type of woman that a rancher seemed to gravitate towards. For the most part, they chose a like minded wife. The rancher himself was a strong individualist, one of the reasons he turned to ranching in the first place, and many times this was the type of partner they preferred.

A good example was Charles Goodnight, one of the more successful ranchers in the Texas Panhandle region. Before settling in Texas, Goodnight established a ranch in Colorado and married for the first time only after the ranch was operating. Mrs. Goodnight was an adventuresome pioneer woman and the ranch life in Colorado seemed to satisfy her. Everything however was disrupted due to the  financial panic of 1873. This  bankrupted the Goodnights. While Charles took care of the ranch debts he sent his wife to live in California.

Rancher Charles Goodnight planned on reestablishing himself of which he eventually did in the area of Pala Duro Canyon, just outside present day Amarillo, Texas.

Not shying away from adventure it seems that Mrs. Goodnight spent much of her time as a frontier woman patching the clothes of cowboys and tending to the small and non-luxurious home. Mrs. Goodnight did enjoy adventure and didn’t shy away from the hardship remote living brought. Futures were not guaranteed. The hope was that after a few years of hard work in inhospitable surroundings, prosperity would eventually come and the days ahead would be better. Ranching was a gamble and the rancher preferred a wife who understood the situation.

How successful a rancher was pretty much dictated what the rancher’s wife had to endure. The wives of some of the bigger ranchers no doubt had workers present who do a lot of the chores for them. In other cases, life could be tough.  Cooking, sewing, fetching what water was available for washing and in many cases helping her husband with regular cowboy duties could be required. It really was a life of voluntary sacrifice with the hope of better days ahead.

Alice Littlefield

Another western rancher of the post Civil War era was George Littlefield. The ranch / farm was in the area of Gonzales Texas.

In the year 1869 the Littlefields were struggling earning about $150 per year by farming. Littlefield was an ex Confederate officer and Mrs. Littlefield came from a southern plantation and was accustomed to rural life. Becoming a frontier woman may not have represented that big of a change.

xit cowboys

XIT Ranch Cowboys

Alice Littlefield lived a tough life on the Littlefield farm but circumstances changed dramatically after they became involved in cattle ranching. The Littlefields represented what the successful, and perhaps lucky, rancher could achieve.

Over the early 1870’s Littlefield drove cattle to Kansas rail heads and expanded his enterprise. Over the years he had several ranches throughout Texas and into New Mexico with the LIT being one of his biggest. At one time his cattle branded LFD grazed over an area of Eastern New Mexico the size of the state of Rhode Island.

Alice enjoyed being involved with philanthropy and was responsible to a large degree for George’s many charitable contributions. The Littlefields were one of the founders of the University of Texas in Austin. The Littlefields had two children but unfortunately both were lost during infancy. Most likely as a result of their misfortune they were very close to his extended family, paying for the college education for all of his many nieces and nephews.

You may also enjoy the Trips Into History Stories on the links below…

The National Ranching Heritage Center

Battle of Pala Duro Canyon Texas

 

Excellent Venues to Learn About the Frontier Ranch Life

The National Cowboy Western & Heritage Museum- Oklahoma City, OK

The King Ranch Museum- South of Corpus Christi, Texas

The National Ranching Heritage Center- Lubbock, TX

MacGregor Ranch Museum- Estes Park, CO

The Farm and Ranch Museum- Elk City, OK

New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum- Las Cruces, NM

(Article and photos copyright Trips Into History)

One Of A Kind Trip Stops Along Old Route 66

Old Route 66

The old Route 66 is one of the most historic drives in North America. this highway stretching from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California in many ways tells the story of the modern day expansion across America’s Southwest. Over the decades portions of  Route 66 were altered and with the beginning of the Interstate highway system, a good portion of the Mother Road was lost altogether.

amarillo route 66The western road traveler can still find substantial portions of the old Mother Road in several states. The longest uninterrupted section being found in western Arizona. Many old landmarks remain and the signage you’ll see on the Interstates are pretty good in pointing them out.

During the heyday of Route 66 travel, motels sprang up right and left. Prior to the Interstate Highway System, Route 66 was the main artery into the southwest and into California. Thousands of people traveled the Mother Road to California during the Great Depression as was chronicled in John Steinbeck‘s 1939 novel, The Grapes of Wrath.

Route 66 was the trail out of the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s and hopefully to a new start and employment in California.

old route 66 bridges

Old Route 66 bridge west of Albuquerque, NM

Surviving Landmarks Along Today’s Route 66

Some of the Route 66 landmarks still remaining include bridges, abandoned service  This applies to towns and cities all along Interstate 40 from Oklahoma all the way to the West Coast. When you exit the Interstates and take a short drive through many of these towns there is quite a lot of old history to explore. Along this stretch of Interstate 40 you’ll find that the original old route still runs through the center of many towns and cities, usually as main street. This is true even though the Interstate itself passes either north or south of the town.

Theaters

When Route 66 was being developed during the 1920’s, the movie theater industry was expanding. As a result there still remains many old theater buildings along old Route 66 with the type of architecture you don’t see too often today. Some theaters of note along the way include the Kimo Theater on old Route 66 in downtown Albuquerque New Mexico. The Kimo’s art deco style is very unique.

The Kimo design  is actually Art Deco blended in to the Southwest style. Many believe that the Kimo Theater is Albuquerque’s most popular landmark. The city purchased the theater in 1977 to keep it from being demolished. There have been several renovations and today the Kimo Theater is open showing films, featuring live plays and is also used for various private and civic functions.

albuquerque historic landmarks

Kimo Theater, Albuquerque, NM

Amarillo Texas also offers an historic old movie theater. The Paramount Theater was located in the southern section of downtown Amarillo about one block off old Route 66. The Paramount Theater was built in 1932. Similar to many large theaters built in this period, The Paramount Theater included a wide-set staircase with covered with maroon carpeting as it curved to the upper balcony seating area. The theater could seat 1,200 beneath a blue sunburst design on the ceiling. The one large screen was behind heavily draped curtains and gold framing. The Paramount in Amarillo charged fifteen cents for admission when it opened for business during the Great Depression. The Paramount Theater building still sports it’s marquee and definitely worth a drive by when passing through downtown Amarillo, Texas. Today the handsome and historic structure serves as an office building.

Grants, New Mexico is also the site of an old rundown theater that was built during the Great Depression in 1937. The theater is found along the main street through town which happens to be old Route 66. Grants is located about 79 miles west of Albuquerque via Interstate 40. The Lux Theater was capable of seating some 500 plus patrons

Much of the structure which is situated in a strip of three buildings is now boarded up but the marquee and old neon tubing remains. The theater was built when a great many people traveled Route 66, many heading west to California looking for employment.

Historic Hotels

East of Flagstaff you’ll find a luxury hotel, La Posada, directly on old Route 66 in Winslow Arizona. The La Posada was originally built by Fred Harvey and the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad.It was and still remains a popular and historic destination.

This Route 66 landmark was originally built next to the Winslow train station in 1929. Winslow was chosen as an ideal site for another Harvey House because it’s location in Winslow is a days drive or less from many popular northern Arizona tourist destinations  including the Grand Canyon to the west and Navajo Reservation just to the north. The La Posada Harvey House could attract travelers from either the railroad line or old Route 66. The AT & SF railroad operated the hotel for twenty-seven years and then closed it to the public in 1957.

old harvey house hotels

Interior of La Posada Hotel, Winslow, AZ

The future of the structure was of course in doubt when the railroad gave it up. The fear of many was that the building might be torn down. Efforts were underway to preserve it. The National Trust for Historic Preservation became aware of the situation and became involved. Fortunately, the La Posada Hotel was purchased by a small group that restored the hotel to it’s grand condition.

The hotel is very popular today with many making it a regular stop when traveling through Winslow. If you travel on Interstate 40, you will enjoy stopping at Winslow and visiting and/or lodging at this historic hotel. If you’re traveling on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, the train makes a scheduled stop at the hotel.

There’s plenty of interesting sites to see along the old Route 66. If you haven’t driven this historic route yet we recommend it as a fun and educational family trip.

(Article and photos copyright Trips Into History)