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)

Drive the High Road To Taos / NM Road Trips

The High Road to Taos is a great scenic drive in northern New Mexico and a culturally rich drive. This part of New Mexico is an artist mecca and it’s also a great side trip while visiting either Santa Fe or Taos.

rancho de taos mission

Mission in Rancho de Taos

A 56 Mile Scenic Drive

The High Road to Taos drive is 56 miles in total length as it winds it’s way along the Sangre de Cristo Mountains between Santa Fe and Taos. Your drive will take you through art communities and it’s unique galleries as well as through Native American villages.

The south end of this drive begins at the intersection of US Hwy 285/84 and NM 503, about 17 miles north of Santa Fe. The northern end of this route is at Rancho de Taos where NM 518 meets NM 68. Most New Mexican’s however consider the end to be at the San Francisco de Asis Mission church which is in Rancho de Taos. Any road trip in northern New Mexico promises to be a scenic adventure with incredible photo opportunities, and the High Road to Taos is a perfect example.

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Art gallery in remote Truchas, NM

A Culture Rich Scenic Drive

You’ll find that the High Road to Taos is dotted with towns, some quite small, that tell the story of the early years of Spanish rule. You may find that the local dialect is distinctive, and many area residents can claim ancestors who settled the towns in the 18th century.

The Spaniards left New Mexico (Nuevo Mexico) in about 1821 as a result of the Mexican Revolution. Mexico maintained rule until1846 when the U.S. took control during the Mexican American War.

Galleries Along the High Road to Taos

Many of the tourists who travel this road remark how remote these towns are. Some of these quaint high desert towns are geographically remote yet at the same time feature .  unique art galleries. You’ll find that the authentic quality of New Mexican artwork is alive and well there and rival the galleries in Santa Fe and Taos. Artists have been inspired by the remarkable scenery along the High Road to Taos route.

This area of northern New Mexico receives it’s share of snow and cold weather. That’s one of the reasons that ski slopes in Santa Fe and Taos attract so many winter tourists. Some, not all, of the galleries along the High Road to Taos also stay open year round.

The High Road Art Tour

One special time along this famous route is during the last half of September. This is the time of the “High Road Art Tour‘ which takes place the last two weekends every September.

The High Road Art Tour gives you the opportunity to deal directly with the artists as well as to visit the tiny, historic Spanish Land Grant villages along the way. You’ll be able to browse multiple crafts and all types of traditional works along with contemporary painting and arts. This has to be one of the most unique art tour routes in all of the U.S. The High Road Art Tour is put together each year by the High Road Artisans, a volunteer-run organization. You may want to visit their website for additional information and event postings at  highroadnewmexico.com

See additional Trips Into History articles on the links below…..

The Old Turquoise Mines of Cerillos NM / A Short Hiking Trip

A Spanish Mission in Rancho de Taos NM

Reasons You’ll Enjoy a Rocky Mountain Vacation

Visit Spectacular Bryce Canyon, Utah

chimayo new mexico shrine

El Sancturario de Chimayo

Chimayo, New Mexico

The High Road to Taos will also pass by the town of Chimayo which is home to El Sancturario de Chimayo

The Chimayo Sancturario is a world renown mission church and shrine that dates back to the very first Spanish settlers in the area and is considered a shrine where over 300,000 visitors travel there annually.  Sancturario de Chimayo is a religious shrine. This is a must stop while driving the High Road route. 

Northern New Mexico offers the tourist many interesting historic venues to visit along with several very scenic road trip routes. If time permits during your visits to either Santa Fe or Taos, the High Road to Taos is a road trip you don’t want to miss.

(Article and photos copyright Trips Into History)

 

A Visit to Fiesta Santa Fe 2014

Attractions in Santa Fe New Mexico includes many celebrations and cultural events throughout the year. Fiesta Santa Fe is one that you don’t want to miss.

Over 300 years old, Santa Fe’s biggest celebration is a ten-day series of bailles, processions, parades, and musical performances which is all a part of Fiesta de Santa Fe. The historic capital of Santa Fe is one of the oldest in the United States. The capital was established by Don Juan de Oñate at San Gabriel in 1598. It was relocated over 30 miles south to the foot of the beautiful Sangre de Cristo Mountains where Santa Fe was founded in 1610.

As a side note, the site of San Gabriel is a National Historic Landmark and is located on the Río Grande in the northern region of present-day New Mexico. A cross and a memorial mark the site which is accessible to the public.

fiesta santa fe dance

Fiesta Santa Fe dance exhibitions

The Beginnings of Fiesta de Santa Fe

Fiesta de Santa Fe is one of the largest annual events in Santa Fe, New Mexico and is all about a celebration of cultures (Spanish and Native American) coming together in peace.

It commemorates the time in 1692 that Diego de Vargas reentered Santa Fe, twelve years after the Pueblo Revolt drove the Spaniards out of Nuevo Mexico.

Fiesta de Santa Fe honors and preserve the annual commemoration in the spirit and letter outlined in the 1712 Santa Fe City Council Proclamation which was formally signed twenty years after Spanish reconquest.

In 1712, the governor of the province of Nuevo México through his Captain General and spokesman, Juan Paez Hurtado, proclaimed that year and each thereafter a Fiesta would be held specifically honoring the bloodless reconquest of Santa Fe twenty years prior. It was decreed that the Fiesta should be one of religious thanksgiving and general celebration. The nine men whose signatures were affixed to the document obligated themselves and posterity to this perennial festival for all future time.

fiesta santa fe events

The Santa Fe plaza during Fiesta Santa Fe

The Actual Reconquest of Santa Fe

The fact is that ever since the Spaniards were expelled from Nuevo Mexico due to the 1680 Pueblo Revolt, the government in Mexico was planning for an eventual reconquest.

The reconquest of Santa Fe and Nuevo Mexico is often referred to as a “bloodless reconquest“. After several attempts, Diego de Vargas entered Santa Fe on September 14, 1692 and took control of the Santa Fe plaza. There was a short confrontation with Indians followed by a peaceful agreement.

This reconquest reestablished the Roman Catholic Church in Santa Fe after the churches had been destroyed and the friars slaughtered during the 1680 revolt.

It was also very important to Spain that Nuevo Mexico be retaken to solidify Spain’s presence in the region especially with the French expansion into the plains region from the Great Lakes.

De Vargas journeyed back to Mexico in 1693 for the purpose of leading colonists back north. There were a few settlers that did stay in the north after the Pueblo revolt but there were not many. There also were settlers in Mexico and around El Paso who didn’t relish going back north. Nevertheless, colonists were gathered together and the journey back to Santa Fe commenced.

During de Vargas’ second reentry into Santa Fe in 1693 the situation was a bit different. Many historians consider the reconquest to have taken place over the years 1693-1704. It took time for Spain to truly bring their rule to the greater region.

Many Pueblo Indians welcomed the Spaniards back but a good many also did not. Those who did welcome the Spanish back were hoping that the Spanish presence would help stop raids against them from Apaches and Navajos. It actually took some bloody conflicts in an assortment of pueblos before Spain truly had control of the region.

Today’s Fiesta Santa Fe

Thousands of people return every year to Fiesta Santa Fe in celebration of 300 year old customs. Enjoy legendary crafts, music, dancing, food and pageantry. Many Fiesta goers discover local cuisine and regional wines at both gourmet restaurants and food booths lining the plaza.

You may enjoy the articles from Trips Into History and our Western Trips site on the links below…

Barrio de Analco and the Country’s Oldest House

Historic Dining Cars of the Santa Fe Railroad

A Drive from Santa Fe to Taos New Mexico

santa fe fiesta plaza photo

Santa Fe’s plza at sunset during Fiesta 2014

La Fiesta de Santa Fe is a celebration created by the conquistadors who helped establish colonies here. Fiesta de Santa Fe has a special place in the hearts of Santa Feans.

Fiesta attendees can celebrate culture and history by retracing the actual steps of the city’s ancestors through the center of town, or by joining a candlelight procession on the last day of the Fiesta.

Each spring the Fiesta Council holds a contest in which local men and women compete to play the roles of General Don Diego de Vargas and La Reina de la Fiesta de Santa Fe. Reenactments of the Knighting and Coronation of Don Diego de Vargas and La Reina de Santa Fe are highlights of the annual festival.

pet parade santa fe fiesta

Fiesta Santa Fe Pet Parade

Plan Your Visit

One must visit attraction in Santa Fe is Fiesta Santa Fe. Santa Fe’s Fiesta is held the second weekend of September. Fiesta is attended by people throughout the world and hotel reservations are generally required well in advance.

The following websites will give you much more information about Fiesta Santa Fe and the events included…

santafefiesta.org

santafeselection.com

(Article and photos copyright 2014 Trips Into History)

 

Barrio de Analco and America’s Oldest House

Santa Fe New Mexico and America’s Oldest House

Santa Fe New Mexico was officially settled in the year 1610. Santa Fe served as the Spanish capital of Nuevo Mexico, the present day state of New Mexico.

oldest house in america

Oldest house in the U.S.

When you visit Santa Fe be sure to take a short stroll up the Old Santa Fe Trail from the Plaza area to De Vargas Street. The adobe structure located just east of the Old Santa Fe Trail is recognized as the oldest house in the United States.

There is a bit of controversy regarding this distinguished title however the owners of the structure located at 215 East De Vargas Street are duly recognized by the city of Santa Fe. The structure was reportedly built in 1646 and has been standing on this site through Spanish, Mexican and United States rule. The other two structures in the United States which claim a similar title are the Gonzalez-Alvarez House in St. Augustine Florida and the Fairbanks House in Dedham Massachusetts.

It’s interesting visiting this house to understand how people lived in this part of North America during the 1600’s. You’ll see some unique artifacts and photos. The structure demonstrates authentic old adobe architecture which is much different than the new adobe structures you see today.

oldest church in america

Oldest Church in the U.S., San Miguel, Santa Fe, NM

Barrio de Analco

San Miguel Chapel, often known as the oldest church in the country, is the key site of the Barrio de Analco National Historic Landmark District.

The Santa Fe neighborhood known as the Barrio de Analco which is centered around the San Miguel church, was established in the early seventeenth century.

 

The Barrio de Analco represented an active working class neighborhood of Spanish Colonial Heritage. The district contains numerous examples of Spanish-Pueblo architecture, characterized by the adobe construction indigenous to the Southwest.

The area where the oldest house is located is also one of the oldest neighborhood in Santa Fe, Barrio de Analco. Barrio de Analco is just south of the Santa Fe River and was established in about 1620.

san miguel mission santa fe new mexicoBarrio de Analco is a well known Santa Fe Historic District and is home to several other significant structures including the oldest church in America, the Chapel of San Miguel. This chapel is recognized as the oldest continuously occupied church in the U.S. built in 1626.San Miguel chapel in its present form goes back to 1710. The mission church has undergone structural and design changes over the many decades since.

Sunday mass is still held at the Chapel of San Miguel for those wishing for a full experience of the building’s past.

Also at 132 East De Vargas Street is the Gregorio Crespin House. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Gregorio Crespin House was built in 1720 and is now used for various community events.

barrio de analco santa fe

Barrio de Analco, Santa Fe, NM

The barrio settled by Mexican Indians and as mentioned above is just south of the Santa Fe River and thus south of the Plaza area.The Mexican Indians came northward with the Conquistadors.

San Miguel mission was severely damaged during the Pueblo Revolt and was repaired and rebuilt during the early 1700’s.

The Barrio de Analco served as a buffer for any Pueblo Indian attack coming from the south. As it turned, the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 was successful from the Pueblo Indian standpoint. The Spaniards were driven out of Nuevo Mexico for some twelve years finally returning successfully in 1692.

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

A Very Unique New Mexico Spanish Mission Church

Santa Fe’s Indian Market

The Bering Land Bridge National Preserve / Worth the Visit

A Visit to Fiesta Santa Fe

A very good book about old Santa Fe, it’s history and growth is Old Santa Fe by author James J. Raciti. You may also want to look for the book The Centuries of Santa Fe by author Paul Horgan.

A Santa Fe Visit Offers a Trip Back Into History

When you visit Santa Fe be certain to add the Barrio de Analco area and the Oldest House in America to your trip planner. It’s an opportunity to see the type of architecture during the very first years of Santa Fe’s existence. Be sure to take your camera along for some excellent pictures. The Barrio de Analco Historic District is a perfect embellishment to the history of Santa Fe.

(Article and photos copyright 2014 Trips Into History)

New Mexico Fort Ruins

 

The state of New Mexico is home to a great many historic sites. The rich history of New Mexico includes the Native Pueblo peoples of the southwest, it’s occupation by the Spaniards followed by the Mexicans and beginning in 1846 the occupation by the United States. This mixture of cultures is why New Mexico is such a fascinating state to visit.

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Fort Selden, NM ruins

Old Military Forts

When New Mexico was made a territory of the U.S., military outposts were established along the Rio Grande. The Rio Grande generally followed the main travel route between the capital of Santa Fe and Mexico. This was the El Camino Real, the trail carved out by the Spanish Conquistadors. It was the lifeline for supplies between Mexico City and Nuevo Mexico.

It was only natural for military forts to be established along this route. The forts and their garrisons would be key to the U.S. settlement of the territory including protection against Indian raids.

Two Historic Western Forts and Their Ruins

Traveling south to north from Las Cruces along Interstate-25 will take you past two old U.S. Army forts which today lay in ruins. While today the fort’s are in ruins we’re fortunate that the sites have been preserved so that they can be explored by future generations.

fort selden ruins

Fort Selden

Fort Selden

The ruins of Fort Selden, located about thirteen miles north of Las Cruces New Mexico and just west of Interstate 25 near the Rio Grande, is today a New Mexico State Monument. Visiting historic Fort Selden, viewing the ruins and exploring through the Visitors Center, will paint a good picture of what life was like for the soldiers stationed at this frontier fort.

Buffalo Soldiers comprising eight companies of the 125th Infantry were sent to New Mexico Territory. These troops were the first stationed at Fort Selden and would eventually serve at seven forts throughout the territory. At Fort Selden, these Buffalo Soldiers along with others would go on to construct the buildings including the army hospital. Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th Cavalry stationed at Fort Selden played a major role in chasing down the Apache leader Victorio who was leading many of the deadly raids in southern New Mexico.

Fort Selden, located just west of Interstate-25 is very easy to reach from the Interstate and makes an excellent addition to your New Mexico road trip planner. The state monument is open Wednesday through Monday. The site is closed on Tuesday. Take Exit 19 off of Interstate-25 about thirteen miles north of Las Cruces. The fort is located in the town of Radium Springs, NM.

fort craig new mexico

Fort Craig ruins

Fort Craig

Fort Craig is a National Historic Site which was taken over by the BLM in 1981. The site consists of a Visitors Center and the ruins of the once large and proud military fort. Fort Craig was named for U.S. Army Captain Louis S. Craig who was murdered by deserters in California in 1852.

Fort Craig was built in 1854 and was considered one of the largest and most important frontier forts in the West. Fort Craig played a big role in both the New Mexico Indian campaigns as well as in the American Civil War. Fort Craig was home to the Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th Cavalry and 38th and 125th Infantry.

battle of valverde map

Battle of Valverde Map

Fort Craig lies adjacent to the site of what many believe was the largest Civil War battle in the southwest. This was the Battle of Valverde fought on February 21, 1862. The batttle lasted the entire day. While the Confederates (mostly Texans) prevailed in this battle, and were thus able to thrust further north to Albuquerque and Santa Fe, they were later defeated at the Battle of Glorieta Pass just to the east of Santa Fe. The site of the Battle of Valverde is just to the northeast of Fort Craig on private ranch land. The site is visible from the fort.

Links below are to two additional Trips Into History photo articles you’ll enjoy.

Buffalo Soldiers of West Texas

Santa Fe Trail Wagon Ruts at Fort Union

Barrio de Analco and America’s Oldest House

Could Be The Best Hiking Trail in Sedona Arizona

Visit Fort Craig New Mexico

Fort Craig is located just to the east of Interstate 25 about 44 miles south of Socorro New Mexico and on the west side of the Rio Grande.

From the north, take I-25 to the San Marcial exit, then east over the Interstate, and south on old Highway 1 (about 11 miles). Then follow the signs to Fort Craig. (If traveling on I-25 from the south, take exit 115.) The fort is to the east of NM 1, which parallels the freeway thru some lovely scenery and towns, and will also take you to the entrance of Bosque Apache Wildlife Area and the turnoff to the El Camino Real Museum.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 Trips Into History)