On May 16, 2015, I gave a presentation to the Socorro County Historical Society. I've decided to post the paper here. I could have published this in a journal or newspaper somewhere, but I consider it to be a short summary or "sneak peak" of information that I either have already published or will publish later. This presentation was sponsored by the Socorro County Historical Society, the New Mexico Genealogical Society and was made possible through a scholarship by the Office of State Historian.
The History and People of the Socorro Land Grant
Copyright (c) 2015 By Robert J. C. Baca
On or about September 18, 1818,
Pedro Bautista Pino rode into the newly resettled village of Socorro to solicit
donations for the New Mexico militia.
Early that month, New Mexico’s Spanish Governor Lieutenant Colonel Fecundo Melgares had received a
message that Navajos had invaded the northern villages of New Mexico. Melgares,
a seasoned warrior, realized early that he did not have enough supplies for his
troops. He therefore sent out a proclamation requesting grain and other
supplies from the people of New Mexico. It was Pedro Bautista Pino’s task to
fulfill this request for his governor. As Pino collected the donations, he
wrote down the names of those who made contributions. The list he created would
become the first enumeration of the people of Socorro.
Socorro was resettled around 1815. Seventy families from
Belen and other parts of New Mexico moved their homes to the village. Socorro,
which had been abandoned just prior to the 1680 Pueblo Revolt, had not been occupied
for over 125 years. Both the Spanish and the native Piros left the area for
communities near present day El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico. After the Spanish
resettlement of New Mexico in 1693, fears that nomadic Indians would attack
settlers kept the Spanish from sending colonist south of Sabinal, a community
about 25 miles north of Socorro. Because of this there were no permanent
settlements between Sabinal and El Paso, an area of nearly 200 miles.
On January 18, 1800, the Commandant General of the Internal
Provinces of New Spain ordered the New Mexican governor to begin settling the
areas between Sabinal and El Paso. He wanted to ensure the protection of the
travelers along El Camino Real, the Royal Road. The abandoned communities of Senecu,
Socorro, Alamillo, and Sevillita were to be resettled. The governor ordered
Alamillo to be resettled immediately, but waited to resettle the other villages
because he feared they were far too isolated. He thought this would leave these
communities open to attack.
Socorro was resettled mostly by
families from the Belen and Tomé areas. The earliest baptism of a child born in
Socorro was recorded in the Belen church registers on August 17, 1816, when 5
day old Maria Clara Ortis, the daughter of Jose Bisente Ortis and Barvara
Padilla, was baptized. Ninety-one baptismal records were recorded in the Belen
church for Socorro families between August 1816 and December 1821. The San
Miguel del Socorro Mission itself would begin recording baptisms for the
community in July 1821. It is believed that San Miguel was built upon the ruins
of the old Nuestra Señora del Socorro church.
Genealogist Ronaldo Miera identified the Socorro families who
baptized their children in Belen during this period. He found 38 different
surnames for heads of household, with an additional 16 different surnames for
the wives. He assumed that there were extended families for each of these
households and figured that he had found the original 70 families of Socorro.
Socorro settlers probably began building their community
immediately after arriving there. The original order was for them to place
their homes within four square leagues from the center of the proposed church –
one league for each cardinal direction. This measurement was later surveyed by
the American government in 1896 to be over 17,000 acres. However, prior to that
in 1875, Socorro residents claimed 100 miles east to west and 33 miles north to
south, or about 1,612,000 acres. This was nearly 100 times the original
proposed size. It appears that the residents placed their farms, ranches and
homes in areas beyond the original four square leagues.
Having to live off the land, the original settlers of Socorro
had to quickly become productive in order to survive. Although they may have
brought many provisions, and may have even been able to trade with others
traveling along the Camino Real, they would have had to begin planting as soon
as possible. Therefore, they may have moved to Socorro in the spring. By
September 1818, these families had enough surplus produce and other items to
donate towards the military campaign against the Navajos.
An administrator would have had to divide the land grant into
sections for the various families. In Pino’s 1818 list, the first person
enumerated is the Alcalde don Miguel Aragon. This alcalde, or mayor, was the
Alcalde of Valencia, a community 50 miles to the north. He appears to be the
administrator for the entire area, and probably did not live in Socorro itself.
He does not show up in any other records for Socorro. He does, however, appear
in a document for Sevilleta, a community north of Socorro.
As Pedro Bautista Pino was collecting donations from Socorro
residents, he saw a couple of familiar faces. The second person on this list
was Juan Dionosio Baca. This man was married to Pino’s niece Maria Rita Pino.
Maria Rita’s father was the similarly named Pedro Jose Pino, who was the
Alcalde of Laguna decades past. It was in Laguna that Maria Rita Pino married
her husband in 1785.
The communities within and around Belen were close-knit, and
the families that left there for Socorro was often even more closely related. Juan
Dionosio Baca’s 1st cousin, once removed was Francisco Xavier Garcia
Jurado, listed as Xavier Garcia on the list. He, with another early resident,
Anselmo Tafoya, petitioned the governor in 1817 requesting that Socorro
residents be given title to the land grant. When the governor’s officials did
not fulfill the residents’ request, Xavier Garcia petitioned the governor once
again. Both times, the governor ordered his subordinates to give Socorro
Whether or not title was actually given would be a source of
contention decades later when Socorro residents fought the U.S. Government in
court over whether the grant actually existed and as to the size of the grant.
Interestingly enough, both Baca’s and Garcia Jurado’s descendants played an
important part in those lawsuits. Juan Dionosio Baca’s son and grandson transcribed
a document that they claimed verified the grant; while Francisco Xavier Garcia
Jurado’s grandson sued the government and had four square leagues approved for
the Socorro grant.
Another cousin of both Baca and Garcia Juardo, the similarly
named Dionosio Antonio Baca, was one of two soldiers mentioned in the 1818
list, as was his wife. The document reads “[Doña] Ana Maria Sanches Esposa del
tiente [Don] Dionosio Baca”. In English, this indicates that doña Ana Maria
Sanches was the wife of lieutenant don Dionosio Baca.
The Baca and Garcia Jurado families were related through a
common ancestor, Ramon Garcia Jurado. Ramon Garcia Jurado was born in Mexico
and arrived with his parents in New Mexico in 1693 as part of the
re-colonization. Unlike the Baca family, who arrived in New Mexico in 1600, the
Garcia Jurado family were not part of the older New Mexican families. That
didn’t hurt his political aspirations, though. He had become alcalde of
Bernalillo and the surrounding pueblos in 1732. Also, his name can be seen
prominently at El Morro Rock, where he chiseled his signature on his way to
Zuni in 1707.
Ramon’s daughter Petronila was the grandmother of the two
Baca cousins. She married Juan Antonio Baca of Bernalillo. When he died, she
tried to sue his family to get property for her children, which included
Dionosio Antonio Baca’s father Juan Francisco Baca. She apparently did not get
much, though, as she had to leave her home in Bernalillo and move to be by her
daughter Rafaela Baca, who herself had married Diego de Torres, one of the
founders of Belen. Petronila’s other son was Juan Felipe Baca, also known as
Garcia. He was born two years after Petronila’s husband had passed, but
apparently was given the Baca name anyway. He is the father of Juan Dionosio
Of the names
enumerated on the 1818 list, most are men. However, wives were listed in lieu
of their husbands. The aforementioned doña Ana Maria Sanches is one example.
This may indicate that her husband was away at the time, possibly fulfilling
his military obligations. Don Xavier Garcia’s wife (“su esposa”) is mentioned,
although not by name. Xavier Garcia himself is listed separately. This may
indicate that his wife had property of her own. Maria Getrudis Muñis, the wife
of Antonio Gurule is on the list. The unnamed wives of Jose Padilla, Juaquin
Aragon, Anselmo Tafoya, and Antonio Trujillo are mentioned. This may indicate
that these men were also away, although Anselmo Tafoya is also separately named
on the list. Another name on this list is Barvara Barela, a widow.
By doing a little bit of investigation, we can flesh out the
story of anyone on this list. Seventy people are listed by name or by
relationship on the September 1818 list. By comparing these names against
baptismal, marriage, prenuptial investigations, death and census records, we
can find out who these people, their spouses, children and parents were, and
where they came from. We can often figure out their approximate or actual dates
of birth, marriage and death. We know what other families they are related to.
Many of the Socorro Grant families were related by blood or by marriage, or
An example of this is the fore-mentioned Barbara Barela. This
woman appears to have been the widow of Juan Trujillo. Her son, who may also be
on the list, is Manuel Antonio Trujillo. He is probably the one listed as Manuel
trujillo Melsiano. “Melsiano” may actually be the word “miliciano”, which means
militiaman. Manuel Antonio Trujillo was married to Ana Maria Garcia. This
couple are shown in the 1833 census of Socorro and the 1845 census of
Polvadera, a small community north of Socorro. The ages on these census records
indicate that Manuel Antonio Trujillo was born between 1781 and 1785. In 1833,
they had two young Native American girls living in their household, possibly
adopted and probably their servants. In 1845 they had one young boy, Jose
Anastacio, 9 years old, living with them. Once again, we have a family that is
related to another family on the list. Manuel’s father-in-law was Francisco
Xavier Garcia Jurado.
Although most families were either from the Belen or Tomé
areas, not all were. For example, Miguel Perea and his wife Maria Martina
Marquez had roots in the Rio Arriba (upper river) rather than the Rio Abajo
(lower river.) Their children were born in Ojo Caliente and the
Bernalillo/Sandia Pueblo areas. Although some grandchildren are born in the
Socorro area, the lack of information from census and other records seem to
indicate the family left the area before 1833.
Some of the Socorro residents in the 1818 list show hidalgo
roots. These minor nobility have the title “don” or “doña”. Often these titles
were passed along generation after generation from the original colonists of
New Mexico. It showed that these families had bravely settled in dangerous
areas and developed the land they were given.
Hidalgos of Socorro included: the alcalde Miguel Aragon, Juan
Dionosio Baca, Xavier Garcia, Pedro Garcia, Feliciano Montoya, Bautista Chaves,
Ana Maria Sanchez and her husband lieutenant Dionosio Baca, and Diego Sanches. Having the titles of nobility, did not mean
that these families were wealthy. In 1846, American George Ruxton complained:
appearance of Socorro is that of a dilapidated brick-kiln, or a prairie-dog
town; indeed from these animals the New Mexicans appear to have derived their
style of architecture.
How ironic that these types of “prairie-dog” houses that
Ruxton derided would one day influence the sought-after New Mexico pueblo
Teresa Ramirez, Jose Gonzales, and Patricia Black Esterly, transcribers. New
Mexico Censuses of 1833 and 1845: Socorro and Surrounding Communites of the Rio
Abajo. (Albuquerque: New Mexico Genealogical Society, 1994)
of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, various microfilms.
Baca, Robert J. C. “Early Settlers of the Socorro Land
Grant: An 1818 List” (three parts), New Mexico Genealogist,
Part I: Vol.
50, No. 3, September 2011, pp. 116-120; Part II: Vol. 51, No. 1, March 2012,
pp. 10-16; Part III: Vol. 51, No. 3, September 2012, pp. 118-126. You may order
these issues from the New Mexico Genealogical Society’s website at www.nmgs.org
Chavez, Angelico, compiler. New Mexico Roots, Ltd.: A
Demographic Perspective from genealogical, historical, and geographic data
found in the Diligencias Matrimoniales. 11 Volumes. Typescript, 1982.
Chavez, Angelico, Origins of New Mexico Families: A Genealogy
of the Spanish Colonial Period, revised ed. (Santa Fe: Museum of New
Mexico Press, 1992)
Esquibel, Jose Antonio and John B. Colligan, The
Spanish Recolonization of New Mexico: An Account of the Families Recruited at
Mexico City in 1693 (Albuquerque: Hispanic Genealogical Research Center
of New Mexico, 1999)
Gómez, Arthur “Royalist in Transition: Facundo Melgares, the
Last Spanish Governor of New Mexico, 1818-1822”. New Mexico Historical Review
(October 1993), pp. 377-380.
Marshall, Michael P. and Henry J. Walt, Rio Abajo: Prehistory of a Rio
Grande Province (Santa Fe: New Mexico Historical Preservation Program,
Miera, Ronald, “Who Were the Settlers of the Socorro Town
Land Grant?”, Herencia, Vol 9 (July 2001), p. 8.
Various sacramental books published by the New Mexico
Genealogical Society, the Hispanic Genealogical Research Center, and others.
See my three part article “Early Settlers of the Socorro Land Grant: An 1818
List” for more information.
For more information about my research into the Socorro Land
Grant, visit my blog “The Baca/Douglas Genealogy and Family History Blog” at http://nmgenealogy.blogspot.com
Click on the category “Socorro Land Grant”.