CHAPTER X:Arrival In Santa Fé
First Sight of Santa Fé.—Fonda.—Home-sick.—Rev. L. Smith.—Warm Welcome.—Toilet.—Secretary of Territory.—Governor Meriwether.—His Adventures.—Prisoner in Santa Fé.—Discharge.—Trip to Rendezvous.—Winter Quarters.—Strange Indians.—Great Medicine.—The Indians see him.—Fright.—Encounter with Indians.—Prison fell down.—Sworn into Office.—Mr. Cardenas.—Mrs. Wilson.—Indian Outrages.—How Indians should be governed.—Meeting of Legislature.—Log-rolling, etc.—Organization of the Houses.—The two Houses in Session.—Former political Condition, etc.
The first sight of Santa Fé is by no means prepossessing. Viewed from the adjacent hills as you descend into the valley, whence it falls the first time under your glance, it has more the appearance of a colony of brickkilns than a collection of human habitations. You see stretching before you, on both sides of the little river of the same name, a cluster of flat-rooted mud houses, which, in the distance, you can hardly distinguish from the earth itself. But a traveler just off the Plains generally leaves the wire-edge of his fastidiousness behind, and feels rejoiced at the prospect of finding quarters even in a mud house, which he soon pronounces quite a comfortable affair; so true it is, ‘‘
|How many things by season seasoned are,|
|To their right praise and true perfection.|
The wagons drove in front of the fonda, and the passengers, with bag and baggage, were turned over to the custody of "mine host," who stood at his threshold, in the best possible humor, to receive us. 'Tis true, the establishment was not of the first order—hardly equal to the "Astor" or "St. Nicholas"—but, withal, it seemed an admirable change to us who, for nearly a month, had been exposed to the discomforts of the Plains. We had hardly been shown to our rooms before dinner was announced, when we were conducted to the dining-room, where we found a table spread with all the necessaries and some of the luxuries of life. I can speak for myself, and say that I did full justice to the repast, and in good earnest broke the fast that half rations had imposed upon us the latter part of the way.
On being set down, "a stranger in a strange land," I do not deny that I had the feeling common to all in a similar situation, and for a time that heart-malady called home-sickness made a lodgment in an unoccupied corner of my heart. To a greater or less degree, this feeling will seize upon all comers from the United States when they place foot in Santa Fé for the first time. The whole aspect of things is so entirely different from what they have been accustomed to: a foreign language salutes their ears; a strange race of men gape at them without a particle of sympathy, and the mud city, with its dirty streets and no less dirty population—all presents such an uninviting picture to the stranger, that, in spite of all he can do, he will feel a little "down in the mouth." But reaching this place under the circumstances, after a trip of nearly a thousand miles across an inhospitable and almost barren region, has a tendency to remove many of the unfavorable impressions a traveler receives upon his first arrival. The change from constant exposure and danger to comparative comfort and security is so sudden, and, withal, so much to one's mind, that it begets a favorable opinion of this modern Timbuctoo, and in a short time he finds himself reasonably well reconciled to his new home. But if it was not for
As good fortune would have it—and it is always good fortune to know somebody in a strange place—I had an old friend in Santa Fé in the person of the Rev. Louis Smith, stationed there as a Baptist missionary. He had been sent out by the Baptist Board of Home Missions nearly three years before, and during this time he had been laboring faithfully in this new field, but with little success. The tares seemed to choke down all the wheat that was disposed to spring up under the new and improved culture, and thus far he and the other husbandmen who had labored in the field had scarce been able to gather a single sheaf into the garner. As soon after dinner as possible, I wended my way to the house of Mr. Smith, all unshaven and unshorn, hoping to be able to announce my own arrival. In this dilapidated condition, I presented myself at his threshold and knocked for admittance. A servant answered the summons, and in a moment I was in the presence of Mrs. Smith, her husband not being in at the time. At first she could hardly realize that the person who stood before her was a genuine old friend instead of some apparition who had dropped down from—she knew not whence. But it took but little trouble to satisfy her upon this point, when she gave me a welcome to her house and home that was full of meaning, and which went in a straight line to the heart, driving away at once all the legions of home-sickness that had dared to gather there. Her greeting was far from being of the modern school of salutation, so stiff and formal as to fairly drive the milk of human kindness from one's bosom, for such new-fangled notions had not yet penetrated into that distant region. While we were seated, chatting of the
The first and most urgent duty, after the greetings and a few moments' conversation with my old friends, was that of getting rid of the dust of travel, and appearing once more in civilized habiliments, for which purpose we wended our way back to the fonda. After roughing it so long upon the Plains, it is no easy task to make one's toilet, as every gentleman knows who has taken off a crop of beard that has ripened and gone to seed. With a due degree of perseverance, this duty was finally accomplished, and your humble servant was once more metamorphosed into a respectable-looking individual. The whole performance was much more a matter of necessity than pleasure, as every one is aware who has been obliged to undergo the same operation. We now removed ourselves and baggage to the hospitable house of Mr. Smith, where we made our home for the present.
In the afternoon Mr. Smith chaperoned me out into the town to see the sights and make the acquaintance of some of the good people. On our way up the street we halted at the counting-room of the Honorable W. S. Messerve, the Secretary of the Territory, to whom I was introduced. At that time Mr. Messerve was a leading merchant in Santa Fé, where he had been established in business for some years, and made a large fortune. He
Having the desire of adventure so common to the youth of our country, in the year 1818 he entered the American Fur Company, and in their employ spent three years in hunting and trapping upon the plains and waters of the Far West. His life was a continued scene of adventure and hardship, in which practical school he finished his education and graduated for the pursuits of life. In the year 1819 he was sent with a party of Pawnee Indians to endeavor to open a trade with New Mexico, in order to exchange their furs and other goods for bullion, and to obtain permission to hunt and trap upon the streams. They had advanced as far west as the Canadian fork of the River Arkansas, when they were at
To be thus turned loose upon the world at the approach of winter, in a strange land, and separated a thousand miles from the nearest American settlement, was being placed in a worse condition than while in prison. When arrested, he and his servant were both well armed, and mounted upon fine horses, but their captors had stripped them of every thing but the clothes upon their bodies. Young Meriwether sought an interview with the governor, and represented to him their condition: that to be driven into the mountains without any arms to kill game was certain death, and he had better kill them at once and shorten their misery. This appeal had some
Our adventures were now in no very enviable position. The weather was cold, the mountains covered with snow, and they found themselves turned adrift in an unknown country. They had many hundred miles of inhospitable plains and mountains to traverse, and had two almost useless guns and a small supply of ammunition to kill game and defend themselves from hostile Indians. But there was no time to be lost in contemplating their unfortunate situation. Before taken prisoner, he had appointed a place of rendezvous, where such of the Indians as might be able to make their escape were directed to go and await his coming. He now took a direction for that point, as well as he was able to do without a guide or a knowledge of the country, being guided by the sun during the day and the stars at night—killing game as they went, at the risk of bringing hostile Indians upon them by the report of their guns. After traveling several days across the mountains that lie on the eastern confines of New Mexico, in constant fear of being attacked, and suffering from the cold, they reached the place of rendezvous, and found three Pawnee Indians waiting for them. The meeting was a pleasant one to all parties, and they remained there a few days making the necessary preparations for the continuance of their journey. They resolved to seek some good location upon the head-waters of the Arkansas, where they would remain until spring, and then return to the settlements.
They took up the line of march from the rendezvous, and, after traveling in a northerly direction for several days, they came to a cave, upon the head-waters of the Arkansas, that promised to answer their purpose of a winter residence. It was a large cavern in the side of a hill, and the rocks from above projected over somewhat in the shape of a portico. They set to work, and made the place as comfortable as possible. They divided it into two compartments by suspending before the entrance to the rear a buffalo robe, and they placed poles against the projecting ledge, which, covering with brush and dried grass, made another comfortable room. In the inner room they stored all their most valuable articles, and the outer served them as a place to build their fire and do their cooking. They killed their mules, which, with the buffaloes they occasionally shot, kept them in a supply of meat. Their greatest fear was in being discovered by hostile Indians, and they took constant precaution to prevent their whereabouts being known. Time hung heavily upon their hands, as they were afraid to venture away from the mouth of the cave unless they were compelled to do so in search of food. Among other expedients to kill time, young Meriwether amused himself in fashioning a stone to resemble a man's face, and upon which he stretched a piece of skin. When the skin was dried, he took it off, cut holes for the eyes, nose, and mouth, and thus had a respectable-looking mask. When finished, he laid it away in the cave, without imagining the valuable service it would be able to render him before the winter was past.
One day nine strange Indians came to the cave, whom they suspected very strongly of some hostile intentions, and were therefore uneasy while they remained. They were anxious to look at every thing in and about the premises, and, after having seen all there was in the outer
After this adventure the governor and a party of trappers had a-more serious encounter with some Indians of the Plains. Upon one occasion, when returning from a trapping expedition loaded with packs of furs, they espied in the distance a number of mounted Indians coming toward them. He and his men made for a grove of timber near at hand, where they tied their animals, and, taking off their packs, formed with them a kind of breastwork, in order to make a good defense if it should become necessary. These arrangements being made, and the little garrison having received instructions to hold the camp at every hazard, Meriwether, with a few horsemen, set out to meet the Indians. Both parties approached at full speed, the respective leaders being some distance in advance of their men. The Indian chief came up with his lance at a rest, while Meriwether rode tomahawk in hand; and when within proper distance, the former made a lunge with his lance, which the latter struck down with his hatchet, but not with sufficient force to prevent it piercing his thigh and giving him a severe wound. The shock jostled the Indian, and, before he could recover his position, the negro boy rode up to him, and, with a single stroke of his hatchet on the head, killed
When Governor M. was a prisoner in Santa Fé, he was confined in a room at the west end of the palace; and the same evening he arrived there to assume the executive duties of the Territory, the roof of the room fell in. This the people, with their superstitious notions, interpreted into a favorable omen. It is worthy of note to say, in conclusion, that he who was a poor and unknown boy, and a prisoner in a foreign land, should, in the course of years, return with the power of the United States at his back to rule over the same people who had held him in captivity, and to administer laws in the very building in which he had been confined. Such incidents are not unfrequent in the vicissitudes that mark the life of the public men of our country.
I was sworn into office on Monday, the 28th instant, and held myself in readiness to look after the interests of the government, if perchance it should have any need of my services. My predecessor had taken his leave before my arrival, and upon entering on the duties of the office of United States Attorney I found neither books nor papers to take charge of, and, before I was done with it, was satisfied that it was about as barren of emoluments. It is a sinecure barring the riding the circuit, and consists in the name, which sounds well, and a commission bearing the signature of the President, and the great seal of the United States attached.
A few days after I arrived I made the acquaintance of the Rev. Benigno Cardenas, formerly a Catholic priest in the Territory, but within a few years a proselyte to Protestantism. He is a man of learning and abilities, and at one time occupied a high position in the Church. He now belongs to the Methodist denomination, and is laboring in the southern part of the Territory, where he has gathered a small flock. Some years ago he became involved in a religious difficulty with Bishop Zubiria, who, for a real or pretended cause, suspended him from the discharge of his spiritual functions, and placed him beyond the pale of the Church. Feeling that justice had not been done him in the decision of the bishop, Mr. Cardenas was determined to seek redress from the supreme head of the Church, and for that purpose he made a pilgrimage to Rome, and laid his complaint before the Pope. After his case had undergone the necessary examination by the pontiff and his advisers, he was reinstated in the Church, and was furnished with the necessary documentary evidence to establish the fact upon his return home. He exhibited proof of his justification when he returned, but declined to enter the Church again, because, in the mean time, his religious views had undergone a change. His object in going to Rome was to recover his standing in his own Church before asking to be received into another, which being established, he immediately renounced the faith of his fathers, and began to teach the more liberal doctrine of Protestantism.1
About this time there arrived in Santa Fé an American woman, Mrs. Jane Adeline Wilson, lately rescued from the Camanche Indians, with whom she had been captive about one month. She was taken some distance to the east of El Paso, Texas, on her return to her friends from an unsuccessful attempt to go to California with her husband and father-in-law. She succeeded in making her escape, and after wandering about the Plains for some time, was found by a party of Mexican traders, who brought her into the settlements. She mainly owed her safety to a Pueblo Indian of the village of San Yldefonso, whose conduct was such as to entitle him to all praise. She was young, modest in appearance and conduct, and quite intelligent. She remained in Santa Fé until the next spring, when she was sent to her friends.
The narrative of her sufferings, written down at the time from her own lips, made one of the most affecting recitals I have ever read, and the fortitude she displayed, for one of her tender years, under so many trying circumstances, was quite sublime. Imagine a young and delicate female for the period of about a month in the hands of one of the most savage of our North American tribes of Indians, and compelled to submit to the most cruel treatment ever inflicted upon a human being. They made her their absolute slave; and, not satisfied with compelling her to perform the most menial offices, they would cruelly beat her if her overtasked strength failed her. And then, at other times, as if to make her degradation more complete and her sufferings more acute, they would set upon her a human fiend of her own sex, who delighted in tormenting her with a refined cruelty that can not be surpassed. Conceive a woman placed upon the back of a wild mule without saddle or bridle, and because she can not manage the restive beast, to have her head stamped into the ground by an infernal savage;
Such outrages are of much too frequent occurrence in the distant land of New Mexico. But a few pages back the reader will call to mind the case of poor Mrs. White, who was taken in a somewhat similar manner; but she was not so fortunate as to make her escape, and both herself and child suffered death at their hands. She was treated with equal cruelty, no doubt, but the grave has closed over her sufferings, and they must remain unknown to the world. When Governor Meriwether was on his way to New Mexico, two young Spanish girls made their escape from the Kiowah Indians and joined the train he was traveling with, whom he afterward forwarded to their homes in Chihuahua, whence they had been stolen nearly two years before. They made their escape in the following manner: One day they were sent out by the Indians to herd the animals, when, on ascending a hill, they espied in the distance an American train winding across the prairies just west of the Arkansas. They immediately
They related about the same account of suffering as that narrated by Mrs. Wilson. They mentioned an American woman with a small child whom they had seen in captivity, and who was obliged to submit to the same kind of inhuman treatment. They said that one day, while traveling, one of the Indians seized the child, threw it up into the air, and caught it upon the point of his lance as it came down. The rest of the band amused themselves in the same manner, and thus they passed the child around among them upon their lance-heads until the dead body was pierced like a sieve. Yet, with such abundance of evidence before our eyes of the savage cruelty of these Western Indians, there is a class of people in the United States whose hearts are constantly overflowing with sympathy for these inhuman fiends. This mawkish feeling of pity for the "poor Indian" has existed long enough, and it is quite time the people should
Monday, December the fifth, was the day fixed by law for the meeting of the Legislative Assembly of the Territory, and for a week before that time the members had been coming in from the various counties, and arranging themselves in quarters for the session. Those who were candidates for office in either House and their friends began the system of electioneering so prevalent in other sections of the Union; and the few days that intervened between the arrival of the members and the meeting of the Assembly were spent in wire-pulling, log-rolling, and all the other strategic movements known in modern politics. Juntas were held in the four quarters of the city of the Holy Faith, and the merits of the various candidates for place in the two honorable bodies were discussed and canvassed with as much apparent gravity as though the fate of the Republic depended upon the selection they should make. It was early determined that
In the second place, it was a matter quite difficult to determine who should be the lucky Democratic aspirants. As is usual, each member had his man, and some of them half a score, who must be served—good loyal Democrats they were—with their success was closely allied the future well-being of the party—at least they all said so, and some of them ought to be believed. Not only did men urge the claims of respective candidates, but the various sections of the Territory made demands that must be satisfied, and that without delay. Rio Ariba (the country up the river) laid claim to the lion's share in the distribution of patronage, because this region professed to be the strongest in the Democratic faith. At this the Rio Abajo (the country down the river) bristled up wonderfully, and was quite shocked at the exorbitant demands of the Rio Aribaites. Thus the contest waxed and waned, and the whole middle region of the continent appeared to be immeasurably interested in the decision of these important questions. As neither party would give ground an inch—what bravery was there!—it was finally concluded that, in the scramble for place, there should be a "free fight," with the full understanding that not a single Whig should be allowed to poke his nose within the sanctuary of either House in an official shape; this was Democratic ground entirely, and these political "heathens" had no business to be intruding therein.
The following day the members of the two Houses assembled in the Hall of Representatives to listen to the reading of the governor's message. A joint committee proceeded to the executive chamber, and escorted his excellency to the hall of the House, where he was received by the members rising and saluting him as he entered. When silence was restored, the governor read the message in English, after which the chief clerk read it in Spanish. It was a plain and business-like document, and contained many suggestions of vital interest to the Territory.
The spectacle here presented, in the fourth session of the Legislative Assembly of New Mexico, was rather pleasing, and furnished food for some interesting reflections. This was a new people in the art and mystery of legislation, who, in a great measure, had yet to learn their duties in the modus operandi of making laws. Before the country came into the possession of the United States the people were ruled with a rod of iron, without
Under the circumstances, it is not strange, then, that when they first came to enjoy the privileges of freemen, and began to make laws for themselves, they should feel to a degree embarrassed, and find themselves lacking that kind of knowledge essentially necessary for the discharge of these high functions. But, for beginners in the science of legislation, these representatives cut quite a respectable figure, and played their part with considerable credit to themselves and their constituents. They conducted the business of the two Houses with decorum and regularity, and at times it occurred to me that the dignity with which their proceedings were marked might with great propriety be held up as an example to Congress. The business is transacted in the Spanish language, and each House is entitled to an interpreter and
1. Since the above was written, Mr. Cardenas has dissolved his connection with the Methodist denomination, and made application to be received back again into the Catholic Church. The ceremony of reception into the Church, and a recantation of his Protestant heresies, took place at Albuquerque the 24th day of February, 1856. He was compelled to submit to the humiliation of receiving lashes upon the back, covered only with his shirt, which were laid on by the hands of the Vicario. After this he was fully pardoned and restored to the communion.