CHAPTER XII:Winter In Santa Fé—Concluded


Up: Contents Previous: CHAPTER XI:Winter In Santa Fé Next: CHAPTER XIII:Riding The Circuit


[page 276]

Marriage in New Mexico.—Fees.—Courtship.—Spanish Custom.—Advantages of the System.—Mexican Wedding.—Our Arrival.—Ceremony.—Music.—Tamouche.—Appearance.— His Squaw.—Medal.—Indian Doctors.—Failure of Chief to go to Washington.—Legislature adjourns.—Difficulty.—Legislation.—Anecdotes.—Saint Valentine's Day.—All Fool's Day.—Twenty-second of February.—Spring.—Climate.—Weather at Santa Fé.—Dryness of Atmosphere.—Rain.—Inhabitants drenched.—Author drowned out.

In New Mexico, the modus operandi of winning and wooing in the court of Cupid is widely different from that practiced in the United States; and if a Yankee sets out for the hymeneal altar, he finds himself traveling in a new and untried road. In that country, the institution of marriage, at best, is little more than a mere matter of convenience, and very few enter into this relation from affection, and a desire to make each other happy. It always serves as a cloak to hide numerous irregularities that many of the married females are prone to indulge in, which can be practiced with more facility in the wedded than in the single state. One great obstacle in the way of marriage, and more especially among the poorer classes, is the high rate of fees the priests charge for tying the knot, which renders legal marriage almost entirely a luxury, only to be indulged in by the rich. It is said the charges in this respect have been somewhat lessened within a few years, but they are yet much too high, and drive hundreds annually into illicit intercourse. In some instances several hundred dollars have been paid for performing the ceremony, being the regular fees of


[page 277]

the curate, and not the voluntary gift of the party. The lowest price paid, where the parties are married in church and the simplest rites performed, is about twenty dollars. This exaction is an oppression upon the humbler classes, and injurious to that wise institution, which tends, more than any other, to humanize mankind, and to make the world better, wiser, and happier.

The social system of the country plays hob with the old adage that ‘‘
The happiest life that ever was led,
Is always to court and never to wed;
’’ for such a thing as an out-and-out courtship is almost unknown. There the young people have no moonlight walks and sentimental talks along the bank of a pleasant stream in summer; no strolls in the fields, in springtime, to gather early flowers to present to each other as emblems of their own budding affection; no pleasant drives through shady groves, when the horse goes so slow, and the afternoon is so warm that it is impossible to return home before night, when the moon will be up to light the road. There, there are no pleasant evenings passed in each other's society, to study character and disposition, and when the eyes often speak volumes though the tongue is silent; no sweet good-bys at the door-step, away from ma's searching eyes, when a sly and gentle pressure of the hand is given and received in token of that affection which is as deep as it is silent. These little manœuvrings and heart-episodes are strangers in all the land of New Mexico in connection with the business of marrying and giving in marriage. The young people have none of these matters to attend to for themselves, their very accommodating fathers and mothers relieving them of all such trouble; and a young girl can hardly put her nose outside the door without an old dueña tagging after her to stand guard over her heart.


[page 278]

The old Spanish custom of wooing and winning is still adhered to, and, in the first place, all proposals of marriage are made to the father, or, if he be dead, to the mother, who are supposed to be the rightful keepers of their daughter's affection. In brief, the mode of procedure is simply this: If a lad becomes enamored of a lass, and desires to make her his wife, he unbosoms his troubled soul to his father, who thereupon writes a very business kind of an epistle to the father of the young lady, and, without more ado, asks the hand of his daughter in marriage for his son. The matter is then duly considered by the parents of the young lady, and if the match is viewed as an advantageous one, in nine cases out of ten the proposal is accepted without consulting the wishes of the daughter, who, as a dutiful child, is presumed, as a matter of course, to do just as pa wishes. It is beneath the pride of a Spaniard to regard the inclination or preference of the child in such matters, and if he is pleased with the proposed alliance, that is deemed all-sufficient. The length of time given the parents to sit in council over the proposal is generally one month, at the end of which the affair is concluded, and an answer is given in due form. It is very seldom that a young lady thinks seriously of matrimony unless it is proposed by the father, and it sometimes happens that the parties have never met until the day of marriage. This is the general custom in affairs of the heart, but there are some exceptions to the rule, and now and then love is made after our own manner of doing such things.

Here is certainly a mode very different, compared with that in which Anglo-Saxon lovers are in the habit of arranging such delicate matters, but, like most innovations, it is not wholly without its advantages. The young lady is saved a deal of trouble and anxiety, to say nothing of the jealousy which, under our system, in spite of


[page 279]

all she can do, will now and then creep into the heart. She is relieved of the necessity of always being "fixed up," in order to be in proper trim to receive her knight, should he come at an unexpected hour. And then, under the Spanish régime, there are none of the heart-burnings and uncertainties as to whether her love is returned, as is often experienced under our system, and to which species of disquietude the ladies are more or less given. There is no time lost in rides and walks, nor sleep destroyed by troubled dreams, not to mention an occasional case of bona fide heart-breaking, with suit for damages. This paternal arrangement even presents more advantages for the lad than the lass: it is an immense saving of both time and money, economizes breath, otherwise expended in long-drawn sighs, and last, though not least, is a positive blessing to hired horses. This mode of procedure removes the greatest bugbear in the line matrimonial, and under it a wife can be had without the necessity of passing through the fiery ordeal of "popping the question," which is said to require more nerve than to lead a forlorn hope on the field of battle. Such is the working of the Spanish system, and the manner in which the fair sex are led willing captives in Cupid's net; but, after giving it a careful consideration, I am much inclined to the opinion that "the old way is the best, after all."

Soon after my arrival in Santa Fé, a case in point came under my observation, and I had an opportunity of witnessing the practical workings of this new matrimonial arrangement. In a family in which I was an habitual visitor there was a pretty and agreeable daughter, who had inspired a caballero with the tender passion. He made the matter known in due season to his father, who in turn addressed a sort of diplomatic note to the mother of the young lady, proposing that the two young


[page 280]

people should become "bone of one bone and flesh of one flesh." I chanced to call at the house the same evening the letter had been received, and the mother, feeling unusually happy in view of the proposed alliance, handed it to me to read, at the same time descanting with considerable eloquence upon the advantages to arise from such a match—that the young man was mui rico (very rich) and mui buen (very good), with many other words of praise. The letter was an ordinary business document, and couched in about the same language as would be used in the purchase of a mule or the hire of a burro. The mother was quite anxious for the alliance to take place, but told me, in a semi-confidential manner, that her daughter was opposed to the arrangement—a perverseness that the old lady could not understand. The young lady sat close by, a listener to the conversation between her mother and myself, now and then giving us a meaning look from under her long eyelashes, as much as to say, ‘‘No you don't, old lady.’’ I determined to know how the matter stood with the daughter, and at the first opportunity asked her a few leading questions touching the matter under consideration, and pretty soon found out the cause of trouble in the camp. She told me, with great frankness, that she did not love her suitor, and would not marry him. Here was the whole question in a nutshell. I counseled treason in the premises, and advised her to have her own way in a matter which was of more importance to her than any one else. She took this course, and the unromantic and unwooing swain was obliged to look elsewhere for a housekeeper. A few evenings afterward I saw the father of the young man at the house, who had come to talk the matter over with the mother; but it did no good, for the young lady had a mind of her own, and neither persuasion nor parental threats could induce her to accede to their wishes.


[page 281]

Notwithstanding the high rate of matrimonial fees, and the artificial restrictions placed upon love-making, people do sometimes marry in New Mexico, after all. The first winter I spent in Santa Fé I had the pleasure of attending a bona fide Mexican wedding, both parties being considered as belonging to the élite of the city. The father of the bride, Don Antonio, was a rico, and the happy groom was an officer of the Legislative Assembly. The ceremony took place on a Sunday evening, at the house of the bride's father, where a large number of guests were in attendance. The young lady was a comely lass, without being beautiful. The invitations specified eight o'clock as the hour when the performance was to come off, and, a short time before, in company with some friends, I wended my way to the scene of the festivities. A carriage had been provided to convey us to the house, which we found in waiting at the door of the Honorable Secretary of the Territory. Duly seated in the rickety old machine, away we rattled, and, after a drive of a few minutes, were safely deposited at the threshold.

The master of the establishment met us at the door, welcomed us in the most friendly manner, and conducted us across the court-yard into the house, passing through the sala into a smaller room beyond. Here were assembled some twenty ladies of all ages, and, in order to be a correct chronicler of events, I must add of all colors, from the fair skin of the pure Spanish blood to a good wholesome Indian brown. They were seated, some on benches and others upon the floor, quite after the manner of a Turk, and nearly every one of them had cigarritos in their mouths, which they smoked with the non-chalance of the same number of men. Upon our entrance they maintained their dignity and silence, nor presumed to salute us even with a buenas noches. We seated ourselves, and, in obedience to the command of


[page 282]

Don Antonio, made ourselves as much at home as the circumstances of the case would permit. Several other ladies came in, one at a time, until the room was quite well filled. Some of them were pretty and intelligent-looking, and dressed with considerable taste, but the wreaths of smoke which now and then came from the mouth and nostrils detracted considerably from their good looks, according to the American idea. In the centre of the room stood a table filled with numerous bottles of liquor, both mild and strong, supported on each side by plates of cakes and sweetmeats, which fairly formed a breastwork around the spiritual comforters. As there were no other gentlemen invited to take a seat in the room with the ladies, we considered ourselves more highly honored than the rest of the company—so much for being governor, secretary, and Uncle Sam's attorney.

We had been seated some half an hour, when we were invited to walk into the sala, where the ceremony was about to come off. Here we found a large number of persons arranged around the room, each one holding a lighted candle. Upon our entrance candles were thrust into our hands, and we were conducted to the head of the room, where the altar was erected, and which appeared to be the post of honor. We took our position just to the left of the officiating priest, who, duly robed and book in hand, stood ready to read the service. Immediately behind us were the musicians, two with violins and the third with a harp, who were charged to discourse music upon the occasion. In a few minutes the bridal party, four in number, entered the room, and advanced in front of and near the priest. The service was performed according to the rites of the Roman Catholic Church, and in a very few minutes the affianced couple were pronounced husband and wife. When the ceremony was about half concluded, the musicians commenced their discord,


[page 283]

which they kept up until it was finished, the leader accompanying the instruments with his voice, which sounded about as melodious as a dinner-horn out of tune. After the benediction was pronounced the ladies retired, and we saw no more of them; but the gentlemen were invited to the refreshment-room to partake of a few of the good things of life. In a short time the company bade adieu to the host and bent their steps homeward, and thus was celebrated a Mexican wedding.

Upon entering the executive office one morning about the first of February, I found there a delegation of Utah Indians, who had come from the mountains to the North to have an audience with the governor. They were but two in number: Tamouche, a chief, and his wife—the former somewhat celebrated. He was rather a handsome man, with an intellectual cast of countenance, and indicative of great firmness and courage. His eyes were black and piercing, and, with that habitual quickness that belongs to the wild Indian, they seemed to take in every thing at a single glance. In person he was about medium size, but his figure was developed in beautiful proportions, and he exhibited in his manners as much natural grace and dignity as I have ever seen in any person. His features were regular and classic, and appeared fashioned in Nature's finest mould. He was dressed in a suit of buckskin, the coat being highly wrought with beads, and his arms were the bow and arrow, which, however, he laid aside before appearing in the presence of the governor. Take him all in all, he was the finest specimen of a wild, untutored Indian I have ever met, and in personal appearance would compare favorably with his civilized white brethren. His wife, who sat by his side, was a small and delicate-looking woman, and far inferior to her lord in appearance. She, too, was dressed in buckskin, with the addition of a blanket thrown over her


[page 284]

shoulders. As she sat in the presence of the executive, she appeared shy and coy as the belles who figure in civilized life, and, like a sensible woman, allowed her husband to do the talking.

When I entered the room, the governor introduced me to the chief as an officer of the government, whereupon he took me in his arms and gave me an old-fashioned hug, and, through the medium of an interpreter, we mutually pledged each other friendship in the future. He failed to present me to his squaw, which I excused on the ground that such was Indian custom. After the governor and he had finished their talk, the former presented the chief with a large silver medal, in the name of his Great Father at Washington, as an earnest of the friendship that existed between them. He was also told the medal made him a captain in the service of the governor, and that, so long as he carried it and behaved himself well, the whites would do him no harm. The medal was attached to a piece of ribbon, and suspended about his neck; and I doubt whether cavalier ever felt prouder when dubbed a knight than did this untutored savage as he gazed upon his new present. The chief and his wife took their leave in an excellent humor with themselves and their Great Father, and in bidding adieu he favored each one of us with a friendly hug.

Tamouche is a war-chief among the Utahs—one of the most powerful of our Indian tribes, and, as such, he exercises a great influence over them in time of war. He is not of much account during peace, for then his "occupation is gone," and it is only when he comes to lead his warriors to battle that he is a great man among them. He is said to watch over his better half with peculiar jealousy, and his present wife is the third one of his dusky countrywomen whom he has taken to his bed and board. It is said of him, and believed, that he killed two


[page 285]

Indian doctors who failed to cure his former wives. Their skill was at fault, and the squaws died under their treatment, which so much outraged the feelings of Tamouche that he put both the medicine-men to death, and sent them to look after their patients. If this Indian custom was generally adopted there would be fewer physicians in the land, and there might, possibly, be better health among the inhabitants.

The chief promised to go with the governor to Washington the coming spring, and have a talk with his Great Father face to face. He and his wife left their lodge about the middle of March to come down to Santa Fé, whence they were to take their departure; but they were overtaken on the way by a deputation of the friends and relatives of the wife, who came to persuade them to return. Finding their arguments and entreaties of no avail, they seized upon Mrs. Tamouche and carried her home by force, being afraid to trust her so far away in the land of the pale faces. This, as a matter of course, broke up the trip of the chief, because he could never think of making a journey across the Plains without having his wife along to catch and saddle his horse and cook his victuals. To an Indian, a wife is really and emphatically a help-meet; and not only does the labor of the household devolve upon her, but she is also obliged to perform all the out-door work besides. I would recommend the Indian tribes of New Mexico as an admirable field for the labors of the advocates of the modern doctrine of Woman's Rights. Here they would find a wide scope for the exercise of their philanthropic genius, and in the effort to better the condition of their red sisters they would receive much more praise than they are now entitled to.

The two houses of the Legislative Assembly adjourned sine die on Thursday, the 3d of February, having concluded


[page 286]

their session of sixty days. In some respects the session was an interesting one, and mainly so because most of the members were untried in the art of law-making. It must be borne in mind, while criticising the actions of the two Houses, that the members did not spring full-fledged and initiated in the business of legislation, as has been generally the case with the other new territories heretofore organized in the Union. These are a new people, speaking a strange language, and whose whole method of thinking and acting, in all things political, had been widely different from that of the American people. Thus far the representative system in New Mexico is somewhat a matter of experiment, it being the first Spanish country in which universal suffrage has been fairly tested. Although the republican system of the United States is beautiful in its simplicity, and easily understood by those who have breathed its atmosphere and been trained in its ways from early youth, yet a strange people, who have been reared in ignorance of its precepts, and deprived of all political training, must necessarily require time before they can work with ease and facility in the new harness. All things considered, the people of New Mexico seem to have been as apt scholars in the science of government as could be expected under the circumstances. During the session just closed some useful laws were enacted, but much was left undone that was required for the well-being of the Territory, and I have no doubt that experience will remedy past errors.

The Assembly came near breaking up in a row, and for a time things wore the appearance of a second edition, on a small scale, of the "buckshot and ball war" that took place in Pennsylvania a few years ago. At the election for delegate to Congress the previous September, much bitterness of feeling was engendered. Party lines were tightly drawn, without having a reference wholly to political


[page 287]

creeds, and at the meeting of the Legislature old animosities were renewed, which led to a fierce struggle in the two Houses. Members seemed to lose sight of the object for which they had been elected, and forgot how much the public business would suffer by these petty strifes; and, from the beginning of the session, a few weary spirits in each House appeared disposed to control legislation, if possible, even at the expense of the public interest. These hostilities festered and grew as the session wore away, until it reached such a height, three days before the time of adjournment, that an effort was made to break up the session of the House altogether.

The great bone of contention between the respective interests in the two Houses was the question of public printing, which was the subject of much angry discussion, and the immediate cause of the difficulty that took place. The allotment of the work is in the hands of the Secretary of the Territory, who pays for the same with funds appropriated by Congress and put in his hands for that purpose, the prices being fixed at the Treasury Department; the prices being fixed at the Treasury Department; but he can not have more work done than the laws of the session, unless the two Houses order the same by a joint resolution. In the early part of the session the secretary made a contract with a printing-office in Santa Fé to do all the printing that might be ordered by the Assembly at their then present session. This contract did not meet the approbation of the House, which endeavored to thwart the same by refusing to concur with the council in a joint resolution ordering the journals to be printed. At various times, to this effect, an effort had been made, but the opposition had voted the measure down, and now the session was drawing to a close without any thing having been done in the premises. The office with which the secretary had contracted had become obnoxious to the majority of the House because


[page 288]

of the course the paper had taken in the late congressional election, and the object of the opposition was to prevent the parties contracted with getting the public work, which was reckoned a pretty good job. They could not obtain it for their own friends, and determined to prevent any body else getting it.

On the evening of the thirtieth of January, and but three days before the session would terminate by virtue of the act of Congress, a joint resolution authorizing the journals to be printed was introduced into the House. It met with a fierce opposition, but passed to a second reading, and would have finally passed had not an adjournment been voted until the next day. The opposition saw the resolution would certainly pass the next day unless means were taken to prevent another vote being had upon it, and it is said they held a caucus that evening to determine upon the course they should pursue, and we have the right to suppose that they resolved to do just what they afterward did do. The next morning, eleven members, less than a quorum, met in the hall of the House twenty minutes before the regular time of meeting, organized by calling one of their own number to the chair, caused the journal of the day before to be read and adopted, when they adjourned until Thursday evening, the third instant, at nine o'clock, only three hours before the time at which the session would come to a close. They then retired, supposing they had accomplished their object, which was to postpone any further action upon the printing resolution; but their plans were completely frustrated. At the usual hour of meeting a quorum of members assembled, the speaker in the chair, when the House was duly organized and proceeded to business. The printing resolution was passed without a dissenting voice, and also many bills which party feeling hitherto had kept upon the speaker's table;


[page 289]

and during the remaining three days more business was done than had been transacted all the previous part of the session.

These rather high-handed proceedings caused considerable excitement in Santa Fé, and a number of persons collected under the portals of the palace to watch passing events; but no further disturbance took place, and the business of legislation proceeded smoothly to the end of the session. Before the adjournment, most of those who had participated in the "Rump Parliament" returned to the House and took part in the proceedings. The same evening of the adjournment, and about nine o'clock at night, four or five of those who had acted with the Rumpites went to the door of the House and tried to enter, but finding it locked, one of the number waited upon the Secretary of the Territory and demanded the key, which he refused to deliver to him. Thus prevented from entering the House, they went to the residence of one of the party, where it is said they held a mock session and adjourned. To say the least, these proceedings were unfortunate, and might be made use of as evidence that the people of New Mexico are incapable of self-government. The actors themselves probably did not realize the full force of the measures they were taking, and I have no doubt the injudicious advice of third parties had much to do in bringing about this state of affairs. This episode in legislation should serve as a lesson, and deter the representatives of the people from engaging in any thing of the kind in future.

At the next session of the Legislature matters were conducted with more regularity, and no attempt was made to interrupt public business. One incident took place that somewhat surprised me, and which shows something at fault in that people. The previous summer two Mexican boys had been purchased from the Indians


[page 290]

of the Arkansas by General Whitfield, the agent, and were thus rescued from bondage. During the session a bill was introduced into the House, making an appropriation to refund the amount to General Whitfield which he had paid for the boys, together with other necessary expenses attending their liberation, the whole not amounting to more than one hundred dollars. The bill hardly received a vote; and the reason given by those who opposed it was, that it was the duty of the United States to redeem their children from Indian captivity, and that it was no business of theirs. Such a course would disgrace any State Legislature in the Union. At the same session the two Houses refused to appropriate a few dollars to pay freight on books the general government had sent out for the territorial library, and which were allowed to remain in the hands of the freighter, to be sold or destroyed. If this fact was known to Congress, it might deter that body from donating any more books to the library of New Mexico.

A few days before the eighth day of January, a member arose in his seat in the House and stated that, inasmuch as the eighth instant is the anniversary of the birth of the illustrious Jackson, he would move that the House do adjourn over that day. This announcement was received with some degree of amusement; but some member, better posted in the history of the United States, corrected the patriotic mover, and explained that the eighth of January was the anniversary of the battle of New Orleans, when the House adjourned accordingly. At the previous session a member of the Council introduced a resolution requesting the Secretary of the Territory to purchase "an engraving of Washington, the Father of his Country and all the other presidents." Now it will not be doubted that Washington was the father of his country, but it will hardly be admitted that he


[page 291]

stood in this relation to all the other presidents; which, if the case, would give to him the most distinguished progeny that ever fell to the lot of one person. But the most amusing incident in New Mexican legislation is said to have occurred during the first session of the Assembly. One of the members had repeatedly asked a waggish young American to draw him up something to present to the council, saying the other members had all presented papers but himself. So one day he called the member aside, and told him, in an earnest manner, that the Constitution of the United States was not at all applicable to the wants of the people of New Mexico, and should be repealed so far as that Territory was concerned, and concluded by telling him that he would draw up and give him a resolution to that effect if he (the member) would present it. The member took with the proposition, and, at the next meeting of the Council, he arose in his seat and offered the resolution, to the effect that the Constitution of the United States should and ought to be repealed so far as it related to the Territory of New Mexico. It was received with a shout of laughter, and at once laid upon the table.

From some cause or other, Saint Valentine is not known among the list of saints that belong to the country, and his anniversary is allowed to come and go without the least observance in Santa Fé. In Southern Mexico the day is somewhat observed, but in New Mexico it seems to have been entirely lost sight of. In the States, the Fourth of July or militia trainings could as well be dispensed with as Valentine's Day, which would not be half the deprivation to the young people. This day affords a carte blanche for those who are that way inclined to give and receive tokens of love from under the watchful eyes of mammas, and all the damage that may be done is laid at the door of the good old saint who sits


[page 292]

upon the throne. In place of Saint Valentine's, "All Fools' Day" is in vogue and properly observed. It falls, however, upon the twenty-eighth of December instead of the first of April, as in the States, and is known as el dia de inocente—the day of the innocent. The custom of the day is peculiar. People go among their friends and borrow whatever they can, but which they will never return unless the articles are redeemed by a present. Under this system greenhorns often part with their most valuable trinkets, and sometimes they are obliged to pay a heavy tribute before they recover them. All strangers should have their eyes open, and their purses shut tight, if they chance to be in a Spanish country on the twenty-eighth of December.

As is becoming too common in many parts of the United States, the twenty-second day of February, the birth-day of the immortal Washington, was allowed to pass by with no other demonstration than the firing of a national salute at sundown, and the burning of a few fire-crackers in the evening. It is a source of deep regret that a proper observance of such days is falling so much into disuse of late years, which seems to argue that our people are degenerating in point of patriotism. Our national days can not be too sacredly observed, and should be kept all over the Union by the people and constituted authorities as national holidays; when all should cease from labor, and from hill and valley, town and country, the whole population should go up to the temple of God, and most devoutly return thanks for the many blessings that rest upon us as a nation. It should be made a fitting occasion to teach the youth of our country the great price our fathers paid for our institutions, and to impress upon them the necessity of always appreciating and being ready to defend them. It seems evident that, whenever a people cease to observe the national days in their


[page 293]

history, they are fast forgetting the events that made them national; such neglect marks the first apparent decay of patriotism, and thence the downward road is gradual, but sure.

Toward the close of the month I chanced to meet in Santa Fé the notorious Captain Salazar, the same who figures, in not a very enviable position, in Kendall's "Santa Fé Expedition." He is the man who had charge of the Texan prisoners while marching through New Mexico, and treated them with such savage cruelty, cutting off their ears, and inflicting other unheard-of barbarities upon them. He is a dark and swarthy-looking individual, and by no means prepossessing in his appearance. Upon this occasion he had come in to see the governor, in order to claim damages for his son, who had been killed by the Indians a few days before, out upon the Plains, while hunting buffalo. He laid a valuation of five thousand dollars upon his life, because, he said, it had cost a good deal of money to rear and educate him, and he now wished the United States to pay for his loss. But, as the Indian Intercourse Act does not recognize such claims, the governor declined either to make him any remuneration or refer his demand to the government.

The mail that arrived from San Antonio, Texas, in the month of February, brought me intelligence of the death of a dear friend, Lieutenant Hugh E. Dungan, of the fourth regiment United States Artillery. He died at Fort Brown, opposite Matamoras, on the eleventh day of the previous November, of that terrible scourge, the yellow fever. Lieutenant Dungan was a native of Pennsylvania, and was born almost within rifle-shot of my own home. He entered the Military Academy at West Point in June, 1846, and graduated in 1850 with a high reputation for ability and scholarship. The same fall he joined his company at Fort Brown, where he was stationed


[page 294]

up to the day of his death. In the death of Lieutenant Dungan I lost a valued friend. Our intimacy commenced when we were boys attending the same school, and as we grew up to manhood our friendship ripened and strengthened. A nobler and better man I hardly ever knew, and in all the relations of life, such as son, brother, and friend, it might be said of him, ‘‘Sans peur et sans reproche.’’ At home, where he was best known and most loved, he has left a void that no time can fill up; and his early death has robbed his country of a gallant officer, in whose service he promised an honorable and useful career. Thus the friends of our youth glide away one by one, and leave us behind to fight the great battle of life; and as they pass from time to eternity, we are forcibly reminded that we will soon have more friends in heaven than on earth. I make no apology to the reader for thus noticing the death of my friend; he was one to whom I had been long and truly attached, and this slight tribute to his memory is the least that his worth and virtues merit.

‘‘
He sleeps his last sleep, he has fought his last battle,
No sound can awake him to glory again.
’’

After a somewhat tedious and cold winter, spring made its appearance the beginning of March, and which, in whatever land we live or roam, we find the most pleasant of the four seasons. Summer, autumn, and winter, each in its turn, has its own peculiar charms, but spring carries off the palm, and all the others give way to the season of opening flowers. Now every bud bursts forth into newness of life; the birds return again to their old familiar haunts, and make the air vocal with their sweet songs; the grass grows fresh and green beneath our feet, and valley, hill, and mountain-side once more clothe themselves in their pleasant garb. The flowers spring up on every side, and perfume the air with their


[page 295]

sweet odor far and near, and you again welcome in your path the primrose, the modest violet, and the blushing rose as old acquaintances, and pay court to them as the most lovely of Flora's family group.

Man also feels the change from winter to spring almost as sensibly as the fields and flowers, and both body and mind rejoice in the return of this pleasant season. He experiences a newness of life, and a genial influence apparently pervades the whole system as he breathes the new atmosphere which comes freighted with its quickening influence. The reason we have a higher appreciation of spring than autumn or summer is probably because it follows immediately upon winter, and the contrast between the two seasons is so marked; and this sudden transition from the cold and ice of winter to the mild and more pleasant weather of spring may cause us to award charms to the latter season that exceed the reality.

Spring, in the seasons, has been likened to the period of youth in the life of man, in which there is at the same time a similitude and a wide difference. Spring returns in its course with each rolling year, but youth, once passed, is gone forever; the flowers of life have faded, and so wither away until they are gathered into the grave. In youth, all is beautiful and pleasant; we look on life and the world through a charmed mirror, which tinges and perfumes all things with the color and odor of the rose; and then, when years have come upon us, and the rose-leaves have become seared and fallen, we cast a "longing, lingering look behind" down the vista of time, and, while "distance lends enchantment to the view," we often indulge in bitter and painful regrets that the springtime of life is lost to us forever.

That which most adds to the enjoyment of the season in New Mexico is the climate, which, in point of salubrity,


[page 296]

is not excelled in any part of the world. No country can boast a purer, brighter, and healthier sky, equal in all respects to that which bends over the vine-clad hills of Italy. The atmosphere is dry, pure, and clear, and seldom rains, but when it does, then look to the roof of your house. Fresh meat is preserved by hanging it up in the open air, and salt is seldom used among the Mexican population for this purpose. There is but little decay of vegetable matter, owing to the scarcity of rain and the scanty growth of bushes, grass, and trees upon the mountains and in the valleys. There is comparatively little sickness in the country, and fever or fever and ague are diseases almost unknown. Health seems to be the natural condition of man instead of disease, and a larger number of persons live to a great old age than in any other part of our country, and before they die some assume almost the appearance of Egyptian mummies. During the latter part of summer and the beginning of autumn, in what is called the rainy season, more or less water falls, but there are no periodical rains at other seasons of the year. The soil being sandy and porous, the water soon sinks away, and leaves the surface dry after the hardest dash of rain.

The winters at Santa Fé are quite severe, and the thermometer has been known to sink as many as twelve degrees below zero, and to remain at nearly the same temperature for several days together. Snow sometimes falls to the depth of eighteen inches or two feet, but seldom remains long on the ground in the valleys; but during the severest weather of winter the cold is not felt so sensibly as the same temperature in the States, because of the great dryness of the atmosphere. In the dampest weather moisture is seldom seen upon the walls or windows of the houses, and it is equally rare to see ice or frost on the window-glass in the coldest weather


[page 297]

of winter. In the summer the heat is greatly tempered by the elevation of the region, so that in the middle and northern sections of the country it is never uncomfortably warm, and at Santa Fé it is not too warm to sleep under a pair of blankets. In all that part of the Territory south of Albuquerque the climate is much warmer, and in some sections tropical fruits are raised. Here the summers are long and hot, and the winters generally short and mild. Spring opens in February, and in the most southern part vegetation is green most of the year. In this region there prevail high winds in the spring of the year, while the atmosphere is filled with fine particles of sand, which seek an entrance into every nook and corner of the houses, and cover every thing with a coating of dust. These winds prevail in other sections of the Territory, but they neither last so long nor blow so fiercely. They come periodically from the south and southwest, and the cause of their prevalence appears never to have been satisfactorily explained.

The dryness of the climate is owing mainly to the great elevation of the plains that lie around and among the Rocky and the neighboring mountains. Santa Fé has an altitude of nearly eight thousand feet above the level of the sea; and the Valley of Taos, one of the most northern settled portions of the country, has an equal elevation. The central position of New Mexico, together with its great elevation and great distance from either ocean, exempts it from the fogs and damps that prevail nearer the sea-coast. The wind that blows from the Atlantic on the east and the Pacific on the west starts inland loaded with vapor, but, coming in contact with numerous mountain ridges on the way, condensation takes place, and the moisture drops down in rain long before it reaches the plains of New Mexico, which thirst in vain for refreshing showers. As a place of resort for invalids


[page 298]

there is probably no country on the continent equal to it, and if there was an easy, safe, and expeditious communication with the States, thousands would resort thither yearly for the restoration of their health.

While, as a general thing, but little rain falls, now and then there is a season that makes an exception to the rule, when the water comes down in torrents. Such was the case in the summers of 1854–55, which will long be remembered by the inhabitants as unusually wet years. The rainy season began quite early the first year, and did not end till the first week in November. Nearly every family in town suffered more or less, and both seasons several houses fell down. The water poured through the mud roofs in streams as thick as a man's arm, and stood several inches deep in the rooms. Several families were driven from their beds at midnight, and were obliged to seek shelter elsewhere. Dry land was almost as eagerly sought after by the drenched inhabitants as by the dove from Noah's ark, and every conceivable place of refuge was resorted to. One family, with bed and bedding, fled to the court-house, and there reposed securely in the arms of the law until morning. The various expedients adopted to keep dry were amusing in the highest degree, and a faithful drawing of some of these scenes would place all other delineations in the shade. Several pitched tents in their rooms, and others squatted under umbrellas. One gentleman, being in succession driven from his bed and from under the table, as a last resort seated himself in an arm-chair with an umbrella over his head, and there remained until morning. This state of things lasted three or four days. A general feeling of ill-humor pervaded the community, and the countenance of every man you met bespoke disgust at the wet time they were having.

The flood of water failed to spare my premises, but


[page 299]

made an unceremonious entry into my quarters in the dead hour of night, and came with a hearty good-will, that showed it neither stood upon ceremony nor was a respecter of persons. In the first place, with a little show of modesty, it insinuated itself through my roof in drops, probably to try my temper for a ducking, but it soon increased into large streams, and kept up a steady running the live-long night. I immediately resolved myself into a water committee of one to attend upon the leakage, and mustered into service tubs, buckets, and various other vessels to catch the water in. In a short time I carried out nearly a barrel; but the storm continuing and the water increasing, I ceased my efforts to bail, and quietly laid me down to sleep. My sleep during the balance of the night was disturbed by dreams of water-works, and storms by sea and land; and when I awoke in the morning I found my room in good boating order. I made my escape by coasting around the wall, and sought safety in drier quarters.

Up: Contents Previous: CHAPTER XI:Winter In Santa Fé Next: CHAPTER XIII:Riding The Circuit




© Arizona Board of Regents