The most beautiful ruin in New Mexico, beyond all compare, is that of the old Mission Church at Jemez; and the most beautiful picture of a ruin in New Mexico, without any doubt, is the magnificent photograph taken of the ruins of this church by Mr. Hillers in 1876. This is one of the splendid set of photographs of the Indian pueblos made by that eminent artist for the government, which are not only a triumph of artistic skill but constitute the most valuable illustration of the life and work of the Pueblo Indians before the coming of the railroads to the Pueblo country. The illustration which we print in connection with this chapter is taken direct from the Hillers photograph, and includes all the surroundings of the ruined Mission itself, with the mountain slopes as a background. The scenery in the vicinity is of much beauty, presenting the various aspects of mountain, mesa, valley, cañeon, and river.
The Jemez Springs comprise a variety of mineralization and temperature rarely found in such a limited area. The Soda Dam is a curiosity of mineral deposit which alone is well worthy of a visit. All that the Jemez region requires to make it a favorite
RUINS OF THE JEMEZ MISSION
The history of Jemez, so far as it has any connection with Europeans, began with the visit of Barrio-Nuevo, an officer of Coronado's army, in 1541. This occurred while Coronado was himself on the eastern plains seeking the famed Quivira, but the main body of his expedition had returned to Tihuex on the Rio Grande, under command of Arellano, and was awaiting the reappearance of its chief. With the double purpose of seeking new discoveries and obtaining supplies for the winter, Arellano sent expeditions in various directions.
Zia had previously been visited, but Captain Francisco de Barrio-Nuevo was directed to explore the country much farther to the north. He marched up the Jemez River to Zia, and then proceeded farther along the stream to Jemez, finding a continuous population in the beautiful valley and being well received by the people. From Jemez he crossed to the eastward, probably following the cañon of Santa Clara Creek to the Rio Grande, and then along the west side of that river to Yuque-Yunque at the mouth of the Chama, where the vicinity of the present Chamita station is still called Yunque. The captain was evidently a good explorer, as he penetrated to the north as far as Taos, and was the first European discoverer of that pueblo, as is narrated in the chapter relating to its Mission.
The return of Coronado to Mexico, early in the next year, left the Indians of Jemez in undisturbed tranquility, with only a recollection, which must have seemed like an imaginary dream, of the brief appearance among them of the bearded white men from afar, with strange language and stranger weapons, who had come and gone almost in a day.
Forty years passed and then Espejo appeared with his little company, after visiting Zia and enjoying the hospitality of its generous people. This zealous explorer describes the Jemez province (he gives the name as Ameyes or Amies) as containing 30,000 inhabitants, living in seven pueblos, most of which were in the valley, but one so far back in the mountains that it was not visited. The people resembled those of Zia, enjoyed a good form of government, and were well provided with all of the necessaries of life. Espejo proceeded thence to Acoma, of which he had heard interesting accounts, and left the Jemez region again to its pristine condition, until the first settlement of the country under Oñate in 1598.
We have seen in another chapter how rapid were the movements of this enterprising leader, so that we need not be surprised that in less than a month after the first settlement at San Gabriel, Oñate explored the entire country in the vicinity of Zia and Jemez and was especially interested in the sulphur springs of that locality. He must have been impressed with the importance of this section of the country, for when the missionary work of the Franciscans
Thus Jemez became one of the original missionary centers, and its church was one of the first erected in New Mexico. In fact it soon became the most conspicuous scene of Christian effort and success, for when in 1617 Fr. Zarate Salmeron was appointed head of the Franciscan work in New Mexico, he took up his residence there, and became such a shining example of missionary zeal that his name has ever since been held in special veneration. In his own account of his missionary work he says he “sacrificed himself to the Lord among the Pagans” for eight years, chiefly among the Jemez Indians, of whom he baptized no less than 6,566; and he became so well versed in the Jemez language that he wrote a “doctrina” in that tongue.
A few years later, Benavides in his report to the king, tells us that the Jemez Indians, before his arrival as custodio, had become much reduced in numbers and scattered by reason of wars and famine, but that with much care they had been gathered again into two pueblos, one called San José and one San Diego, both of which had churches and conventos, those in San José especially being very sumptuous and beautiful.
One of the first acts of De Vargas after reëstablishing Spanish authority, was to recover the remains of this Franciscan martyr and re-inter them in the church at Santa Fé. A very interesting account of this transaction appears in the official report of De Vargas himself, comprised in Archive No. 61 of the documents taken to the Library of Congress from the New Mexican archives, and still retained there.
From the original document, it appears that on the 8th of August, 1694, in the presence of the priest, Governor De Vargas exhumed the body, which, according to the statements of an Indian man and woman, had been buried on the outside of an estufa in the ruined pueblo of San Diego de Jemez. He soon found the skeleton, which was conclusively recognized by its small size and the fact that the arrow remained in the shoulder.