Pecos Pueblo Land Grant

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Se-Sa - Fwe-Yah or Agustin Pecos,
The Last Resident of the
Extinct Pueblo of Pecos

The Pecos Pueblo Land Grant is one of many Spanish land grants in New Mexico. The grant was made to the native people of Pecos Pueblo, who were forced to leave their home land and move to Jemez Pueblo. The move was attributed to a dwindling population, caused by various external factors.


sorted chronologically

16th century[edit]

  • Some Indians came to Cibola from a village which was 70 leagues east of this province, called Cicuye. Among them was a captain who was called Bigotes (Whiskers) by our men, because he wore a long mustache. He was a tall, well-built, young fellow, with a fine figure. He told the general that they had come in response to the notice which had been given, to offer themselves as friends, and that if we wanted to go through their country they would consider us as their friends. They brought a present of tanned hides and shields and head-pieces, which were very gladly received, and the general gave them some glass dishes and a number of pearls and little bells which they prized highly, because these were things they had never seen. They described some cows which, from a picture that one of them had painted on his skin, seemed to be cows, although from the hides this did not seem possible, because the hair was woolly and snarled so that we could not tell what sort of skins they had. The general ordered Hernando de Alvarado to take 20 companions and go with them, and gave him a commission for eighty days, after which he should return to give an account of what he had found.
    Captain Alvarado started on this journey and in five days reached a village which was on a rock called Acuco [Acoma] having a population of about 200 men. These people were robbers, feared by the whole country round about. The village was very strong, because it was up on a rock out of reach, having steep sides in every direction, and so high that it was a very good musket that could throw a ball as high. There was only one entrance by a stairway built by hand... They made a present of a large number of [turkey-] cocks with very big wattles, much bread, tanned deerskins, pine [piñon] nuts, flour [corn meal], and corn.
    Pecos Pueblo flageolets (flutes)
    made from bird bone.
    Sketch after figures in
    John L. Kessell, Kiva, Cross and Crown p.13 &
    Alfred Vincent Kidder, The Artifacts of Pecos (1932)

    From here they went to a province called Triguex [Tiguex], three days distant. The people all came out peacefully, seeing that Whiskers was with them. These men are feared throughout all those provinces. Alvarado sent messengers back from here to advise the general to come and winter in this country. ...Five days from here he came to Cicuye, a very strong village four stories high. The people came out from the village with signs of joy to welcome Hernando de Alvarado and their captain, and brought them into the town with drums and pipes something like flutes, of which they have a great many. They made many presents of cloth and turquoises, of which there are quantities in that region. The Spaniards enjoyed themselves here for several days and talked with an Indian slave, a native of the country toward Florida, which is the region Don Fernando de Soto discovered. This fellow said that there were large settlements in the farther part of that country. Hernando de Alvarado took him to guide them to the cows: but he told them so many and such great things about the wealth of gold and silver in his country that they did not care about looking for cows, but returned after they had seen some few, to report the rich news to the general.
    They called the Indian "Turk," because he looked like one.
    • Pedro de Castañeda de Nájera (1540 events) "The Narrative of Castañeda: 1st Part, Ch. 12. of how people came from Cicuye to Cibola to see the Christiana and how Hernando de Alvarado went to see the cows." as quoted by George Parker Winship, The Coronado Expedition, 1540-1542 (1896) p. 490
  • Cicuye is a village of nearly five hundred warriors, who are feared throughout that country. It is square, situated on a rock, with a large court or yard in the middle, containing the estufas. The houses are all alike, four stories high. One can go over the top of the whole village without there being a street [crossway] to hinder. There are corridors going all around it at the first two stories, by which one can go around the whole village. These are like outside balconies, and they are able to protect themselves under these. The houses do not have doors below, but they use ladders, which can be lifted up like a drawbridge, and so go up to the corridors which are on the inside of the village. As the doors of the houses open on the corridor of that story, the corridor serves as a street. The houses that open on the plain are right back of those that open on the court, and in time of war they go through those behind them. The village is inclosed by a low wall of stone. There is a spring of water inside, which they are able to divert. The people of this village boast that no one has been able to conquer them and that they conquer whatever villages they wish. The people and their customs are like those of the other villages. Their virgins also go nude until they take husbands, because they say that if they do anything wrong then it will be seen, and so they do not do it. They do not need to be ashamed because they go around as they were born. ...
    The villages are guarded by sentinels with trumpets who call to one another just as in the fortresses of Spain.
    There are seven other villages along this route, toward the snowy mountains
    , one of which has been half destroyed... These were under the rule of Cicuye. Cicuye is in a little valley between mountain chains and mountains covered with large pine forests. There is a little stream which contains very good trout and otters, and there are very large bears and good falcons hereabouts.
    • Pedro de Castañeda de Nájera (1540 events) "The Narrative of Castañeda: 2nd Part, Ch. 5. of Cicuye and the villages in its neighborhood, and of how some people came to conquer this country." as quoted by George Parker Winship, The Coronado Expedition, 1540-1542 (1896) p. 523

19th Century[edit]

  • I have not heard that in the twenty years the Comanche nation has been at peace with this province they have carried on their trading at any other place than the Pueblo of Pecos, eight leagues from this capital...
    • Governor Fernando Chacón to Nemesio Salcedo, commandant general (1804) as quoted by John L. Kessell, Kiva, Cross, and Crown (1979)
  • An official Protector de Indios was again appointed in 1810 at the request of Cochiti Pueblo, whose representative, Juan José Quintana, journeyed all the way to Chihuahua to get action. Quintana recommended Felipe Sandoval for the job and the audiencia accepted his recommendation. ...If the protectors had been more vigorous, the pueblos may not have suffered the loss of land they did starting around 1815. In that year Felipe Sandoval represented Pecos Pueblo in the face of a concerted attack on the Pecos Pueblo league by several prominent Santa Fe residents who petitioned for land on both sides of the Pecos River. When asked by governor Manrique whether the proposed grant would encroach... Sandoval notified the governor that the requested land was "independent of the league and farmland of the Natives." Sandoval distorted the measurement of the league by starting well to the south of the Pueblo complex at the cross in the cemetary. Normally, the cemetary was at the church in the pueblo complex, and the Pecos Indians protested the measurement. Nevertheless, in reliance on Felipe Sandoval's assurances, Governor Manrique made the first grant to encroach on the Pecos Pueblo league on 29 March 1815, which later became known as the Alexander Valle grant. ...Felipe Sandoval ...was a member of the ayutamiento of Santa Fe, which during his tenure approved the Alexander Valle grant and the Los Trigos grant, both of which encroached on the Pecos Pueblo league. ...Felipe Sandoval was a rather lackluster advocate for the Pueblo Indians, but at least, with the exception of the Pecos encroachment in 1815, he did not personally acquire Pueblo land or advocate against the pueblos.
    • Malcolm Ebright, (commentary on 1815 statement & measurement) Advocates for the Oppressed: Hispanos, Indians, Genízaros, and Their Land in New Mexico (2014) pp. 24-26, citing Decree of Governor Maynez, 29 March 1815; Alexander Valle grant, SG 18, Roll 14, fr. 675 et seq.
  • Juan de Aguilar. August 17, 1818.
    Question of boundaries with the Pueblo of the Pecos. Before Don Facundo Melgares, Governor. Vicente Villanueva, Alcalde.
    Pueblo of Pecos; measurements made from the church and the location of the latter with respect to the end of the pueblo at that time (1818) occupied by the Indians. ...This is a petition of Juan de Aguilar [land owner in the Allejandro Valle land grant bordering the north side of the Pecos Pueblo grant] to the governor of New Mexico complaining that the alcalde of El Vado, Don Vincente Villanueva, had made certain measurements from the pueblo of Pecos in defiance of the accepted rules for such operations, in that he had begun them at the edge of the town, instead of at the cross in the cemetery, and with a cord one hundred varas in length instead of only fifty, which alleged errors had resulted in extending the boundaries of the league of the Indians so as to embrace land belonging to the petitioner, and also lands belonging to other citizens. The petitioner asks the governor to decide the two questions raised by him as to the correct manner of making the measurements.
    On August 19, 1818, Governor Melgares called upon the alcalde to report on the matter, which he did on the same day.
    He says that no injury had resulted to anyone from the use of the hundred vara cord, because he had dampened it and stretched it out by two stakes, to offset what shrinkage it may have suffered while it had been coiled; that he had presented it to the petitioner, his son and others, who had again stretched it until they broke it; that with this cord he had made the measurement, with which they were satisfied; that the statement that other lands than those of the petitioner were embraced in the league was false; that if he had used a shorter cord it would have been to the injury of the Indians, on account of the irregular and broken character of the ground; etc. etc.
    In regard to his beginning at the edge of the pueblo he states that he knew it was the custom (but not a fixed rule) to begin at the cross in the cemetery; that the reason for this was that in all the pueblos, except Pecos, the church was approximately in the center of the pueblo; that in addition to the pueblo of Pecos being long, the church was more than a hundred varas distant from one of its extremities, which extremity was opposite to the one then occupied by the Indians; that he had made two other measurements which were favorable to the citizens; etc.
    No action appears to have been taken on this report by the governor.
    • Ralph Emerson Twitchell, (1818 report) The Spanish Archives of New Mexico (1914) Vol.1
    • Note: About 1822 Vicente Villanueva was killed near Las Ruedas and the temporarily abandoned Los Trigos grant [south of the Pecos Pueblo grant]. Killed, swore the Hispanic vecinos ("neighbors," "settlers"), by hostile Apaches, from the east. Ref: Hall, Four Leagues of Pecos (1984) & Kessell, Kiva, Cross, and Crown (1979)
  • The next town on our route was San Miguel, fifteen miles from the last, an old Spanish town of about a hundred houses, a large church and two miserably constructed flour mills. Here was the best water power for mills, and the country in the vicinity abounded in the finest pine timber I had ever seen. But no attempt is made to improve the immense advantages which nature offers. Everything that the inhabitants were connected with seemed going to decay. We left San Miguel on the following morning with the Alcalde and a company of Spaniards bound for Santa Fé. We stopped at night at the ancient Indian village of Peccas about fifteen miles from San Miguel. I slept in the fort, which encloses two or three acres in an oblong, the sides of which are bounded by brick houses three stories high, and without any entrances in front. The window frames were five feet long and three fourths of a foot in width being made thus narrow to prevent all ingress through them. The lights were made of izing-glass and each story was supplied with similar windows. A balcony surmounted the first and second stories and movable ladders were used in ascending to them on the front. We entered the fort by a gate which led into a large square. On the roofs, which, like those of all the houses in Mexico, are flat, were large heaps of stones for annoying an enemy. I noticed that the timbers which extended out from the walls about six feet and supported the balconies, were all hewn with stone hatchets. The floors were of brick, laid on poles, bark and mortar. The brick was burned in the sun and made much larger than ours, being about two feet by one. The walls were covered with plaster made of lime and izing-glass. I was informed by the Spaniards and Indians that this town and fort are of unknown antiquity, and stood there in considerable splendor in the time of the Conquerors. The climate being dry and equable and the wood in the buildings the best of pine and cedar, the towns here suffer but little by natural decay. The Indians have lost all tradition of the settlement of the town of Peccas. It stood a remarkable proof of the advance made by them in the arts of civilization before the Spaniards came among them. All the houses are well built and showed marks of comfort and refinement. The inhabitants, who were all Indians, treated us with great kindness and hospitality. In the evening I employed an Indian to take my horses to pasture, and in the morning when he brought them up I asked him what I should pay him. He asked for powder and I was about to give him some, when the Spanish officer forbade me, saying it was against the law to supply the Indians with ammunition. Arms are kept out of their hands by their masters, who prohibit all trade in those articles with any of the tribes around them. On the next day in the evening, we came in sight of Santa Fé, which presented a fine appearance in the distance.
    • General Thomas James (1821 observations) Three Years Among the Indians and Mexicans (1916)
    • Footnote: Pecos was an ancient Indian pueblo around which grew up a New Mexican village. It was in ruins when visited by Colonel Emory in 1846.
  • February 16, 1825. Leaf 41, page 2.
    There was taken up for consideration a petition by Miguel Rivera and others [all of whom were members of the Pecos tribe], in regard to lands on the Pecos river which had been partitioned to them by the alcalde of El Bado (Vado) by order of the jefe politico and from which they had been subsequently ejected.
    It was decided that the parties must be governed by the decision of the Deputation of February 16, 1824.
    In discussing this matter the question was raised whether the Pecos Indians could sell their lands or prevent the Deputation from making donations of those lands which they claimed to own but were not cultivating.
    Reference is made to such donations having been rejected in accordance with section 5 of the law of November 9, 1812.
    November 17, 1825. Leaf 70, page 2.
    After considering a petition of the Pecos Indians, asking that they be declared to be the owners of one league of land on each course, which amount of land had been considered to belong to each pueblo of the Territory, it was decided to refer the matter to the Federal government for interpretation of section 5, of the law of November 9, 1812.
    • Ralph Emerson Twitchell, (1825 report) The Spanish Archives of New Mexico (1914) Vol.1
  • Alcalde Rafael Aguilar, his lieutenant Juan Domingo Vigil, and "General" José Manuel Armenta, all Pecos Indians, appealed to the Diputación to halt the unlawful alienation of their lands. Some recipients of these grants were speculating. Without having acquired any legal rights to the land or having occupied it the required five years, they had begun selling it off. ..."It is not nor has it been our desire," the Pecos insisted, "that they give them our lands." What the Indians had not planted, they used as pasture for their livestock.
    Had they no rights under God and the nation? "Well we know that since the conquest we have earned more merits than all the pueblos of this province." If grants were to be made, they should be of land truly vacant, "as it is at Lo de Mora, at Las Candelarias, at El Coyote, at El Sapelló, on the plains of the lower Río Pecos, as it is on the lower Río Salado and the Río Colorado [the Canadian]."
    • Commentary on, and quotes from, Rafael Aguilar et. al., Pecos (Mar. 12, 1826) Spanish Archives of New Mexico, State Records Center and Archives, Santa Fe: I, no. 1370 by John L. Kessell, Kiva, Cross, and Crown (1979)
  • How great must be the pain in our hearts on seeing ourselves violently despoiled of our rightful ownership, all the more when this violent despoilment was executed while they threatened us with the illegal pretext of removing us from our pueblo and distributing us among the others of the Territory. Please, Your Excellency, see if by chance the natives of our pueblo for whom we speak are denied property and the shelter of the laws of our liberal system. Indeed, Sir, has the right of ownership and security that every citizen enjoys in his possession been abolished?
    • Rafael Aguilar and Jose Cota, of Pecos Pueblo, to governor Manuel Armijo (Mar. 9, 1829) as quoted by John L. Kessell, Kiva, Cross, and Crown (1979)
  • The population of these Pueblos will average nearly five hundred souls each (though some hardly exceed one hundred), making an aggregate of nine or ten thousand. At the time of the original conquest, at the close of the sixteenth century, they were, as has been mentioned, much, perhaps ten- fold, more numerous. Ancient ruins are now to be seen scattered in every quarter of the territory: of some, entire stone walls are yet standing, while others are nearly or quite obliterated, many of them being now only known by their names which history or tradition has preserved to us. Numbers were no doubt destroyed during the insurrection of 1680, and the petty internal strifes which followed.
    Several of these Pueblos have been converted into Mexican villages, of which that of Pecos is perhaps the most remarkable instance. What with the massacres of the second conquest, and the inroads of the Comanches, they gradually dwindled away, till they found themselves reduced to about a dozen, comprising all ages and sexes; and it was only a few years ago that they abandoned the home of their fathers and joined the Pueblo of Jemez.
    Many curious tales are told of the singular habits of this ill fated tribe, which must no doubt have tended to hasten its utter annihilation. A tradition was prevalent among them that Montezuma had kindled a holy fire, and enjoined their ancestors not to suffer it to be extinguished until he should return to deliver his people from the yoke of the Spaniards. In pursuance of these commands, a constant watch had been maintained for ages to prevent the fire from going out; and as tradition further informed them, that Montezuma would appear with the sun, the... Indians were to be seen every clear morning upon the terraced roofs of their houses, attentively watching for the appearance of the 'king of light,' in hopes of seeing him 'cheek by jowl' with their immortal sovereign. I have myself descended into the famous estufas, or subterranean vaults, of which there were several in the village, and have beheld this consecrated fire, silently smouldering under a covering of ashes, in the basin of a small altar. Some say that they never lost hope in the final coming of Montezuma until, by some accident or other, or a lack of a sufficiency of warriors to watch it, the fire became extinguished; and that it was this catastrophe that induced them to abandon their villages, as I have before observed.
    The task of tending the sacred fire was, it is said, allotted to the warriors. It is further related, that they took the watch by turns for two successive days and nights, without partaking of either food, water, or sleep; while some assert, that instead of being restricted to two days, each guard continued with the same unbending severity of purpose until exhaustion, and very frequently death, left their places to be filled by others. A large portion of those who came out alive were generally so completely prostrated by the want of repose and the inhalation of carbonic gas that they very soon died; when, as the vulgar story asseverates, their remains were carried to the den of a monstrous serpent, which kept itself in excellent condition by feeding upon these delicacies. This huge snake (invented no doubt by the lovers of the marvellous to account for the constant disappearance of the Indians) was represented as the idol which they worshipped, and as subsisting entirely upon the flesh of his devotees: live infants, however, seemed to suit his palate best. The story of this wonderful serpent was so firmly believed in by many ignorant people, that on one occasion I heard an honest ranchero assert, that upon entering the village very early on a winter's morning, he saw the huge trail of the reptile in the snow, as large as that of a dragging ox.
    This village, anciently so renowned, lies twenty-five miles eastward of Santa Fé, and near the Rio Pecos, to which it gave name. Even so late as ten years ago, when it contained a population of fifty to a hundred souls, the traveller would oftentimes perceive but a solitary Indian, a woman, or a child, standing here and there like so many statues upon the roofs of their houses, with their eyes fixed on the eastern horizon, or leaning against a wall or a fence, listlessly gazing at the passing stranger; while at other times not a soul was to be seen in any direction, and the sepulchral silence of the place was only disturbed by the occasional barking of a dog, or the cackling of hens.
    No other Pueblo appears to have adopted this extraordinary superstition: like Pecos, however, they have all held Montezuma to be their perpetual sovereign. It would likewise appear that they all worship the sun; for it is asserted to be their regular practice to turn the face towards the east at sunrise. They profess the Catholic faith, however, of which, nevertheless, they cannot be expected to understand anything beyond the formalities; as but very few of their Mexican neighbors and teachers can boast of more.
  • Each Pueblo generally had its particular uniform dress and its particular dance. The men of one village would sometimes disguise themselves as elks, with horns on their heads, moving on all fours, and mimicking the animal they were attempting to personate. Others would appear in the garb of a turkey, with large heavy wings, and strut about in imitation of that bird. But the Pecos tribe, already reduced to seven men, always occasioned most diversion.
    Their favorite exploit was, each to put on the skin of a buffalo, horns, tail, and all, and thus accoutred scamper about through the crowd, to the real or affected terror of all the ladies present, and to the great delight of the boys.

    • Josiah Gregg, Commerce of the Prairies: or, The journal of a Santa Fé trader, 1831–1839 (1845) Vol. 1, pp. 275-276
  • Now the United States of America, in consideration of the premises and in conformity with the act of Congress aforesaid, does give and grant unto unto the said Pueblo of Pecos, in the county of San Miguel aforesaid, and to the successors and assigns of the said Pueblo of Pecos, the tract of land above described and embraced in said survey but with the stipulation and as expressed in said act of Congress "That this act of confirmation shall only be construed as a relinquishment of all title and claim of the United States to any of said lands and shall not affect any adverse valid rights, should such exist. ..."
    • United States of America to Pecos Pueblo (Nov. 1, 1864) [awarding the patent to 4 square leagues (18,768 acres)], as quoted by G. Emlen Hall, Four Leagues of Pecos: A Legal History of the Pecos Grant, 1800-1933 (1984)
  • Pecos was situated twenty-five miles South of East from Santa Fé on a small tributary of the river of the same name. In the time of Vargas it contained a population of about fifteen hundred, but now is entirely in ruins. A few years ago the remnant of the Pecos Indians left their pueblo and joined the people of Jemez who speak the same language. There houses and lands were given them.
    Many curious tales are related of the superstitious customs of the Pueblos, among which is the following told of the Pecos Indians. It is said that Montezuma kindled a sacred fire in the eatufa of that pueblo and commanded that it should be kept burning until he came back to deliver them from the Spaniards. He was expected to appear with the rising sun, and every morning the Indians ascended to the house tops and strained their eyes looking to the East for the appearance of their deliverer and king. The task of watching the sacred fire was assigned to the warriors, who served, by turns, for a period of two days and two nights without eating or drinking, and some say that they remained upon duty until death or exhaustion relieved them. The remains of those who died from the effect of watching are said to have been carried to the den of a great serpent, which appears to have lived upon such delicacies. The tradition, that the sacred fire was kept burning until the village was abandoned, is generally believed by both Indians and Mexicans; but their great deliverer never came, and when the fire went out, from what cause is not known, the survivors of Pecos found new homes West of the Rio Grande.
  • Las Vegas, N.M. Feb 24, 1973: We, Juan Antonio Tolla, Jose Miguel Vigil, Juan Pedro Vigil and Pablo Toya, the eldest of the Pueblo of Pecos, and as their agents, state and confess, that we came to Las Vegas and to Mr. F. Chapman with the view to sell our interest in the Pecos grant and the interest of our constituents. Not having received any benefit of [sic] said lands and seeing that people are taking up tracts of our grant, we consider it proper and as our own benefit to sell said grant. We, the Pueblo of Pecos, are reduced to a small number and most of us are old, and have never received any benefit from our grant since it has been confirmed to us by Congress. We, therefore, took the step to see whether we could sell said land grant as according to our patent, we believe we have such right and privilage...
    • Tolla et al. statement before Probate Judge B. Jesus Marquez (Feb. 24, 1873) attached as exhibit 11 to Seymour v. Roberts et al. (1887) as quoted by G. Emlen Hall, Four Leagues of Pecos (1984)
  • On his way home from the dance, at age forty [Dec. 31, 1879], he [Frank Chapman] collapsed and died of gastritis. ...Only six days after his death, Andres Dold returned to Las Vegas from New York. He immediately began... discovering and arranging Chapman's estate. ...Two days after Chapman's sudden death and three days before Dold arrived, Marcus Brunswick, a long time associate of Dold, and Chapman's nephew, John, petitioned the San Miguel County Court for appointment as administrators of Frank Chapman's estate. ...Five days later, one day after Dold's return, there appeared in the county courthouse for the first time two partnership agreements between Chapman and Dold, one dated 22 November 1873, and the other dated sometime in February 1879, but both filed 8 January, 1980.
    The 1873 agreement provided simply that Frank Chapman would continue Andres Dold's previous business under his own name. The two men would share equally the profits and the losses... The 1879 agreement... added that the two men would share as "equal partners and joint owners all real estate held and possessed by said Chapman..." including the Pecos grant.
    • G. Emlen Hall (description of 1879 death and court proceedings) Four Leagues of Pecos (1984)
  • In one instance, that of the Pueblo of Pecos, which was a grant from the King of Spain, (A.D. 1689), nothing now remains but the stone ruins of the pueblo houses and the old Pecos church with its fallen towers and crumbling walls.
    Repeated incursions and attacks from warlike Comanches, reduced the Pecos Indians to a feeble band. The United States confirmed their grant, nevertheless, and a patent, bearing the President's signature assures to "The Pueblo of Pecos 18,763 acres of land with a magnificent river through the tract. But the remnant of these people, in whose midst Montezuma is said to have been born, in the fear of total extinction, carried their sacred fire from its underground altar up into the sunlight, and fled to the larger Pueblo of Jemez; and now their identity, like that of the mysterious flame which they had for ages so well kept, is forever lost in that of the larger commune. But the question is, who now owns the 18,763 acres of land patented to the extinct "Pueblo of Pecos?"
    With the public domain nearly gone, it has become a burning question as to what Congress is going to do in New Mexico. Settlers on the Cimaron and the Canadian are now in open rebellion against the curse of fraudulent land grants, and are demanding a general expose of the steals, and such legislation as will segregate rightfully confirmed tracts from the public lands, and provide a date after which all land grant claims shall be forever barred.
    President Cleveland has struck several sturdy blows at the Santa Fe land ring, smiting thieves who wear the Democratic as well as the Republican party label. He has appointed an honest man, Hon. George W. Julian, as Surveyor General, who has in a few short months unearthed a hundred stupendous land steals. Mr. Julian cannot be bribed or diverted from his duty, and if the power of the ring cannot tie his hands, it is more than likely he will fall at his post, a victim to its wrath and revenge.
    • William S. Brackett, "Land Grants in New Mexico," The Chicago Law Times, Vol. 1 (1887) pp. 323-332
  • In the U.S. Land Off. Rept. '56 p. 307-26 is printed a series of doc. from the arch., with translations, which are regarded as the original titles to the pueblo lands of several pueblos, the others having lost their papers. The papers are dated Sept. 20-5, '89. Each one consists of the formal statement under oath of Bartolomé Ojeda, one of the Ind. captured at Cia, and who had taken a prominent part in the fight, to the effect that the natives of Jemes—also S. Juan, Picuríes, S. Felipe, Pecos, Cochití, and Sto. Domingo—were so terrified by the event of 'last year,' [1688 or 1689] that is, the defeat at Cia, that they would not revolt again or refuse to render allegiance; whereupon the gov. proceeds to assign the pueblo boundaries, generally 4 sq. l. [4 square leagues, approx. 18,000 acres], with the church in the centre, but sometimes by fixed landmarks. In the case of Acoma and Laguna, Ojeda's testimony is as to the bounds of the pueblos, and the reasons why Acoma has moved to the peñol (from which it had been removed in 1599), and why Laguna had moved near to Acoma. It also is implied that the gov. had in his entrada visited other pueblos besides Cia. I confess that these doc. are very mysterious to me; and I cannot imagine why the gov. on such an occasion at El Paso, on the testimony of a captive that the rebels were disposed to submit, should have troubled himself to fix the town limits.

20th Century[edit]

Zu-wa-ng or José Miguel Pecos (1902)
uncle of Augustine Pecos
from American Anthropology,
Vol. 6, No. 1, Jan-March, 1904
"Studies on the Extinct Pueblo of Pecos"
  • In one of the river villages Coronado found an Indian slave who said he was a native of Quivira, which he described as a rich and populous place far away in the east. Acting upon this information, with the Indian as a guide, Coronado started on April 23d, 1541, with his whole army to march to Quivira. From Cicuye or Pecos, whose ruins can still be seen by the traveller from the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fé trains, the guide seems to have led the white men down the Pecos River until they were out of the mountains, and on to the vast plains where they soon met the countless herds of bison or "humpbacked oxen." For five weeks the Europeans plodded onward across what is now known as the "Staked Plains," following a generally easterly direction.
  • In the [Pedro de] Castañeda [de Nájera] narrative Pecos is known as Cicuye. This is probably the name by which it was known to the people of Tiguex, the village on the Rio Grande from which the Spaniards proceeded to Pecos—a people who spoke the Tigua language. ...The people of Isleta, who speak the Tigua dialect, and who doubtless embrace in their tribe some who are direct descendants from Tiguex, give Sikuyé as one of their names for Pecos, and Sikuyén for the tribe.
    The Pecos people call themselves Pe-kúsh The Jemez name for Pecos is P'a-qu-láh (Mr [F. W.] Hodge recorded it P'a-tyu-lá). ...
    For the derivation of Pecos, which is the Hispanized form, we must go to the Queres or Keresan dialects, where we find it as follows: Santo Domingo, Pe-a-go; Cochiti, Pe-a-ku; Sia, Pe-ko; Santa Ana, Pe-a-ko; Laguna, Pe-a-ku-ni.
    To the Spanish people who came in continuous contact with the Queres people... the word naturally soon lost its slight dialectic variations
    , the people becoming uniformly known as los Pecos and their village as el pueblo de los Pecos. ...
    Following is a list of the clans [of the Pecos] recorded by me; those marked with the asterisk are not in Mr Hodge's list. Wâ-kah, Cloud; Pe, Sun; Se-peh, Eagle; Kyu-nu, Corn; Whâ-lu, Bear; Shi-añ-hti, Mountain Lion; Wa-hā,* Squash; Pâh-käh-täh, Sand; A-la-wah-ku,* Elk; Al-lu,* Antelope; Pe-dâhl-lu, Wild Turkey; Fwah, Fire. ...[Appendix note:] A communication received from the Pecos Indians at Jemez since the foregoing paper was put in type conveys the information... that the list of Pecos clans should include two more, namely the Mor-bāh or Parrot and the Hä-yäh or Snake, neither of which was previously recorded by either Mr Hodge or myself. They assert that all the Pecos clans are now extinct excepting the Cloud, Sun, and Turquoise. ...
    The Pecos dialect was much modified by the Tano, probably also by the Piro, tribes which are now extinct, while Jemez tradition holds that their dialect grew out of the Pecos in combination with their own Ta-tsa-a. ...the tradition points to a possible earlier and greater accession from the Pecos tribe in prehistoric times.
    Fig. 9 Ancient pueblo of Ton-ch-un
    Cañon de Pecos Grant
    ~300 rooms, section A & B two story
    remainder 1 story

    The ruins in Pecos territory may be grouped as follows:
    Class I.—The great ruins of the pueblo of Old Pecos.
    These are described in detail in the report by Bandelier...
    Class II.—Several ruins of smaller communal houses, of the type shown in figure 9, containing from 200 to 300 rooms each, and numerous contemporary ruins of similar construction but containing only from ten to fifty rooms each. These latter were but one story high and were not built around a court or plaza. The former were two stories high... These remains are all older than those of Class I.
    Class III.—Numerous rock shelters of a very primitive type found throughout the valley wherever there are overhanging cliffs. ...
    The only ruins of Class I to be found within the Pecos territory are those of the well known Old Pecos pueblo. At the time of the coming of the Spaniards the entire tribe of Pecos was concentrated at this one point. ...
    From among the ruins of Class II, which are scattered over Pecos territory from the north end of Cañon de Pecos Grant to Anton Chico, a distance of about forty miles, I have selected one, the ancient pueblo of Ton-ch-un, for brief description. ...
    The traditions regarding Ton-ch-un are well preserved at Jemez. This was the last outlying village in Pecos territory to be abandoned as the process of concentration went on. It held out for many years after the seven or eight other villages, of nearly, if not quite equal size, had given up the struggle and merged with the main aggregation. These were not mere summer residences, but were permanent habitations, each of which sheltered several clans for several generations. Some of the small dwellings referred to, doubtless served as summer residences near the growing crops, but on the other hand, some of them were permanent clan homes. The traditions indicate that the clan that lived on the Cañon de Pecos Grant and the first dwellers on the site of Pecos pueblo came from the north; that those living in Ton-ch-un and the surrounding group of dwellings entered the valley from the west and were of the stock of Jemez; while those living toward the southern end of the territory of Pecos were said to have come from the direction of the so-called Mesa Jumanes and the Manzano mountains. As the traditions are vague, archeological evidence must be brought to bear on this problem. ...
    The most important result of the study of Pecos is... not so much in what it adds to the history of one Indian tribe, as in the light it sheds on the great problem of primitive sociologic evolution in this highly important branch of our aboriginal races, the Pueblo Indians. ...Pecos is a "type" area. ...
    1. The Epoch of Concentration.—From the present day back to the time of the concentration of clans for defensive purposes into the great communal houses, made expedient by the arrival of the nomadic, predatory tribes; giving rise to a new system of social relations; leading to the formation of the present Pueblo languages by composition from clan dialects; the elaboration of the great ritualistic ceremonies as a result of the integration of clan legends and religious practices. The rivalry of clans at the beginning of this epoch of integration was naturally a great stimulus to certain activities. The supremacy of any clan in the organization would depend largely on the extent to which it could apparently influence supernatural powers by invocatory, propitiatory, or divinatory methods, the exercise of these magic powers taking shape in ritual and finding graphic expression in pictography. Thus the highest development of the ceramic art, particularly its richest symbolic ornamentation, is found in the ruins occupied by tribes in the early stages of this epoch of concentration. The most elaborate of the communal cliff dwellings may belong to this epoch.
    2. The Epoch of Diffusion.—A long epoch established by voluminous archeologic and traditionary evidence, during which small communities were distributed over the semi-desert areas; devoted to agriculture; under matronymic social organization; dwelling in fairly substantial houses, yet somewhat migratory in habits. The pottery of this epoch was quite strictly utilitarian, never rich in symbolic ornament. The legends of the clans were embodied in migration and creation myths. In one sense it was an epoch of clan-making. The vast number of small communal houses and countless single cliff-dwellings and cavate lodges probably belong to this epoch. It was characterized by the absence of predatory enemies.
    3. The Pretraditionary Epoch.—An obscure, archaic epoch of semi-sedentary occupation, supported by no traditionary and scant archeologic evidences, the principal remains of it known to the writer being the many rock-sheltered sites in the Gallinas valley below Las Vegas, many similar remains in the Pecos valley, particularly on the Cañon de Pecos Grant, and the large number of natural caves on the eastern base of the Jemez range in Pajarito Park which seem to have sheltered a population far inferior in culture to the occupants of the cavate lodges proper and the rudimentary communal houses; in short, a people in the most primitive stages of culture of which obvious evidences are found on the American continent.
  • The Pueblo of Pecos was discovered in 1540 by the Coronado expedition. It then contained from 2,000 to 2,500 inhabitants, composing one of the strongest of the Pueblo tribes then in existence. The village consisted of two great communal dwellings, built on the terraced plan, each 4 stories high and containing, respectively, 585 and 517 rooms. The tribe figures prominently in the annals of the Coronado expedition in New Mexico in 1540-42. ...Antonio de Espejo visited Pecos in 1583, Castano de Sosa in 1590-91, and Juan de Onate in 1598, the last mentioned naming the pueblo Santiago. ...
    The great mission church, the ruins of which have for more than half a century formed such an imposing landmark on the old Santa Fe trail, was erected about 1617. Pecos practically held its own up to the end of the XVII Century. Its decline, once started, was peculiarly rapid; the Comanche scourge and the "great sickness" worked speedy destruction. In 1840 the last steps were taken by which Pecos was abandoned and the group as a tribal entity became extinct. ...The area occupied by the Pecos tribe was small. It was embraced within the narrow confines of the Pecos valley, extending from northwest to southeast for a distance of about 40 miles, or from the north end of the Canyon de Pecos Grant, about 5 miles above the ruins of Pecos pueblo, to the present Mexican settlement of Anton Chico. Their territory nowhere exceeded 10 miles in width, and had an average width of about 5 miles. Their boundary was rather sharply fixed on all sides. At no place outside of these boundaries have ruins indicating Pecos occupancy been found, and the traditions verify this. Their situation was economically strong; their land was productive; their water supply ample, and their proximity to the buffalo country gave them articles of commerce much in demand by the tribes farther west. During a long period of peace they could not fail to prosper. But their geographical position was such as to afford no security after the arrival of the predatory tribes. Their eastern frontier had no protection at all from the nomadic robbers who found in them a desirable prey because of their rather exceptional prosperity.
    These depredations certainly began long before the coming of the Spaniards, at a time when the population was distributed in small communities over their entire territory, for the concentration was entirely accomplished by the year 1540. This concentration movement was toward the north. The village at Pecos was the most favorably situated of any in the valley for a tribal stronghold. To this point the clans gradually fell back, Ton-ch-un being the last to give way. The two great communal house clusters at Pecos were enlarged from time to time as occasion necessitated. ...At last the entire tribe was sheltered in the great houses of the one community. Their village was walled and made as nearly impregnable as possible, and there developed a tribe of such strength as to be able to hold its own for some centuries. The traditions of this period of Pecos history point to incessant strife with the Comanches, who made their appearance in New Mexico with the dawn of the XVIII Century.
    The story of the decay of Pecos, which had its beginning after the Pueblo revolt of 1680-92, has been told many times—best of all by Bandelier. The traditions of the "great sickness" which reduced the tribe to such desperate straits early in the XIX Century and finally led to the abandonment of the village, will admit of some further investigation. It now seems probable that this was a malady of frequent recurrence for many years, possibly for half a century. An examination of the drainage of the pueblo makes the cause of the epidemics quite evident. Of the two springs used by the village, the one on the left bank of the Arroyo... is so situated as to receive the drainage of both the church cemetery and the old communal burial mound. It is a singular fact that to this day the Mexicans of the valley speak of this as the "Poisoned Spring." ...The traditionists at Jemez agreed in stating that on the day of leaving Pecos the tribe consisted of 7 men... 7 women and 3 children. They fix the date of the abandonment almost beyond question by declaring it to have been the year following the murder of Governor Albino Perez. As that event occurred in August, 1837, the extinction of Pecos may be definitely fixed at 1838.
    The blood descendents of the Pecos Indians still living at Jemez make pilgrimages to their ancestral home. One occurred 7 years ago, and... they wish to visit the old pueblo in August of this year (1904)... asking the writer if he can help to secure them from molestation when they go to visit and open their sacred cave.
    A later communication conveys the information that they made their pilgrimage to their ancestral home during the last week in August and on opening their sacred cave "found everything all right."
    Agustin Pecos has caused to be compiled for me a complete census of the tribe at the time of leaving Pecos in 1838. I regard it as rather a valuable record. The names are given in the Pecos dialect, and in some cases I am in doubt as to pronunciation. In such cases I have not marked the vowels: MEN Se-hoñ-bal, Zu-wa-ng, Shi-to-ne, Wa-ng, Gal-la, Val-ū, Hur-ba; WOMEN Povā, Tye-con-wa-ū, Shi-añ-kya-con-no, Sun-ti-wū, Ma-ta, Hä-ya-sha, Wa-ū; CHILDREN Se-sa-fwe-ÿah, Tă-at-qū, Da-lur.
    • Edgar L. Hewett, "The Last Survivor of the Extinct Pueblo of Pecos" (1905) Records of the Past, Vol. 4 pp. 54-57
    • Reference: Adolph Francis Alphonse Bandelier, Report on the Ruins of the Pueblos of Pecos. Papers of the Archaeological Institute of America, American Series I, 1881.
  • In the U. S. Land Office Reports of 1856, p. 307-26, is printed a series of documents from the Santa Fé Archives, with translations. These are regarded as the original titles to the pueblo lands of several of the pueblo tribes. The papers are dated September 20-5, 1689. Each one consists of the formal statement under oath of Bartolomé Ojeda, one of the Indians captured at Cia, and who had taken a prominent part in the battle, to the effect that the natives of Jemez, San Juan, Picuriés, San Felipe, Pecos, Cochití, and Santo Domingo were so terrified by the event of "last year," that is, the defeat at Cia, that they would not revolt again or refuse to render allegiance. The governor then assigns the boundaries, four square leagues, measuring from the church, but sometimes by fixed landmarks.
  • The rule of Governor Otermín ended in 1683 and he was succeeded by Don Domingo Jironza Petriz de Cruzate, who in turn was succeeded by Don Pedro Reneros de Posada. Under one or the other of these governors an entrada was made at least as far north as the pueblos of Santa Ana and Cia, at which last named pueblo a battle was fought resulting in the killing of 600 Indians and the capture of 70, all of whom, with the exception of a few old men who were shot by order of the general in command, were sold into slavery. The forged titles (?) under which several of the present pueblos received their patent of confirmation from the congress of the United States purport to have been issued by Cruzate. [footnote:] On the subject of these pueblo Indian titles Bancroft, Arizona and New Mexico, p. 194, note 35, must have had an inkling of their spurious character. In 1689 Cruzate was not governor. Beneros de Posada held that position, or may have been replaced by Cruzate, we cannot say.
    • Ralph Emerson Twitchell, The Leading Facts of New Mexican History (1911) Vol. 4, pp. 143-144
  • The ruins of Cicúique are still to be seen at the site where Alvarado visited it, close by the modern town of Pecos. This is one of the most historic spots in the Southwest, for in every era since it was first seen by Alvarado as the guest of Bigotes, it has occupied a distinctive position in all the major developments of the region. It was the gateway for Pueblo Indians when they went buffalo hunting on the Plains; a two-way pass for barter and war between Pueblos and Plains tribes; a portal through the mountains for Spanish explorers, traders, and buffalo hunters; for the St. Louis caravan traders with Santa Fe; for pioneer Anglo-American settlers; for Spanish and Saxon Indian fighters; for Civil War armies; and for a transcontinental railroad passing through the Southwest. Pecos deserves an historian.
  • Anza worked to secure Ecueracapa's [Leather Cape's] preeminent position as captain general of the entire Comanche nation. And he succeeded. By April 1787, he had in hand a final treaty with all three branches. Ecueracapa had gone after Apaches and sent in tally sheets of his kills. His people had come again to trade at Pecos. Despite the replacement of Anza in 1787 and the death of Ecueracapa in 1793, despite the utter failure of the Jupes to settle down in the pueblo they asked the Spaniards to build for them on the Arkansas, despite troublesome hostilities of Utes, Navajos, and Jicarillas with Comanches, the alliance of Comanches and Spaniards embarked upon at Pecos in 1786 stood unbroken for a generation.
    • John L. Kessell, Kiva, Cross, and Crown (1979) Ch. VIII Pecos, the Plains, and the Provincias Internas 1704-1794.
  • The famous "pueblo league was a legal fiction. Before the eighteenth century, the Pueblo Indians seem to have been entitled to whatever lands they habitually occupied or used. Sometime after 1700, however, they evolved the doctrine... a sort of recognized minimum right of the Pueblos. In the case of Pecos, it was a minimum indeed... In Spanish law, current use was the key. No matter that the Pecos had farmed or otherwise used more land historically, they were no longer using it in the nineteenth century.
    • John L. Kessell, Kiva, Cross, and Crown (1979) Ch. IX Toward Extinction 1794-1840.
  • Four Leagues of Pecos... treats the careers of the principle land speculators who began to have an impact on New Mexico land grants during the Mexican Period. ...Of equal significance is the treatment of the colossal confusion in land administration that reigned throughout the United States territorial period and the untangling of financial debts by a group of early New Mexico figures who were able to profit personally from this disgraceful state of affairs. Operating during the 1850s and 1860s, this group might be called the "early Santa Fe land grant ring," for it preceded Thomas B. Catron and his cronies...
    • G. Emlen Hall, Four Leagues of Pecos: A Legal History of the Pecos Grant, 1800-1933 (1984) p. xi
  • The Pecos Pueblo grant provides a key to New Mexico history precisely because the grant was so vulnerable... To understand Pecos is to understand New Mexico during these chaotic but critical years.
    • G. Emlen Hall, Four Leagues of Pecos: A Legal History of the Pecos Grant, 1800-1933 (1984) pp. xviii-xix

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