Father Ferdinand Troy arrived in New Mexico Territory the same year as the railroad. During his tenure here as a Jesuit priest he traveled on the back of a burro and in an airplane. Had he lived a few more years he might have flown to Rome again in a jet. But he left Old Albuquerque's San Felipe de Neri the last time in his life one morning by motorbus and was killed that night by a car in front of the Alameda church - the church he and parishioners had built over twenty years before.
It was the eve of Christmas Eve and he had worked for hours with the women of the altar guild on decorations in the sacristy and parish hall. The sun had turned the Sandias bright pink and the white spires of the massive church glowed against this mountain backdrop. He scanned the scene with deep satisfaction and crossed the street to the bus stop.*
Fourth Street was busy Route 66 and the road curved there then just as it does today. A car suddenly appeared around that curve going very fast. Accounts differ about who killed Father Troy. One said it was a hit and run and another that it was a drunk driver. Accounts do agree that his long tenure spanned an era of great controversy and change in New Mexico and the church.
In classic Downton-esque - Age of Innocence style her parents, Bronson's older brother Bayard and Lady Sybil Cuffe, paired money and royalty with their marriage in 1901. They had traveled the world seeking treatment for Bayard's tuberculosis when he died in Egypt on a Nile houseboat in 1910. Lady Sybil and Iris moved to Italy.
Bronson and his sister Justine had visited Santa Fe on their return from an extended California vacation and made the choice to live here that same year. Like his brother, Bronson suffered from TB and the high desert climate figured largely in their choice. They were hugely wealthy and could have lived nearly anywhere. It is a strong testament to the place's appeal that they chose Santa Fe.
Sister-in-law, Lady Sybil, daughter of an Irish peer, purchased and renovated Villa Medici in Fiesole near Florence. In between their continued world travels, this is where Iris grew up. At 22 she married the son of a Marchese and together they bought and restored another large Italian estate called La Foce. A summer music festival is held there to this day in her honor.
In 1924 the property was bought by Antonio Origo and his Anglo-American wife Iris, the daughter of Lady Sybil Cutting, the owner of Villa Medici at Fiesole where Iris Origo spent much or her early life. They dedicated their lives to bringing prosperity and cultural and social changes to this formerly poverty-stricken area of the Val d'Orcia. Years of work were devoted to preparing the difficult terrain for modern agriculture. The gardens and estate of La Foce constitute one of the most important and best kept early twentieth-century gardens in Italy. ..
*Her grandparents suggested 'Iris' sounded too botanical - thus her middle name.
One of the most important skills of Santa Fe Ring members was concealing involvement in various deals through use of agents, employees and opaque subsidiaries. Alonzo B. McMillen, the lawyer responsible for legal destruction of the Alameda land grant in the first decades of the last century, took pains to hide his ownership interests through formation of the San Mateo Land Company.*
McMillen's quiet acquisitions during a twelve year period of court proceedings resulted in San Mateo Land Company owning nearly half the grant before the case was over and the court-ordered sale began. San Mateo then bought the remainder of the grant for $15,000. After deduction of McMillen's legal fees and costs, a mere $8000 was left to be divided between shareholders, including San Mateo Land Company that got $3500. The audaciously shady deal meant McMillen got the vast majority of the land and paid himself handsomely to do so. A pitiful remainder was left to be divided between actual grant residents and other shareholders.**
Today there are undoubtedly many legal, political and personal reasons to obscure asset ownership. Most are probably far less grandiose than McMillen's. Legitimate and scam "asset protection" schemes identify New Mexico as a great place to form LLCs (Limited Liability Corporations) in order to "be invisible" and "keep people from finding out where you live." This site notes you don't even have to come to New Mexico to file.
This likely explains the great number of incorporation filings listed in the Albuquerque Journal business section that might lead one to think small businesses are booming. Obscured land deal ownership might also explain New Mexico's continued land use, water and environmental policy void where responsible governing should be.
*This juicy history is set forth by Kristopher N. Houghton in, "The Blighted History of the Alameda Land Grant" Fall 2008 Volume 48 Number 4 - Natural Resources Journal. UNM School of Law.
**McMillen filed the partition case in 1906 and formed the San Mateo Land Company in 1907. Bernalillo County filed against the Alameda grant for non-payment of 1908 property taxes. Author Houghton wonders if payment was made especially difficult in those years by the internal disputes the partition case caused between community members. One can also wonder about McMillen's choice of saints. San Mateo, AKA Saint Matthew, is the patron saint of tax collectors and accountants.
Without mentioning the unsolved Cricket Coogler murder, William Keleher decribes the scene in New Mexico around 1949 in his memoirs.* Pressure had come to bear on Governor Mabry about "wide-open" illegal gambling in several New Mexico counties, including Dona Ana County at Anapra and Sierra County, at Hot Springs.
Keleher says a witness testified before a Sierra County grand jury investigation about the slot machine pay-off scale.
Forty percent went to the owner of the location in which the machine was installed, forty percent to the owner of the machine, and twenty percent to the politicians.
On the eve of the big parade celebrating the name change of Hot Springs to Truth or Consequences, Judge James B. McGhee, accompanied by a bodyguard and contingent of the State police, ended gambling in the downtown bars.
*William A. Keleher, Memoirs: 1892-1969 A New Mexico Item. The Rydal Press, Santa Fe, NM, 1969.
Delighted to begin reading some of Bronson Cutting's handwritten letters today. His biographer, Richard Lowitt, left extensive paperwork with UNM. The material is from not only the Bronson Murray Cutting collection in the Library of Congress but from those that wrote about him, not just to him, inluding Albert Fall and Harold Ickes.*
He wrote most letters in Lowitt's file on small 5x7 sheets. Here's a snippet of Bronson's hand.
“As I remember, there were ten basket caissons. As they dammed the river considerably, the water level above them was raised, causing the flow between the baskets to be quite rapid. During flood time, the water would flow over the baskets, even at times dislodging some rock filling. In spite of this repeated punishment, the Indians claimed that in sixty years a basket had never washed out.”
A Boy’s Albuquerque - 1898-1912, Kenneth C. Balcomb, UNM Press, 1980
(Image from NYPL digital gallery)
(Posted here first April 2005)
In his memoirs, William Keleher* describes walking home from school one day in 1894 and seeing attorney Alonzo B. McMillen, "a slim six footer," physically attacked on an Albuquerque street corner by the District Attorney. The quarrel had begun in the courtroom.
To say that McMillen, eventual owner of the majority of the Alameda Land Grant, was "prominent" in the Albuquerque community is an understatement. He was president of First National Bank, head of the chamber of commerce and head the of the New Mexico Bar Association. He also owned, along with Frank Hubbell, controlling interest in Albuquerque's Water Supply Company.
"The men who managed the Water Company business apparently had no concern with establishing and maintaining good relations with the consumers, seemingly going out of their way to antagonize citizens."
Later in the book Keleher describes the city's acquisition of the water company through an involved bond purchase. The total cost was $400,000.
"Subsequently, he (McMillen) specialized in perfecting the rights of owners of Spanish and Mexican land grants."
*Memoirs: 1892-1969 A New Mexico Item. 1969
The communal grazing lands of Alameda heirs and settlers morphed into modern day Rio Rancho primarily through the self-interested efforts of one prominent New Mexican lawyer named Alonzo B. McMillen.
The story is detailed in a juicy 2008 paper in the Natural Resources Journal with the fabulous title: The Blighted History of the Alameda Land Grant: Montoya v. Unknown Heirs of Vigil (pdf). The author, Kristopher N. Houghton, writes a thorough history with the major portion of the story devoted to legal shenanigans and unethical behavior that was not unusual or even considered unethical at the time.
Floods were expected. Dams and levees had been built and rebuilt at the mouth of arroyos and along the Rio since Pueblo times. The 1885 levee was built after a huge flood in 1884 and had already been breached twice before a night in September 1903 when a 19,000 cfs flow broke through a dike and wiped out the modest town of Alameda.
The water wasn't just from the river. Extensive grazing of the lands on the mesa east of the valley contributed to increasing sediment loss. Waters swept up hunks of dirt and trees along the banks in thick powerful rushing mud that spilled into the valley.
Any hope that nature wouldn't repeat the insult before the levee was rebuilt again was dashed the following year when another flood, almost as large, overwhelmed the valley again. After this one nearly all the structures, including two parish churches and three villages, had been destroyed. Many residents moved to higher land along the valley edges. Or moved to California.
Into this scene of community disorder quietly stepped a prominent attorney named Alonzo B. McMillen. And while remaining residents of the Alameda grant were rebuilding their lives, acequias, homes and churches, McMillen filed for court partition of the Alameda grant on behalf of one Vincenta Montoya, heir of Vigil, late of California. Within five years, McMillen owned 45% of the grant. And by 1920 his San Mateo Land Company owned an estimated 75,000 acres of the former 89,000 acre Alameda Land Grant. This is where Rio Rancho is today.
Bronson and his sister were both first drawn to the romance of the West reflected in the "blood and thunder" books that were contraband at Bronson's Groton. The history teacher berated the boys for reading such trash - perpetuating myths and falsehoods about the "noble savage."
From his first reading of accounts of the "Indian wars" Bronson knew of the ugly reality Native American's faced in the Territories. Their treatment in history was sad and embarrassing for the country. His interest piqued, his study of the Southwest expanded and included accounts of appalling losses of community land grant property among Hispanics to notoriously underhanded legal tactics.
Justine thought of moving first. Her maid showed her a newspaper advertisement for waitresses at Harvey Hotels on the ATS&F line. "Wouldn't it be fun to explore the wild West!" She was absently folding Justine's underwear in the chilly bedroom. Gas lights were hissing and the fireplace coals were meager warmth against a Long Island winter storm. She could hear her brother's coughs echo down the long hall.
He was wealthy because his father was, like his father before him. Shipping and railroads mostly. Living off of the interest and overseeing big philanthropic endeavors. The best schools, sister too. Tutored in multiple languages for months abroad. Maybe babied beyond babyhood. You can see it in his cheeks.
Tuberculosis. Family resources were wielded to find help for Bronson and his brother. Different spas and resorts in Switzerland and Italy intended to cure. Favored brother died in 1908.
Then they tried New Mexico. In 1910 Justine and her brother moved here to thrive.
Seems they had compassion - some measure of enlightenment. Or maybe just guilt. Or maybe just both.
The driveway alarm went off about 4:45am. This is unpleasant. In my head, I form a dark vision of predators. In my bed, I'm stiff with fear and barely breathing. The dog is barking his coyote bark.
Concern bolsters courage. Coat over nightgown. Boots on bare feet. Into the dark brandishing a flashlight, I jump the gate.
A cows snorts. The new bull calf is standing between the other cows who all face outward in defensive formation. Old Red is watching me. Her eyes gleam back framed by huge horns.
Scanning round us into the black, the light barely piercing darkness. Then reflected bright pairs of coyote eyes dart away. I turn in a circle. Another pair of eyes, and another!
But when I repeat the circle, they're gone. I notice the cold. My adrenaline has fallen and I head inside. Old Red moos softly at her calf, and maybe at me.