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.
He is buried with the other Jesuits in Mount Calvary. *Indeed, there was bus service to Alameda in 1936.
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.**
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.
**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.
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."
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.
Edward Abbey knew and loved this place. It was the setting and chief subject of his first novel. He changed the city's name to "Duke City", Sandia's name to "Sangre", and Sandia Labs to The Factory.
"The Sangre mountains loomed over the valley like a psychical presence, a source and mirror of nervous influences, emotions, subtle and unlabeled aspirations; no man could ignore the presence; in an underground poker game, in the vaults of the First National Bank, in the secret chambers of The Factory, in the backroom of the realtor’s office during the composition of an intricate swindle, in the heart of a sexual embrace, the emanations of mountain and sky imprinted some analogue of their nature on the evolution and shape of every soul.”
Edward Abbey, The Brave Cowboy - An Old Tale in a New Time, 1956
Cold woke me up at 3am with a scary dream about things dying. In the dream cows were perennials - like plants. They died out in the winter with a hard frost but grew back in the spring as full-grown heifers. But now they were annuals and died forever with a freeze.
I got up and took the big flashlight out into the pasture to shine at old Red, the ancient matriarch of our little cow clan. The thermometer read 10 degrees and the sky was bright with stars. Red blinked back at me, chewing her cud and blowing puffs of steam. She showed no sign of impending doom. Looked amused, even.
The cold overcame my slippers in seconds and my bathrobe is cotton. I turned to go in and remembered a story about how an old(er) person had died going out to check on their cattle in the cold. They'd tripped in their slippers, fallen and frozen to death.
Did I remember that or make it up? Was it happening now?
Back inside, returning more carefully than I might have otherwise, I poke wood stove to life and contemplate how Winter hasn't yet begun.