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.
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.
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.
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.
Second home subdivisions are lonely places this time of year, full of
ghost houses in woods where bear and deer shuffle around at night and elk
squeals echo. It's getting cold and there's been snow in the high country. The summer people are mostly gone. Not me. I'm stuffing wood into the gaping maw of this open fireplace that sucks more heat out of the Whitelodge than it radiates.
"Outdated" is what some would call our subdivision. That's real estate code for fifty-year old snow-beaten second homes on narrow rutted roads. They call it "charming" too. Properties don't sell fast. That's if you can get warring family factions to agree on selling in the first place. The old places, built by someone's granddad, are always entangled in trust ownership. Things like replacing a roof takes years of haggling with distant cousins or stir old seething resentments and memories. Charming takes work.
There are newer subdivisions in Vallecito* with new shiny houses indistinguishable from those of any upscale California, Florida or Texas neighborhood. No complications of place and history entangle their finance and construction. New owners bring all their toys and stuff garages with ATV's and snowmobiles. They've brought their politics with them too.
Bereft of charm.
*Little Valley is what the Spanish called it. The Ute name was something like crooked water. Some insist on the misprounciation "valley-cito."