Raswan in New Mexico

Carl Raswan renamed himself for a stallion he didn’t even own. That animal's character so entranced him that when the horse died unexpectedly he made the name change official. Or maybe he didn’t like his given name, Schmidt. Anyway, it says a lot about a horse to do this. It says a lot about a person too.

Raswan, the man, devoted his life to Arabian horses. He searched for the “horse of perfection” among the Bedouin people, traveling on horseback with them before the first World War. He developed worldwide lifelong friendships with fellow devotees of the breed and wrote multiple books, including the authoritative “Raswan Index” of Arabian horse pedigree information.

He emigrated to the US in 1921 and imported Arabian horses for WK Kellogg, advising him on the purchase of purebreds from the Crabbet Stud in Sussex. Among these, was the horse, Raswan, who owner Lady Wentworth, gifted to (then) Carl Schmidt. When the horse died accidentally, Carl was said to have exclaimed, "No! He will live!” Then he changed his name.

Raswan moved to New Mexico with his third wife, Gertrude Pearl, in about 1939. They established a 93 acre horse ranch near the village of San Antonito in the East Mountain area, east of Albuquerque.  Around ten years later, he moved to Mexico with a fourth wife and the ranch was sold. Today, a road access in the now subdivided ranch site is still marked as “Pearl Lane.” 

Photo: "Raswan on Sartez," from the dust jacket on the 1961 edition of Raswan's Drinkers of the Wind, first published in 1942. This may or may not have been taken on the track at the New Mexico State Fairgrounds, but those sure look like the Sandia Mountains in the background. ) 


Journey with Jerry - The Piro and the Missions

Took another Journey with Jerry. (See previous Journal entries here and here.)  

San Miguel Mission 

San Miguel Mission  Socorro  NM

The church was locked up tight. We drove around the vast parking lot and I became acutely aware of what’s under the tires - probably a plaza and multi-story pueblo. 

We came to see the interior of Socorro’s San Miguel Mission. Our associate Chan Graham was involved in a renovation in the 1970s and considered it one of his favorite projects. His story is here

A man watering rose bushes in the churchyard told us that since “covida” they keep the church locked up except for services. Mass was at Five. Jerry asked him about the church and grounds and I admired the new expandable hose he was using. But our charm didn’t work. He didn’t have keys and we were a long way from mass. 

The church is celebrated for being on the site of one of the first Missions established by Franciscans in the 1620s on one of the first sites of contact with natives in what would be called the New World. Oñate led explorers and a couple of priests here, or near here, in 1598. In their relief at finding friendly native Piro villagers, the place was later named  ‘Our Lady of Perpetual Help’ or Nuestra Señora de Perpetuo Socorro. 

They weren’t the first Spanish explorers by a long shot. Coronado himself may have been in a small party on his expedition that traveled through here in route to visit the unfortunate Tiguex in 1540. Chamascuro and Espejo expeditions also documented the Piro in 1581 and 1583. Multiple Piro villages sat along both sides of the route to and from Mexico near the northern end of the notorious Journada del Muerto, a near waterless segment of the Camino Real. 

Authoritative sources on all this history include:  

  • Michael Bletzer, who’s written many things about the Piro, including: “The First Province of that Kingdom: Notes on the Colonial History of the Piro Area. New Mexico Historical Review, Volume 88 Number 4 Fall 2013.
  • Paul Harden, who has written extensively about area for the Socorro paper, many available online like this one, courtesy of the Socorro County Historical Society  . 


According to Spanish chroniclers the place name for the area south of Tiguex was Tutahaco. The individual village names in the Piro “kingdom” are probably Spanish versions of the original place names. They are intriguing; Seelocu, Pilabo, Teipana, Senecu or Tzenoque, and Qualcu.  The overwhelming majority of these sites have been partially or totally destroyed through neglect or flooding or both. 

The Pueblo Revolt in 1680 forced long term abandonment of Socorro. According to the church website, a priest buried church silver, including a solid silver communion rail. The silver was never found. Or no one ever admitted to finding it. 

Cricket’s Revenge

The Deputy was the one that got the worst deal. Sandman paid with his life. He didn’t get pardoned by President Truman like Sheriff Happy and the other guy, even though he’d only watched them torture that black veteran into confessing. They had needed somebody else to blame after the football player was exonerated. It took J Edgar Hoover getting involved to shake things up and finally get the Sheriff and his men. But they were convicted of violating that man’s civil rights, not for Cricket’s murder. 

368AF82B-613A-473C-A8C6-E4800DE6EDA9The cover-up got obvious. Like digging a hole to bury something and leaving a big mound over it. Sandman served his full sentence and then publicly vowed to solve the murder. He started asking all the questions again. Next thing you know, Sandman’s shot dead. First they said he killed himself until the coroner pointed out to a reporter that the bullet entered the back of Sandman’s head. 

continues below

Continue reading "Cricket’s Revenge" »

Father Troy

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.   
Troy grave
 *Indeed, there was bus service to Alameda in 1936.

Bronson's Niece Iris

Bronson Cutting had a niece named Iris.* She visited New Mexico occasionally while the Cutting siblings were in Santa Fe between 1910 and Bronson's death in 1935.  She became a respected author. Origo_war_val_dorecia

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.

Who Owns the Game

Torcthegame-300x192Without 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.

Bronson's Own Hand

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.

Bronson's handwriting

Continue reading "Bronson's Own Hand" »

Alonzo's Water


First National Bank
Alonzo's Bank (

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 Alameda Floods

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.

Map bitThe 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.