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

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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.



Worthy Hero, Comrade Bronson Cutting


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.

They inhabited New Mexico deeply - learning, appreciating and working to improve upon its governance as few others were able or willing. Cutting inscription


The Fantastic Fraudulent Floating Land Grant

The Peralta Grant scheme to defraud the government and the people of Arizona was cooked up by a clever opportunist named “Doc” Willing. Willing died long before realizing his dream and shortly after involving a St Louis real estate developer named James Addison Reavis. Reavis saw it through to the bitter end when he was found guilty by the U.S. Court of Private Land Claims in Santa Fe and sentenced to a fine and two years in prison. He died penniless in Denver in 1914.

Peralta grant

The huge claim stretched from Silver City to Phoenix and encompassed the territory’s richest
 land. At the time Reavis got involved, the substance of the audacious movida consisted of old 
papers in a burlap sack and some carvings on a rock near Casa Grande. Like some other slick promoters and profiteers of the era, Reavis was from Missouri.  He had
 enlisted in the Confederacy but surrendered to Union forces after forging furlough papers.
Thomas Catron later recalled that Reavis had served in his artillery regiment but left to get
 married and never returned.

While the outcome of the scheme was ultimately unsuccessful, Reavis profited for years from
quitclaim deeds sold to settlers and miners.

To be continued...

Source: The Peralta Grant: James Addison Reavis and the Barony of Arizona. Donald M. Powell, University of Oklahoma Press, 1960.

Four Decades on the Horse

Will Sands in The Durango Telegraph has the history of the Iron Horse, the bike race from Durango to Silverton this weekend, and the brothers who started it all. (Telegraph Photo of rider on Coal Bank Pass last week.)

Durango telegraph coal bank pass
Four decades later, Tom and Jim Mayer are also going to make a second run at it. In honor of the 40th anniversary, the brothers will again race from Durango to Silverton this Saturday, Jim inside the locomotive and Tom atop the same Schwinn Paramount that he rode and won the original challenge on back in 1971. “It’s no longer a 10-speed; my knees can’t do that any more,” Mayer said. “But I thought it would only be appropriate to ride the original frame in tribute.”

(Telegraph photo of an early Iron Horse race) Iron-horse-2

Roundhouse Compass

  A compass is useless in a directional crisis if you don't happen to have it with you.  But there's no excuse to be willfully ignorant when you've got one.  I suppose it's a little like a man I know who has a GPS in his car but won't listen to a woman's voice telling him where to go.  She's always saying, recalculating, recalculating. I think he enjoys trying to confuse her.

Compass_27432_lg The debate and outcome of the driver's license bill on the House Floor felt historic  -  not in a good way.  I felt like a House groupie with a hangover when it was over - the rapid-fire phrases: mister-speaker-gentleman-from-donaana, and motion-to-go-out-of-the-order-of- business-committee-reports ringing in my ears. 

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