May 2019

History Lessons

Taking a Look Back column by John McVey Middagh

See also: At the Museum

Menu of this month's listings, stories and columns



San Elizario Genealogy and Historical Society Conference and Dinner — The 28th annual event, “April 1598, Birth of the American Southwest,” is Thursday through Sunday, April 25-28, at the Adobe Horseshoe Theatre, 1500 Main, in the San Elizario District. Conference and workshops are free and open to the public. Information: 974-7077, 851-1682 or
  This year’s talks include Petroglyph Visit, Septentrion, Camino Real Tierra Adentrio, Nueva España, El Puerto and La Missiones.
  In conjunction with the conference is the 3rd annual Rio Grande Festival of art, culture, history and heritage, with reenactment of Oñate’s historical arrival, a three-day history conference, guided tours, old west shootouts, heritage booths, arts and crafts, live entertainment, food and more.

Walking Tour of Juarez — Free walking tours of historic Juárez with Adair Margo, founder of Tom Lea Institute and wife of El Paso Mayor Dee Margo, are Thursday, May 16 and June 20, meeting at 9:45 a.m. the entrance of the Santa Fe Street parking lot to depart at 10 a.m. Bring passport or driver’s license, $1 in change for bridge crossing, and optional money for lunch. Register by emailing name to Information: Karla, 345-4744.
  Tour includes a welcome at Tin Tan Museum at 10:15 a.m. and walking tour of the Cathedral, Mission of Guadalupe, Municipal Palace, and Revolution Museum beginning at 10:30 a.m. Lunch at Cuauhtemoc Market or Nueba Central at noon before returning.

‘General Maximo Castillo and the Mexican Revolution’ — The celebration of the debut of the English language version of the book by Jesus Vargas Valdes is 1 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, May 18, at El Paso Community Foundation, 333 N Oregon, with an afternoon of post-revolutionary inspired dance, art and history. Master of ceremonies is history activist and genealogist Cindy A. Medina, with opening dance ceremony by K’AAY Ballet Folklorico. Tickets are free at Eventbrite. or on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @GeneralCastillo
  Speaker is Philip Stover, author of “The Search for the Soul of Mexico,” “Mata Ortiz Pottery Buyer’s Guide,” and "”Religion and the Revolution in Mexico’s North,” followed by a screening of video clips from the PBS documentary “The Storm that Swept Mexico” and "Railway of the Revolution" featuring Jesus Vargas Valdes and Friedrich Katz.

Virtual Trost Map — Trost Society now offers a virtual interactive map of the more than 600 buildings that were designed by Henry C. Trost and his family architectural firm. Map may be accessed free at

Paso Del Norte Paranormal Society — Tours depart at 8 p.m. from the Wigwam Museum, 108 E San Antonio. Meet at 7:30 p.m. Cost:: $15. Information: 274-9531.
  Beauties & Beasts Haunted Brothel Tour is Saturday, April 27. Adults only.
  Concordia Cemetery Ghost Tour is 9 to 11 p.m. Saturday, May 4, at 3700 E. Yandell. Part of the proceeds benefit Concordia Heritage Association.

Lost El Paso Paranormal Tours — Information: 503-8960,, or on Facebook. Vampire’s Night! Downtown Ghost Walk is 9 to 11 p.m. Saturday, April 27, starting at the Gardner Hotel, 311 E. Franklin. Vampire attire encouraged. Check in at 8:30 p.m., tour departs promptly at 9 p.m. Cost: $20.
  Concordia Cemetery Ghost Tour is 9 to 11 p.m. Saturday, May 18, 3700 E. Yandell. Cost: $15.

Dona Ana County Genealogical Society — The society meets at 2 p.m. Wednesday, May 8, in the Thomas Branigan Memorial Library, Roadrunner Room, 200 E. Picacho in Las Cruces. Trica Willey Hazelton will show Census Schedules. Visitors welcome. Information:
  Topics include voter registers, tax records, US Census Agricultural Schedules, US Mortality Schedules 1850-1880, state censuses, and Native American censuses.
History Notes Lecture Series — The monthly program is 1 p.m. Thursday, May 9, at the Branigan Cultural Center, 501 N. Main, Las Cruces. George Matthews will talk on “Juan Patron: The Forgotten Man of Lincoln County.” Admission is free. Information: (575) 541-2154 or

Daughters of the Republic of Texas — The Rio Grande Chapter meets at 11 a.m. Friday, May 10, at The Greenery in Sunland Park Mall, with the induction of officers for the next two years. There will also be raffle items to bid on. Anyone interested in Texas history encouraged to attend. RSVP: 760-5775.

Harvey Girls of El Paso — The Harvey Girls of El Paso Texas meet at 2 p.m. Monday, May 13, at Union Depot Passenger Station, 700 San Francisco. Program is “Fred Harvey legacy continues through today’s generation.” Visitors welcome. Admission is free. Information: 591-2326.

El Paso Corral of the Westerners — The monthly dinner program is 6 p.m. Friday, May 17, at Holiday Inn El Paso-West 900 Sunland Park Drive at I-10. Program is “Westerners and Me,” presented by Jo Tice Bloom. Cost: $20 (includes dinner and program). Visitors welcome; RSVP needed by May 13: 759-9538.

Fort Bayard Tours — Fort Bayard Historic Preservation Society host walking tours of the historic fort 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at each Saturday at Fort Bayard National Historic Landmark, six miles east of Silver City, N.M. off U.S. 180. Tour begins at Commanding Officer’s Quarter and museum (House 26). Tour takes about 90 minutes; call for time. Admission is free, but donations appreciated. Information, group tours: (575) 388-4477 or (575) 574-8779 or (970) 222-2433.
  Fort Bayard served as an army post from 1866 to 1899 and army tuberculosis hospital from 1899 to 1920.

Old Fort Bliss — Building 5054, corner of Pershing and Pleasanton Roads, Fort Bliss. The Old West days of the “Soldiers of the Pass” are relived through replicas of the original adobe fort buildings and military artifacts of the Magoffinsville Post, 1854 to 1868. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; by appointment only Saturday. Admission is free. Information: 568-4518 or 588-8482 or on Facebook at Old Fort Bliss.

Chamizal National Memorial — 800 S. San Marcial. The National Park Service operates the memorial on land once claimed by Mexico as part of a decades-long dispute over the international boundary. The visitor center has an exhibit on the history of the Chamizal dispute, including a video presentation. Park grounds and picnic area open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily for both foot traffic and vehicles; visitor’s center hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturday. Admission is free. Information: 532-7273 or on Facebook at ChamizalNationalMemorial.
  “Tales, Tails and Tots” stories and visits with park mascot Chami are 11 to 11:30 a.m. for ages 3-6 the fourth Saturday of each month.

El Paso History Radio Show — The show runs 10:05 a.m. to noon Saturdays on KTSM AM 690 (and streamed at Documentary filmmaker Jackson Polk hosts the show with reenactor and historian Melissa Sargent. Details of each upcoming show, plus podcasts of previous programs, are at

El Paso Mission Trail Visitor Center — El Paso Mission Trail Association’s center supporting the three historic churches in the Mission Valley — Ysleta Mission, Socorro Mission and San Elizario Chapel — is at 6095 Alameda (at Zaragoza). Hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Admission is free. Information 790-0661, 851-9997 or

Fort Bliss Historical Association — The group meets at 1 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month at the Fort Bliss museum complex, 1735 Marshall. Information: 269-4831. Dues are $25 a year ($10 students and junior enlisted soldiers).

Los Portales Museum and Visitor Center — 1521 San Elizario Road. The museum is operated by the San Elizario Genealogy and Historical Society, and is housed in an 1850s Territorial-style building across from the San Elizario church. It offers gifts, family trees, historical artifacts as well as information on the “First Thanksgiving” and the Salt War of 1877. Hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. Information: 851-1682.

Mission Trail — Three historic churches lie within eight miles of each other in El Paso County’s Mission Valley.
• Mission Ysleta — Spanish and Tigua Indian refugees from northern New Mexico founded the community in the 1680s. The first mission was built in 1692 and rebuilt completely in both the 18th and 19th centuries. The current structure was built in 1851. It’s near Zaragoza and Alameda on the Tigua Reservation. Information: 851-9997 (El Paso Mission Trail Association).
• Mission Socorro — The first adobe structure in Socorro was built in 1692, and like nearby Mission Ysleta, was destroyed by floods in later centuries. The current structure dates back to 1843, with additions completed in 1873. It’s off Socorro Road two miles southeast of Ysleta.
• San Elizario Chapel — Established in 1789 as a Spanish presidio, or fort, to protect the Camino Real, San Elizario was the first county seat of El Paso. The church was built in 1877, replacing a church built about 25 years earlier. Technically, San Elizario Chapel is a presidio church, not a mission. It’s on the San Elizario plaza, off Socorro Road, 5.5 miles southeast of Socorro Mission. Nearby is the famous jail that Billy the Kid reportedly broke into to rescue a friend. Group tours are available. For San Elizario tour information, call 851-1682.

San Elizario Veterans Museum and Memorial Walk — The museum, operated and managed by the non-profit San Elizario Veterans Committee of the San Elizario Genealogy and Historical Society, is at 1501-B Main Street in San Elizario. Hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. Information: Ann Lara, 345-3741 or Ray Borrego, 383-8529.

San Elizario walking tours — The San Elizario Historic District hosts free, guided walking tours of its nationally recognized historic district at noon and 3 p.m. the fourth Sunday of the month starting at Main Street Mercantile, 1501 Main Street. Learn about the 17 historic sites of San Elizario, about the arrival of Don Juan de Onate to the area in 1598 and the First Thanksgiving Celebration, the Presidio de San Elizario and the San Elcear Chapel on the Mission Trail. Information: 851-0093 or
  To get there: Take Loop 375 to Socorro Road then go east seven miles to San Elizario. District is on the right. Look for the brown signs.

Scottish Rite Temple tour — The Downtown El Paso historic landmark, 301 W. Missouri, is open to the public for a free walking tour at 9 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Learn about El Paso’s Masonic history, the design and architecture of the theater. Information: 533-4409.

Fort Selden State Monument — The monument, 1280 Fort Selden Road in Radium Springs, 13 miles north of Las Cruces, is open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Admission is $5; (ages 16 and under free). Admission for New Mexico residents with ID is free the first Sunday of each month; and for seniors with ID each Wednesday. Information: (575) 526-8911 or
  Fort Selden was a 19th century adobe fort established to protect early settlers. The monument seeks to preserve the remaining ruins and has a visitor’s center with exhibits of military life at the post. From Las Cruces, take I-25 north to Exit 19.

Fort Stanton — The fort was established and built in 1855 by troopers of the 1st Dragoon Regiment to serve as a base of operations against the Mescalero Apache Indians. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday (Hours may be shorter in winter — call for schedule). Admission is free. Information: (575) 354-0341,

Shakespeare Ghost Town — The small pioneer settlement and mining town on the trail to California is just south of Lordsburg, N.M. A 1½-hour tour at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday on the second weekend of the month; call to confirm. Cost is $4 ($3 ages 6-12). Information: (575) 542-9034 or
  To get there: From Lordsburg, take the Main Street exit (Exit 22) from Interstate 10 and turn south. Follow signs to Shakespeare.

Taking a Look Back column by John McVey Middagh

One picture was worth 1,000 miles of jogging


It started when I hit the weight of 210 pounds. I wasn’t liking myself much. A photograph was taken of me while on a trail ride with the Sun Country Trail Riders in the White Mountain Wilderness, our annual Memorial Day ride where 90 people gathered with horses to camp for the long weekend.
The weather was so nice that I’d stripped down to my waist. And someone snapped “The” picture. When I saw that picture with my belly hanging over my belt, I knew I had to do something. And changing to bigger and yet bigger saddles was no answer.
Returning home, I told my friend Charlie George about the picture and the impact it had no me. I needed to do something about it. He jumped on the bandwagon telling me the advantages of jogging. “I am no runner” was my immediately reply.
“Then we’ll walk,” Charlie declared. That night he and his wife, Diana, showed up at my house at 8:30, and did so every night, except Sundays, for the next two years.
We started with a two-mile walk. My wife, Cecilia, and Diana joined us, and she and Diana at first always walked faster than the men. But, in a short time Charlie and I got to where we could pass them. While walking Charlie talked about the fun of jogging, all the sightseeing one could do.
Shortly after that we began to jog. “From here to the fireplug.” Charlie would say. Later adding, “Okay, now pass the plug to the white mailbox down there.” He’d point to somewhere almost out of sight.
That’s how it began. I became a jogger and found a competitiveness inside of me that I had not experienced before. Charlie and Diana continued showing up at the house and if Cecilia and I were not ready or didn’t feel like walking that night, we all sat in the den and visited until we did feel like walking. It didn’t take long for Cecilia and me to figure out that we might as well be ready before they arrived. Now, I’m so grateful for Charlie’s persistence; it set a code that remains with me to this day.
We continued our daily routine, but Charlie started slowing down, which surprised me. After a few doctor visits he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He died a very short time later.
Even though I no longer had a jogging partner, the women and I kept it up for a while longer. By now I was doing ten-minute miles easily. The weight had been coming off nicely, and I wanted it to continue. I did flounder around for a short time, then thought of the YMCA.
I went one morning just to check out the aerobics class. I walked into the room finding 25 ladies, I made a quick about-face, rushing back to my Cowboy Trading Post. Then I realized that 9 a.m. was the only time in my schedule that would work. The next Wednesday, I put on my shorts, took my towel and walked into that building announcing to all I was there, like it or not. I asked them all for their help in meeting my goal of getting down to 165 pounds by my birthday, March 31.
Some of the ladies seemed a little put out at first, so I took the last spot in the very back row and tried to keep up the best I could. Most of the regulars were good. I kept showing up and the tension diminished, and the routines got easier for me. Then, the instructor changed things around and I had to rethink it all over again. But even that got easier.
I continued to jog in the evenings alone, and exercise three mornings a week with the YMCA ladies. Soon I moved from the back row to the middle of the pack, as some of the original people dropped out or changed classes.
One day our instructor mentioned that there was going to be a Transmountain run/walk to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. The idea spread through the class. None of us wanted to do it solo, but there was a team category. The thought was intriguing, and a team was formed.
I felt proud being the only male to stick with the class. Other men had come and gone. I can’t figure why, as it turned out we had a lot of fun. I did notice the ladies began to wear new brighter tights. Some even applied some makeup and brushed their hair before coming to class. I don’t know what brought all that on, but it was a happy time.
The team started meeting in the evenings. I no longer had to jog alone. Cecilia and Diana continued walking on their own, increasing their mileage.
Race day came, and we all did our parts with a great feeling of accomplishment. Back at class, the team became heroes of the moment. Some of us liked jogging together so we kept it up. I steadily improved to where the ladies were having a hard time keeping up. Everyone dropped out but the instructor, and she and I ran at the same pace. We started entering 10K races where Cecilia and Diana joined us to do the walk portions.
Cecilia and I even traveled to New Orleans so I could run their big 10K race where 28,000 runners showed up. Next, I did the San Diego full marathon, then a half marathon, finishing both (not with the best times but did finish). By now I was jogging 69 miles a week, lifting weights twice a week, and going to aerobics three times. I got my weight down to 157 pounds. I felt good but people started coming up to me asking if I was all right. “John, you all right, you got AIDS, you’re so thin.”
“No, I’m fine, just been working out.” I’d say with a smile.
The jogging continued until I started training horses at Sunland Race Track which required getting up at 4:30 to be at the track to feed and get horses ready for their workouts by 6 a.m. Then to my trading post by 10 a.m. to see that things were going all right. And there was usually a ride ready for me to take out. I was sometimes in the saddle four to eight hours a day. My weight did go back up to 165, but I was still happy because with all the activity the weight leveled off and stayed constant.
Life is good to this day.

John McVey Middagh is a former
saddle shop owner. You can reach
him at

El Paso Scene MONTHLY
This month's listings, stories and columns

Feature story
Here's the Ticket
Program Notes
On Stage
Southwest Art Scene
At the Museum
History Lessons
Film Scene
Keep on Bookin'
Liner Notes
Stage Talk
Gallery Talk


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