August 2017

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



Fort Bayard Birthday — Fort Bayard Historic Preservation Society celebrates the fort’s 151st birthday celebration Friday and Saturday, Aug. 18-19, at the Fort Bayard Museum, located on the west side of the Parade Ground in historic in Fort Bayard, N.M. (6 miles east of Silver City off U.S. 180). Birthday cake served 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. Information:  (575) 388-4477 or (575) 574-8779.
•  “The Buffalo Soldiers” screening is 7 p.m. Friday, at the Fort Bayard Theater.
 • Flag Ceremony is 9:30 a.m. Saturday, followed by walking tours, museum visits, and old-fashioned games and toys
• Presentation on Henry Wright who was on command of the 9th Cavalry and three Navajo Scouts, is 11 a.m. Saturday, played by Doug Dinwiddie,
•  Dinner at theater followed by presentation on “The Victorio Campaign” by Larry Francell of Fort Davis, Texas is 6 p.m.

El Paso Archaeological Society — The society’s monthly meeting is 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19, at El Paso Museum of Archaeology, 4301 Transmountain. Anna Fahy speaks on “Borderland Chinese: Their Arrival, Contributions, and Heritage in the El Paso Region.”
Admission is free; the public is invited. Seating is limited. Information: 449-9075 or
  Fahy’s presentation will focus on what originally brought the Chinese to the region, a discussion about those who stayed in El Paso and what we know about them, using historic archaeology conducted in the 1980s in El Paso.

Paso Del Norte Paranormal Society and Haunted History — The nonprofit organization offers a variety of “ghost tours.” Age 13 and older welcome, unless otherwise listed. All children must be accompanied by an adult age 21 or older. Private ghost tours of Downtown El Paso available with advance reservation. Information, reservations: 274-9531 or

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.
  The Old Fort Bliss Wagon Trails’ Market runs 4 to 6 p.m. Fridays through Aug. 25, with shopping and eating opportunities.

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 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 Information: 833-8700.

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 Bayard tours — Fort Bayard Historic Preservation Society host walking tours of the historic fort 9:30 a.m. every Saturday through October. Fort Bayard National Historic Landmark is six miles east of Silver City, N.M. off U.S. 180. Meet at the 1910 Commanding Officer’s Quarter and museum (House 26); opens at 9:15 a.m. Parade grounds hours are 9:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays and Mondays. Tour takes about 90 minutes; wear walking shoes, sun screen and a hat; water recommended. Admission is free, but donations appreciated. Information, group tours: (575) 956-3294, (575) 574-8779, or (575) 388-4862.
  Fort Bayard’s 151st birthday celebration is Friday and Saturday, Aug. 18-19. See separate listing.

History Notes Lecture Series — The monthly program is 1 p.m. the second Thursday of each month at the Branigan Cultural Center, 501 N. Main, north end of the Downtown Mall in Las Cruces. The Aug. 10 lecture is “Rocks, Mud, Wood, and Blood: Folk Architecture in Spanish New Mexico” by Dr. Kelly Jenks.
 Admission is free. Information: (575) 541-2154 or

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 Monday (closed Tuesday). Admission is $3; (ages 16 and under free). Sunday admission for New Mexico residents is $1. Information: (575) 526-8911 or
  Fort Selden was a 19th-century adobe fort established to protect early settlers from Indian raids. 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. The fort’s museum building, recently restored through a Save America’s Treasures grant, was originally a soldier’s barracks converted to serve as an Administration Building for the Public Health Service during the fort’s hospital era. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Living history tours offered the third Saturday of each month. Admission is free. Information: (575) 354-0341, or on Facebook.

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

Rodeo, gymkhana fill family weekend


As I’ve noted before, rodeo is no new thing with the Middaghs. But one recent weekend the family had to split up. Jacki, my daughter-in-law, along with my grandchildren Jamee and Brewen took the semi-trailer with the gear and horses to the New Mexico 4H gathering in Truth or Consequences (92 miles north — they consider this a local rodeo). The next morning I picked up my son John Jr. after he got off the night shift with the railroad, giving him a ride to join the rest of the family.
Kourtnie, the oldest granddaughter, has taken over the Las Cruces Horseman’s Gymkhana at the fair-grounds. She and my wife, Cecilia, hauled horses and other livestock to that show, taking along our two great-grandchildren.
Again I was impressed driving to the rodeo grounds in T or C. The number of different rigs, trucks, trail-ers of every description. Many people milling around, all busy. There were 90-plus signed up in the events scheduled, making me think even further about what it takes to support a horse event: the time, equipment, fuel, food for people and animals. And why doesn’t El Paso have a junior rodeo?
I had planned to slide off to visit the local museum. But I stayed to watch Jamee rope her calf in 3.4 sec-onds, winning first in breakaway roping. Then I watched Brewen catch his tie-down calf, which he did. The calf outweighed him so he couldn’t throw it to tie, resulting in a no time.
I found some shade from the hot sun under someone else’s cover. Two old friends walked up joking about me being there with a camera. I guess the aging great-grandfather was showing. That reunion sealed the rest of the day. We sat reminiscing until Jacki came to get me for lunch where we had Westly Kolter and Letti Cooper follow us to the trailer joining us for some Albertson’s fried chicken. John Jr. and the children walked up and we all sat eating and visiting until John Jr. begged off to take a short nap, since he’d been up all night.
After lunch we all went back to the arena. Westly, Letti and I found a seat in the grandstands. Jamee and her team roping partner caught their steer but it stepped through the rope with a front leg, which disquali-fied the team. Well, things happen … there will be a next time.
Brewen was last up in bull riding. There were two girls before him. I noticed he was there helping them get tied on. The first girl came out, lasting half a jump before falling off. The second girl came out lasting about the same, but when she bucked off she didn’t get up. The bullfighters jumped in and surrounded her, keeping the bull away. The bull ran to the far end of the arena where a cowboy roped it. Adults gathered around the fallen rider. The paramedics came to the scene, bring out the backboard and gently lifting her on and taking her to the ambulance. The announcer told everyone that she would be okay; she was just going to the hospital to be checked over. With all that excitement it came Brewen’s turn.
Brewen has developed his own routine getting ready to ride behind the chutes. He wears a do-rag that his helmet fits over. Of course he has his protective vest and colorful chaps on. Before climbing over the rail to get on that beast, he pounds his chest with both fists, then jumps up with his knees, pulling them to his chest three times. That ceremony finished, he eases himself onto the bull. Today’s bull he had ridden be-fore, I was told, a gray animal weighting about 1,500 pounds with black markings floating all over its body. Brewen nods, the gate opens, the bull leaps high in the air, twisting before landing on its front feet, up twisting again before its back feet hit the ground, then runs to the center of the arena bucking bad when we hear the buzzer telling Brewen he’d made another ride. Brewen wins again.
Watching all my grandchildren I’m very proud. Their events are so different. All are winners, with count-less buckles and saddles to show for it. Brewen competes against maybe five to seven bull riders most of the time, where Jamee is up against as many as 57 competitors. Congratulations to both of them.
Great-grandmother and Kourtnie and the children had fun, Dylan 5 and Justin 10 months participating at their gymkhana. I don’t know if it is a blessing or a curse, but it is certainly a family affair.
 John McVey Middagh is a former
saddle shop owner and amateur
local historian. You can reach him

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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