June 2018

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



Southwest Chapter of Railway & Locomotive Historical Society — The society meets at 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 13, at Edge of Texas Restaurant, 8690 Edge of Texas. Program is “History of Santa Fe Railway’s Early Arrival in New Mexico” by Wood Bare. Train enthusiasts welcome. Information: 591-2326.

El Paso Archaeological Society — The society’s monthly meeting is 2 p.m. Saturday, June 16, at El Paso Museum of Archaeology, 4301 Transmountain. Joan Price will speak on “Clay and Stone: Petroglyphs at Three Rivers Petroglyph Site compared with Mimbres ceramic painted bowls.” Admission is free; the public is invited. Seating is limited. Information: 449-9075 or epas.com.
  Price is a freelance writer and photographer, and currently a research associate with Jornada Research Institute in Tularosa.

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 KTSMRadio.com). 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 EPHistory.com. 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 visitelpasomissiontrail.com.

EPCC Archive Collection donations — El Paso Community College will celebrate its 50th Anniversary in 2019, and is documenting the history of the college by establishing the EPCC Archive Collection. Anyone with memorabilia to donate to the collection such as posters, awards, photographs, brochures, programs, college publications, architectural records, documents on the beginning of the college or more are invited to share. Information: Antonio Rodarte at 831-4052 arodar37@epcc.edu; or Gale Sanchez at 831-4458, gsanc127@epcc.edu.
  The community is also invited to share their favorite experiences, funny stories, memories of campuses and colleagues. Information: epcc.edu/contact/Pages/ShareYourEPCCStory.aspx.

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 SanElizarioHistoricDistrict.org.
  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 beginning at 9:30 a.m. selected Saturdays at Fort Bayard National Historic Landmark is six miles east of Silver City, N.M. off U.S. 180. at the 1910 Commanding Officer’s Quarter and museum (House 26). Museum is open 9:15 to 1 p.m. every Saturday. Tour takes about 90 minutes. Admission is free, but donations appreciated. Information, group tours: (575) 956-3294, (575) 574-8779, or (575) 388-4862.
  Fort Bayard served as an army post from 1866 to 1899 and army tuberculosis hospital from 1899 to 1920.

History Notes Lecture Series — The monthly program is 1 p.m. Thursday, June 7, at the Branigan Cultural Center, 501 N. Main, north end of the Downtown Mall in Las Cruces. The lecture is “The Life of Richard Burges” with Robert Diaz. Admission is free. Information: (575) 541-2154 or las-cruces.org/museums.

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 (Monday and closed Tuesday). 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 nmmonuments.org.
  Kids summer programs sponsored by the Museum of New Mexico Foundation are 9 a.m. to noon on selected Fridays June 22-July 27. Cost per program: $5 (cash or check only). Space is limited; registration required one week prior to program. Snacks provided.
  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, fortstanton.org.

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 shakespeareghostown.com.
  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

Terlingua trip offered great 2-day adventure


We had a fun 2-day adventure, my wife Cecilia and me, in her new Toyota van. Heading for Terlingua Ranch in the Big Bend of Texas, we passed McDonald Observatory on our first stop, Fort Davis. There we did the tourist things, seeing the old fort and eating lunch. The restaurant was packed, but, a couple waved at us asking if we would like to share their table. We did and had a wonderful visit with them; Jim and Nancy, from Arlington, Texas, by way of Illinois where my dad was born and the University of Missouri, where my Dad graduated with his journalism degree. Small world!
Then back into the van and on to Alpine. Cecilia showed me where she stayed with friends every weekend while working on her master’s degree at Sul Ross State University. We also made the saddle shop rounds, Big Bend Saddlery and Spriggs Boots and Saddles — me trying to sell stuff and Cecilia buying stuff.
Then to Highway 118 down to the ranch. Terlingua Ranch is a large parcel of land that a conglomerate bought to make money as a place for people to hunt. People like us buy some acres in a cooperative arrangement, with access to the main ranch house and surroundings.
We got there about 5p.m. finding the cabin rental office closed. We talked with the horse wrangler but he had no clue as where the office manager was. So, I walked around the cabins until I found one that was open, but it had a 1960s green shag carpet. Cecilia didn’t like that, so we found better, more modern room, then went for a walk.
We topped out on the mountain behind the cabins and looked out over what had to be a 1,000 square mile expanse, all beautiful. Next morning, I went to check with the office. They were okay with us just moving in and “making ourselves comfortable.” I went ahead and settled our bill for our two-night stay.
We then drove out to our 27-acre parcel some miles north and west of the main headquarters. After finding it we were again reassured of our purchase. The property was perched alongside a deep canyon, with views in front and up the side of the hill going west, and down toward the valley we had come up from. Some people had already started building small houses across another, shallower canyon. Interestingly, they all had tanks to collect rainfall. There is no other water source except to haul in your own water.
Years back my brother and I hunted deer on that deep canyon near our parcel. I shot an 11-point buck. The next morning my brother got a smaller four-pointer. We were camping out and only had to drag the deer a mile up to the road to get them back to camp. A good trip.
Back to the trip with Cecilia and me. We walked around the property some more, had a picnic and a nap in the sunshine and fresh air. We went back to the ranch headquarters where we walked around visiting with people around the stables, gift shop and small café.
The next morning, we went to the café for a ranch breakfast before leaving to drive to the actual town of Terlingua where there is a lot to see and do.
Terlingua is mostly a tourist spot today but back when it started in middle 1800s it was mining that brought workers from Mexico to the area. The first post office was started in 1899 and by 1900 the population was 3,000. Today’s count may be only 58, except once a year for the annual chili cook-off when hundreds show up.
We then drove west to Lajitas a spot in the road alongside the Rio Grande, where for years people from Mexico just walked across the river or took a flat-bottomed boat across to visit this very small village. The town was bought some years back by a guy from El Paso hoping to make it the Palm Beach of Texas. He put in a small airport, a fancy hotel with a golf course. We walked the tourist spots wondering about it all.
The rest of the trip home was fast. The road to Presidio was up and down some steep canyon roads, scaring Cecilia. But, well before Presidio it flattens out to Shafter with not much to see or do. The drive to Marfa and Highway 90 then I-10 led us westward back to El Paso.
I’ve since sold my property at Terlingua, feeling lucky to get what I paid for it. We did hunt some there and took a few trips that way, but the price of gasoline and growing in age made it seem farther away. But I still have fond memories of the times we did make it down there.

John McVey Middagh is a former
saddle shop owner. You can reach
him at jmiddagh@yahoo.com.

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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