Folks in Socorro County called 1862 the “year of the little doves,” but they weren’t talking about birds. They were speaking of locusts. That Spring, an unusually heavy snow pack in the northern mountains that spring caused major floods along the Rio Grande. In Socorro County, the river was more than a mile wide in places. Newly planted corn and wheat fields, peach orchards and vineyards were inundated, and many acequias were destroyed.
Then the “little doves” arrived. By the time the locusts had left, the County was stripped clean and its inhabitants were close to starvation.
Relief was slow in coming, because the Territory was caught up in pushing back the Navajo depredations that had followed hard on the heels of the Confederate invasion. There were also concerns that the Confederates would try again.
But help did eventually arrive. In early May, the Santa Fe Gazette printed a plea for help and donations began to pour in. They came from as far north as Arroyo Seco and as far east as Maxwell’s Ranch on the Cimarron. Leading citizens in Taos, Arroyo Seco, Placitas, Cordova, and Espanola contributed $356. Antonio Baca and Francisco Aragon of Arroyo Seco, Francisco Sanchez of Placitas, Pascuel Martinez of Ranchita, Jose Dolores Tafolla of Cordova, Pedro Antonio Vigil of Cordilleras, and Juan Antonio Espinosa and Juan Suaso of San Francisco del Rancho donated 141 fanegas of wheat between them, and Taos’ Fr. Gabriel Ussel raised $82 from his parishioners.
So, while the locusts had destroyed their crops in 1862, “little doves” of help came to Socorro’s rescue in 1863. It was a long time to wait, but help did eventually arrive.
Source: Jerry D. Thompson, A Civil War History of the New Mexico Volunteers & Militia, UNM Press, Albuquerque, 2015. Pages 215-221