Taos Gets New Mexico’s First Press

When New Mexico’s first printing press arrived in Taos in late November 1835, its new owner Padre Antonio José Martinez didn’t waste any time putting it to work. On Friday, November 27, he announced that the press was be available to residents to use to publish “literary contributions.”

Padre Antonio Jose Martinez circa 1848

The press and its printer, Jesús María Baca of Durango, Mexico, had arrived in Santa Fe in 1832, brought there by Don Antonio Barreriro, a barrister and governmental deputy from Mexico City, apparently at the behest of nuevomexico Legislature’s Secretary, Don Ramón Abreu.

Barreriro used the new press to print a short-lived newspaper El Crepúsculo de la Libertad (The Dawn of Liberty), the first newspaper in New Mexico and possibly the first paper published west of the Mississippi. Abreu may have also used it to publish the first book printed in New Mexico, a spelling primer titled Cuaderno de Ortografía.

Following Barreriro’s return to Mexico, Ramón Abreu sold the printing equipment to Padre Martinez, the priest assigned to Taos’ Our Lady of Guadalupe chapel, who moved it to Taos. Once it and its printer were in place, Martinez put them to work, with output ranging from diligencia matrimonials (the standard forms for pre-nuptial investigations) to religious books. And hopefully Taos residents’ “literary contributions,” as well!

Sources: Fray Angelico Chavez, But Time and Chance, Sunstone Press, Santa Fe, NM 1981; Richard W. Etulain, New Mexican Lives: Profiles and Historical Stories, UNM Press, Albuquerque 2002; Rubén Saláz Márquez, New Mexico A Brief Multi-History, Cosmic House, Albuquerque, 1999.


OLD BILL – 6 of 6

He had found it.

Old Bill stood on the rocky mountain ridge, hat in hand, and peered into the long green valley below. This was the larger section Three Hands had spoken of, sure as shootin’. Meandering streams glinted in the autumn light and the clouds overhead betokened more rain.

Old Bill laughed aloud, replaced his hat, and scrambled down from the rocks. His credit-bought beaver traps rattled slightly as the new mule carefully followed him down the mountainside. There’d be beaver here, he could feel it in his bones. If not in the valley itself, then surely in the streams flowing out of it through the mountains to the east.

“C’mon mule,” he said. “We’re gonna ’cuperate my losses and make us our fortune. All we gotta do is stay outta the way of  the Injuns and the Mexicans chasin’ ’em.” He chuckled. “Not to mention catamount an’ bear.”

from Moreno Valley Sketches

OLD BILL – 5 of 6

“Señor, you are still unwell.” The young man assisted the older one back to the fireside chair.

“Don’t know what I woulda done if you hadna found me.”

The younger man shrugged. “Any good Christian would have done the same.”

“Ain’t many good Christians in this world, then. You feedin’ me an’all.”

A young woman materialized behind them and spoke to the young man in Spanish. He smiled. “She says you do not eat enough to maintain a grasshopper.”

“Soon’s I get my strength back, I’ll be outta your hair.”

“Where will you go, if I may ask?”

“Back t’the valley.”

“The valley you spoke of?”

“Aye. It’s a beaut’ and worth the trouble, I’m thinkin’. There’s beaver somewheres there or I’m a bobcat.”

The younger man stared at him quizzically.

“You’re thinkin’ I’m still outa my head.”

“Oh no, señor.”

Old Bill laughed. “Oh yes, señor!” he chuckled.

from Moreno Valley Sketches

OLD BILL – 4 of 6

Well, he’d got hisself away from the Ute war party, but with only his rifle, one beaver trap, and the clothes on his back. As he headed west into the foothills, Old Bill considered his situation. He was moving into the snow, not away from it, and the cold was devilish fierce. The wind howled into his face, bringing dampness with it. No one but a fool would head into this storm, toward the peaks, ’stead of down. He hoped the Utes would think so, anyways.

He gripped his rifle, resettled the trap looped over his shoulder, and lowered his head, battered hat tilted against the wind. And he’d thought he’d been cold before he entered that valley. He began to climb steadily, careful to conserve his energy, his long legs eating the mountainside.

When he finally stopped to rest, he could see nothing below but blowing whiteness.

from Moreno Valley Sketches


Spanish Encounter, III

Juan de Ulibarri strode through the Spanish camp in full regalia, helmet and breastplate gleaming in the mountain sunlight. He stopped abruptly beside the fire where Elizio and his compadres were crouched. They sprang to their feet.

Ulibarri gestured impatiently for them to relax. “The Apaches wish peace,” he said. He nodded to Elizio. “You did well to come for me.” His eyes swept the other men. “He kept them from the camp until I was informed,” he said. “Even with those who seek peace, it is well to be cautious.” He nodded abruptly to Elizio and swept on.

“It is an honor,” Elizio’s friend Tomás murmured behind him.

Elizio turned. “I told them to stay because I was afraid,” he said guiltily. “I thought they might capture me if they came farther. I didn’t know they truly meant peace.”

Tomás chuckled. “You think like el capitán general,” he said.

Elizio stared down the path that Ulibarri had taken toward his tent. “I was afraid,” he said again.

Copyright © 2016 Loretta Miles Tollefson

Spanish Encounter, II

Elizio was assigned the third watch, that time in the night when the darkness begins to lighten to dawn.

The sun came differently in this mountain valley than it did on the plains, he noted. Its light cast a glow onto the western peaks even while the eastern slopes still lay in shadow. If you didn’t know better, you would think the sun was rising in the west. He shook his head and blinked his eyes, allowing them to adjust.

A mist had risen from the streams meandering along the valley floor, creating mysterious shapes and shrouding the long grasses. Elizio squinted. A figure rose from the mist and came toward him. An Apache warrior. Hands shaking, Elizio lifted his spear. Another figure emerged, then another. Elizio opened his mouth to call for help, but the first man’s hands were empty, palms up to show he had no weapons. The others also.

“Peace,” one of them said. “We would speak to el capitán.”

Elizio lowered his spear and thrust out a hand, palm toward the warriors. He forced his voice calm. “You wait here,” he ordered. “I will go for him.”

Copyright © 2016 Loretta Miles Tollefson

Spanish Encounter, I

Even in the cooler mountain air, the battered metal helmet and breastplate produced so much heat that the sweat poured off his skin, but seventeen-year old Elizio de Vaca rode proudly in the center of Juan de Ulibarri’s two-score mounted force, a hundred or more Native allies behind them. The small band of Picuris Pueblans who had fled to the eastern plains would be taught a lesson they wouldn’t forget.

Ulibarri and his Spaniards had ridden north from La Villa Real de la Santa Fe to the village of Don Fernando de Taos, collecting allies along the way, then turned east to climb a long narrow valley, then a steep mountain slope. Elizio had expected more mountains, but instead they descended into a valley far longer than its width, the Spanish line strung out as they crossed the long green meadows. What a wondrous place it was, Elizio thought, turning to look both north and south: surrounded by rich timber, small sparkling streams meandering through its long grasses. On a ridge to his left, elk raised their heads to examine the men in the strange metal garments, then returned to their grazing.

At the head of the column, Ulibarri reined in, also looking around. The column eased toward him. “We will camp here this night!” he called to his men. He looked around uneasily. “We are not the first who have stopped here!” he said sharply. “We will post watches!”

Copyright © 2016 Loretta Miles Tollefson