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Kansas city
public library
Kansas city,


From the collection of the

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San Francisco, California



Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe


PUBLiv uiJ

January, 1959









An American Surveyor in Mexico, 1827-1860

David S. Macmillan and Brian Plomley 1

The Navaho-Spanish Peace: 1720's-1770's

Frank D. Reeve 9

New Mexican Women in Early American Writings

James M. Lacy 41

Sonoran Missionaries in 1790

Henry F. Dobyns and Paul H. Ezell 52

Notes and Documents 55

Book Reviews . 70

THE NEW MEXICO HISTORICAL REVIEW is published jointly by the Historical Society
of New Mexico and the University of New Mexico. Subscription to the quarterly is
$3.00 a year in advance; single numbers, except those which have become scarce, are
$1.00 each.

Business communications should be addressed to Mr. P. A. F. Walter, State
Museum, Santa Fe, N. M. ; manuscripts and editorial correspondence should be
addressed to Prof. Frank D. Reeve, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, N. M.

Entered as second-class matter at Santa Fe, New Mexico




IN 1956 a quantity of manuscript material in the possession
of the Birkbeck family in Queensland, Australia, was
brought to the notice of Australian historians. Among the
more interesting items was a diary and a commonplace book
in which the diary entries were continued. Together the books
covered the period from 1827 to 1860 in which Samuel Brad-
ford Birkbeck was engaged in the silver-mining industry in
Mexico, as surveyor, manager and director for various Brit-
ish companies, and, latterly, on his own account.

Birkbeck, a young surveyor from the Illinois, set out for
Vera Cruz in 1826. His father, Morris Birkbeck, a Quaker en-
thusiast for social and economic improvement, had settled in
Illinois in 1817 after emigrating from England. Morris Birk-
beck's books "Notes on a Journey in America" (1817) and
"Letters from Illinois" (1818) , both published in London, ran
into several editions, and helped to stimulate emigration to
the United States. 1 In the course of the Nineteenth Century
several members of the English branch of the family played
leading parts in educational and social reform. The Birkbecks
were a talented and progressive family in the Quaker

Young Samuel Bradford Birkbeck and his brother,
Charles, appear to have been attracted by the good prospects

* Based on the Diaries and Commonplace Book of Samuel Bradford Birkbeck. The
University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

1. Morris Birkbeck's writings after he settled in Illinois, included his "Address to
British Emigrants arriving in the Eastern ports with a reply to William Cobbett, Esq."
published in New York, 1819, and "An Appeal to the People of Illinois on the question
of a Convention," published in Shawneetown, 1823. Copies of these rare publications are
in the Birkbeck Collection.


offered in the Mexican silver mining boom of the 1820's. Odd
letters inserted into the commonplace book suggest that they
were corresponding with friends in Mexico before they left
the Illinois. The journey from Vera Cruz to Mexico City lasted
three weeks and Samuel Birkbeck's diary for the period,
penned in miniscule on forty closely-written pages, gives a
fascinating account of the difficulties of the journey, and an
interesting picture of Mexico in that year of internal disturb-
ance, unrest and depression. Vera Cruz made a poor impres-
sion on Birkbeck "The streets are narrow and dirty with
rotten vegetables and dead animals in every direction and
Turkey Buzzards as tame as chickens contending with the
innumerable dogs over the carcases. The fine sea breeze is not
felt being excluded by the high walls that front the town.
The air appears to be of a very corroding nature, the iron
bannisters etc. are entirely decayed . . . the large cannons
that answer for posts in the streets are wasted nearly all
away." 2

The poorness of the lodgings available made the brothers
anxious to leave the city but there was much difficulty over
the exchanging of currencies and the hiring of the necessary
mules and muleteers. Yellow fever was raging in Vera Cruz,
and before they could leave for the interior, they were asked
to attend the funeral of "a poor American who had died of it.
The procession gave rise to some ugly incidents We were
accosted by the populace with the names of Jews and heretics.
The service was read and, after cutting and destroying the
velvet that surrounded the coffin, that the native onlookers
might not be tempted to raise it for plunder, we lowered him
into the ground." 3

The only attractive feature of the town was its women,
with their "fine silk stockings, beautifully worked, and little
tight shoes that scarcely cover the toes, a shawl thrown over
the head in which is stuck a very high comb, giving a peculiar
appearance, that is not unbecoming." 4 These Mexican
charms, however, failed to keep the brothers in Vera Cruz.

2. Samuel Birkbeck's Mexican Diary, p. 2.

3. Ibid., p. 3.

4. Ibid.


On leaving the town with a string of 40 mules, the Birk-
becks were soon aware of the primitive living conditions and
the poverty of Mexico. Throughout their three-weeks journey
they found the people hospitable, but able to offer little but
"fish floating in grease, black beans and tortillas." On the
way, Birkbeck noted numerous details of the dress, buildings,
and modes of travel of the people. The extremely poor quality
of the livestock impressed him strongly, as did the dangerous
and difficult roads and mountain traverses. Only an occasional
good bridge, invariably built, as he noted, under Spanish rule,
earned favourable comment. Numbers of ruinous haciendas
are referred to in the Diary, with decayed establishments for
the refining of sugar and broken-down mills. The general im-
pression was of a dismal country whose prosperity had griev-
ously declined.

At the town of Cordova their arrival caused public excite-
ment. Apparently Americans were rare in this part of the
country and Birkbeck noted that while they ate in the princi-
pal "Mezon," "half the town gazed on to see if 'Los Ingleses'
eat like Christians."

As the party moved west, entries were made in the Diary
on the tobacco plantations, the strict monopoly applied to the
product, the Mexican sugar industry, and on the poor quality
of the primitive ploughs and other agricultural implements
in use. Birkbeck was a perceptive and practical-minded ob-
server. He was surprised that coyotes should abound in areas
of even extensive cultivation, and the native methods of
ploughing struck him as wasteful of energy and of oxen. As
they neared Central Mexico the country improved greatly.
The grain crops and better stock of the great haciendas indi-
cated a more hopeful future for the Birkbecks, and the admin-
istrators of haciendas and the major domos of out-stations
made the party very welcome. With typical shrewd practical-
ity Samuel Birkbeck questioned and noted, and the diary con-
tains details of the stock carried, the crops produced and the
profits made by several haciendas. In several of the villages
through which they passed a judicious show of firearms was
found necessary to keep off crowds of rough appearance "who


threw stones at us, calling us Jews and Spaniards." Soon they
were journeying with arms at the ready "dreading an attack
in the hollows through which we had to pass, for the neigh-
bourhood has a bad character, and I have no doubt that the
place deserves its notoriety from the great number of crosses
we saw by the roadside which it is the custom to erect wher-
ever a murder has been committed." 5

Large mule trains, consisting of as many as 500 animals
began to be encountered, obviously travelling together for
safety, and the party soon came in sight of the Popocatapetl.
Birkbeck noted that many of the haciendas were local indus-
trial centres, many specialising in the production of pulque.
He was disappointed when the valley of Mexico at last came
into view.

"After the luxuriant description given of it by the Baron
Humboldt and other travellers, nothing can be more disap-
pointing when everything is parched by the dry season . . .
an unwholesome-looking shallow pond stretches for miles,
with a few miserable villages with specimens of the leperos
of Mexico as they call that race of ragged blackguards which
infests the metropolis, who appear to have no way of gaining
their living but robbery these free and independent Repub-
licans are great men and look down upon these poor Indians
with much contempt. They have swayed the legislature to pass
laws contrary to the wishes of the more decent part of the
community." 6

Here, after only a few weeks in the country, Birkbeck was
stating his dissatisfaction with the Mexican political system
a sentiment which was to become increasingly strong in
him during his long residence in the country.

Birkbeck's account of Mexico City, its architecture, social
life, living and working conditions, commerce, its foods and
entertainments written at some length, makes entertaining
reading. But of more unusual interest is his account in the
Diary of journeys to Real del Monte and Toluca in connection
with silver-mining, where he examined lands which were for
sale, having been confiscated by the Government. Entertain-

6. Ibid., p. 14.
6. Ibid., p. 19-20.


ing at first the idea of purchasing a small estate, Birkbeck
changed his mind, enumerating the many difficulties and
problems entailed in land-ownership in this unsettled coun-
try. The distilling of whisky was another project that Birk-
beck considered and further trips are recorded in the Diary
in this connection.

In the course of these journeys Birkbeck encountered sev-
eral owners of haciendas who were considering leaving the
country, such as the "Old Biscayan who, being frightened of
the outcry against Spaniards, was returning to Europe after
a residence in this country of more than twenty years." 7
Birkbeck sympathised with such Spaniards, and stated that
he considered their treatment unjust, since in many cases they
had helped to effect the Revolution. Clearly, he considered
that many of the allegations of disloyalty to the new regime
made against them were based on personal spite and jealousy.

In the Tierra Caliente district he noted that the Spanish
landowners, like his "old Biscayan," had to suffer "insults
and the destruction of their property, while the rancheros
insult them whenever they go abroad and the authorities de-
prive them of the privilege of carrying pistols, taking away
their only means of defence." 8 To a man of Birkbeck' s up-
bringing, the injustice was patent and intolerable.

By far the most interesting and informative Mexican item
in the collection is the large commonplace book in which Birk-
beck assiduously recorded his important business activities,
his impressions of Mexico, and in addition, a great mass of
detailed information about Mexican trade, industries and ag-
riculture. The silver-mining companies which he served in
the 1830's and 1840's were prepared to undertake investments
in haciendas and the commonplace book contains over fifty
full accounts of haciendas in the years 1836-1840. In many
cases Birkbeck noted the brand marks under the names of
the haciendas. The nature of the information recorded in the
book indicates that Birkbeck was reporting on the estates for
the British Companies which he served. The Interest Acts
of the early 1830's had encouraged British investment abroad

7. Ibid., p. 33.

8. Samuel Birkbeck's Commonplace Book, 1836, p. 53.


and Mexico, like the United States, was a promising field. As
an example of this aspect of Birkbeck's work there is his re-
port of October, 1836, on the haciendas of the Marques de

The Marques, besides the haciendas of Avastudero etc. has
those of San Matea and Juan Perez etc. forming the "Condado"
and containing about 500 sitios. The marquesado of which the
Cohecera is the Taral extends north as far as Sierra Hermosa.
Those of the condado are under the charge of Don Antonio
Garcia. The marquesado is managed by the Marquis and his
sons. The quantity of sheep in all these haciendas is 900,000 and
cattle 100,000 head besides a great quantity of horses. A dry
year is immensely destructive to the sheep from scarcity of
pasture. ... In the year 1828 the estates lost above 100,000.
I recommended to Don Antonio the introduction of white clover
to avoid this disaster as it does not require cultivation for sow-
ing and spreads faster and stands drought better than any
plant I know. He has commissioned me to obtain some for him
from New York. . . . The sheep are of the coarsest kind and
produce rather hair than good wool and scarcely any attention
has been paid to better the breed. A few good merinos were
lately obtained by the State Government and thrived very well,
but after the revolution of llth May of last year, Santana and
Barragar seized them as booty. 9

On these estates, Birkbeck suggested the establishment of
a "horse sawmill" and the progressive Don Antonio requested
him to prepare a plan. This "Administrador" impressed the
American greatly with his improvements, "carried out not-
withstanding the prejudice and ignorance of his servants."
Innovations included "Scotch ploughs and an imperfect and
clumsy imitation of the American winnowing machine for
maize." Information on the profits, situation and prospects of
the Marquesas lands was also recorded.

The hacienda reports are a mine of information on the
Mexican country life of the period, but after 1838 Birkbeck
was preoccupied with his main interest silver mining. The
Commonplace book contains several hundreds of detailed re-
ports on silver mines. Many of these were ancient, no longer
worked, and Birkbeck was commissioned to report on the

9. Ibid., p. 58.


possibility of working them profitably with the new crushing
machinery and extracting processes that were being evolved
in Europe and in the United States. By this time he had made
his home at Zacatecas in the province of Atecas, Central Mex-
ico, and had married Damiana Valdez, a young Mexican
woman of good family. Against a background of constant
political unrest in the 1840's and 1850's he carried on silver
mining operations, often at considerable risk to his life and
property. Federalists and centralists kept Central Mexico in
a ferment of plots, risings and repressions, and Birkbeck, de-
spite his desire to remain aloof, was inevitably involved in
the troubles. The Commonplace Book shows that he kept
closely in touch with scientific developments, and new chemi-
cal methods of processing ores were tried out in the mines
which he controlled, often with very good results. The walls
of ancient workings were found very productive, and he pros-
pered, but difficulties with the authorities of the Mexican Mint
caused him much worry.

One of the most interesting features of the commonplace
book is Birkbeck's lengthy description of the silver mining
industry as operated in Mexico in the 1840's. It lists the thirty
different strictly defined grades of workmen employed, from
the "Parados a la corriga" through the "paleros" or timber-
men, "polvereros" or powdermen, "arreadores" or horse driv-
ers to the "capitanes" or examiners of the ore, giving de-
tails of their pay, duties, perquisites and position in the
hierarchy. 10

Other interesting accounts are written up in detail, of
Mexican irrigation, gold-mining, customs duties and vini-

By the late 1850's Birkbeck was becoming increasingly
worried by the prospect of his sons, now approaching military
age, being conscripted into the Mexican Army. He had now
nine children and the continual political upheavals made him
anxious to leave the country. Selling up his mining interests
at considerable loss, he left Mexico in 1860, sailing for Aus-
tralia where a branch of the family had settled. He died in
1867 while his sons were establishing a pastoral property at

10. Ibid., pp. 64-74.


Glenmore in Queensland, which his descendants still hold.
His thirty three years in Mexico had not, perhaps, justified
his youthful hopes of prosperity, but in his diaries, journals
and other manuscripts we have informative glimpses of an
economic progress made with difficulty and danger in a time
of violent unrest in the Mexican Republic.


DURING the eighteenth century, the region of Cebolleta
Mountain in west central New Mexico, topped by Mt.
Taylor, 1 became an area for conflict between two peoples of
markedly different cultures, the Navaho and the Spanish
the one classed as pagans by the Christian world, the other
devoted followers of Jesus Christ. The former with only a
simple concept of a usuf ructary right in land and water, the
latter believing in outright ownership under legal grant from
His Majesty, their political sovereign. 2 These concepts
clashed when the two peoples met, despite a degree of good
intentions to the contrary on both sides.

Writing early in the century when the Spanish and
Navahos were at war, Fray Antonio de Miranda placed on
record an interesting statement: "they who made use of me
in order that I shall obtain peace for them were the Apaches
of Navaho who brought me a holy cross which I sent to Gen-
eral Don Francisco Cuerbo." These Navahos said that they
had seen a painted cross on the road to the Moqui Pueblos. 3

of Spanish Colonial documents, Newberry Library, Chicago ; typewritten copies. A. G. I.
Archivo General de Indias, Seville, Spain. A. G. N. Archivo General y Publico de la
Nacion (Mexico). B. L. Bancroft Library, University of California. B. N. M. Biblio-
teca Nacional de Mexico. N. M. A. New Mexico Archives, Coronado Library, University
of New Mexico. F. L. O. Federal Land Office, Santa Fe, New Mexico (The University
of New Mexico Library has a microfilm copy of these documents).

1. For further details see Frank D. Reeve, "Early Navaho Geography," NEW MEXICO
HISTORICAL REVIEW, 31 :290-309 (October, 1956).

2. Cf. Gladys A. Reichard, Social Life of the Navajo Indians: with some attention
to minor ceremonies, pp. 89-95. New York: Columbia University Press, 1928. Writing as
of the present day, Miss Reichard states that, "Our property ideas are so utterly different
from those of the Navajo that there seems to be hardly any principle intelligible to the
natives which an official might follow no matter how fair-minded he might be," p. 93.

I assume that there has been no fundamental change in Navaho concepts of prop-
erty, and that the present understanding applies to the eighteenth century. History
supports the assumption.

3. Miranda to Marques de la Penuela, Laguna, November 25, 1707. A. G. N., Pro-
vincias Internas 36, Expediente 2, f 84.

A quarter century later, Bishop Benito Crespo was hopeful of converting the
Navahos to Christianity, "both because they plant and because of their great worship
of the holy [cross], which they keep in their houses like the Jicarillas mentioned above."
Crespo to Viceroy Juan Vazquez de Acuna, Bernalillo, September 8, 1730, in Eleanor B.
Adams, ed., Bishop Tamaron's Visitation of New Mexico, 1760, p. 98. University of New
Mexico, 1954 (Historical Society of New Mexico, Publications in History, vol. 15). Also
in NEW MEXICO HISTORICAL REVIEW, vols. 28-29 (April 1953, January 1954).


The Spanish of course since the days of Fray Alonso Bena-
vides had had relations with both the Moquinos and the
Navahos, and the latter had learned that the cross of the white
man signified peace, although the cross in form was an Indian
design also.

This incident in the days of Fray Antonio had little carry-
over insofar as converting the Navahos to Christianity was
concerned, but the nearness of their location to the Pueblos
of Acoma, the new one officially established at Laguna in
1699, and Jemez, made it inevitable that some day Christian
missionaries would be among them. During the second and
third quarters of the century a period of prolonged peace
reigned between the pagan and the Christian. Trade was car-
ried on and visits of the former to Christian centers became
commonplace. The missionary early took advantage of this
opportunity, of which hints are found in the records of the
period. For instance, in 1744 at Jemez Pueblo the Padre
"catechized the pagans who were accustomed to enter in
peace." And at the Pueblo of Zia, lower down the Jemez Val-
ley, lived a former captive of the Navahos who had been re-
stored to her own people by the Spanish. She, "La Galvana,"
had resided with her captors so many years that sentiment
led them to visit her occasionally, and the resident missionary
"catechized some of them." 4

Meanwhile Benito Crespo, Bishop of Durango, made a
visit to New Mexico in 1730 with an eye to asserting control
of the secular church over religious affairs in place of the
Franciscan missionaries. The time and circumstances were
not propitious for any such change. On the contrary, stiff op-
position was offered by the pioneers in this mission field
against relinquishing control of their century old position.
But in his leisurely journeying through the province, Bishop
Crespo saw possibilities for further work among the pagans.
"The said pueblos of Acoma and Laguna," he wrote, "can be

4. Declaration of Fray Juan Miguel de Menchero [Santa Barbara, May 10, 1744].
"Documentos para la Historia del Nuevo Mexico." A. G. N., Historia 25, f233v (pt. 3,
N. M. A.). Also printed in Charles Wilson Hackett, Historical Documents relating to New
Mexico, Nueva Vizcaya, and Approaches Thereto, to 177 S, voL 3. Washington, D. C. :
Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1937.

1720's TO 1770's 11

well administered by one minister, for they are only four
short leagues of flat terrain from one another. I must place
before the Christian and pious consideration of your Ex-
cellency the fact that with zealous workers, they will be able
to obtain great increase in Christianity because the place of
the pagans, called Cebolletas, is within seven leagues of the
pueblo of Laguna." 5 He was also aware that the kinsmen of
the Cebolleta Navahos, living far to the north, were a fertile
field for missionary work. They were peaceful and all that
was needed, so he believed, were representatives of the Chris-
tian church who would speak their language and labor with
zeal among them because they were a farming people and
already familiar with the Cross. 6

Bishop Crespo's reference to the northern Navahos was
not without some bearing on the future mission field at
Cebolleta, but it was not solely missionary zeal that brought
the northern group into this relation. The notion of rich silver
mines in the mountainous country of northwestern New
Mexico had been in the air for a number of years, at least as
early as 1740. When the Mallet brothers returned to French
Louisiana in that year, after a year's sojourn in New Mexico,
they carried a letter from Santiago Roibal (or Roybal)
wherein it was written that "we are not farther away than
200 leagues from a very rich mine, abounding in silver,
called Chiquagua [Chiguagua], where the inhabitants of this
country of ten go to trade. . . ," 7

Don Santiago's interest in the matter was more than aca-
demic, so he accompanied the expedition of 1743 that set forth
to find the silver in the land of the Chiguagua who lived
northwest of the Province of Navaho. The expedition was
guided by an Indian named Luis who professed to know the
location of the treasure. But the searchers were disappointed.
The only tangible results of the trip was a friendly and in-
formative visit with the Navahos and probably the naming of

6. Crespo to Vazquez de Acuna, Adams, op. cit., p. 98.

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