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Republican antagonists of the measure in the Territory. En-
dorsement of the Hamilton plan was further complicated by
a split in Republican ranks over leadership of the Party.

H. J. Hagerman, President Theodore Roosevelt's newly
appointed Governor of New Mexico, fomented Party dissent
by his insistent policy of replacing appointed hold-overs from
the previous Republican administration. Though acting on a
carte blanche from the President, Hagerman created much
antagonism by the manner in which he operated. He deposed
Party Chairman Bursum from his position as Superinten-
dent of the Territorial Penitentiary, and contested Bursum's
leadership by instituting proceedings against him for sup-
posed mishandling of Territorial funds while Superinten-
dent. An investigating body exonerated Bursum of the
charge, but in the interim period his position as Chairman of
the Republican Central Committee was vigorously assailed
by Hagerman and his supporters. This dissent complicated
the issue since official Party support of the Bursum endorsed
joint statehood plan was necessary in order for the various
strategems postulated to be effective. To this end the Chair-
man and his cohorts labored, carefully spelling out the var-
ious advantages accruing to the Territory, its municipalities
and corporations that would directly or indirectly result
from the espousal of the joint statehood plan. Bursum suc-
cessfully weathered the assault on his leadership and re-
ceived almost unanimous endorsement of his policies at the
Committee convention in Albuquerque in September, 1906.
By the endorsement of Bursum and Andrews, the Committee
by implication at least, virtually assured that the statehood
plan would be a plank in the Republican platform in the
forthcoming Republican Territorial Convention.



246 NEW MEXICO HISTORICAL REVIEW

This Convention, held in Las Vegas, New Mexico, offi-
cially endorsed joint statehood as a Party plank. The Demo-
crats likewise favored joint statehood. With both parties in
agreement on this issue, the campaign became more intensely
involved in the difficult job of gaining votes for individual
candidates. The race for the delegate position became one of
the main topics of concern with W. H. Andrews, the Repub-
lican incumbent, vigorously opposed by O. A. Larrazola, the
Democratic aspirant.

The results of the November 6th election showed the Re-
publican Party in majority control of the federal, Territorial
and local offices. In the delegate race Andrews drew 4,817
votes while Larrazola tallied 4,447 votes. The small margin
of victory afforded Andrews brought a protest from the
Democratic camp but contesting proceedings were eventually
dropped.

As predicted the joint statehood measure was accepted by
New Mexico citizens only to meet resounding defeat at the
Arizona polls. Arizona citizens cast 16,265 votes against the
measure and only 3,141 votes for joint statehood. In New
Mexico 14,735 votes were cast against consolidation while
26,195 votes were tallied for the Hamilton plan. The northern
New Mexico counties of Mora, Rio Arriba, Santa Fe, Taos
and Union opposed the measure while the remaining counties
loyally supported the jointure proposal.

In analyzing the statistics of the New Mexico election a
disparity is noted between the vote cast for the delegate race,
a total of 9,264, as compared to the 41,930 votes cast for and
against joint statehood. These figures seem to belie the state-
ments of various politically prominent people in the Terri-
tory that joint statehood was indifferently viewed by the
majority of New Mexico's citizenry. The evident apathy of
the voters toward the measure suggests other reasons to ex-
plain the great disparity in the total vote cast for the sup-
posedly hotly contested delegate position and the indifferently
received statehood proposal.

The election post mortem brought to light many incidents
of the campaign ; political treachery, armed intimidation and
general malpractices were reported from various sources.



JOINT STATEHOOD: 1906 247

The most interesting side light concerned the joint statehood
ballots. These ballots, separate from the party ballot, were to
be handed to the voters with the regular ticket. In two in-
stances election officials stated that the statehood ballots were
pre-marked in favor of statehood before being passed to the
voters. If the voters were indifferent to statehood perhaps
the registered citizenry might have accepted such ballots
without comment. This is possible since by November 6, 1906,
no doubt remained that Arizona would effectively kill the
statehood measure. Two instances of pre-marking do not
prove that the practice was widespread but such procedure
might, in part, explain the tremendous total gained for the
Hamilton measure in the New Mexico Territory.

Joint statehood was only another unsuccessful attempt at
securing admittance into the Union, and with its demise the
two remaining Southwestern Territories renewed their ef-
forts to secure the recognition they felt was their due. In
1912, under the auspices of Republican President William
Howard Taft, Arizona and New Mexico were admitted as
equal and separate states in the Federal Union.



HISTORICAL GEOGRAPHY OF THE MIDDLE
RIO PUERCO VALLEY, NEW MEXICO

By JEROLD GWAYN WIDDISON *

TO survive in any part of the world, man "must form a
workable connection with the resources of the land." 1
In some areas it is relatively easy to establish such a "con-
nection," for many parts of the world offer abundant re-
sources and hospitable environments; and in these regions
man is able to choose and develop within wide limits his
characteristics of occupance and land use. The arid Rio
Puerco valley of New Mexico, however, offers very few re-
sources ; and man is closely limited in his occupance by ad-
verse conditions of climate, vegetation, topography, and soils.
In this region man must necessarily adapt his way of life to
a few basic economic activities permitted by the physical en-
vironment. Relatively few variations are possible in carrying
out these activities, and such variations depend in large meas-
ure on the technical abilities of the peoples who inhabit the
land.

The watershed of the Rio Puerco is an area of about 6,000
square miles in northwestern New Mexico. Most of the land
is stream-dissected plain and plateau country and has an alti-
tude between 5,000 and 7,000 feet. The only mountains in the
watershed are the isolated Mount Taylor and Ladron Moun-
tains and, along the northeastern margin, the San Pedro
Mountains. Except in the mountain areas, the climate of the
watershed is arid and semi-arid. Precipitation is meager and
its effectiveness for plant growth is lessened by high surface
runoff. The pattern of natural vegetation is largely a reflec-
tion of the climate and its local variations : there are extremes
of mountain forest and meadow on the one hand, and ex-
panses of barren soil on the other. Much of the watershed is
covered by a thin forest of pifion pine and juniper species,
but in the lower areas grasses and desert shrubs are domi-

* Excerpts from a Master of Arts thesis, Department of Geology, University of
Colorado. The author's home address: 3333 Wilway Dr., NE, Albuquerque, N. M. See
Notes and Documents.

1. P. E. James, A Geography of Man (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1949), p. vii.

248



GEOGRAPHY OF MIDDLE RIO PUERCO VALLEY



249




RIO PUERCO AREA



MOUNTAINS

TOWN OR VILLAGE O
ABANDONED SETTLEMENT

LAND GRANTS

1 NUESTRA SRA. DE LA LUZ DE

SAN FERNANDO Y SAN BLAS

2 NUESTRA SRA. DE LA LUZ DE

LAS LACUNITAS

3 M I S. MONTOYA

4 ANTONIO SEDILLO

5 IGNACIO CHAVEZ

6 OJO DELESPIRITU SANTO

MILES



250 NEW MEXICO HISTORICAL REVIEW

nant. As another expression of the climate, almost the entire
watershed is drained by intermittent streams; a few small
creeks in the higher elevations of Mount Taylor and the San
Pedro Mountains are the only permanent streams. The Rio
Puerco itself and its two main tributaries, the Rio San Jose
and the Arroyo Chico, are the largest streams in the water-
shed ; but they have only occasional flows of water in their
channels. The San Jose and the Chico rise in the high plateau
country in the western part of the watershed along the
continental divide and they flow eastward to join the Rio
Puerco, which is located quite near the eastern margin of the
watershed. The Puerco has its headwaters on the slopes of
the San Pedro Mountains and flows southward from those
mountains to its junction with the Rio Grande.

Natural supplies of water throughout the Puerco water-
shed are few and undependable, and this lack causes the most
basic restrictions on man's occupance of the area. Population
has always been small and located in those places where water
can most easily be made available. A number of widely scat-
tered ranches, trading posts, and Indian settlements are sup-
plied by springs and wells ; but the major area of settlement
is the immediate valley of the Rio Puerco. In the upper part
of this valley, near the headwaters of the river, there is suffi-
cient stream water available for both domestic and agricul-
tural use to support a population of more than 2,000 persons.
Farther south in the valley the supply is much more limited,
but originally at least there was enough to support a
scattered population of a few hundred people. Even these few,
nevertheless, were closely limited in their occupance by the
severity of the environment. All elements of the natural land-
scape combine into a harsh environment in which life is a
daily struggle for existence.

The Rio Puerco is about 150 miles long and, with the ex-
ception of the Pecos River, is the longest New Mexico tribu-
tary to the Rio Grande. 2 Several short streams from the
western slopes of the San Pedro join along the front of the

2. The Rio Puerco of this thesis is also known as the Rio Puerco of the East. It is
thus distinguished from (1) the Rio Puerco of the West, a stream of New Mexico and
Arizona that joins the Little Colorado River, and (2) a smaller Rio Puerco that is
tributary to the Chama River in New Mexico.



GEOGRAPHY OF MIDDLE RIO PUERCO VALLEY 251

mountains to create the Puerco. These small streams are
fairly permanent in their mountain valleys, but often dry up
as they near the base of the range. The stream beds become
gullies, and what little water flows in them is lost by seepage
in the sandy bottoms. As a result, the Rio Puerco itself is a
dry gully almost from its beginning. The newly created river
"flows" away from the base of the mountains and enters the
plain and plateau country. This country becomes more arid
toward the south, and through it the Puerco flows almost
directly southward. If for this reason alone, flow of water in
the river tends to disappear long before it reaches the mouth.

A trickle of water can usually be found in the Puerco river
bed as far south as La Ventana, and the river may be called
perennial to about that point. Below La Ventana, however,
the Puerco must necessarily be termed intermittent and
ephemeral. The stream bed may be completely dry for several
weeks at a time, save an occasional "water hole" where water
is protected from rapid evaporation by the shade of the river
bank. 3 During the spring there is a period when the mountain
streams that create the Puerco furnish the river with a small
but fairly steady flow. Even this water, however, may com-
pletely evaporate and seep into the ground before reaching
La Ventana. In brief, waterflow in the middle and lower parts
of the Rio Puerco is not dependent on the headwaters. The
source of water for these sections of the river is precipitation
that falls directly on the middle and lower parts of the
watershed.

The Rio Puerco and its tributaries all have occasional
flows of large quantities of water "flash floods" that result
from high surface runoff. An account written in 1897 ac-
curately describes these floods and the streamflow of the Rio
Puerco as follows : "This river drains a large area of country,
but on all of it ... the rainfall comes principally in sudden
heavy downpours, so that the Puerco is a torrential stream
when in flood, but is dry nine-tenths of the time." 4 More re-

3. Carle H. Dane, "The La Ventana-Chacra Mesa Coal Field," part 3 of Geology
and Fuel Resources of the Southern Part of the San Juan Basin, New Mexico, U. S.
Department of Interior, Geological Survey, Bulletin 860-C, 1936, p. 86.

4. U. S. Congress, Senate, Equitable Distribution of the Waters of the Rio Grande,
65th Cong., 2d Sess., Doc. 229, 1897-98, p. 53.



252 NEW MEXICO HISTORICAL REVIEW

cently it has been recognized that two types of flash floods
occur on streams such as the Rio Puerco. Local thunder-
storms cause small-volume floods in those arroyos and
streams beneath the storms; large-volume floods are pro-
duced by general rainfall over all or much of the watershed. 5
Small volume floods are the more common type. Within the
last century a decrease in the vegetative cover of the Puerco
watershed has promoted larger flash floods by permitting in-
creased surface runoff. The large quantities of silt carried in
the flood waters of the Puerco are the source of the river's
name, which means "Dirty River."

Such streams as the Rio Puerco must be viewed in larger
context as they affect the Rio Grande. Many of the tributaries
to the upper Rio Grande are ephemeral streams that give
only a little water to the main stream, but contribute a great
deal of silt. In this regard the Puerco is the worst offender
in either Colorado or New Mexico. Of the measured sediment
entering the Rio Grande above Elephant Butte Dam, forty-
five percent is contributed by the Rio Puerco. The same river,
however, produces less than eight percent of the water in-
flow. 6 The huge quantities of sediment provided by this and
other streams are the source of several water problems of
the Rio Grande valley, but only a beginning has been made
to reduce the sediment loads of these streams. 7

From the base of the mountains to its mouth, the Rio
Puerco flows in a long narrow valley bordered by sharp-edged
mesas and cuestas and partially filled with alluvium. 8 This
valley varies in width from less than a mile to three miles.

6. E. J. Dortignac, Watershed Resources and Problems of the Upper Rio Grande
Basin, U. S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and
Range Experiment Station (Fort Collins, Colorado, 1956), p. 34.

6. Ibid., p. 49.

7. John C. Thompson, "Conditions on Irrigated Sections of the Middle Rio Grande
in New Mexico," Problems of the Upper Rio Grande, U. S. Commission for Arid Re-
source Improvement and Development Publication No. 1, 1957, pp. 28-29.

8. The mesas and cuestas constitute the natural physical boundaries of the Rio
Puerco valley. "Cultural boundaries" of the valley, i.e. the outer limits of occupance,
are located at greater distances from the river and are less exact: it is true that the
settlements of the valley are located near the stream ; but livestock are allowed to graze
the country several miles back from the river on either side, and settlers of past times
used timber from mountains and mesas located several miles from the valley. For sim-
plicity the term "Rio Puerco valley" is used in this thesis to mean the natural, or physical
valley of the river, though discussion of the cultural geography cannot always be limited
to such a narrow area.



GEOGRAPHY OF MIDDLE RIO PUERCO VALLEY 253

The floor of the valley was formerly a flood plain for the river,
but with the last seventy-five years the river has entrenched
itself into the alluvium to depths as great as fifty feet ; and
only here and there has it reached bedrock. Even the largest
flash floods of the Puerco are now confined to the deep chan-
nel which the river has cut. No longer can flood waters inun-
date the old flood plain, which is essentially "a terrace above
the present stream grade." 9 This entrenchment of the river
is one of the major changes that has taken place in the physi-
cal landscape of the Rio Puerco valley. It has greatly in-
fluenced the success of settlement in the valley, since the
"settlement capability" of the land is based to a great degree
on the river and the ease with which irrigation water may be
diverted from it.

Aside from its effects on stream flow, climate is another
factor that restricts occupance of the Puerco valley. The cli-
mate of the valley is arid and semi-arid, with an average
annual precipitation that varies from about nine inches at
the mouth of the river to more than 18 inches at the base of
the headwater mountains. Most of the valley receives between
nine and fourteen inches annually. 10 The period of maximum
precipitation is summer : during June, July, August, and Sep-
tember the valley receives about seventy-five percent of its
annual rainfall. The summer rain comes mainly from thun-
derstorms, which are very localized in their occurrence but
from which rainfall is very heavy. Preceding the rainy season
are two or three months in the spring when high winds and
duststorms are common.

Temperatures in the Puerco valley are not as high as those
of some other arid regions in the southwestern United States,
since the area is at both a high altitude and a fairly high lati-
tude. Average annual temperatures range from 55 in the
south to about 47 at the base of the San Pedro Mountains.
Despite these moderate figures, however, summer tempera-

9. Kirk Bryan, "Historic Evidence on Changes in the Channel of the Rio Puerco, a
Tributary of the Rio Grande in New Mexico," Journal of Geology, XXXVI (1928), 266.

10. U. S. Department of Agriculture, Survey Report, Flood Control, Rio Puerco
Watershed, New Mexico, 1941, Map 16 ; B. C. Renick, Geology and Ground-Water Re-
sources of Western Sandoval County, New Mexico, U. S. Department of Interior, Geo-
logical Survey, Water Supply Paper 620, 1931, p. 6ff.



254 NEW MEXICO HISTORICAL REVIEW

tures may become unbearably warm. During the daylight
hours in summer, air and surface temperatures become ex-
tremely high, while at night the heat is lost rapidly and the
air becomes uncomfortably cool. Winter temperatures, in
contrast, are comparatively low throughout the 24-hour day.
Both temperature and precipitation exhibit moderate and
fairly even latitudinal gradients, the temperatures decreas-
ing from south to north and the precipitation increasing from
south to north.

Climatic conditions greatly affect the vegetation of the
Puerco valley, for the scanty precipitation and including
here its spotty distribution and extreme variability is the
main hindrance to plant growth. In addition, the high tem-
peratures and generally low humidity of the air in summer
permit a large amount of transpiration and evaporation from
plants and the ground. Therefore, all natural vegetation is
xerophytic ; and other plants introduced as agricultural crops
can thrive only when artificially irrigated. But since the oc-
cupants of the valley developed irrigation imperfectly, and
since there was little water with which to irrigate, introduced
plants were small, seeds poorly developed, and yields meager.
In contrast to summer conditions, the cool temperatures of
fall, winter, and spring are not hazardous to either agricul-
ture or grazing the two dominant types of land use. The
growing season is at least 110 days everywhere in the valley,
and there is never enough snow to interfere with grazing.

The greater part of the valley is underlain by essentially
horizontal sedimentaries, mostly Cretaceous sandstones and
shales. 11 Considerable thicknesses of these strata are exposed
in the mesas, cuestas, and hills on either side of the Puerco
valley. The steep, often vertical, slopes of these uplands limit
access to the valley from either side and help keep it isolated
from other areas of settlement. Above the edges of the cliffs
and scarps most of the land extending away from the valley
in either direction is fairly level, but is rough and rocky. Soils
on these uplands are thin and stony, and this, together with

11. Renick, op. cit., p. 5 ; Dane, op. cit., p. 91 ; Herbert E. Wright, Jr., "Tertiary
and Quaternary Geology of the Lower Rio Puerco Area, New Mexico," Bulletin of the
Geological Society of America, LVII (May, 1946), 392ff.



GEOGRAPHY OF MIDDLE RIO PUERCO VALLEY 255

lack of water and the impossibility of irrigation, makes the
land useless for agriculture. Grazing is its only suitable use,
and even grazing capacity is limited by the steep slopes and
rocky surfaces of the land.

Standing above the general level of the middle valley are
two large mesas capped by basalt flows : Mesa Chivato and
Mesa Prieta. The two were probably once joined, but the
Puerco now flows between them. 12 Associated with these two
mesas as part of the Mount Taylor volcanic region are a large
number of volcanic necks the most striking geomorphic
features of the Puerco valley. These necks, in various stages
of exposure, are widely scattered in the middle part of the
valley. The largest neck is Cerro Cabezon ("big head"), a
name also given to one of the settlements in the valley. 13 These
landforms are important only in that their steep slopes in-
crease the difficulty of grazing.

A final noteworthy topographic feature is the Llano de
Albuquerque, a long narrow upland separating the valley of
the Puerco from that of the Rio Grande. The west side of this
flat, mesa-like feature borders the lower Puerco valley and
presents a continuous scarp for a distance of about seventy
miles; the scarp is known as the Ceja del Puerco ("eyebrow
of the Puerco"). 14

Soils in the Puerco valley are developed from the allu-
vium of the valley, which is composed of material both de-
posited by the river and washed into the valley from the
uplands on either side. At least fifty feet deep in places, this
alluvium is well displayed in the vertical banks of the Puerco
trench, but there is a noticeable lack of soil profiles. On the
other hand, the entire thickness of the alluvium may be
termed soil, since it is fine material that was transported in
Quaternary time from upstream. There are few gravel-sized,
or larger, particles contained in the alluvium ; in most places
it is a heavy-textured material from the surface downward.

12. Renick, op. cit., p. 5.

13. Douglas W. Johnson, "Volcanic Necks of the Mount Taylor Region, New Mex-
ico," Bulletin of the Geological Society of America, XVIII (July 16, 1907), 305.

14. Wright, op- cit., pp. 387, 399, 439.



256 NEW MEXICO HISTORICAL REVIEW

The present soil at the surface is sandy to silty in texture.
This soil "holds" water fairly well, but not so well as the still
heavier soil of the Rio Grande valley. In the opinion of local
residents this makes the Puerco land more suitable for agri-
culture than is the Rio Grande valley. The soil is very easily
eroded, however. Cracks develop readily due to the expansion
and contraction that accompanies alternate wetting and dry-
ing. These cracks

permit penetration and concentration of water, and thus con-
tribute to gullying and sloughing of vertical arroyo banks.
Gullies are commonly subterranean "piping holes" and may
travel underground for long distances before entering the
lower entrenched drainages. Gully erosion, including bank cav-
ing, probably constitutes the principal source of silt to the Rio
Puerco. 15

The valley soil has usually been described as fertile and
productive of crops. Soil productivity depends chiefly, how-
ever, on such factors as types of crops and methods of cultiva-
tion. In all parts of the valley, for example, irrigation is
essential for the production of even small yields. Dry farming
has been attempted in the upper valley, but with only slight
success. 16 A comment written in 1856 summarizes the situa-
tion adequately : "the soil looks rich, but is barren for want
of moisture. If it could be irrigated by artesian wells, as the
geologist believes to be practicable, or by reservoirs for the
surplus water of the rainy season, this region would be
worthy of cultivation." 17 As it is, soil characteristics in the
Puerco valley and surrounding area play a minor role in de-
termining land capability for agriculture or grazing, com-
pared with such factors as water availability and range
management.

Of all the elements of the natural landscape, vegetation
is the most obvious indicator of the use capabilities of the

15. U. S. Department of Agriculture, Survey Report . . . , op. cit., p. 207.


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