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Clockwise from Upper Left: Old Mesilla, Organ Mountains above Las Cruces, and Chili Ristras in Hatch, New Mexico
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WELCOME TO THE DONA ANA COUNTY, NEW MEXICO GENWEB PROJECT

In the sixteenth century nomadic Indians, such as the Mansos, occupied the Mesilla Valley. Indian Pueblos were located to the north and west. Apaches and other tribes regularly passed through the area and camped in Mesilla. In 1540, Coronado traveled through New Mexico and since he did not find the cities of gold and jewels he had expected, little interest was shown in the state for the next 40 years. Juan de Onate and others came to New Mexico in 1598. From El Paso, they followed the Rio Grande north to conquer the Pueblos and explore for gold and silver. Onate's route became a link between the Spanish settlements of El Paso and Santa Fe and became known as El Camino Real, or the Chihuahua-Santa Fe Trail. It is recorded that Onate stopped in the vicinity of Mesilla on his journey north, but no settlement was established here for over 200 years. After being conquered by the Spaniards and living under Spanish rule, the Pueblo Indians revolted in 1692. Diego de Vargas, traveling north on El Camino Real, organized a successful reconquest soon thereafter. He and his men also passed in the vicinity of Mesilla. New Mexico remained under Spanish rule until 1821, when Mexico achieved her independence from Spain. From this time onward trading along the Chihuahua-Santa Fe Trail flourished and the Rio Grande Valley became both a politically and commercially valuable territory.


In 1848, the Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo that ended the war with Mexico, should finally have established the boundaries between the United States and Mexico, including the huge area that was to be the Territory of New Mexico and Doña Ana County. Unfortunately, the Mexican representatives and the United States group each had differently copied maps and talked at cross purposes.

People living in the tiny community of Doña Ana, north of Las Cruces, thought they'd be living in the United States, because the town was east of the Rio Grande. Those who lived farther south in the community of La Mesilla, west of the Rio Grande, thought that they'd be Mexican citizens. People who chose to live in one country or the other, sometimes moved repeatedly since stories speed through the villages.

In 1850, the first house with a tin roof was built in La Mesilla. Soon after, La Mesilla became the capitol of the Territory. Doña Ana County's western boundary was the California state line. It was a large area with a sparse population and remained huge until after the Civil War.

 

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A big thank you to Elsa Altshool, the founding volunteer of this site.

This site © Copyrighted 2008 to present for the benefit of the New Mexico GenWeb Project. These electronic pages may not be reproduced in any format for profit, nor for presentation in any form by any other organization or individual. Persons or organizations desiring to use this material for purposes other than as stated above, must obtain express written permission from the author, or the submitter and from the listed Dona Ana County Coordinator.