Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Around Town

San Antonio santo procession last year in Placitas
Photo credit: —Bob Gajkowski

Annual San Antonio Feast Day celebration

—Bob Gajkowski, Placitas History Project

The San Antonio Feast Day Celebration will take place on June 14. This annual event will honor San Antonio de Padua, the patron saint of Placitas Village, for whom the Catholic Mission church is named.

At age 26, Antonio (born Fernando Bulhom, in Lisbon, Portugal) took vows as a Franciscan friar. He became known for his miraculous manner of teaching the faith. Working primarily in Italy, his successful defense of the faith was attributed to his calling on the intercession of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, when speaking to those who had rebelled against the teachings of the Catholic Church. His special devotion to the infant Jesus, with whom he is often portrayed, and to those who sought his aid in finding lost articles endeared him to people throughout the world. His Franciscan brothers carried his devotion and concern for others to the New World and especially to the mission fields of New Spain in the 1500s. His universal appeal is reflected in the many churches throughout the Southwest bearing his name. Antonio died at the age of 36 in the year 1231.

The Village Feast Day Celebration has its roots in the early history of our area when the villagers honored San Antonio and sought his intercession with God for a good harvest and other favors.

This year’s celebration will begin with a Mass of Thanksgiving at 9:30 a.m., followed by the procession of the San Antonio santo through the Village. Joining the Mission congregation and other villagers will be the mayordomos and santos from Mission San Jose in Algodones and from Our Lady of Sorrows Church and the Sanctuario de San Lorenzo in Bernalillo. The Knights of Columbus Honor Guard and musicians from Placitas will accompany the procession as it moves through the Village with stops at several houses for the blessing of the residents as well as blessings for entire the Village. Following the return to the Mission, a “rancheros-style” breakfast will be served. Everyone is welcome.

More than 75,000 solar panels generate power at the PNM Sandoval County Solar Energy Center.

PNM dedicates solar power plant

—Signpost Staff

PNM’s latest solar facility is operating in Sandoval County and providing enough power for about 2,400 average homes.

The utility dedicated the eighty-acre Sandoval County Solar Energy Center in May although it’s been in operation since late last year. More than 75,000 post-mounted solar panels spread across the site in a mostly undeveloped residential area along Encino Road in Rio Rancho Estates.

Sandoval County commissioners approved PNM’s request to rezone the area in March 2014. The nearest home is about a half mile away. Some owners of closer vacant lots said they feared the project would affect views and property values.

PNM said the project cost $15 million dollars. They estimate that the center will generate about $152,000 dollars a year in property taxes. Solar manufacturer First Solar of Tempe, Arizona, won the bid to build the project.

By the end of the year, PNM expects to have 15 solar plants in operation around New Mexico using more than one million solar panels to generate 107 megawatts of electricity. The Sandoval County site generates 6.4 MW.

Sandoval Economic Alliance host gala and golf tournament

—Kristin Padilla

Sandoval Economic Alliance will host its first-ever gala and golf tournament this summer at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort in Bernalillo. Proceeds from this event will directly benefit job creation and improve quality of life in Sandoval County.

The fundraiser begins on June 5, at 6:00 p.m. with a cocktail hour and silent auction, followed by dinner at 7:00 p.m., and a live auction at 8:15 p.m. The golf tournament begins the following morning, June 6, at Twin Warriors Golf Club with registration and breakfast beginning at 6:30 a.m. and shotgun start at 8:00 a.m. A catered lunch and awards presentation at Prairie Star will follow the tournament. Prize for the designated Hole-In-One contest is a 2015 Ford Mustang courtesy of Don Chalmers.

Tickets for the gala are $150 dollars per person and tickets for the golf tournament are $175 dollars per person. Sponsorships for the golf tournament are also available. For more information about the event or to purchase tickets, visit The Sandoval Economic Alliance (SEA) is a private, not-for-profit economic development corporation established to strengthen and diversify the economic base of Rio Rancho and Sandoval County, New Mexico.

Fort Marcy Hospital, circa 1860

Keyhole entry wound of a projectile to the cranium

Fort Sumner Indian commissary and company quarters, circa 1864.

A leather pouch filled with rounds of ammunition

Photo credit: Courtesy of Museum of New Mexico

The American Civil War in New Mexico and the Battle of Glorieta Pass confederate mass grave

—Matthew J. Barbour, Manager, Jemez Historic Site

Beginning as early as 1861, the Confederate States of America planned to conquer the American West, beginning with the annexation of New Mexico Territory. Confederate leaders entertained dreams of exploiting the gold fields in Colorado and the seaports in California.

In March of 1862, a small Confederate army invaded New Mexico from Texas. Volunteer units of native New Mexicans were quickly mustered into service at Fort Craig, Fort Marcy, Fort Union, and the Post at Albuquerque to combat what was perceived as another Texan “land-grab.” There was a historic precedent; the Republic of Texas had invaded New Mexico in 1841. The Confederates easily captured Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and set their sights on Fort Union, the largest post in the territory, located to guard the Sante Fe Trail. But the Union checked the Confederate advance east of Santa Fe.

This fight was to become known as the Battle of Glorieta Pass. The result was indecisive; both sides initially claimed victory. However, destruction of the Confederate supply train forced the Confederates to retreat southward. Ultimately, Glorieta Pass was a turning point; some have called it the “Gettysburg of the West.” Confederate forces left New Mexico Territory, never to threaten Union supremacy in the West again.

Today there are not many traces of the Civil War in New Mexico. Fort Marcy has been integrated into downtown Santa Fe. Forts Craig and Union contain some remnants of the original structures. Maintained by the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service (NPS), they are worth a visit. Three other forts worth mentioning are Stanton, Sumner, and Seldon. Stanton would play a large role in military affairs just after the Civil War, and Sumner was established during the American Civil to keep a watchful eye on the Navajo interned at Bosque Redondo. All three of these military posts are open to the public and are operated by New Mexico Historic Sites.

There is not much to see around Glorieta Pass. The Battle of Apache Pass (often referred to as the first day of Glorieta) and Glorieta itself were fought on what is a mixture of private and National Park Service (NPS) land. Pecos National Monument owns a great deal of the battlefield. However, in the years following the Civil War, the forests in the area grew dramatically. For example, when you walk Artillery Hill, you are greeted with a larger conifer forest instead of the open grassland and dispersed woodlands that once covered the area. There is currently a self-guided tour offered by the NPS.

Since there are so few Civil War sites in New Mexico, historians and archaeologists were all the more excited by a relatively recent discovery. In 1987, while building his house along New Mexico Highway 50, Kip Siler encountered a human skeleton buried roughly three feet below the current ground surface. Artifacts associated with the remains indicated that the body was that of a Confederate soldier, and lead to the discovery of a total of thirty soldiers in a mass grave.

Mr. Siler’s house was in the general area where the Battle of Glorieta Pass was fought. However, historians, such as William C. Whitford, had reported the location of the Confederate burial site as being west of Pigeon’s Ranch, while Siler’s property is to the east. This mistake proved to be a boon for archaeologists. The mass grave was in relatively good shape since grave robbers had not found the site. Numerous artifacts were recovered during excavations, and the high level of in situ preservation of the remains allowed forensic anthropologists to delve deeply into both the lives and the causes of death of the Confederate soldiers.

Mr. Siler encountered a mandible and other human skeletal fragments while trenching to lay the foundations for what was to become his house. Siler knew that his property included part of the Glorieta battlefield and he had previously found many small artifacts on his property. He had even heard stories of a Confederate mass grave located to the west of Pigeon’s Ranch. But this was the first time he (or anyone else) found any human remains. Unclear as to their age, and the legal ramifications of finding them, Mr. Siler contacted the Museum of New Mexico. Members of the Museum’s Laboratory of Anthropology Research Section, now the Office of Archaeological Studies, traveled to Pecos to examine the find. It quickly became clear that the remains were those of the long lost Confederate soldiers. Soon a major archaeological excavation of the Siler property was underway.

The remains showed the very real consequences of war. The soldiers were buried two, and in some instances, three deep, head to toe, with arms folded over the chest, legs fully extended, and boots sometimes strapped together. Many skeletons exhibited wounds to the head and chest. In some instances, the force of trauma was so severe that bones were completely shattered upon impact. Overall, preservation of clothing was very poor. However, fragments of plaid flannel, wool, and other unidentified fibrous materials were encountered. These findings suggest a group of soldiers whose uniforms varied widely in appearance. Many wore U.S. Army accoutrements such as brass buttons and belt buckles. Many of these were likely taken from abandoned army posts throughout Texas and New Mexico Territory. Several belt buckles had been worn upside down, presumably to signify the southern loyalty of the soldiers.

No firearms were encountered. However, numerous munitions of various calibers and types were found. These included fifteen .69 caliber smoothbore balls, presumably used for buck-and-ball rounds, and twelve .58 caliber “Minié ball” conical bullets. Many of the projectiles were found in the soldiers’ chest cavities and skulls and probably caused their deaths. Some, however, were obviously unfired and found in pouches or pockets. Collectively, these materials demonstrate that the substantial array of small arms used in the battle.

Many of the dead were also buried with small personal effects. These included items such as kaolin tobacco pipes, vulcanized rubber “Goodyear” brand combs, Federal coins, and pocket knives. In several instances, these materials would later aid in identifying the dead. One burial contained a satchel with several writing implements including a square pencil and pen. Another soldier was buried with an inscribed ring.

Forensic analysis served to link the skeletal remains with individuals known to have died in the battle and to study the effects of field conditions and physical stress on soldiers participating in the American Civil War. Three individuals were positively identified, and three others were probably identified. One of those positively identified was the Texan Major John Shropshire, whose remains were given to his family for re-internment beside his parents in Kentucky, where he was born. After some initial discussion of reinterring another soldier in Texas, it was finally decided to rebury him with the comrades, with whom he had fought and died. On April 23, 1993, the thirty Confederate soldiers found in the mass grave were reinterred in the Santa Fe National Cemetery. Cultural materials such as belt buckles, buttons, rings, and munitions, were returned to the property owner, Mr. Siler, who has kept them and sought to preserve and keep them safe for future generations.

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