Saturday, November 8, 2014

Wild Western Las Vegas--The "Other One."

 
 

THE SANGRE DE CRISTO MOUNTAINS
Las Vegas, New Mexico lies at the base of the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains (The Blood of Christ). Las Vegas means "the meadows." The town is 65 miles due east of Santa Fe.

MAIN STREET IN VINTAGE LAS VEGAS, NEW MEXICO
Las Vegas, New Mexico was established in 1835 after a group of settlers received a land grant from the Mexican government. They laid out the town in the traditional Spanish Colonial style, with a central plaza surrounded by buildings that could serve as fortifications in case of attack.
PLAZA IN OLD TOWN WITH PLAZA HOTEL IN BACKGROUND
Las Vegas soon prospered as a stop on the Santa Fe Trail. During the Mexican-American War in 1846, Stephen W. Kearny delivered an address at the Plaza of Las Vegas claiming New Mexico for the United States.
SANTA FE RAILROAD STATION WITH HOTEL AND HARVEY HOUSE IN THE LEFT SIDE

 When the railroad arrived in 1880, it set up shop one mile (1.6 km) east of the Plaza. Fred Harvey showed up and used one side of the station as the Hotel Castaneda, complete with one of his already famous Harvey Houses.
HARVEY HOUSE GIRLS-TURN OF THE CENTURY
 Turn-of-the-century Las Vegas featured all the modern amenities, including an electric street railway, the "Duncan Opera House" a Carnegie library, and the New Mexico Normal School (now New Mexico Highlands University.)
THE YOUNGER BROTHERS: COLE, JIM, JOHN, AND BOB
 The arrival of the railroad on July 4, 1879 brought with it businesses and people, both respectable and dubious. Murderers, robbers, thieves, gamblers, gunmen, swindlers, vagrants, and tramps poured in, transforming the eastern side of the settlement into a virtually lawless brawl.

JESSE JAMES AND BROTHERS
Among the notorious characters were legends of the Old West: the Younger Brothers, dentist Doc Holliday,  Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, Hoodoo Brown, The Durango Kid, Handsome Harry the Dancehall Rustler, and the Cole Brothers.

 Historian Ralph Emerson Twitchell once claimed regarding the Old West:
"Without exception there was no town which harbored a more disreputable gang of desperadoes and outlaws than did Las Vegas."

A CLOSE SIMILARITY OF THE OLD ADOBE HOUSE WE LIVED IN WHILE SPENDING A YEAR IN LAS VEGAS, NEW MEXICO
In 1970, my husband and our two elementary school age children lived in Las Vegas one year while he taught at New Mexico Highland University. The school is such a beautiful small college, and the rich experiences we encountered that one year have always stayed with us.
 
Living in an old renovated adobe house was quite an experience, with its polished vigas across the ceilings, pine floors, and a very small adobe fireplace in a corner. How I longed for an even floor, straight walls, and doors that shut properly. Nothing in a 100-year-old adobe house lies as it should which became part of its charm. The foot thick adobe walls kept us snug and warm during that one cold winter.
 
The window over my kitchen sink looked toward the close Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and many afternoons a rain shower moved across, watering my flowers and garden, moving on, leaving bright blue skies.
It is a beautiful place.

Note: We moved on to Oklahoma where my husband earned a PhD and I taught high school. Stillwater did not have the same old wild west feel to it, but we did enjoy our three-year stay there, too.
Next move was to our present home in Central Texas, San Marcos.
 
Thank you for visiting Old Las Vegas.
Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas




16 comments:

  1. Everything looks so different in that part of the country, even the buildings. Nothing like here in Illinois. We have more rain, not to mention snow, also lots of grass.

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  2. This certainly brought back memories. When I was in high school a couple in our church owned a camp near Las Vegas NM. One winter, our church youth went there hoping to go skiing nearby. Since the camp was intended as a summer camp, cabins were cold! No snow, just ice. I had a great time in spite of the weather. Beautiful place!

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  3. It appears there is lots of interesting history to this town. Has anyone written a book about it?

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  4. I should have known Howard Hughes didn't name the Las Vegas in Nevada all on his own. This was so interesting to find there was a "first" Las Vegas in New Mexico. Whatever draws people looking for fun will surely draw out the worst in humankind as well. Those outlaw bands certainly moved around a lot.
    Your house in New Mexico sounds so lovely and cozy. What a shame you had to move. But I have to say, Texas is a fine state with its own particular beauty, too.
    As always, I so enjoyed reading your post today, Celia.

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  5. Hi, Morgan--Yes, it's very different. The Spaniards settled New Mexico, and fought off the Comanche who thought they owned it. The Spanish influence is everywhere. And for the record, native people from NM bristle if they are called Mexicans or Hispanics. They descended from the early Spaniards.
    "Las Vegas" mean The Meadows, and the countryside is often like a meadow. Very grassy with flowers. Other parts, though, dry with mesquite and cactus.
    Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  6. Caroline--There a many, many campsite around Las Vegas. It's very nice in the mountains, and even in the lowlands. Yes, there's skiing farther west and north. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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  7. JD--I'm sure someone has. A local Texas author, Elizabeth Crook wrote a novel titled Night Journal, and the story goes back and forth between a contemporary young woman searching for her past, and her grandmother. The grandmother has a journal..and the heroine goes back in time and see the early Las Vegas, NM. She uses the Harvey House in her book, and the plaza, and the very old hotel, everything. Since she grew up here in San Marcos, I emailed her to say we'd live there and I was pleased by her accuracy of the town.

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  8. Sarah--Las Vegas means The Meadows, and one would be hard-pressed to find meadows around LV, Nevada.
    We moved because the students at the university rebelled at the almost all Anglo faculty and an Anglo president. The day we drove into Las Vegas to find a house, there was a "sit-in" at the university. The national tv stations were there--it was a big event. The students had used sheets to write messages to the whites to "get out of town." Students stood on the roofs of the buildings and the grassy areas. Really, they hated us. Some professors got live bullets mailed to them, some had Molotov Cocktails thrown on their front porches..this was toward the end of our year there, so we knew we could not stay. As an aside, there was the worst racial prejudice we'd ever seen...and it didn't come from the Anglos. We were only in the way.
    Our kids were in fourth and first grade. Our first grade son woke up at night occasionally, calling that "the ghost" was on the wall. We never knew what he saw--probably headlights from passing cars. But you do wonder.....

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  9. Thank you Celia for sharing that article. It was wonderful. The photos were beautiful and interesting. I love history, the old west and traveling. All the best to you.

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  10. JoAnne--thanks so much for visiting and commenting. All 15 of us here on Sweethearts of the West are crazy about the history of the old west. We spend a lot of time researching.
    Stop by anytime.

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  11. Hi Celia,
    What an experience to have lived there, and the "white" prejudice you experienced. Humbling and frightening at the same time. I wouldn't have stayed with my children any longer than I'd have to.

    I had the pleasure of visiting Las Vegas many years ago. It's the setting of my second book, "The Dove." I found wonderful local literature about the history of the area which I leaned on extensively while writing the book. My parents, daughter and I stayed in Las Vegas (at the Plaza Hotel) then drove to Fort Union and on to Cimarron. Such a pretty drive, and a wonderful area with a lot of history.

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  12. Kristy--I'll have to read The Dove.
    The Plaza Hotel has been renovated, keeping with the historic theme, and is open for business big time. My husband and I have talked about driving there from Central Texas and staying in the hotel. We'd love to look round and reminisce. The town, oh, yes, is full of history. The Harvey House is enough to think about a novel set there--"The Harvey House Girls," maybe? A series maybe?
    Thanks for your comment..I appreciate it.

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  13. Fascinating history and great photos, Celia. Thanks for sharing your knowledge of Old Las Vegas.

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  14. I always enjoy your blogs here, Celia. And this was a fact I didn't know about your past. The town certainly seems to have a fascinating history. And the photos were an extra treat. Your stories always make me want to know more about Texas. The state should add you to their PR payroll.

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  15. Lyn--we would never have known about Las Vegas, New Mexico if we had not moved there. My husband and I both really didn't know what we were getting in to. For us personally, it turned out good, for the kids..and we...experienced outdoor activities we never would have unless we lived there. It was a great learning experience and a fun time.
    Thanks for you comment.

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  16. Linda--Oh, I know. We both still have avenues to explore to learn all about each other. This one year in New Mexico really gave us an education.
    For example: How could this majority of citizens in one town have access to some of the most beautiful scenery and landscape and history, be so totally inept at making a living and be so dependent upon the government/city to provide food stamps and low rent housing? And still, they were uppity, snobbish, hateful towards Anglos, and downright rude.
    They would not speak English to me at the post office or at the grocery store..even though...truth..I might be the only one paying with a check or cash, and the rest paying with food stamps.
    Very disturbing.

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