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Taos County New Mexico




The Taos County Clerk's Office is located at 105 Albright Street, Taos, NM 87571; phone: 575-737-6380.

Beginnings [1]

Taos County has a multicultural history which is diverse and reaches back at least 8,000 years with evidence of pre-historic settlement sites through Spanish exploration and colonization. Taos is unique and distinct in the history of New Mexico and the United States. It is one of the longest continuously inhabited regions in the country. Rock art dating from the Archaic Period (5500 BC to 100 AD) to historical times is found along the Rio Bravo del Norte (Rio Grande) in Taos County. Around 1050 AD pueblos began to build in the Taos area; Pot Creek was built in the 1200s, and abandoned by 1350; and Taos Pueblo built around 1000-1450 is still occupied today. There were pit houses and pueblos in Talpa circa 1100-1300, and Picuris Pueblo is still in existence today. From 1500, ancestors of the Apaches and Navajos, plus Muoache Utes, traded, hunted, gathered and raided the pueblos.

Francisco Vasquez de Coronado and his expeditionary group explored parts of northern Mexico, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. During these explorations Hernando de Alvarado visited and traveled through Taos in 1540. Don Juan de Onate, the head of the first Spanish settlements in New Mexico, sent a delegation, which included a priest, to Taos and Picuris Pueblos in 1598. In the records of Pedro de Castaneda, Taos Pueblo, the northernmost pueblo, was called Braba, later Valledolid. This was also recorded by Juan Velarde, secretary to Juan de Onate, and later changed to Taos by early Taos settlers, which is an approximation of Tiwa words Ta-o-ta "Red Willow Place" or Tua-Tah "Our Village". Comanche raids encouraged early Taos Pueblo peoples and Spanish settlers to work together for mutual protection. On September 9th of 1598, Fray Francisco Zamora was chosen and assumed his post as missionary to Taos and Picuris Pueblos.

In the early 1800s, French, American and Canadian trappers began trading in Taos County. On September 27, 1821, New Mexico became part of Mexico. In 1826, Padre Martinez was installed as Pastor of Taos and opened a school. In the same year, Kit Carson took up residence in the community. In 1842 Padre Martinez baptized Kit Carson into the Catholic faith and later married him to Josefa Jaramillo. During these years, Padre Martinez brought the first printing press to Taos and El Crepusculo became its first newspaper.

On August 22, 1846, General Kearney proclaims all of New Mexico, with its original boundaries, as part of the United States. When New Mexico was taken over by Kearney, there were only seven counties. The old Mexico scheme divided the province into three districts, northern, central, and southeastern. The counties were Taos, Rio Arriba, Santa Fe, San Miguel, Santa Ana, Bernalillo and Valencia. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed in 1848. The Territorial Convention Council of October 10, 1848 was organized by the election of Antonio Jose Martinez of Taos County, as President. Members of the first district which included the counties of Taos and Rio Arriba, were Pablo Gallegos, George Gold, Antonio Jose Martinez, Vicente Martinez and Antonio Ortiz.

The founders of the artist's colony at Taos were Bert Phillips and Ernest L. Blumenschein, who arrived together in 1898. In 1915 the Taos Society of Artists was formed by Blumenschein and Phillips, joined by J. Sharp, Oscar Berninghas, E. Irving Couse, Victor Higgins, Walter Ufer and Kenneth Adams.

Alongside the art colony, there grew a colony of writers founded by Mabel Dodge Lujan, a wealthy New Yorker, who arrived in Taos in 1916. After marrying Tony Lujan from Taos Pueblo, she invited writers from around the world to her home. Among those who came were John Collier and D.H. Lawrence.

Just as all New Mexicans and other people in the United States, Taosenos had enjoyed the country's general prosperity in the 1920s; they fell victim to disastrous economic conditions during the 1930s, the decade of the Great Depression. Taos farmers and ranchers sold less and some lost their lands because of hard times. Most county villagers had earned wages through seasonal employment outside the community but that declined. Progress from Roosevelt's New Deal, the Work Process Administration (WPA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) employed many Taos County residents and helped build many schools and commercial projects.

World War II recorded Taos County citizens as some of the first to see action for the U.S. in the Philippines. Acknowledged in 1941 as the best anti-aircraft regiment in the Army, the 200th Coast Artillery was the last organized resistance on Bataan to fight the Japanese. That any of the New Mexicans survived at all was a testament to their toughness and camaraderie. On April 9, 1942, at the surrender of Bataan to the Japanese army, they found themselves herded onto the road that history would call the "Death March." Years in prison camps, liberation, hospitalization and formally inactivated April 2, 1946, many returned home to live productive and useful lives.

  1. Taos County Commission, Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee with Planners Ink/Community By Design, Taos County Comprehensive Plan Update, 2004, www.nnmredi.org, accessed December, 2014.
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