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Agua Fria Village, N.M.

Village or Town
Agua Fria School built by the WPA in 1936 with local laborers out of adobe. – William Mee

Agua Fria Village has been designated as a "Traditional Historic Community" in 1995 by Santa Fe County as allowed by state statute. It was the first community to do so.

So this might be considered a political subdivision.

And was named as one of America's most endangered places in 2004:

Set on an alluvian plain that was farmed by native American until the regional drought of 1250 A.D. and resettled by Native Americans in 1300-1400 when it was finally abandoned, the area was an agricultural mecca. Recent archaelogical digs by Cheri Sheick of Southwest Archaelogical Consultants indicate that the settlement might be the oldest largest settlement of its kind on the North American continent dating back to 3,000 B.C.

Agua Fria Village became a place of modern recorded settlement in New Mexico when Captain (Maestro del Campo) Roque Madrid was given a land grant on the Santa Fe River from Ojito Fresco to Pueblo Quemado in 1693 by General Don Diego de Vargas for his service in the 1692 “Reconquest” of New Mexico by the Spanish Crown. His request was granted based on his parents and grandparents having farmed this area prior to the revolt (two generations prior or Circa 1640). Other land grants were given to other soldiers and the ditches from the Santa Fe River (acequias) were extended and carried precious water to the flat lands of Agua Fria, which had been used for farming for centuries. Eventually, this small community became the breadbasket of the City of Santa Fe.

The individual grants of the Agua Fria Village residents went from the Arroyo de los Chamisos (near the present day Santa Fe Place Mall) to the Arroyo de los Frijoles or the southern most boundary of the San Ildefonso Pueblo grant; a distance of some five to seven miles in length. Lots were narrower in width and may have been only 600 to 900 feet (200 or 300 yards or “varas”).

Santa Fe was established in 1609 and the settlements developed in the city as well as surrounding areas, among them Agua Fria. The settlers lived and made their homes from the resources of the earth. They were farmers and sustained their families from the crops and animals they raised with the generosity of water from the Santa Fe River. The Santa Fe River was the focal point in establishing themselves in this region. Faith, farming and home remedies were the only means of survival.

In the beginning of the settlements Cieneguitas, Agua Fria and Cieneguilla were called Ranchitos, as the population grew Agua Fria became a Placita. Agua Fria was identified by two groups. The area by the Church was "La Placita de Los Romeros and the other one in the area of the Tanque "watering hole" (area of Lopez and Camino de Oro Road) "La Placita de Los Lopez".

As the community grew, it acquired the status of a Village.

(The above three paragraphs are from the collected works of Melinda Romero Pike, first published in the People of God newsletter of May 2010, by the Archdiocese of Santa Fe on the 175th anniversary of San Isidro Catholic Church).

In the year, 1776 Fray Francisco Atanacio Dominguez gave a census count to his superiors listing Agua Fria with 57 families and 297 persons.

Agua Fria was originally named Ca-Tee-Ka meaning "cold water" by Tewa and Tano Indians along the Rio Grande. There are at least two major Late Puebloan archaeological sites in the area, one identified as the Agua Fria Schoolhouse Site (LA 2) and one identified as Pindi Pueblo (LA 1)[1]. The Pindi Pueblo is both a prehistoric and historic settlement. Pindi remains the oldest and largest coalition, which dates back to from A.D. 1150 to the mid 1400's.[i]

Excavations of sites in this area were also done by the Works Progress Administration, documented by Stanley Stubbs and W.S. Stallings in 1937, and through the AmericanSchoolof Research from 1923 to 1933. Additionally, a study done in 1988 by Chuy Cherie Scheick on the south side of the river shows that the Pindi appeared to have moved to that site now known as the Agua Fria School House. This study was done for the Agua Fria Community Water Association[2] where the well house and water tank now exist. Excavations continue today as the well house site was just excavated in the entire month of November 2012.

According to a recent study describing the importance of the archaeological sites for theAgua Fria area:

“These two sites can be envisioned as the large central knot in a cultural ‘rope’; earlier strands of which stretch back at least to Archaic times and perhaps before…. Even earlier archaeological sites may well exist beneath the buildings into the very houses that Agua Frians still inhabit. The later time periods can be experienced not just as physical remains but also as historic documents and family memories ... whose families have been present at least since the 1690s. It is a cliché in the Santa Fe region that ‘Agua es Vida’; but there is no simpler way to express the importance of the San Ysidro Crossing area as a location for both river water and fresh; cold springs that may have fed humans and animals since the very earliest occupations of this region.[3]

There is an indication that Pindi Pueblo and Pueblo Quemado sites may have been related. Post,

Martinezand Maxwell say the following: “LA 1, LA 2, LA 109, LA 117, LA 118, and LA 119 have Santa Feand Galisteo Black-on-white, and at least a small amount of glaze-paint pottery, suggesting that all six sites are roughly contemporaneous. These villages formed a large continuous community that was 3.2 km (2 mi) long.”[ii]

II. The Spanish Colonial Era (1539-1821).[iii]

The Villa de Santa Fehaving been founded circa 1608-1610, was home to 250 Spanish residents and some 750 Indian residents. Each household “was to provide a breeding sow, twenty breeding ewes from Castille, and six hens and a cock.”[iv] Surrounding communities must of provided to the sustenance of the capitol.

Dawn was just breaking over the Sangre de Cristo on the 13thof September, 1692, as the little party of intrepid Spaniards came in sight of the Villa de Santa Fe. Even at this early hour, doubtless having been advised by outposts, the alarm had been given. As the Spaniards approached, crossing the Santa Fe River near Agua Fria, they came by way of the right bank of the river, passing by the ruins of the house of Captain Juan Lucero de Godoy, near which the Indians had erected a small tower.[4]This then was the entrada.[v]

The land grants on either side of Roque Madridwere to Cristobal Nieto[ix] on the east and Andres Montoya (from Cieneguilla) on the west. These land titles are further delineated by: the 1734 will of Cristobal Baca in Archive #12 and #88 translated by Twitchell; the February 3, 1767 deed to Jose Baca From Felipe Tafoya in Archive 112; and the July 10, 1765 deed from Francisco Nieto to Jacinto Perea in Archive 644; and the conveyance of 1831 from Jesus Maria Alarid to Jose Francisco Baca in Archive #145; of the Spanish Archives at the N.M. State Records Center and Archives.

The town lies on the historic “El Camino Real del Adentro”, meaning the "Royal Roadof the Interior", and was a historic trade route. El Camino Real began thousands of years ago as a series of Indian footpaths connectingChacoCanyonand the Turquoise mines at Cerrillos with the Aztec Empire at what would later beMexico City. El Camino Real route was used byPueblopeople for trade and communication for hundreds of years before the arrival of Europeans. The trade route helped to disperse ideas and technologies, connected widely dispersed groups of tribes, and allowed for cultural interaction with the arriving Spanish. In Spanish Colonial times, Agua Fria served as a paraje, or stopping place, for travelers on El Camino Real trail between Mexico City and Santa Fe.

III. Mexican Era (1821-1848).

The Mexican period was from 1821-1848. The provinces like Rio Abajo (first the Rio Bravo and Rio del Norte) and Rio Arriba (the two parts of New Mexico) suffered from little government services and attention. Taxation was barely able to provide for the common defense as well as for the central government in Mexico City. Indian raids became common place as the horse enabled even the Comanches[xiii] and Navajos to reach theHispanoVillages and Pueblo Indians after the fall harvests. The area became ignored in all administrative aspects including recordkeeping.

The Catholic Church of San Isidro was built in 1835 and derives its name from the patron saint of farmers. The land for the church was given by Jose Jacinto Gallegos, whose family still lives in the area. The church served as a protector from nomadic Indian raids.[xv] Unlike Spanish Colonial government, the Mexican government was unable to finance expeditions against raiders and some settlements were abandoned. In summary, this area was occupied from the beginning of the coalition period until the present, although a short hiatus in occupation may have occurred between the abandonment of La Cieneguilla in the 1500s until the arrival of the Spanish in 1610.

The Caja del Rio Grant[7] must be mentioned here for its significance to the peoples ofAgua Fria. It is an area incorrectly referred to as Buckman Mesa, and now belonging to the U.S. Forest Service, but is roughly everything east of the Rio Grande (east of Bandelier national Monument) and to the western and southern land grants of the people of Agua Fria, Cieneguilla, La Cienega and the Pueblo of Cochiti; the precise benefactors of this land grant. The northern boundary would be the Jacona Grant and a small potion of the Pueblo of San Ildefonso grant. The Caja del Rio Grant provided the lands needed for pasturing livestock, harvesting fuel wood and timbers,

One of the most famous events in Agua Fria and a citation you can find in almost any book of New Mexicohistory is the revolution of August 3, 1837 against Governor Albino Pérez who was not a native New Mexican. The conspirators were from the Chimayó-Santa Cruz area. Perez who was unable to suppress the revolution started fleeing south with his cabinet and was caught on Agua Fria Street (the inscribed rock in the Palace of the Governors courtyard used to be located at the intersection of Hickok and Agua Fria Street were he was decapitated). [9] His head was kicked down the El Camino Real into the Village of Agua Fria. Other members of the cabinet were caught in the Pueblo of Santo Domingo.[10] This story might have started the rough and tumble, and independent reputation ofAgua Fria, that residents often relish.

IV. Territorial Period (1848-1912).

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo signed on February 2, 1848, established that land grants made during periods of earlier occupation would be recognized. However, the issue of land grants was poorly administered and the land grant principles were not understood by the federal government adjudicating the land.

The Map of the Territory of New Mexico commissioned by Order of Brigadier General Stephen Watts Kearny and done by Lieutenants James W. Abert and William G. Peck from 1846-47; shows “Agua Fria” on it. This is the first American mention of the name.[xviii] During the years 1848-49 General Stephen Watts Kearny, Colonel John M. Washington and Lt. James W. Abert all travel through Agua Fria as noted in their journals.[xix] They write about the fruit trees and farming. One last note about the Mexican War is that Agua Fria seems to be where the Mormon Battalion turned around to go back to Utah, having circled around the Los Cerrillos and then onto the route where their monument is constructed along the frontage road on I-25 by San Felipe Pueblo.[11]

James Josiah Webb came in on the Santa Fe Trail in 1853 and in the Summer of 1860 witnessed a battle with Indians and they drove about 100 horses, ponies and mules across the Santa FeRiverjust below “Agua Frio.[xx]

The Sheriff of Precinct Five (Precinto Numero Cinco) was created in 1854.[12] This is seemingly the first government involvement of the territorial government with the tiny village. We the authors suspect that Spanish and Mexican governments must have had a correspondingly similar type of administrative structure and civil authority. Kearny upon the occupation, tried to replicate what was in place so as to put the native population at ease.

Charles Probst was a Union Captain in the Civil War according to the muster rolls. The Charles Probst Remount Station was used for fresh horses for the stagecoaches, circa 1880’s, it existed by the intersection of Lugar de Padilla andAgua Fria Street. Additionally, Cochiti and Santo Domingo Pueblo Indians camped here in the big field as they traded in town or visited federal offices on tribal/treaty business. An inn was run here by Mrs. Augusta Probst (also known as Mrs. C.C. Probst) starting in 1880; two doctors had residences here and supplied the village with health care. This was and still is a large rambling house of 13 rooms covering 72’ x 50 feet’. This may have been land of the Sandoval family originally or Mrs. Probst may be a Sandoval or Padilla. Henry Lynch was adopted by the Probsts and eventually inherited the majority of the lands.

In the 1880-1890’s two one-room schoolhouses were built by the residents of the area. One was located on south side of Agua Fria Street near the present day San Ysidro Crossing between the Rectory and the Water Tank (on the southeast corner), and the other at the Lopez Lane and Agua Fria Street intersection on a tract of land known as “El Tanque” for the earthen water tank that was located there. Teachers were apparently hired by the local residents but no records exist of this.

A report by Jane Whitmore which documented the historical background of the Villageof Agua Friawas submitted to the N.M. State Historic Preservation Division in 1983.[13] Jane Whitmore's report, the first real document ever detailing any history ofAgua FriaVillage, described issues regarding the land status forAgua Fria as follows:

During the Mexican period, the requirements for land grants were confused by the many changes that occurred in the legislation regulating the colonization of New Mexico. Finally, in an effort to deal with the problems involved, the United States Government established the Office of the Surveyor General to assess requests for land grants and to make recommendations to the Secretary of the Interior regarding earlier grants, Congress later created the Court of Private Land Claims in 1891 that required all documentation to be "perfected" before a grant could be formally be verified As a result many claims were rejected, including the claims for the Pino and Cieneguilla grants in the Agua Fria area.

A Government survey was conducted by William Corbet in 1909[14] that identified occupied land in Agua Fria and served as documentation from which U.S. patents were issued in Agua Fria by this time the land had already been divided and subdivided into long narrow lots fronting on the river or acequias. These small holding claims were assigned Lot and Tract numbers and patents were provided to those persons who applied for them and followed the proper procedures. Given the difficulty with which land was settled and maintained, it is not surprising that the attachment to it is so strong and that land has become the most valued possession of the old families in Agua Fria, "a sense of cultural continuity and historical depth.” [15]

[1] Laboratory of Anthropology sites one and two initiated in the 1920’s on the Fred Grill property.

[2] A state-recognized Mutual Domestic Water Association.

[3] Procter, Rebecca May 2006.Santa FeRiver and Community Farm Cultural Resources Assessment and Background for Planning Final Report May I, 2006. Prepared for Trust forPublic Land,New Mexico State Office.

[4] Old Santa Fe: The Story of New Mexico’s Ancient Capital, by Ralph Emerson Twitchell, 1925, Rio Grande Press, page 91.

[5] Translated as “Field Commander”, this is the person responsible for all the logistics of an expedition including the feeding and watering of livestock, the encampment of the men, the wagon train, etc. This has been translated as both Field Marshall and Sergeant Major; which in English and other European armies have different meanings.

[6] Historical presentation to the Board of County Commissioners on October 9, 2012. Minutes of meeting and Video On Demand available.

[7] Caja Del Rio Grant research by J.J. Bowden:\_docs.php?fileID=24764.

[8] From Sources for New Mexican History 1821-1848, by Daniel Tyler.

[9] From A Brief History of New Mexico, byMyra Ellen Jenkins and Albert H. Schroeder.

[10] From Yesterday in Santa Fe: A Turbulent History, by Marc Simmons, 1989.


[12] From Letter to the Editor to the New Mexican by Agua Fria resident Francisco Tercero, President of the Agua Fria Village Association, 1994.

[13] This study titled The Traditional Village of Agua Fria was mainly a door-to-door inventory of structures worthy of historic preservation in the Village by a Village resident, Jane Whitmore. It contained numerous sketches of the existing and historic parts of buildings and oral history interviews of the residents. Some of the oral history interviews were not transcribed correctly.

[14] He was an officer in the U.S. Geologic Survey.

[15]The Village of Agua Fria, Ours Today, Ours Tomorrow” byAgua Fria resident Jane Whitmore. Submitted to the N.M. Historic Preservation Division by Landmarks Preservation Consultants, May 12, 1983.

[i] The Acequia Agua Fria members worked withSanta FeCounty from 2003 to 2006 to complete a land use plan called a Community Plan for the Traditional Historic Community area: (\_Fria\_Community\_Plan\_as\_adopted\_by\_Resolution\_2006\_116.pdf). This information in this paragraph and the next one comes from this document.

[ii] Found at:


By Stephen S. Post and Guadalupe A. Martinez

Submitted by Timothy D. Maxwell; Principal Investigator

[iii] Juan de Onate mentions Agua Fria in his journal of 1598 but it is by Rio de Gallo and later we find that is atAcoma during his expedition by Inscription Rock.

[iv] Translation of Recopilación, Book 4 Chapter 5, and law 6, Villa of Santa Fe Grant, PLC 80, Roll 42, frame 54-57; as noted in All Trails Lead to Santa Fe, Malcolm Ebright, page 74.

[v] The tower’s occupants may have given the alarm. Then on page 118:

On the twenty-second Captain RoqueMadridarrived with the main force having lost a few animals enroute.

Then on page 122:

On December 15thin a heavy snow storm De Vargas camped at the old ranch of Roque Madríd some 2 leagues from the Villa. On the 16thhe continued his march to the Villa and established a camp on the left side of the Rio Santa Fe at the ruins of an old pueblo known as pueblo quemado.

[vi] This is the English translated Archive #476 of the land grant:



His Excellency the Governor and Captain General.

I, Field Marshall RoqueMadrid, at present Captain at this garrison of Nuestra Senora Guadalupe del Pasodel RiodelNorte, appear before your Excellency in due legal form and state:

That your Excellency having made conquest for the benefit of the church and state of the province and districts of New Mexico, of which I am a native, I declare that my parents and ancestors (grandparents) had near the city of Santa Fe a tract of land for a residence and cultivation extending from the spring of water to the burnt pueblo (Pueblo Quemado), it being your Excellency’s prerogative to give in the name of His Majesty possession of lands in that province to those who formerly held them, and also as conqueror of that province and its districts, to make other grants, and the tract aforementioned belonging to me is well known, I ask and pray that your Excellency be pleased to make me a grantde novato the same, giving the necessary orders for that purpose, whereby I hope to receive from the generous hand of your Excellency favor and justice de.



On the eighteenth day of the month of September, in the year one thousand six hundred and ninety three, Field Marshall Roque Madrid, now a captain at this garrison of Nuestra Senora del Pilar del Glorioso San Jose of this town of EL Paso del Rio del Norte, presented the petition contained on the foregoing page, before me, Diego de Vargas Zapata Lujan Ponce de Leon, Governor and Captain General of this province and districts of New Mexico, its new conqueror at his own cost, and Castillan for his Majesty of this said garrison

And the same being examined, and finding the said grant of land and the ranch of his said father and ancestors situated thereon, which he claims as belonging to him as a successor of those parties, is established. I do, both with and without this consideration, and in the name of his Majesty make to him the grant for himself and his children and successors, for he has, in my company, and to my satisfaction, aided and served His Majesty is the said conquest, and the said petitioner has the right to his land, he having again acquired it by reason of the conquest aforesaid, and he will prepare (pueda) and settle it at his will, without any time being prescribed him for doing it, as he is hindered by being in the royal services, and may therefore avail himself of the said grant whenever he shall chose to do so, for himself and his children, or, any person to whom, being most dear to and most esteemed by him, he may transfer or leave the said grant, which I make to him with the object of in some degree compensating him for the indefatigability with which he aided is said conquest, and this said decree and warrant, which I have signed, together with my secretary of state and war, and to which I have directed him to attach the seal of my coat of arms will serve him as a sufficient title and grant, and this is written on ordinary white paper, as there is no stamped paper in this section, on the date above written.


Diego de Vargas Zapata Lujan Ponce de Leon

Before me

Antonio Balberie Copio

Secretary of State and War.

[vii] From All Trails Lead to Santa Fe, Malcolm Ebright, page 90.

[viii] From All Trails Lead to Santa Fe, Linda Tigges, page 242.

[ix] Cristobal Nieto has a clouded chain of title to the Santa Fe League, separate from these other properties. Mentioned in All Trails Lead to Santa Fe, Malcolm Ebright, page 82-83 and 90. There was litigation on the El Pino Grant which was filed by Juan Nieto (a lineal descendant of Cristobal Nieto) in the Court of Private Land Claims on February 11, 1893, and came up for trial on June 11, 1898. The grant is mentioned as being near the present town ofAgua Frió.


[xi] The Missions of New Mexico, by Fray Francisco Atanasio Dominguez 1776, page 42. The document is often referred to as a census but was commissioned by the church and not the government.

[xii] One league to the west and at the very outskirts of this villa (Santa Fe) is Quemado….It has farmlands fertilized by the aforesaid river. Two roads go down from Quemado like a V…..These lands and those of Quemado usually yield fairly good crops in accordance with what I said about the villa (The harvest consist of wheat, maize, legumes , and green vegetables, and also fruits such as melon, watermelon, and apricots, of which there are small orchards.). The Missions of New Mexico, by Fray Francisco Atanasio Dominguez 1776, page 41.


[xvi] Although always known as a common land grant, in 1742, Captain Nicholas Ortiz Nino Ladron de Guebara requested a land grant there from Governor Gaspar Domingo de Mendoza; for which he was given the cultivable land and not the grazing pastures, known as the “potrero” or pasture for horses. From All Trails Lead to Santa Fe, Linda Tigges, page 250.

[xvii] William Mee letter titled “Role in Community Stewardship” from the Agua Fria Village Association to U.S. Forest Service dated January 21, 2009, requesting comments on the "Community in the Stewardship Contracting Projects.”

[xviii] Cherie L. Scheick in “A Mitigation Proposal for LA2 Agua Fria Schoolhouse Site,Santa Fe County,New Mexico.” August 2, 1988. She mentions on page 20: “In 1856, J.W. Abert refers to the town as a source of supplies for the occupation army (Abert 1966).” Is this 1846?

[xix] From: Lieutenant James W. Abert’s Travel Diary of 1846-47, Page 42, published by the University of Utah. Thursday, October 8th:

“I also got a few simple medicines from our well-known surgeon Dr. De Camp, and, thus furnished, with a party of three men, we [Liets. Abert and Peck] started on the survey of theprovinceofNew Mexico. We marched six miles and formed our camp at Agua Fría. Here we were obliged to buy corn and wood, for the country around is settled and the grazing grounds appropriated, while the wood has been cut down. The vicinity ofSanta Fewas manifested by their obliging us to pay for the wood we used; 20 miles further off they would have given it to us. We noticed much of the yellow flower of Purgatory Creek, cacti, cedar, and wild sage, and in some of the yards fine apricot trees were growing, but I wonder how much if they bear anything, they were planted so close together.

Old Santa Fe: The Story of New Mexico’s Ancient Capital, by Ralph Emerson Twitchell, 1925, Rio Grande Press,

Page 269:

“October 2nd. In a little while we reachedAgua Fria.”

[xx] From Trading inSanta Fe, John M. Kingbury’s Correspondence with James Josiah Webb, 1853-1861. Edited by Jane Lenz Elder and David J. Weber, printed by Southern Methodist University Press, Dallas 1996. Agua Fria is referenced as “Agua Frio.”

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