Antime Joseph Meloche Colfax County, New Mexico

Antime Joseph Meloche, a ranchman residing eighteen miles east of Raton in Colfax County, is a pioneer of the Territory of 1869 and his memory bears the impress of its early historic annals as well as of its later progress and development. He has been identified with many interests which constitute an epochal chapter in the history of the west and the southwest. He was born at Lachine on the St. Lawrence River near Montreal, Canada. September 21, 1837, and left home when little more than eight years of age, since which time he has been dependent entirely upon his own resources, so that whatever success he has achieved has resulted from his earnest labors. He has faced difficulties and obstacles, adversity and danger and altogether his life has been one of untiring industry and enterprise. On leaving home he went to Hamilton, Canada, on a boat whose captain was a neighbor of the Meloche family in Canada. From Hamilton he proceeded to Chicago and thence continued on to St. Louis, Missouri, it requiring three days to make the trip between the two cities, which at that time, however, were small and inconsequential places. He worked for three years in St. Louis and in St. Clair County, Illinois. He was still but a boy at the time and had practically no money. For three years he was employed in a store on Bloody Island in the Mississippi river and afterward went to Kansas, where he spent a year. In the next spring, 1857, he started to drive a six mule team for the United States government to the scene of the Cheyenne war, the headquarters of the troops being at Leavenworth.

In December, 1857, while returning to Fort Leavenworth from the Cheyenne war, he met, at the Big Blue in Kansas, General Cook with the Second United States Dragoons on his way to the Mormon war. Mr. Meloche and his companions joined the troops, and after a wintry march, through snow in which the horses and many of the men were exhausted, reached Fort Bridger on Christmas day. Here some ten thousand troops were gathered. The Second Dragoons lost 500 horses on the trip. Through the winter the troops were on short rations. Peace was made between the soldiers and Mormons in April, 1858, and in the fall Camp Floyd was built by the troops.

In the middle of the summer Mr. Meloche started as a teamster from Salt Lake to California, driving for General Albert Sidney Johnston, and subsequently he worked for General W. S. Hancock, then quartermaster general for southern California. He continued in the Golden state until the fall of 1858, when he went through Arizona to the Pinos Altos mines in New Mexico. When within fifteen miles of Tucson, at early daylight, he saw thirty or forty Indians on the war path, who occasioned him considerable annoyance but at length allowed him to depart in peace. He remained for four or five days at Tucson and there met Judge McKown, the noted San Francisco editor, who a short time before had killed another editor in San Francisco. In company with Judge McKown. Mr. Meloche continued the journey from Tucson to Pinos Altos. He was driven from here by Indians and after some adventures about Fort Stanton, on the 23rd of August, 1859, he reached Santa Fe, hunting work, on the way to the Missouri river. Three or four days later he started overland for Fort Union and obtained employment there at driving a six-mule team, continuing at that place until the close of the war.

In 1861 Mr. Meloche became assistant wagon master for the government and for four years was full wagon master, traveling sometimes to Albuquerque, again to Fort Craig, Fort Fillmore, Fort Stanton. Fort Wingate and other points. In 1865 he wintered six hundred and fifty cavalry horses for the government at Maxwell, New Mexico, and in the spring of 1866 he began operating a Maxwell farm on the shares and also raising cattle. This was his first real independent business venture. In 1867 he located a pre-emption homestead and timber claim, which is his present place of residence. Now, in connection with a partner, A. D. Thompson, of Duluth, Minnesota, he has twenty-two hundred and fifty acres of land, constituting a valuable ranch, and his son, A. J. Meloche, Jr., twenty-eight years of age, acts as his manager. Since coming into possession of his ranch Mr. Meloche has continuously carried on general farming and stock raising, developing a business of considerable importance and becoming one of the well-known ranch men of the Territory. In early days he had considerable trouble with the white cattle thieves, who threatened him and ordered him out of the country, but he was not afraid of them, although he was always alert and watchful. He says "they were good at a bluff" but he never shot at them. He relates an incident of a call from some desperadoes who wanted him and came to him on horseback, but his dauntless spirit showed them that they had better not interfere with him. He received many letters to "bundle up and leave or we will kill you," but he sent back word, "Come on, I will be ready for you." Some of the same band of men afterward robbed a United States coach of the Butterfield line at Apache Pass and seven of the number were handed for the crime. In 1891-2, Mr. Meloche lost over twenty thousand dollars' worth of cattle because of the severe winter. He has had at times as high as one thousand head of cattle and at one time owned between four and five hundred head of horses. He now has an extensive ranch well stocked, and the business under the active management of his son and the careful direction of Mr. Meloche is proving profitable. In the fall of 1904 he erected his present handsome residence, which is one of the beautiful homes in his part of the Territory.

In 1870, in Daviess County, Missouri, Mr. Meloche was married to Miss Mary Ann Isbell and they became the parents of five children, of whom a daughter and son are now deceased. The others are: Minnie, the wife of Charles B. Pim, of Raton; Mrs. Pearl Skiles, of Raton; and Antime Joseph, Jr.

Mr. Meloche in 1869 joined Kit Carson Lodge, A. F. & A. M., at Elizabethtown and is now a member of Raton lodge. He was also formerly identified with the Odd Fellows lodge at Raton. In politics he has always been a stanch Democrat and he served as postmaster at Vermejo, New Mexico, for three years, being commissioned by General Grant. His life history, if written in detail, would furnish a chapter more thrilling and interesting than any tale of fiction. As it is, he is a typical frontiersman who has aided in blazing the way of civilization and has remained to carry on the work of the earliest settlers in the development of the natural resources of the Territory and the establishment of business enterprises which work for activity and prosperity in the southwest.

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Source: History of New Mexico, Its Resources and People, Volume II, Pacific States Publishing Co., 1907.

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