Mora County, New Mexico
On February 1, 1860, the original Mora County was created from Taos, and constituted all the territory east of the Rocky Mountains, or the present limits of Taos County, to the territorial boundary. By act of January 18, 1862, its boundaries, which were substantially the same, were defined as follows: On the north and east, the limits of the Territory of New Mexico; on the south, the northern limits of the county of San Miguel; and on the west, the tops of the ridge of mountains which divide the valley of Taos from Mora and Rayado. In 1868 the boundary between Mora and Taos counties was relocated, in 1869 the northern part of Mora was set off to form Colfax County, and in 1893 Union County was organized; thus the county was reduced to its present bounds.
As now constituted Mora County has an area of 10,304 square miles, being slightly smaller than Taos. It lies in the northeastern portion of the Territory, in the second tier of counties both from the east and the north. It has a population of 2,500, half of which is included in Mora, the county seat.
Physical Features and Resources
The physical feature which gives Mora County most of its beauty, and at the same time is of greatest practical value, is its series of magnificent valleys. As one enters the county from the southwest the first garden spot that attracts attention is the beautiful emerald green of Cherry Valley and Watrous. These beautiful valleys are watered by the Sapello and Mora, from which lead irrigation ditches in all directions. The streams are banked with cottonwood, elder, wild plum and cherry trees, and the fields spread with orchards, gardens and lovely homes, while great fields of alfalfa wave green and purple. This was the first section in New Mexico to be settled by American farmers. The Mora Valley itself, surrounding the town by that name, extends for nearly fifteen miles along the river, with a width varying from half a mile to a mile, and contains about 6,000 acres. It is divided into small farms, all highly cultivated and especially celebrated for its wheat. Surrounding the valley on all sides are lofty mountains, clothed with gigantic pines. Another charming valley, larger in extent, is that of La Cueva, situated just outside of the Canyoncito of the Mora, and watered by the Cebolla and Coyote. It lies in a perfect amphitheater of hills, and these are overtopped with mountains. The floor of the valley is a smooth plain, over 50,000 acres in extent, and is the scene of the great operations of the La Cueva Ranch and Cattle Company, noticed at length elsewhere.
The western half of the county is a beautiful farming country, being protected from high winds by the main range of the Rocky Mountains. Within the main valley flow the Mora, the Coyote. Cebolla, La Jara and Sapello, each of which runs through a fertile valley of its own. The prairies are covered with gama and blue-joint grass, and, as they are cut with ravines, furnish plenty of shelter for cattle and sheep, the raising of which still forms the main industry of the county. Wheat, oats and corn are all grown on irrigated lands, although the nights are too cool in the western portions of the county to raise some varieties of the latter grain with great success.
As to fruits, it has been found by experience that the late blooming trees are the surest to bear. The German prune has produced fine crops of superior fruit. Of cherries, the early Richmond is the safest. Peaches and apricots will only bear in very sheltered locations. It is generally necessary to protect the orchards against the prevailing southwest winds by strips of quick-growing trees, such as the white willow.
The banks of all the water courses bear cottonwood, elder, wild plums and cherries. In the central portions of the plains are found scattered pinyon and cedar, and the foothills in the western part of the county are covered with pine timber of large growth and much value, considerable of which has already been cut.
The mineral resources of Mora County, though little developed, are various. The gold region, which is well known a little further north, extends along the eastern side of the Las Vegas range into this county. Mica is found in many localities, one of which (Talco) takes its name from this substance. There are also deposits of iron and coal, but the most generally diffused mineral is copper. This colors the rocks over many square miles, the most important mine being near Coyote.
The County Officers
From the records of the county, which are fairly complete, the following list of officers has been compiled:
Mora, the County Seat
The first settlement at Mora, the present county seat, was made upon land granted by Governor Perez, in 1835. Upon the creation of the county from Taos, in 1860, a little crude adobe building was erected for a court house, and the structure is still standing. The present court house, built in 1889, at a cost of $10,000, is composed of brownstone, taken from quarries in Mora County. The place is a typical New Mexican town, and has a population of 1,200 people.
La Cueva Ranch Company, whose vast interests lie along the Mora River, owns one of the most valuable pieces of property in New Mexico. As a ranch, no other in the Territory, except Hagerman's, approaches it in the proportion under cultivation. It is beautifully located, is thirteen miles in length, has fifty-five miles under fences, and comprises nearly 26,000 acres of land segregated, by court decree, from the Mora grant, and 40,000 acres leased from the Fort Union reservation. The company was incorporated in 1882, and averages between 4,000 and 5,000 cattle in winter quarters.
More than 2,000 acres of the tract are under cultivation. A ditch eight feet wide carries a generous supply of running water from Mora River to a lake 700 acres in extent, and numerous smaller lakes, which serve as reservoirs of irrigation. This tract under cultivation and irrigation produced, during the season of 1905, about 750,000 pounds of grain and 3,000 tons of alfalfa and other feed, and comprises one of the finest fruit orchards in the southwest. The company deals quite extensively in farm products and operates a flour mill and a general merchandise store. But, of course, the main business of the concern is the raising of cattle for the market and the breeding of thoroughbred Short Horn. Hereford and Galloway cattle, milch cows and fine horses and mules. The present officers of the company are: Adin H. Whitmore, president; D. C. Deuel, treasurer and manager, and Hugh Loudon, secretary. Its post office is La Cueva, Mora County, and its telephone, telegraph and express station. Las Vegas. The basis of this magnificent property was the great tract of land originally bought by Vicente Romero from the earlier squatters. In this way he acquired possession of about 40,000 acres of land, and from him the company trace title to their broad estate. Vicente Romero was a prominent freighter and sheep man, and is said to have passed much of his time as a "nomad, sleeping in caverns while caring for his flocks and lands; hence the name which has descended to the present-La Cueva, "the cave."
The founder of the ranch gave his son Rafael a good education, in anticipation of the time when intelligent and enterprising Americans should control the best interests of the country. The first La Cueva Company was capitalized at $150,000, and $100,000 of stock issued. D. C. Deuel owned a third interest, and C. T. White and Rafael Romero the balance. Subsequently Messrs. Deuel and White purchased the interests of Mr. Romero and his mother. Still later Hugh Loudon and Major A. H. Whitmore bought the Romero stock, and the present company was organized. Mr. Deuel still owns a majority of the stock, in which there are few small holders.
Watrous is a flourishing town on the Santa Fe railroad, in the southern part of the county, twenty miles north of Las Vegas. It is situated in the center of the beautiful valley by that name. Mr. Watrous, for whom it was named, settled there long before the American occupation, and for years his family was in control of most of the land in that vicinity. Watrous is in the center of a growing agricultural community, the surrounding country being systematically irrigated and producing good crops of alfalfa, grain, fruits and vegetables. Nearby, on the Val Mora ranch, is a growing sanitarium for consumptives, patronized by patients from the middle west and largely controlled by physicians of Chicago. Detroit and Milwaukee.
Wagon Mound is a newer town, to the north of Watrous and close to the famous elevation known as the "Wagon Mound," which was the landmark of those crossing the prairies long years ago. It is an important mercantile point for the shipment of wool and sheep.
Colmor, a station on the boundary line between Colfax and Mora counties, is chiefly noticeable on account of its name, a composite made of the first three letters of these counties.
Source: History of New Mexico, Its Resources and People, Volume II, Pacific States Publishing Co., 1907.
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