Otero Family ~ Bernalillo County, New Mexico

The Otero family has been distinguished in both the early and modern history of New Mexico. The family was founded in America by Don Pedro Otero, who came from Spain to Mexico, then New Spain, late in the eighteenth century. Being attracted to the Northern Province by stories of its opportunities, he made his war to Santa Fe, where he married a Miss Alarid, a descendant of one of the prominent Spanish families of that day. Don Pedro had been finely educated in Spanish, and by reason of his intelligence and bearing soon won a high place in the esteem of his fellowmen. Removing to Valencia, in Valencia County, he engaged in the raising of sheep, cattle and horses, in which he was very successful. He possessed one of the finest ranches in the country and was widely known and highly respected.

Among his children was Vincente A. Otero, who took an active part in public affairs during the early days of the Mexico republic. Like his father, he devoted his life to stock-raising, becoming widely known, and spent his days in Valencia County. He married Gertrudes Chaves, a member of the prominent family of that name. In his family were six sons, Antonio J., Juan A., Manuel A., Manuel A. (2nd), Pedro A. and Miguel A. The eldest. Antonio J. Otero, was a man of unusual mental training. He was highly educated in a private school by a Catholic priest named Martinez, and became one of the best authorities on local laws in Mexico, although not a practicing attorney. When General Kearny instituted civil government in New Mexico during the year of American occupation in 1846, he named Mr. Otero as one of the three justices of the Supreme Court, assigning him to the work of judicial district with headquarters at Albuquerque. He was the only native Mexican to be honored by appointment to the supreme bench, and his designation to this high office was due both to his eminence as a citizen and his understanding of the English speech, though he could not use the language in speaking. He was one of the leaders in the Whig party and afterward became a Republican. When the American forces occupied the Territory he gave his influence to their support, and so bitter did the feeling become among his friends, who were for the greater part strongly anti-American in their sympathies, that he was compelled to remain in hiding for some time to escape hanging at their hands. Others of the Otero family were also strongly American in their sympathies. Antonio J. Otero was the first to build a modern grist mill at Peralta, his home. In his large general merchandising establishment he had as a partner William Skinner, who came from St. Louis at an early day.

One of Judge Otero's biographers has said of him: "Judge Otero was endowed by nature with fine intellectual powers, all of which were developed and strengthened by a discipline which enabled him to comprehend readily and accurately the important questions demanding his attention in after years. From all that the writer can learn. Judge Otero was a cautious man, rarely giving expression to an opinion until, upon reflection, the matter under consideration was clearly and definitely fixed in his own mind. It seems strange to us of today that a man born and reared under the Spanish and Mexican governments, whose laws and customs were so different from our own; growing to manhood in a portion of the world at that time far removed from all the kindly influences of modern thought and civilization; resident of a territory whose inhabitants were engaged six months in every year for a half a century in wars with hostile Indians, could so well fill his place upon the bench as did Judge Otero. While sitting as a member of the superior court he delivered the only opinion coming from that court which has been preserved, so far as the writer has been able to ascertain."

Judge Otero's brother, Juan A. Otero, was his partner in all his business undertakings. These brothers married sisters, two daughters of Francisco Xavier Chaves, one of the wealthiest of the native inhabitants of New Mexico. Manuel A. Otero, the third son of Don Pedro Otero, resided at Peralta, and was active in political undertakings, serving for some time as probate judge of Valencia County. The fourth son, Pedro A. Otero, died in young manhood. The fifth, and youngest. Miguel A. Otero, like the other sons, received a fine English education. For several years he was engaged in business in Kansas City, Missouri, but after the construction of the railroad into New Mexico he returned to the Territory and conducted a general merchandising business for his former employers in Kansas City. The later years of his life were spent in Las Vegas, where he was a member of the firm of Otero, Sellers & Co., one of the most important commercial houses in the southwest for many years. In 1861 he served as secretary of the Territory, and represented New Mexico from 1856 until 1861.

Manuel R., son of Antonio T. Otero, was born at Peralta. May 22, 1841, and was educated in the St. Louis University. During the earlier years of his life he was engaged in ranching at Peralta. He served as probate clerk of Valencia County for eight years, and also filled the offices of probate judge and deputy sheriff. In 1803 ne removed to Albuquerque, which has since been his home. He has been register of the United States land office at Santa Fe since 1808 and is now serving his third term. He was a prominent candidate of the Republican Party for delegate to Congress in the convention held at Albuquerque in 1880, but he withdrew and gave his hearty support to the nominee, the Hon. Tranquilino Luna.

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

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Created 1996 by Charles Barnum & 2016 by Judy White

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