New Mexico Counties, 1907
By act of January 9, 1852, passed at the second session of the first legislature of the Territory, New Mexico was divided into the counties of Taos, Rio Arriba, Santa Fe, San Miguel, Santa Ana, Bernalillo, Valencia. Socorro and Dona Aha. The bounds of the original counties remained practically the same as under the old Mexican regime. In the genesis and development of the counties of the Territory there is the interest which attaches to all creative works, whether material, literary, artistic or political, and it is the purpose in the following paragraphs to relate briefly how the inner boundaries of New Mexico assumed their present form.
Of the original nine counties, Taos, as bounded in 1852, included all the northeast corner of the Territory now embraced by the counties of Taos, Colfax, Mora and most of Union, besides a wide strip extending west along the northern border to the Arizona line, and all the region since annexed to Colorado. From this immense district was created, in 1860, the new county of Mora, which included all that portion of the original Taos County lying east of the Rocky Mountains, or the present eastern boundary of Taos. In 1861 the wide strip along the northern boundary was detached from Taos, and in 1880 was added to Rio Arriba County. By these excisions of territory Taos became the smallest of the counties of New Mexico, whereas it was originally among the largest. At the legislative session of 1854-55 the recently acquired Gadsden Purchase (now Arizona and New Mexico, south of the Gila River) was attached to Dona Ana County. At the organization of Arizona Territory, in 1863, all that portion of the purchase within the limits of New Mexico remained with Dona Aha.
Continuing the history of Mora County, as created in 1860, it is found that an act of 1868 relocated the boundary between that county and Taos, and that, in the following year, the northern part of Mora was set off to form Colfax county. The boundaries between these counties were modified by the legislatures of 1876 and 1882. Colfax and Mora thus occupied all the northeast corner of the Territory until 1893, at which time Union county was organized.
The county of Santa Ana was abolished by legislative enactment of January, 1876, and the territory forming it was attached to Bernalillo County in January of the following year. As originally constituted in 1852 the county was bounded as follows: On the east and north by the boundaries of the county of Santa Fe; on the south, from a point above the last houses of Bernalillo, where the lands previously known as those belonging to the Indians of Santa Ana are divided, drawing a direct line toward the east over the mountain until it reaches the parallel dividing the counties of San Miguel and Santa Fe; from said dividing point of the lands of the Indians of Santa Ana, drawing a line westward, crossing the Rio del Norte and terminating with the boundaries of the Territory. As constituted by the first legislature, the original Rio Arriba County comprised all the northwest corner of the Territory, and, as stated, in 1880 received the strip along the San Juan River. It thus acquired an area of about 12,500 square miles, and included all the region north of the thirty-sixth parallel and west of Taos County. The legislature of 1880 slightly changed the boundary between Taos and Rio Arriba counties, and in 1884 San Juan County was formed from the western part of the latter, thus giving it essentially its present boundaries.
In a general way the subdivisions of the nine original counties of New Mexico have been traced. The later creations include Grant county, in 1868; Lincoln and Colfax, 1869; Sierra, 1883; San Juan, 1887; Chaves and Eddy, 1889; Guadalupe, 1891; Union, 1893; Otero, 1899; McKinley and Luna, 1901, and Quay, Roosevelt, Sandoval, Torrance and Leonard Wood, since that year.
Source: History of New Mexico, Its Resources and People, Volume II, Pacific States Publishing Co., 1907.
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