Don Juan Santistevan Taos County, New Mexico

Don Juan Santistevan, a retired merchant of Taos, was born at Truchas, in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, son of Manuel Santistevan and Rosalia Medina Santistevan, both natives of Santa Fé County. Manuel Santistevan was a farmer. He moved with his family from Rio Arriba County to Taos County in 1841, and the house they then occupied on the La Loma is still standing. He died in 1851, and his wife died May 22, 1879, at the age of eighty-two years.

Don Juan Santistevan, in 1848, at the age of fifteen years, began work for Air. Smith Towne of Taos, sweeping out the store and clerking, and a few months later entered the employ of Woolton & Williams, general merchants, with whom he remained until the spring of 1852. The rest of that year and a part of the year following he worked for Solomon Beuthner, after which he was in the employ of Peter Joseph, in the same house in which Mr. Santistevan now lives, and remained with him until Mr. Joseph's death, in 1863. By the terms of Mr. Josephs will Mr. Santistevan and Kit Carson were made administrators, and, Carson being in the army at the time, Mr. Santistevan settled the estate. Then, for about a year, he was with Goodman & Friedman, as a partner in their general merchandise business, and in 1865 left them to become associated with Messrs. St. Vrain and Hurst, under the firm name of Santistevan, St. Vrain & Co. Colonel St. Vrain moved to Mora county in 1867, and Mr. Santistevan and Mr. Hurst continued here together until 1869, when the partnership was dissolved, Mr. Hurst retiring and Mr. Santistevan conducting the business alone until 1902, when he retired.

For years Mr. Santistevan was also extensively interested in sheep raising, at one time having as many as 35,000 head of sheep on his range. And in connection with this business he bought and sold large quantities of wool, sometimes buying wool on the sheep, at so much per fleece, and having the shearing done. Ten to twelve and a half cents a fleece was the usual price. And he shipped his wool by wagon train to Kansas City and other points.

In this connection it is worthy of note that Mr. Santistevan's career as a merchant covers a longer period than that of any other man in Taos, and there are few men, if any, in the Territory who have been in business longer than he.

He has always been a Republican. He was one of the first commissioners of Taos County and also in the early history of the county served as probate judge. For fourteen years he was postmaster of Taos, having received his first appointment from President Grant; took the first census of Taos County in 1870, was a member of the lower house of the territorial legislature in 1880-81, and of the council in 1889; has frequently been a delegate to territorial conventions, and was a delegate to the Philadelphia convention that nominated McKinley and Roosevelt in 1900. He is a member of the Catholic Church.

Mr. Santistevan married Justa Sandoval, a native of Taos, daughter of Benito Sandoval. She died in 1894, leaving seven children, all daughters, namely:

Rafaelita, wife of Manuel Pacheco
Jacintita, wife of Maximano Romero
Virginia, wife of Agapito Martinez
Perfectita, wife of Dr. William A. Kittredge
Cirila, widow of Romulo Martinez; Margarita, wife of Donaciano Cordova
Victoriana, wife of Bernabe Gonzales

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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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