Mathias Heck Colfax County, New Mexico

Mathias Heck, a pioneer of New Mexico, who is now living retired near Cimarron, came to New Mexico in 1863 from California, making his way to Santa Fe. He was born in Cologne, Germany, June 19, 1829, and came to the United States in 184.4, when a youth of fifteen years. He landed at New York and afterward made his way westward. He engaged in peddling jewelry in the southern states until 1849, when, attracted by the discovery of gold in California, he went by way of the Panama route to the Pacific coast. He was very successful in his operations there and was identified with mining and other interests until 1862, when he enlisted at San Francisco for service in the Civil war, becoming a member of Company K, of the First California Cavalry. It was with this command that he came to New Mexico in 1863, going to Santa Fe and afterward to Fort Yuma, Arizona. He participated in the battle of Adobe Walls, or Panhandle, in the fall of 1864, in which engagement General Kit Carson took part. About three hundred and forty Indians were killed, while among the whites there were only two killed and twenty-two wounded. Air. Heck was also a participant in the fight with the Indians in 1865 at Julesburg, Colorado, where the federal troops succeeded in quelling the red men. He did much frontier service while connected with the army and made a circuit of all the old forts in New Mexico, being discharged at Santa Fe on the 4th of July, 1866.

In the following year, 1867, Air. Heck was married to Miss Margaret Plum, who came to this Territory from St. Louis, July 2. 1864, arriving at Las Vegas. She started on the first of June of that year in a coach which had a military escort. It was at that time that the Kansas Southern railroad, now the Santa Fe, was being built and the Indians were very troublesome.

Mrs. Heck located at Las Vegas, New Mexico, where she remained as a servant for fifteen months, being in the employ of Mrs. Andreas Doll. She afterward spent fifteen months with Frederick Meyer at Mora and it was there, on the 6th of November, 1867, that the wedding occurred. The children are: Theodore, who died September 8. 1892; J. Matt: Paulina, the widow of Isaac Benton; and Katherina, die wife of Juston Green, of Raton.

In 1869 Mr. Heck located eighteen miles south of Cimarron, where he kept a government station, furnishing supplies to the soldiers and also feed for horses. He conducted a store there for nine years and the Indians were all around him. He often fed the Indian thieves in order to keep them on good terms. They would sit on the floor in a circle while he gave them coffee, bread and molasses. He also had a government contract to furnish the Indians at his present place with meat. On one side of him were the Apaches and en the other side of Cimarron creek were the Utes. They all drew rations at Cimarron, receiving nine or ten thousand pounds of beef every ten days. Mr. Heck is now owner of a large ranch, which is managed by his son Matt, who is engaged in the cattle business. He also has an orchard of two acres and his son has an orchard of five acres. For many years Mr. Heck was very active in the development of fanning and cattle raising interests here, but is now practically living retired. He was one of the first to discover gold at Elizabethtown, and he has mining claims there and also at Springer. He has always been a Democrat and was active in organizing the county. His wife was a resident of Las Vegas when there were only six other white women in the town, and Mr. Heck visited Santa Fe before there was a single shingled roof in that city. He is familiar with all of the experiences, hardships and trials of pioneer life in an Indian country and has watched with interest the progress that has been made as this region has been reclaimed for the uses of the white race and the seeds of civilization have been planted and have borne rich fruit.

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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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