NEW MEXICO (TERRITORY.) The region now comprehended within the limits established by Congress as the United States Territory of New Mexico formerly constituted a portion or portions of a Mexican province. During the war between the United States and Mexico, (1846,) General Kearney took peaceable possession of Santa Fe, the capital of the province, and established a temporary government therein. In the early part of the following year, a revolt against the American authorities took place, and six of the civil officers, including the governor, were barbarously murdered. Several battles were subsequently fought in different parts of New Mexico, in all which the combined forces of the Mexicans and Indians were repulsed. By the treaty of peace in 1848, the Mexican title was cancelled, and the immense country, of which this territory forms a part, became an adjunct of the United States. By the act of Congress, passed September 9, 1850, for defining the northern and western boundaries of Texas, &c., a territorial government for New Mexico was also established.
Boundaries and Extent. — New Mexico is bounded north by the Territory of Utah, and by a part of the scarcely explored wilderness called Nebraska; east by the State of Texas; south by a portion of Texas, and principally by the boundary line between the United States and the Mexican possessions ; and west by the State of California. Its eastern quarter extends from the 32d to the 38th degree of north latitude, and the residue of the territory from the 33d to the 37th. It lies between 103° and 116° west longitude, reaching from east to west about 600 miles, is from 240 to 360 miles in width, and comprises an area of some 200,000 square miles.
Government. — By the act establishing the territory, the governor is appointed by the President of the United States for four years, who must reside in the territory, and is also superintendent of Indian affairs. A secretary of state is appointed in like manner for the same term, who is acting governor in the absence of that magistrate. The legislature is composed of a Council, to consist of 13 members, chosen for two years, and a House of Representatives, consisting of 26, who serve one year. The legislature is elected by a plurality of the popular votes. Its session cannot exceed 40 days. All laws must be submitted to Congress for approval. The right of suffrage is held by all free citizens of the United States, resident for, a prescribed period within the territory. By the same act it was required that a census should be forthwith taken, in order to apportion the members of the legislature, according to the number of inhabitants. This was done in the spring of 1851, and the result showed a population of 56,984, exclusive of Indians. The ratio of representation has thereupon been fixed, for members of the Council at 4384, and for those of the House at half that number. The Legislative Assembly convened for the first time on the 2d day of June, 1851.
Education. — After the lands shall be surveyed under the direction of the general government, for the purpose of bringing them into market, two sections in each township are to be set off for the support of schools.
Judicially. — The judicial power of the territory is vested in a Supreme Court, District Courts, Probate Courts, and justices of the peace. The former is composed of a chief justice and two associates, either two of whom form a quorum. An annual term of the court is held at the seat of government. The judges hold office four years. Three judicial districts are established, in each of which a District Court is held by the justices of the Supreme Court. The above tribunals possess chancery as well as common law jurisdiction. Appeals are allowed to the Supreme from the District Courts, but in such cases there is to be no trial by jury. Appeals are also allowed from the final decisions of the Supreme Court of the territory to that of the United States, in cases involving a sum in controversy of $1000 and upwards, and also in cases affecting the title to slaves.
Finances. — The sources from which to meet the public expenditures, excepting those provided by Congress, will ordinarily consist of direct taxes, and the income arising from land sales, as is the case generally in all the new states and territories.
Surface, Soil, &c. — The face of the country presents much variety. Stupendous ranges of mountains — portions of the great vertebrae of the continent — traverse the eastern half of the territory from north to south, pierced occasionally by rugged and precipitous gaps, and sometimes by tracts of prairie, affording passage to travellers. This region includes the former provincial limits of New Mexico, and the oldest and most populous settlements. The country on the west of these elevations exhibits immense plains or plateaus, over which are scattered numerous isolated mountains and broken ridges of volcanic origin, the peaks of some of which rise to a great height. The valleys and slopes between the eminences in the eastern section consist generally of very productive land; and the river bottoms, especially near the southern boundary, comprise broad tracts of exceedingly rich soil, adapted to the culture of sugar, and of most of the products of that latitude. The portion of country lying on the Gila and Colorado Rivers, where these advantages are very apparent, will doubtless attract the early attention of settlers. The interior of the western half of the territory, so far as it has yet been topographically examined, is, for the most part, an arid and sterile desert, with the exception of some fertile spots and stunted forests along the margin of streams, or among the nooks of the high lands. The soil in this region seems to be either sandy or to consist of a light, porous clay, bearing a species of coarse grass, said to be good winter fodder for cattle. The country does not abound in timber, but in some locations is overgrown for miles with almost impenetrable thickets of mezquite and other thorny shrubbery. Corn, wheat, grapes, peaches, and other grains and fruits, are cultivated in a small way near the villages, and by some tribes of Indians in different parts of the territory; but it is only in the immediate vicinity of streams that the land may be considered productive, or even inhabitable by civilized beings.
Rivers. — The Rio Grande takes its rise many miles above the northern boundary of New Mexico, flows entirely across the territory, and, after passing for several hundreds of miles between Texas and the Mexican states on the west, discharges itself into the Gulf of Mexico. It is navigable during a great part of its course. The Gila and Colorado are also among the principal streams ; the latter a fine river, flowing from the north in a westerly direction, until it strikes the eastern boundary of California, from which point it proceeds southerly between that state and New Mexico, passes beyond their southern limits, and finally empties into the Gulf of California, affording steamboat navigation for 350 miles. There are numerous other streams, some of them very extensive, and most of them tributaries to the rivers already mentioned. The country, as a whole, is poorly watered, either for purposes of internal communication, for the propulsion of machinery, or for appeasing the thirst of men and animals.
Internal Improvements. — There are no public works of the character understood by this caption now existing in this territory, neither is it known that any are in contemplation, beyond that of constructing a road through it, from east to west, to facilitate the progress of emigrants into California. Surveys have been made with this view by military men under the authority of the United States, but the question of the construction of such a work remains undetermined; and it is further problematical whether, if a highway be decided on, it will ever assume the costly and important shape of a railroad. The enervating effect of the climate upon the inhabitants will probably tend to prevent for a long time any attempt at internal improvement by means of works of art.
Minerals. — Evidences of volcanic action abound upon the surface of all parts of the territory; and gold, silver, copper, and iron deposits exist in many places. Mines of the three former metals have been worked in past years to some extent, but discontinued within a short period. All the ordinary geological features peculiar to such a region are discoverable here. The character and composition, and the combinations of the masses which form the mountainous ridges, and other enormous protuberances scattered confusedly over the face of the country, refer to the fires below for the origin of their present appearance, at least, if not for the cause of the general barrenness of the earth around them.
Manufactures. — Nothing can yet be said of the manufacturing genius or industry of those who now constitute the people of New Mexico. Their ancestors, and those of the savages in the same region, were noted for little more in this line than the fabrication of a rude kind of pottery, and some few other sorts of household articles. The territory, or state, — as it may be hereafter, — will probably never become either a manufacturing or agricultural country for any important commercial purposes.
Indians. — The vast wilderness, of which the western half of the territory consists, is peopled by numerous tribes of Indians. Some of these are mild, peaceably disposed, honest, industrious, and hospitable, living in villages and permanent settlements, and obtaining their subsistence mainly by hunting, fishing, and tillage. Others wander about in hordes, living by plunder, and constantly engaged in thievish depredations and bloody warfare. With one of the most formidable tribes of the latter, the Apaches, Governor Calhoun, of this territory, has recently concluded a treaty, whereby they are restricted to such limits as may be prescribed by the United States government, and to form permanent settlements, the United States stipulating to furnish all necessary facilities for tilling the soil.
Population. — The census taken by the civil authorities of the territory showed a population of 56,984; but that of the United States, taken at nearly the same period, (1850-1,) gives a population of 61,547, exclusive of Indians, of whom, perhaps, it is impossible to obtain a correct enumeration.
Climate. — In those mountainous parts where water is easily accessible, the residents may be said to enjoy a good share of health throughout the year; but in other localities, at certain seasons, the heat is extremely oppressive, and the climate decidedly insalubrious. The winters are not uncomfortably cold for any great length of time; but, even at the extreme south snow is by no means uncommon, although the streams rarely freeze. During the march of Lieutenant Colonel Cooke from Santa Fe to San Diego, in the latter part of October, 1846, snow fell, and his party suffered for about two weeks with cold, though then at the southerly border of the territory. In the vicinity of Santa Fe, about latitude 36° north, on the 31st of December, 1846, the snow was five inches deep.
Religion. — The Roman Catholic, having formerly been the established religion throughout all Mexico, still maintains its ascendency in this territory. Other denominations, however, are now tolerated, under the laws of the United States.
Curiosities. — Among these, the most remarkable, perhaps, are the ruins of singularly constructed religious temples, and other large edifices, which are occasionally met with upon the sites of ancient Indian or Mexican villages, the inhabitants of which have long since passed beyond the reach of historical research, and left scarcely any traces even of legendary remembrance. The village of Pecos, not far from Santa Fe, furnishes one illustration among many of these extraordinary remains. In various quarters are found vestiges of mounds and other monuments, of strange forms and divers dimensions, the uses of which baffle inquiry or conjecture. Among the extraordinary natural phenomena may be enumerated the high volcanic peaks in the mountainous district near the' centre of the territory, and the character of some of the sandstone rocks composing the walls of many chasms and bluffs in the same region. From one of these, which had broken so as to leave a perpendicular face 180 feet in height, Lieutenant Abert, in the course of his topographical exploration in 1846, gathered a number of shark's teeth, shells, and bones of fish. The ruins of the singular structures left by the Aztecs, an ancient race, of common origin with the New Mexicans, once inhabiting several large districts in this territory, are also among the striking curiosities of the country. In their wanderings from a point near the centre of the present northern boundary, they left at different spots many ponderous memorials of their laborious skill, in the shape of immense edifices, designed to serve, it is supposed, as fortified habitations. Near the River Gila, in November, 1846, Captain Johnson, U. S. A., visited one of these ruins, called the "Casa de Montezuma," presumed to be many centuries old, an account of which is given in his journal, communicated to the war department by General Kearney, in 1847.
John Hayward, Gazetteer of the United States of America… (Philadelphia: James L. Gihon, 1854), 106-109.