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John A. Clark

Born: 1841 - Died: 1881

By John B. Ramsay

John A. Clark was the Surveyor General for the Territory of New Mexico from 1861 until 1868. In addition to his official records as Surveyor General he maintained a daily diary covering this period. The collection was given to the Angélico Chavez History Library in 1966 and consists of 25 leather-bound record books.[1] In addition to the diaries an official copy of General Scurry’s General order #4 (C.S.A.) congratulating the troops for the victory at Glorieta was also included in the collection. After the diaries were received, K(ittie) Shiskin prepared a complete transcript of the diaries amounting to over 640 double-spaced pages. She intended to have the diaries published, but this was not accomplished. Recently a great-granddaughter of Clark, Anna Jane Stone, presented a second transcript to the library. The diaries do not cover his official actions, but address his daily activities, and comments. The purpose of this talk is to present their existence o those interested in the daily life in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Arizona. My talk was taken from the Shishkin transcription and I have not made a comparison with the Stone transcription nor to correlate with any official records. Anna Stone has been courteous and provided a biography of John Clark.

John Clark was born in 1814 in Delhi, NY and the family moved to Monroe, MI in 1823. He learned and practiced surveying until 1835 when he became involved in real estate development in Galena, IL. Anna Jane Kyle and John A. married in 1835 and had nine children. Local political life became important to him and he eventually entered the legal bar. Abraham Lincoln appointed him Surveyor General for New Mexico in 1861 where he served until 1868. Following New Mexico he became Surveyor General of Utah for one year. After nine years he returned to the Midwest with his family, where he died in 1881.

The Confederate Invasion of New Mexico, and the division of New Mexico and Arizona into two territories occurred during his tenure. The expansion of gold and silver mining, particularly in Arizona occurred during this time and Clark was involved both as an official and as a speculator. The diaries present a daily record of trips to the gold mines of New Mexico and to the Arizona gold and silver mining areas.

The first two diaries describe his trip across the plains from his home in Freeport, IL to Santa Fe. The trip was made by a combination of train, boat, and stage through Denver. He left home on Sept. 3, 1861, arrived in Denver on Sept. 18. His description of Denver is interesting “The place is very beautifully situated on a plain bounded by the Platte on one side Cherry Creek – or rather the channel of Cherry Creek (for there is no water in it) dividing the town about equally- on the East is the boundless plain without a stick of timber to relieve it –on the west and south forming an amphitheatre are the Rocky Mountains 10 to 12 miles distant – Pike’s Peak in the far distance in the south & Longs’ Peak in the north each nearly 100 miles distant – there are many brick buildings here which would be respectable in Freeport or anywhere. Hotels in abundance – I stop at the Planter’s House kept by J. McNasser Landlord- house very well kept considering the country & the facilities for keeping a hotel here” While in Denver he met Jim Bridger – his description is “spare but well built man weather beaten – is not a very handsome man.”

On Sept. 24 he arranged for a livery to take him and his nephew, John M., to Santa Fe for $125 and they left Denver on Sept. 25. There are many hand-drawn maps and sketches describing various place and routes through the New Mexico Territory. Figure 1 presents his map from Denver to Santa Fe, where he arrived on Oct. 7, 1861

There is much detail on his introduction to Santa Fe, meeting various people, attending church with Bishop Lamy, though he is a Presbyterian. There are many mentions throughout the diaries of visiting with Bishop Lamy and walking through his garden and walking to his “rancho.” He described old Fort Marcy as abandoned with the earth works falling down. Among the people he met was Kit Carson whom he describes as “about 5 ft 8 in high, square built active & quick in his movements, blue eyes, broad square forehead, altogether rather a German face & build—He is second only to Bridger as a guide in the mountains- said to be a most reliable, honest man, and the bravest of the brave, knowing no fear – I was delighted to see him, would go further to see him & do him honor, than I would to see any Prince on the globe.” Clark’s expenses from Sept. 3, the start of the trip to Santa Fe through Dec. 6,1861 totaled $526.89 including travel.

On Oct. 29, 1861 he reported that rumors were rife that the “Texans” are on the Pecos in force and marching toward Fort Union.

He instructed a Col. Means to resurvey the “Mora Grant” on Nov. 1 and held “great misgivings” about the east boundary. “I told him he would be obliged to return to the field & correct his survey of the Mora Grant. He plead[ed] lustily that I should receive(?) his field notes as he returned them but I could not” There are several references on the establishment of land grants boundaries throughout the diaries, though the diaries are not a source of detailed boundary information. Col. Means resurveyed the Mora Grant and Clark reported that Mean’s notes did not agree with Clements survey of the Vegas claim. Clark was greatly bothered. He found an error of over half a mile in Col. Means work. He later discovered that it was an error of an entry of a digit. The diaries have several references to a lack of satisfaction with the Mora Grant survey. He finally sent a report to the General Land office in Dec. 1864. On Nov. 2 he described a visit by Bishop Lamy; “the Bishop came, by invitation, today with Jose San Francisco Herrera, aged 99 years to give testimony about the boundaries of the Ranch of “Nuestra Señora de La Luz” He gives the east boundary as I supposed was the fact as the Cañoncito de los Apaches & states that the Cañon reaches to & below the Bishops house so that the survey returned here of the Bishops claim includes about 2000 acres more than it should.”

Many entries simply say that he wrote letters to “madam” [his wife] and to the various children. On Monday Nov. 25, 1861 he attended a meeting of the Historical Society with about a dozen in attendance. “They have a fine room-the beginning of a library - a cabinet of minerals various coins & some other curiosities.”

His description of the funeral of a “Mexican infant” on Nov. 29, 1861 is touching. “The body was borne in an open coffin upon the shoulders of two women & two girls 10 or 12 years old- the corpse garnished with flowers – preceding the corpse was a boy carrying the lid of the coffin & following was a man planing[sic] a waltz on the violin & a boy playing accompaniment upon a guitar – These people have a perfect faith in the future life - they believe that a child dying before it knows good from evil if babtised[sic] & blessed by the priest become an angel at once & there is no sorrowing by any except the mother - & so all the ceremonies of the burial are those of joy & praise, rather than sorrow & mourning -the mother never accompanies the funeral procession of her child – even the hymns at the church are those of rejoicing – not of sorrow” He was apparently greatly impressed with children’s funerals as he recorded his impressions of three funerals of children.

By Dec. 9, 1861 he reported that he was beginning to interpret Provincial law on land grants. Within the diaries he did not provide any specific data on grants other than stating he was satisfied or not satisfied with the work done by various surveyors. On Dec. 18 he reported that there might have been as many as 40 deaths from smallpox in Santa Fe. The “Texan” threat became obvious by Jan. 9, 1862 and Martial Law was declared in Santa Fe. All persons were required to take the oath of allegiance.

There are several mentions of reports leading to the fight at Ft. Craig, all hopeful, but by Feb. 23, 1862 he reported that Ft Craig had been defeated. By Feb.25 he described the re-arrest of Generals Pelham and Clements for conferring with some mounted men in the back of Col. Collin’s house, who are supposed to be spies. There is a report that there is a conspiracy to assassinate the government officers & others. Clark did not believe that such a conspiracy existed. He did believe there were many Confederate sympathizers in Santa Fe. By March 3 Clark was beginning to pack to return to the States via stage. He departed Ft. Union for Washington March 12 and arrived in Kansas City by March 24. He called to see the president by April 1 in Washington.

There is a break in the record from April to June 1st, 1862. He arranged to return to Santa Fe and left Kansas City on June 16, 1862. He believed that he was being swindled when the porter on the boat “ Alex Majers” tried to charge him $0.25 each for two bags. Delays at Ft. Leavenworth were caused by a lack of official orders and a report that a group of “Texans” were planning to capture their group and take Ft. Larned. Finally when he began to leave on July 1, the military troops and his driver were all “drunk and boisterous.” Clark’s wagon was broken in the melee and he needed to return to town to have it repaired and to obtain a new driver. They were able to depart on July 2. On July 5 he encountered a disturbance at Burlingame that apparently involved the murder of a man named Baker and the associated retribution. Clark’s group was taken to be part of Quantrel’s men, and panic ensued. By July 30 he reached the top of Raton Mountain and reported snow visible on the Costillo peaks. The group reached Ft. Union on August 2 having taken 32 days to cross the prairie. On Aug. 5 he reached Koscilosky’s and he provided the accepted version that Pecos was where the Aztecs kept a sacred fire burning, though Clark discounted this story. He arrived in Santa Fe on Aug. 6. This section of the diaries provides an interesting day-to-day history of the travel from Ft. Leavenworth to Santa Fe.

On Aug. 8, 1862 he reported that he had “called this evening on Mrs. Edgar & Mrs. Houghton – Have now called on all my lady friends except Mrs. Spiegelberg – will call on her tomorrow or the next day.” He received a communication on August 26, 1862 from the General Land office that directed him to examine the “Palacio” and to see if there was room for his office. The directive also told him to send a plat of the “Palacio” to the General Land Office. On Aug. 27 he went and made measurements of the “Palacio” & of the Government Building west of it. He reported that with a few hundred dollars, the building occupied by laundresses attached to the army could be made into comfortable offices.

The diaries contain references to a large number of Anglos and a few notable Hispanics. Some of the comments are rather interesting. In Las Vegas he “called & paid respects to Mrs. Doct. Boyse, a very amiable excellent lady, whom I met in my home last spring – spent half an hour with her and met her husband, a dissipated worthless husband …” On Wednesday Aug. 28, 1862 he attended the Bishop’s “Female” School” under the care of “the sisters…where some fine needle work was displayed… Mrs, Canby, Mrs. Chapin. Mrs. Chavez, Mrs. Spiegelberg, Mrs. Balling with most of the respectable & other ladies of Santa Fe present.” He then attended the examination of the Bishop’s boy’s schools and found the students very proficient in mathematics. He singled out Demetrius Chaves and Rafael Romero (of Mora) as particularly outstanding.

On Friday Oct. 10,1862 he reports on a trial of habeas corpus of an Indian girl held under slave conditions. “This girl left her master & refused to return & the master send[sic] out a writ of Habeas Corpus & brought her before the Judge who decided of course that there was no law to compel her return to her master & “so she went on her way rejoicing”. It is remarkable that this is the first case that has been brought before theJudge for adjudication.”

“Judge Benedict last night married a couple of darkies - Jim, my servant on my way here from Leavenworth & Judge Houghton’s Negro woman” on Oct. 30, 1862. It was quite an event with dancing. It was something new in Santa Fe.

“This morning [Dec. 27 1862] Padre Gallegos with his Mexican friend from Loma Parda came by appointment & I went with them to the Agt. Generals Office to endeavor to get suspended an order issued by the Commander of Ft. Union, requiring the citizens of Loma Parda to vacate their houses by the 3rd of January or they would be driven out & their homes destroyed – At the suggestion of Maj Wallen I have drawn up a statement in regard the rights of the respective parties & asked, that the order be suspended until the matter can be properly investigated – I am fully satisfied that those claiming under John Scolly et al have no right at present to dispossess any one from any of the lands in that neighborhood & it seemed to me a most unjustifiable proceeding for the U. S. under claim of a lease to forcibly dispossess these poor people because they sell whiskey to the soldiers – If the soldiers are kept at quarters they would not buy Whiskey at Loma Parda. Gallegos & the Mexican seemed well pleased with what I have done.”

An interesting entry concerning land aggrandizement in New Mexico was entered on Feb. 7 1863. “Was visited today [Feb. 7, 1863] by a poor Mexican today from the country above Tesuke[sic] – wished to get a paper from me assuring him of title to his land – It seems that he located a donation claim in a narrow valley above Tesuke & filed his claim in the office – for which Whiting charged him five dollars. He has served in two or three campaigns against the Indians and was entitled to a land warrant, & he says that Señor Hovey got him & his brother to go before the Alcalde and they signed some paper, but do not know what & Hovey gave him about $30.00 – In this way I suppose he was swindled out of his warrant.”

He relied on newspapers and letters for news of the Civil War; hence except for events in New Mexico reports are delayed significantly. In Oct. 1864, he reported that Sterling Price (of Taos Rebellion fame) and then a Confederate General; was “trapped” in Missouri and Clark hoped it was true. In June of 1865 an effigy of Jefferson Davis was hanged in the Santa Fe Plaza, which could not have been done in 1861, because of Southern sympathizers.

Major Gurgles and Clark met with General Carleton on February 11, 1863 and discussed the capture and release of the “Green Russell & party.” The group had been traveling down the Canadian River on their way the Georgia when U. S. soldiers captured them. A Mr. Hunt stated that they were good citizens and not disloyal. General Carleton released them if they went North, but their gold and property confiscated until released by Secretary of War.

He departed Santa Fe for the Arizona mining areas on Jan. 7, 1865 and reached Ft. Craig on Jan. 9, where he remained for several days assembling his military escort and traveling equipment. During this time he discussed mining claims with W. W. Mills, who estimated that the Suzanna and Dolores mines in the Organ mountains would yield about $150/day after an initial investment of $10,000. He also discussed Mexican land grants in the area with a representative from Mexico. He found that Don Guadalupe Miranda, a Mexican Official in 1853 made land grants in territory already ceded to the U.S. Government.

By Feb. 1 he left Las Cruces and reached Ft. Cummings on Feb. 4, where he was delayed because of severe weather. (Sixteen oxen & three mules died of the cold). He departed Ft. Cummings on Feb. 9 and reached Ft. Bowie on Feb. 14, where he was sidetracked and traveled up to the Gila River and returned to Ft Bowie on March 4. He mentioned the murder by Apaches of Mr. Wrightson of the Santa Rita Mine and Mr. Hopkins of Tucson, while on their way from Tubac to old Ft. Buchanan. By March 12 he reached Tubac and visited the mines in the area. He had followed a route shown as a proposed “wagon route” on the Carleton-Anderson Map of 1864. The Arizona Mining Company was spending over $1000/day in “coin” investing in local mining projects in the Tubac area and they were not yet producing any silver. On March 20 he describes the San Xavier del Bac Church. He reported that tradition said it cost between one & two million dollars “which is probably ten times its actual cost.” The Santa Cruz River was dry from Picacho to within two miles of Tucson. During this period the desert was in bloom with flowers and he states “I never saw in all my travels, as extensive a field of flowers- the effect was very pleasing – these beds of flowers among the dry & ungraceful Mesquit, cerus giganticus, & many other varieties of cactus, the Palo Verde, sage and greasewood.” He required a boat to cross the Gila in the area of present day Phoenix and reached Ft. Whipple (near Prescott) on April 8. On the way he went to Wickenburg where he met Henry Wickenburg and Jack Swilling who gave him “very nice specimens of gold quartz from the Vulture [mine] and the Mason ledge.” From Ft. Whipple he traveled up to the San Francisco Peaks and then followed the Beale Road back to New Mexico. He arrived back in Santa Fe on May 19. He provided an interesting description of the Zuñi Church and reported that the only times it is used was for baptisms and as a horse stable to protect against Navajo raids.

Judge Slough was an outspoken judge and Clark illustrated this description with a comment on a trial that took place on Aug. 1, 1867. A man was tried for selling liquor to the Indians and the jury found him not guilty, whereupon the Judge Slough abused the jury - told them they had perjured themselves & finally dismissed them without pay. The man was recharged and the judge stated that if the defendant would plead guilty the judge would go easy, otherwise the judge would meet out the harshest penalty. The judge had it recorded that the jury could not agree. Clark reported on the murder of Judge Slough by Capt. Rynerson on Sunday Dec. 15, 1867. Clark attended Slough’s funeral on Wednesday Dec. 18, 1867. Clark made many references to Judge Slough’s behavior on the bench.

On Aug. 22, 1865 he reported that he had examined the papers of the town of Abiquiu and that it was originally an Indian pueblo made up of Utahs, Apaches, Comanches & Teguas and with few exceptions the present inhabitants are their descendents.

In conclusion a the following is a few selected entries, which provide an insight into Santa Fe and about Clark:

July 15, 1865
“Last night about 9 1/2 oclock the roof of the Baptist church fell in – demolishing the seats & in the body of the church – It is a great mercy that no one was in the building – Escape would have been impossible."

Sept. 28, 1863,
“Have not smoked today - fancied indeed know that smoking was affecting my eyes - awoke this morning with head ache attributed all to smoking - Have head ache & a good deal of restlessness today in consequence of my change of habit - hope to be better tomorrow.”

Oct. 12, 1863
“At about 1/2 after 4 Oclock in the evening I was greatly astonished by a call from my nephew Leslie Andersons - looking as rough as possible - He tells me that he drove an ox team from Ft. Larned to Las Vegas and came from there to Santa Fe, part of the distance with an ox train - the last 20 or 30 miles with a mule team - He has no plan - does not know what he will do or where he will go & I suppose is out of money - I advised him to go to the new mines but he does not seem inclined to follow my advice.”

Oct. 13, 1863
“My nephew called this morning to see me - I find he is not inclined to go to the mines, for the reason principally, I think, that I tell him if he goes he will have to work, but has no plan of his own. Hinkley of the Fonda, proposes to employ him as bar keeper, which I think he will accept rather than attempt to get to the mines.”

In summary, these diaries contain a large body of information on the comings and goings, who’s who, and the political disputes and intrigues that occurred in Santa Fe. Among other small items he mentions the titles of many sermons given in Church, together with his comments. Ms. Shiskin did not publish the diaries, but the original diaries are available at the Angélico Chávez History Library, both as originals and transcription.

End Note:

[1] John A. Clark Papers, AC044, Fray Angélico Chávez History Library, Santa Fe, New Mexico, U.S.A.