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The Park View Colony

Rober J. Tórrez

Several agricultural colonies were established in New Mexico during the last decades of the nineteenth century. One of the earliest and least known of these was Park View, a settlement established in northern New Mexico by a Chicago based corporation in 1876. The Park View colony was founded in 1876 on the Tierra Amarilla Land Grant, a grant which was given to Manuel Martinez and several other individuals by the Mexican government in 1832. The grant was confirmed to Francisco Martinez, Manuel's son, by the United States Congress in 1860. Located along the New Mexico‑Colorado border, the Tierra Amarilla Grant straddles the Rio Chama, one of the Rio Grande's major tributaries. It contained more than half a million acres of the finest agricultural, grazing, and timber tracts in the New Mexico Territory. This magnificent property sits squarely within the part of New Mexico which William Blackmore, a British entrepreneur who promoted several Colorado colonies in the 1870's, described as having extraordinary potential for supporting large populations "in health, food, and wealth."

The economic potential of this area quickly attracted a number of entrepreneurs and land grant speculators who purchased substantial interests in the grant from Francisco Martinez and other heirs of Manuel Martinez. Enrique Mercure, Elias Brevoort, Thomas D. Burns, and a number of other individuals who achieved prominence in the history of northern New Mexico, played an important role in these early transactions, but the principal figure of these is Thomas B. Catron, who is well known in the annals of territorial New Mexico. His life has been well documented elsewhere, so suffice it to say that through his various Spanish and Mexican land grant purchases, Catron came to be considered the largest private land owner in the United States during the later part of the nineteenth century. He undoubtedly had a significant impact on the history of New Mexico, but his most enduring legacy lingers with the Tierra Amarilla grant, which was patented in his name in 1880.

Catron organized or authorized several colonies on the various grants he owned or controlled though none were successfull. Violle Clark Hefferan, one of Catron's biographers, attributes this dismal record largely to the men Catron hired to manage and promote his properties. These men, according to Hefferan, tended "to detract rather than add" to the success of Catron's colonization enterprises.  Park View was no exception.

In the mid-1870s Catron was busy maneuvering to purchase or otherwise acquire every interest in the Tierra Amarilla grant from Manuel Martinez's heirs. In early 1876, he hired Wilmot E. Broad to act as his agent for that purpose.  It is not certain how Catron and Broad came to know each other, but apparently, Broad was on the lookout for the opportunity which presented itself when Catron hired him.

In 1872, Broad, and two partners, John S. Corthell, and William G. Thompson had incorporated The New Mexico Stock and Agricultural Association in Illinois for the stated purpose of: "Colonizing and bringing into use tracts of lands in the territories of New Mexico and Colorado, and improving lands in said territories. Raising, buying and selling, and dealing in live stock, opening and working mines and dealing in mining materials..." Headquartered in Chicago, the Association issued $100,000 of Capital Stock in February 1876; about the same time Catron hired Broad to represent his interests in the Tierra Amarilla.

In 1876, the corporation published and distributed a beautiful map of New Mexico which was touted as being "more perfect than any heretofore published." Among the advertisements which line the borders of this splendid map, the Association promoted itself as being "...at all times prepared to sell lands in the Territory of New Mexico ...for mining purposes, stock‑raising and agricultural pursuits." They also proposed to assist prospective colonists by providing transportation for them "...from Eastern Cities to ...All Parts of Southern Colorado and New Mexico..."

Broad and his partners spent the summer of 1876 looking for a colony site, a search which extended into the "Navajo Country" of northwest New Mexico. Their guide was William F. M. Arny, one of the territory's most ardent promoters. W.F.M. Arny had held several positions in New Mexico's territorial government. These included a term as Territorial Secretary in the mid 1860's and as Acting Governor. Arny also served on several occasions as an agent for the Utes and Jicarilla Apache, during which he became intimately familiar with much of northern New Mexico and southwest Colorado. Although Arny's biographer insists he tended to become involved in colonization schemes only because his financial circumstances had reduced him to guiding tours of Indian country for a "small fee," Arny's knowledge of New Mexico and its resources must have proved invaluable to the Chicago corporation.  

How and when Broad and his partners made their choice of a site on which to establish their colony is unknown. Nevertheless, by the late summer of 1876, they decided to place it squarely within the Tierra Amarilla Grant. They staked out town lots and a site for a city hall on a low plateau which overlooks the Rio Chama, about a mile north of present‑day Los Brazos.  As improbable as it seems, they apparently made this decision without consulting Catron.

The new town was christened Park View. According to local tradition, the name was chosen because of the colony's magnificent location, the region's abundant water and timber resources, and the potential of the wool market. "The earliest indication that colonists had actually arrived at Park View is September 1876. That month, the Pueblo, Colorado, Daily Chieftain, reported that a Chicago based Colonization Company had settled "about thirty persons" on the Tierra Amarilla Grant and that more colonists were expected soon. The following month, William G. Thompson and John L. Corthell, two of Broad's partners, were at Pueblo, reportedly escorting twenty additional colonists to Tierra Amarilla.  In February, 1877, Thompson was appointed postmaster for the new town. 

Despite all the reported activity, there is no evidence of property transactions associated with the colony until February  of 1877. That month, Broad and his partners purchased a one eighteenth interest in the Tierra Amarilla Grant from Elias Brevoort.  Several weeks later, the Santa Fe Daily New Mexican, the region's principal newspaper, picked up news of this transaction, and reported Broad's purchase of a large tract of land for a colony in Rio Arriba. The paper noted an "enterprising and intelligent colony of free American citizens" was already on the property, and additional settlers were expected before the end of the year.

Despite optimistic reports, other observers make it clear the colony quickly floundered. In the late summer of 1877, a military survey team commanded by Lieutenant C.A.H.

M'Cauley of the United States Corps of Topographical Engineers passed through Tierra Amarilla. M'Cauley report shows that Park View consisted of eight cabins, with a population of twenty to thirty persons, and with less than ten acres under cultivation.  "This was a Chicago colony, with aspects much beclouded," he wrote, and noted that most of the colonists had abandoned the settlement, and gone to the "Animas region" of southwest Colorado. 

We have no documentation which explains why the colony failed. If outright fraud is discounted, it can be speculated that Broad and his partners simply failed to recruit enough colonists to lend stability and strength to the venture. Perhaps the $100,000 of Capital Stock they attributed to the corporation in 1876, if it ever really existed, proved inadequate to promote and otherwise bring to fruition the plans and promises made for the colony.

Most likely, however, Broad and his partners were unable to overcome the problems of land titles, divided interests, and rampant speculation which characterized the adjudication of New Mexico's land grants during this period. The one eighteenth interest in the Tierra Amarilla Grant which they purchased from Elias Brevoort, a transaction which involved a promissory note,  probably lacked the documentation required to provide the Park View colonists with reliable title to the land.

The 1880 census shows that three years after its inception, Park View consisted of eleven families in ten dwellings. Four of these households had Spanish surnames, and may have been local families who moved into cabins abandoned by departing colonists. Of all the non‑Spanish surnamed persons living at Park View in 1880, only Wilmot E. Broad and Theodore Seth became permanent residents of the Tierra Amarilla area.

Wilmot E. Broad continued working for Thomas B. Catron as full time manager of the Tierra Amarilla Grant. A relentless entrepreneur, Broad attempted several other business ventures, most of which failed.  After he died in 1907, the New Mexico Pioneers, a historical association of which Broad was a charter member, eulogized him in a manner that he would have appreciated. The eulogy credited northern New Mexico's prosperity to Broad's many "well directed efforts," and noted he was one of the first to draw public attention to the "beautiful valleys in the vicinity of Tierra Amarilla and Park View and attract immigration for their development." 

Although the Park View colony failed, its name has survived to this day. By 1879, the post office at Park View had burned to the ground, and when it was reopened in 1880,

it was relocated to the village of Los Ojos, located two miles south of the nearly abandoned colony site. Despite being moved to one of the original and well established settlements of the Tierra Amarilla Grant, the post office retained its designation as the Park View Post Office.  During subsequent generations, the village of Los Ojos itself became known as Park View.

Although the name change was represented on maps of the time, it was not so in the hearts and minds of Los Ojos' residents. In 1971, questions were raised in the community about how the name Park View came to be applied to one of the region's oldest extant settlements. Older residents recalled the not so distant past when the village was known by its original name of Los Ojos.  Others, while not aware of the name change, had wondered how a name so inconsistent with those of its sister villages of Los Brazos, La Puente, Tierra Amarilla, Plaza Blanca, and Ensenada, had come about. That year, Los Ojos' residents launched a controversial campaign to officially regain its original name.

On July 25, 1972, following several months of debate and negotiations with federal and local officials, the name change from Park View to Los Ojos was proclaimed during the annual San Jose Parish Fiesta de Santiago. A few weeks later, the action was made official by a resolution of the Rio Arriba County Board of Commissioners.  With the change, the one remaining vestige of Broad's colony ‑ its name ‑ was relegated to a vague historical memory.

 

SOURCES USED

Arny, W. F. M. New Mexico: Its Agricultural, Pastoral and Mineral Resources…. Santa Fe, NM: Manderfield and Tucker, 1873.

Hefferan, Violle Clark. “Thomas Benton Catron.”  Master’s Thesis, University of New Mexico 1940.

Murphy, Lawrence R.  Frontier Crusader: William F. M. Arny.  Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1972.

Palmer, General W. J. and M. A. Bell.  Development and Colonization of the Great West.  London: Chapman and Hall, 1874.

Tenth Census of the United States, 1880.  New Mexico: Rio Arriba, Mora, and San Miguel Counties.  National Archives Microfilm.

Westphall, Victor.  Thomas Benton Catron and His Era.  Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1973.

Willard, James F. and Colin B. Goody Koontz, eds.  Experiments in Colorado Colonization, 1869-1872.  Bouler: University of Colorado Press, 1926.

Various NM Newspapers available at different locations in NM.

Personal interviews with the author.