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Susan Shelby Magoffin, wife of Santa Fe trader, Sam Magoffin, in January 1847 wrote in her diary, "Yesterday we passed over the spot where a few years since a party of Apaches attacked General Armijo as he returned from the Pass with a party of troops, and killed some 14 of his men, the graves of whom, marked by rude crosses, are now to be seen. . . ."
Adolph Bandelier, searching the archives in Mexico City, found a report from a Spanish army officer, Don Gabriel, who in 1693 wrote: "I have just received report of Indian raids in the region of Los Organos where three Spaniards were killed, the raiders then going on to a places called Las Cruces. . . ."
Present-day Las Cruces has been identified with the site known as Estero Largo, "long swamp, estuary," mentioned in numerous 17th-century accounts of travel along the Camino Real, but the region was sparsely populated during the 18th century. The present community dates from 1848, when local leader, Don Pablo Melendres, first justice of the peace in Doña Ana County, asked Lieutenant Sackett of the First US Dragoons to lay out a town several miles south of Doña Ana, to alleviated overcrowding in the village of Doña Ana, resulting from Americans flocking to the newly-acquired territory. The survey party chose a site six miles from Doña Ana, near an old burial ground, with crosses likely the ones seen earlier by Magoffin. The new community took the name of Las Cruces.
Taken from Robert Julyan, The Place Names of New Mexico, 2nd ed., University of New Mexico Press, 1998.