Théodore Rouault, Biographical Sketch

By Rick Hendricks

Théodore Rouault was born in Combourg, France, on 29 May1850.[1] In 1876 at the age of twenty-six, the young priest sailed to the United States and was soon serving Immaculate Conception church in Yuma, Arizona, and he was exercising his priestly duties in Mesilla, New Mexico, by early 1879. There, Margarita García, ten years his junior, caught his eye and won his heart. She was the daughter of Pedro and Paz García.[2] Young priest and fair maiden disappeared from the Mesilla Valley. Before long the couple was back, living in Las Cruces as husband and wife. Rouault acquired an established mercantile business, initially specializing in agricultural implements and tools. He expanded his enterprise and became a supplier for the miners of Pinos Altos. But the Frenchman's real claim to fame in southern New Mexico was as a pioneer in the canning business. Rouault began to can tomatoes, which he raised on 125 acres. His cannery soon produced cases and cases of canned vegetables and fruit. Try as he might, he could not meet the demand for canned green chile, no matter how many thousands of cans he was able to produce. And most of his production was consumed right here in New Mexico. In the meantime, on 1 April 1891 he became a naturalized US citizen.[3] As the proprietor of the Mesilla Valley Canning Works, he received a medal at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair for the best canned tomatoes and chile.[4]

 In mid-September 1915, Rouault was thrown from his runaway horse-drawn carriage when it crashed into an automobile on Las Cruces streets.[5] He suffered numerous injuries, the most serious of which was a skull fracture. His rapid recovery was seen by some as miraculous. His wife suffered a breakdown because of the accident that befell him.[6] She died on 11 December 1915 following unsuccessful surgery at the Hotel Dieu hospital in El Paso, Texas.[7]

On or about 10 December 1924 he sailed on the Paris for France to visit relatives.[8] While on the continent, he also planned to make a tourist visit to England and Italy. At the time of his trip, he was described as standing 5 feet 6 inches tall with a broad and high forehead. His eyes were blue-gray, his nose straight and pointed, his mouth large, his chin short, his hair gray, his complexion rosy, and his face pleasant. A distinguishing feature was a scar above the bridge of his nose.

He owned the Rouault Hotel in Las Cruces for many years. Rouault Ranch northwest of the city was considered a model operation. When he died just weeks shy of his ninetieth birthday in 1940, few remembered the scandal of the young French priest and his child bride. 

[1]. U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2007.

[2]. (accessed 6 March 2015).

[3]. Rouault, passport application, U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925.

[4]. Santa Fe New Mexican 17 July, 1905.

[5]. "Theodore Rouault, Sr. Dangerously Injured," Rio Grande Republic, 14 September 1915.

[6]. "Hon. Theodore Rouault Recovering," Rio Grande Republic, 5 October 1915.

[7]. (accessed 6 March 2015). "Dickenson-Rouault," Rio Grande Republic, 1 August 1916.

[8]. U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2007.