Chapter VII.


The City Santa Fe--Traditions Concerning it--The Early Settlers

--My Desires to Travel--The Slave Trade

I RETURNED to Provo after the October conference. Soon after my return a large party of Mexican traders from New Mexico arrived in Utah and camped near by. They team in on their usual trading business, the main object being to buy Indian children for slaves.

That the reader may more fully understand the situation, I will give a little of the history and customs of New Mexico. Santa Fe is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The correct history is not perfectly known, but the one told by the natives, and generally accepted, is that soon after the conquest of Mexico by Cortez, an expedition went out to explore the northern country. Nothing was heard from them, and all trace was lost, until a number of years afterwards, when another party went north. On arriving at Santa Fe they found a people among whom many of the younger ones spoke the Spanish language. They found, after much trouble and enquiry, that these were children of the former explorers, who, on arriving in that country, had found rich mines of gold and silver. They concluded to keep silent and work these mines for themselves. They also found the natives peaceable and in every way well disposed toward them. These natives lived in towns and cultivated the soil. The Spaniards took wives from among the natives; and all went well, until the Spaniards had accumulated many millions of dollars, when they began to tire of their friends and families, and longed for the more congenial society of the people they had [48] left, believing that with their great wealth they would be received with honor, consequently they determined to abandon all their new made friends and return to Old Mexico. The natives remonstrated, for they now looked upon them as a part of their tribe, inasmuch as they had given them wives and homes, and had assisted and protected them in every way. The Spaniards had made them believe that they were directed by the Great Spirit to come among them and be united with them. So when they proposed leaving, the natives looked upon them as deceivers and forbade their departure. The Spaniards heeded not their warnings and felt no apprehensions, for the natives were not a warlike people. So, with their treasure, they started south, but were attacked and all killed. Tradition says that their treasure is buried in a plain near a salt lake, south of Santa Fe. That there is more or less truth in all this, can not be doubted, for history tells us that the second party found descendants of these former explorers in Santa Fe where they had built quite a village and worked mines. In fact, much evidence was found to corroborate the statement of the natives, although no records were found, and not one of the original Spaniards was living. The second party remained and reported themselves to the government of Mexico. Others came and strengthened the colony; the mines were worked, yielding immense wealth; the Catholic Church was established among the natives, the Spaniards taking Indian women for wives; the natives became converted and adopted Spanish civilization, mixed with their own traditions; a new class of people, commonly called Spanish Mexicans, was the result. A few of the natives retained their ancient customs, remaining apart and never mixing with others. Many of these can still be found living in towns and villages along the Rio [49] Grande. They are known as Pueblos, and are much more honest and moral than the mixed race.

New Mexico was almost an unknown country to the people of the United States until the last half century. Many of the pioneer traders to that land were from Howard County, Missouri, where I was born, and I remember when a child hearing numbers of them on their return recount their exploits and strange experiences. I felt as if I could not wait to be a man before going to see these strange countries and peoples. Well do I remember when studying geography at school and seeing "unexplored region" marked on the map, feeling a contempt for the author and thinking if I were a man I would go and see what there was in that land and not mark it unexplored.

These New Mexicans were a venturesome people. They penetrated through to California; trails were opened that were a marvel of pioneering. They were doubtless assisted by the natives. They Jesuits were leaders in most of these moves. There is hardly a tribe of Indians in the Rocky Mountains but what has a tradition of the priests having been among them. Sometimes these priests gained quite an influence with the wild tribes. At one time the Uintahs were their friends, but a break occurred and the priests were killed. Thus we find that the people of New Mexico at the time I am writing of them, in 1851, were making annual trips, commencing with a few goods, trading on their way with either Navajoes or Utes (generally with the Navajoes) for horses, which they sold very cheap, always retaining their best ones. These used-up horses were brought through and traded to the poorer Indians for children. The horses were often used for food. This trading was continued into Lower California, where the children brought on the [50] down trip would be traded to the Mexican-Californians for other horses, goods or cash. Many times a small outfit on the start would return with large herds of California stock.

All children bought on the return trip would be taken back to New Mexico and then sold, boys fetching on an average $100, girls from $150 to $200. The girls were in demand to bring up for house servants, having the reputation of making better servants than any others. This slave trade gave rise to the cruel wars between the native tribes of this country, from Salt Lake down to the tribes in southern Utah. Walker and his band raided on the weak tribes, taking their children prisoners and selling them to the Mexicans. Many of the lower classes, inhabiting the southern deserts, would sell their own children for a horse and kill and eat the horse. The Mexicans were as fully established and systematic in this trade as ever were the slavers on the seas and to them it was a very lucrative business.

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