Thursday, September 27th, 2007

How Las Cruces Got Its Name

Las Cruces, N. M., “The City of Crosses”

In reply to an inquiry as to how Las Cruces, New Mexico, “the City of Crosses,” got its name, Judge Charles Blanchard, of , who is located in Las Cruces temporarily, handling lands and mines, writes to The Optic as follows from that city:

“I have renewed here the acquaintances of many old settlers, some of whom I have never seen but whose names were familiar through business connections in the early days; from the early 1840’s until the advent of the railroad in New Mexico, during the good, old times of wagon freighting from to [the] Missouri river, by way of Las Vegas, where I was initiated into the mercantile business that commanded the patronage of this portion of New Mexico in its full breadth from east to west and along the Rio Grande [and a] hundred miles into Texas.

I read the other day the register of the old hotel, rendered famous as the rendezvous of many pioneers of the southwest, at that time that Soccorro county extended from Arizona to the west line of Texas, when the present “Lincoln” was known only by the name of and the old town of . Such names as , Col. Emil Fritz, Major Murphy, Capt. J. C. Lea, , Col. Rynerson, Jimmy Dolan, Joseph Reynolds, , A. Griggs and a host of other familiar figures often appear upon the leaves of the records of the ancient hostelery of Mesilla.

In the old town of Mesilla are several families with centenarians, one of whom is living with members of four generations in the same house, due, of course, to simple, frugal living, and exploding the theory that longevity is produced by modern, scientific preparations of diet.

Mesilla is one of the oldest settlements in the southern New Mexico, and has consequently been the scene of many thrilling adventures and historic events. Being on the main road between Santa Fe and Chihuahua, it was a settlement of no small importance, and when in 1865 Silver City began to loom up as a mining camp, a wagon road was opened from Mesilla through Cook’s Peak and Stein’s pass, of Indian massacre fame, and it added much to the importance of the old town. El Paso and Las Cruces were not known then; the town of Dona Ana, seven miles up the valley, being the only settlement as a rival as a trading post and county seat.

In 1852, a long caravan of forty five carts drawn by oxen, heavily loaded with freight from Santa Fe to Chihuahua merchants were one morning nearing a point where the Lucero flouring mill now stands, the northern suburb of Las Cruces, where the convoy was attacked by the and entirely destroyed, some fifty men being killed and buried on the spot. The native cart was constructed without bolts of iron and the creaking of the wheels could be heard at great distances, when in motion.

The news of the disaster was conveyed to where some troops were stationed. The men were buried in separate graves marked with mounds and a cross on each grave. Ever since the spot has been designated as that of Las Cruces, the present City of Crosses.”

Rio Grande Republican, Feb 13, 1909 (newspaper)

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