Isidor, New Mexico

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It’s hard to find Isidor, New Mexico on any maps these days. Do a search in some old New Mexico newspaper archives from the early 1900s though and you are bound to find it, whether it is a homestead announcement, a general article about someone from there, or even an ad about Isidor V. Gallegos and Sons Mercantile store (Image: Store Ad). You will also find it listed on old maps from the 1920s like this Rand McNally and Company one showing “Isidore” with the “e” or in books, such as “New Mexico Place Names”  and it might be noted as a ghost town.

Store Ad, Roughly translated:
Traffickers of General Merchandise
Dry affections, groceries, boots and shoes of the best quality. Our prices will compete with the stores of Montoya and Cuervo. We buy all kinds of production in the country. Pay us a visit and you will be satisfied.”
Ad from El Independiente. (Las Vegas, Nuevo México), January 02, 1908. Also ad was found in the same newspaper publication dated July 14, 1910. (Click to view larger image)

I went searching for it since it was named for my great grandfather, Isidoro V. Gallegos. Then, I found some stories my grandfather (Jake V. Gallegos) wrote about his father, as well as as some other documents noting the ranching area that was referred to as Isidor over 100 years ago.

Isidor Venzeslado Gallegos was born on April 4, 1852 at La Placita de los Gallegos, (also known as Gallegos Ranch and that is still on the maps). Census records (Image: 1900 Census) show he married Petrita Sandoval around 1878  and owned and operated a sheep and cattle ranch in Los Alamitos, San Miguel County until about 1905. According to my grandfather’s notes, they had a home in Las Vegas, NM, just a short distance from the Los Alamitos ranch.

1900 Census: Isidor V. Gallegos family in El Monton de Alamos, San Miguel County, New Mexico. Lists includes: Petra and children: Nazario V., Joaquin V., Estevan V., Isidoro, Jr., Edmundo V., Aurora M., Isabela L. and Juan Gonzales as day laborer. Younger children Maria, Carlos and Jacobo had not been born yet. (Click to view full image.)

My grandfather Jacobo, the youngest of 10 children, 7 boys and 3 girls, was born June 25, 1905 in Las Vegas, N.M. to Petra and Isidor (Image: Gallegos “V.” Family around 1911). All the boys in the family were given a “V.” middle name, hence they were known as the Gallegos “V.” family.

Gallegos V. Family. Probably taken in Isidor, NM. My grandfather Jacobo told me that he and his brother Carlos had been playing with the toy guns (see in their hands in photo) and they had just been scolded before picture was taken and thus, the reason Isidoro is standing between them.

About a year after my grandfather was born, Isidor decided look for a larger area to ranch. My grandfather noted, “My father traveled in a one horse buggy by dirt roads east from Las Vegas to the settlement which is now Tucumcari. He was looking for a larger ranch than what he had.”

—-This is my grandfather’s story about his father discovering Isidor, New Mexico and how water played such a critical role in early New Mexico farming and ranching.—

Finding Isidor

Along the way my father spotted an area of land approximately 9 miles north of what is now Newkirk, N.M. He liked this place particularly for the reason that there was a large mesa, Mesa Rica. (Image: We Fed Them Cactus by Fabiola Cabeza de Baca).

We Fed Them Cactus”: Fabiola Cabeza de Baca’s well-known memoir tells tales of the Hispanic pioneers of the great plains of northeastern New Mexico before statehood. She mentions Isidor Gallegos and his ranch at the foot of Mesa Rica (page 74).

—Editor’s Note: A New Mexico historical marker is posted in the area where Fabiola was raised and writes about in her book. The marker is located on NM Highway 104 between Las Vegas and Trementina, NM and I believe it’s northwest of where Isidor Gallegos decided to ranch. I had a chance to snap a road side shot of the marker on one of my road trips (Image: Fabiola Cabeza de Baca New Mexico Historical Marker).—

Fabiola Cabeza de Baca New Mexico Historical Marker. Fabiola was raised on a ranch ranch east of Las Vegas, NM and was an agricultural extension agent for over 30 years. For years, she was the only NM agent who spoke Spanish when 60% of New Mexico’s population was Spanish with many rural women only speaking Spanish. She brought rural families new home management techniques, while also weaving in their traditional ways. (Click to view larger image.)

—This is my grandfather’s own words about ranching and Isidor, New Mexico—

In the fall, my father examined that the heavy August rains had flowed from the mesa southerly and watered a large area of native grass. He homesteaded there in 1906 and our ranch home was built.  We also kept our home in Las Vegas.

New Mexico was not yet a state and the land was “open range.” There  were few fences and it was the custom for a rancher to claim so many miles north, east, south and west to run his livestock and the other ranchers respected that area. There were no grazing fees to pay. My father was raising mostly sheep. He claimed an area of approximately 12,000 acres. When the cattlemen began to dominate, because sheep and cattle do not graze well together and to avoid controversy, dad turned to cattle raising solely.

Isidor V. Gallegos and Sons Stock Growers: Joaquin V. Gallegos family archives 190? from Dannette Burch, great granddaughter of Joaquin V. Gallegos (Thank you!) (Click to view larger image.)

Practically without exception every fall of the year, my father mowed native grass.They had horse-operated grass cutters, horse-operated rakes but no baling. The hay was stacked to feed the livestock in the winter. He also planted stalk and seed crops for his livestock.

Besides operating a cattle ranch, my family built a fairly good size building out of native rocks to operate a general merchandise store. The store also was a Post Office which was named “Isidor, New Mexico”.

Around 1908 my older brother, Nazario V. (N.V.) Gallegos was appointed by the President of the United States as Receiver of the land office in Tucumcari, N.M., which was a lucrative position.(Image: N.V. Gallegos in Representative New Mexicans 1912). He also joined my father in the ranch operation along with another brother.

N.V. Gallegos in Representative New Mexicans 1912. Showing page 109, N.V. Gallegos, Receiver, U.S. Land Office. Click to view complete publication online.(Click to view larger image.)

Ranching and Dry Farming

The ranchers in that region depended on water for domestic and stock purposes from wells from which the water was drawn by windmills. My father had about 8 wells drilled for water to a depth of 150 feet or more and none of these produced sufficient quantities of water as was necessary. Then in about 1912 or 1913 he had a man by the name of Mr. Terry drill for water. The hole was from 6 to 8 inches in diameter, and when 150 feet depth was reached Mr. Terry said that the drill slipped down 2 feet or more into a water vein. The water rose in the hole about 100 feet. My father drilled another well nearby with the same result. These two wells in the vicinity of “Isidor”, to my knowledge, have been pumped extensively and always produced the necessary water.

—(Editor’s Note: See Image: “Dry Farming in New Mexico” – I discovered from further document searching, Isidoro participated in “dry” farming research around 1906-07.—-

“Dry Farming in New Mexico” New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts 1907. After some document searches, I found that Isidoro participated in researching and documenting “dry” farming methods along with others in New Mexico. This bulletin page shows his crops and results. (Click to view larger image.)

It is fair to state that there were many prolonged dry periods in this locality. It became quite difficult to keep livestock because vegetation dries up. Ranchers lost many of their livestock. Sometimes it seemed that the dry years exceeded the moderately wet years and such conditions caused many to lose their livestock, become discouraged and leave that part of the country.

My father died in 1916.  Around1928 two of my brothers and my mother, so I recall, conveyed their interest in their land to my brother, N. V., so that he could sell the ranch to Mr. Louis Monsimer, the father of Dr. Ralph Monsimer.

The Gallegos land had adjoined the Monsimer land at the corner of Mesa Rica. Eugene Monsimer, the brother of Louis first owned and operated the Monsimer ranch and later his brother Louis came to the Monsimer ranch. To my knowledge Gene and Louis Monsimer had a brother Henry who owned and operated a bakery in Las Vegas, New Mexico.


Anyone who looks at history around Las Vegas, N.M. will most likely run into a story about the Monsimer family. Monsimer’s have a pioneer ranching and business family history in the Las Vegas, N.M  (Image: Monsimer Grocery Ad from 1890s Las Vegas Optic newspaper).

Image: Monsimer Grocery Ad in the Las Vegas, N.M. Optic Newspaper, November 1890. (Click to view larger image.)




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