Taos County, New Mexico
Fernandez De Taos

The fertile valley of Taos naturally attracted the Spanish colonists who came to New Mexico and the officials who, from time to time, had occasion to visit the pueblo, and history informs us that at the time of the Revolution of 1680, there were about seventy Spaniards who had settled there. At the uprising they were attacked by the Indians from the pueblo and also by the Apaches who were sojourning there, and all but two were killed. These were Sergeant Sebastian de Herrera and Don Fernando de Chaves, who, leaving their dead wives and children, worked their way along the mountains to the south until they came within sight of Santa Fe, and finding that the Spaniards there were besieged on all sides, continued their journey toward the south until finally, after ten days of danger and hardship, they succeeded in joining the Spaniards who had gathered near Isleta under Lieutenant Governor Garcia.

After the reconquest new settlers were attracted by the beauty and fertility of the valley, and the town of Don Fernandez grew during the eighteenth century to considerable proportions. About 1806, or perhaps somewhat earlier, the large church was erected, which until very recently was the religious center of the community, and of which we are glad to be able to present an excellent picture from a photograph. Many years ago the rear wall showed signs of weakness and quite a dangerous crack was developed, but by inserting a stone foundation and building two massive buttresses of adobe it was made secure. These buttresses formed a conspicuous feature when viewed from the rear, but do not show in the photograph here presented, which gives a direct front view.

This church was the scene of the pastoral labors of the celebrated Padre Martinez for many years. He became pastor in 1826 and continued in charge until 1856. During this long period he was not only parish priest, but he conducted the most important school which then existed in New Mexico, brought a printing press to Taos, established the first newspaper in the Southwest, and published several school-books and manuals of devotion. A full generation of the youth of northern New Mexico was educated under his personal instruction, and he thus exercised a very important influence in molding the sentiment of that section for many years. When, as a result of the inevitable clash between the old Mexican ecclesiastical methods and the new ones introduced by Bishop Lamy and the French priests, he was superseded as pastor of Taos by Rev. Damaso Taladrid, he continued to hold regular services in a chapel erected for that purpose, and fully half of the people of Taos refused to be separated from their old pastor until his death. This chapel is still standing, but has been used for other purposes since the death of Padre Martinez. It is forty-eight feet long by twenty-five feet in width and was entered by a large square door five and a half feet wide.

Some years ago a movement was started for the improvement of the old parish church and the introduction of some modern features; and this finally resulted in an effort to erect an entirely new edifice. The latter project was warmly supported by the "Revista de Taos," and a number of public spirited citizens, and at length was crowned with success. The new structure, which was dedicated in 1914, is a very creditable building, thoroughly abreast of the times as to modern conveniences and ornamentation; but it is a subject of regret that it could not have been built on some other piece of ground, so that the venerable building which was associated with the lives of the people throughout such a long period could have been preserved as an enduring monument to the Christian zeal and devotion of the generations that are passed.

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© Karen Mitchell