Pueblo of San Ildefonso, Los Alamos, NM

Pueblo de San Ildefonso Church

The history of Pueblo de San Ildefonso dates back to the 1300s when the original inhabitants moved from the Bandelier area to this location after a prolonged drought.  The Pueblo is close to the Rio Grande. These Ancient Puebloans had originally come from the settlement at Mesa Verde, Colorado.

In the 1500s, the Puebloans came in contact with the Spanish. In 1591, Casper Castaño visited the Pueblo. Then, in 1595, Antonio Gutierrez de Umana, and Francisco Leyba de Bonilla headed an unauthorized expedition into New Mexico. They made San Ildefonso their main headquarters.

In 1598, Juan de Oñate came to the area and officially gave the Pueblo its name. Around this time, the village was moved to its present location. Later in 1610, Fray Andrés Bautista created the first permanent mission here.

But the Spanish brought troubles to the people. They required that the Pueblo communities pay tribute to them as well as convert to Catholicism. The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 resulted in the Spanish being expelled from the region for a while, and the San Ildefonso people were a major part of that uprising.

The people resisted the Spanish for several more years after they came back to the area. It wasn’t until 1694 that the Spanish were able to remove the Tewa and Tano people from the mesa. Then, a drought in 1695 that weakened the colonists encouraged the Pueblos to rebel again in 1696. But the mission was reestablished, and a church was built in the village in the 1700s.

In 1821, the area was ruled by Mexico. In 1848, after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, it became part of the United States. After Congress created the reservation system in 1858, a grant of over 17,000 acres of land was given to the village in 1864. It is still a federally recognized tribe.

The Pueblo is today comprised of 60,000 acres and about 750 people live there. It is made up of traditional kivas, a central plaza and a 1960s replica of a 1700s church.

Historical Marker Inscription

Pueblo de San Ildefonso Historical Marker

In the 1500s, migrants from the Pajarito Plateau joined their Tewa-speaking relatives at San Ildefonso. The pueblo is famous as the home of the late Maria Martinez and other makers of polished black pottery. The modern church, a replica of that of 1711, was finished in 1968.


Off State Road 502 along the Rio Grande Valley, East of Los Alamos

N 35.89197, W 106.11836

First Wagons Used on Santa Fe Trail

The Santa Fe Trail was a two-way commercial highway that connected Missouri to Santa Fe. Used between 1821 and 1889, it was frequented by both American and Mexican traders. It was also a path that the U.S. Army used to invade Mexico during the Mexican-American War.

Besides commerce, the Santa Fe Trail was also used during the Gold Rush by people heading to gold fields in both California and Colorado as well as by missionaries, emigrants and more.

The expansion of the railroad into Santa Fe in February 1880 brought an end to the trail.

Historical Marker Inscription

“First Wagons Used on Santa-Fe Trail Crossed Here in 1822.”

Accompanying sign:

“Stretching 900 miles from Franklin, Missouri, to Santa Fe, New Mexico, the Santa Fe Trail as one of the most important North America trade routes of the nineteenth century. Begun in 1821, it was used for 60 years until the arrival of the railroad. It was a hardy traveler who attempted the journey. Wagon trains up to 500 wagons long traversed the trail through blizzards, stampedes, dust storms, fires, disease, and Indian attacks. And often, they lacked for water.

Here, near two landmarks of the trail, Round Mound and Rabbit Ears, wagon trains camped for the night. William Becknell, the trader who inaugurated the Santa Fe Trail in 1821, came this way on his return trip east while forging the smoother Cimarron Route across the plains.

Two-way Street

Unlike the great emigrant trails to the north, the Santa Fe Trail ran both ways, with traders from Mexico, or returning U.S. traders, carrying Mexican silver, gold, mules, buffalo and beaver pelts to waiting markets in Missouri.”

Location: US-87 West, Clayton, New Mexico
Latitude: 36

Location: US-87 West, Clayton, New Mexico
Latitude: 36 degrees 33′ 59.520″ N
Longitude: 103 degrees 34′ 1.152″ W

Capulin Volcano

Driving down Highway 325 in New Mexico near Raton, you can’t miss the sign for Capulin Volcano National Monument. This national monument is an extinct cinder cone volcano that is part of the 8,000 square mile Raton-Clayton Volcanic Field. Designed to provide visitors with a look at the geology of Northwestern New Mexico, you can also view four states from the rim of the volcano.

The elevation of the volcano is 8,182 feet high and 400 feet deep, and it is approximately 60,000 years old. The name is derived from a type of choke cherry, Prunus virginiana. The area became a national monument on August 9, 1916.

Historical Marker Inscription

“An outstanding example of an extinct volcanic cinder cone, Capulin Volcano was formed as early as 10,000 years ago. In cinder cones, lava pours from cracks in the base rather than over the top. Capulin itself was the escape hatch for cases that blew lava fragments into the air where they solidified and landed red hot on the cone.”

Location: 46 Volcano, Capulin, NM 88414
36.7811 degrees North, 103.9695 degrees West

Wagon Mound, NM

For travelers along the long Santa Fe Trail, landmarks ensured that they were going in the right direction. One such landmark was the nearly 7,000-foot butte known as Wagon Mound, which was named due to its shape and the fact that it kind of looked like a covered wagon. It signaled the location of the Cimarron Cutoff, which was a settlement route that connected St. Louis, MO, and Santa Fe, NM.

Wagon Mound told travelers two things. It was the last major landmark before getting to Santa Fe and the end of their journeys. Two, it meant that there was a water source nearby in the Santa Clara Canyon. But, groups had to be careful in this area because there were hostile Native Americans in Santa Clara Canyon.

The route that took travelers near this landmark was popular from about 1822 to the 1870s.

Historical Marker Text

This last great landmark on the Santa Fe Trail was named for its resemblance to the top of a covered wagon. At Wagon Mound, travelers could cross from the Cimarron Cutoff to Fort Union, which is located on the Mountain Branch of the Trail. The two branches joined south of here at Watrous.

Location: 36° 0.697′ N, 104° 42.393′ W in Wagon Mound, NM, at the intersection of State Road 120 and I-25.

Jemez Mountains, NM

The Jemez Mountains are the remnants of a super volcano, whose last major eruption was about 1 millions years ago. Fewer, smaller eruptions have occurred since this last catastrophic one. While these mountains sit within the Rocky Mountains, they are geologically distinct from this mountain range.


Many of the area points of interest, including Bandelier National Monument, are located on top of the ash flow from this volcano. You can also see the 13-mile wide circular depression created by the volcano at Valles Caldera National Preserve.

Text From the Historical Marker


Side 1: On the skyline to the west are the Jémez Mountains where tremendous volcanic eruptions a million years ago created a huge caldera some 15 miles in
diameter that now forms beautiful Valle Grande set amid a ring of volcanic peaks. Geothermal energy has been tapped from hot rock beneath the
mountains. The Jemez Mountains are part of the Southern Rockies and form one of the western ranges of the Rockies in New Mexico. Elevations exceed 11,000

Side 2: Flow and ash-fall deposits surrounding the volcanic range form the Pajarito Plateau, site of numerous ancient cliff dwellings preserved at Bandelier National Monument and Puye Cliff Dwellings. Part of the plateau was homesteaded by Hispanic families until 1943 when the U.S. government condemned their land and the private Los Alamos Ranch School for the Manhattan Project. Los Alamos National Laboratory and the city that grew up around it are built over the homesteads and the school is a museum.

Location: Off Highway 502 in Santa Fe County between Santa Fe and Los Alamos. Latitude: 35.885887 N Longitude: 106.102225 W

New Mexico Highlands University

Located in Las Vegas, NM, New Mexico Highlands University was established by the Territorial Legislature in 1893 as the New Mexico Normal School. With the region booming due to the arrival of the Santa Fe Railroad in the 1870s, the area decided that it needed an institution of higher learning. It officially opened in 1898, and archaeologist Edgar Lee Hewett was the school’s first president.

What started as a school of 92 students and 6 faculty members quickly grew into a larger institution. Enrollment increased to over 300 in 1901. It’s name changed in 1902 to New Mexico Normal University and then again to New Mexico Highlands University in 1941.

By 1917, the school was offering four-year teacher training programs.


New Mexico Highlands University Today

Today, the school has nearly 4,000 students, mainly from New Mexico and of Latino descent. The school is known for its multi-ethnic student body and offers programs in business, education, arts and sciences, and social work.

Location: 1005 Diamond St, Las Vegas, NM 87701 35.5933° N, 105.2223° W

Site of Santa Fe’s First Chapel

Santa Fe, New Mexico Historical Marker: First Chapel

Santa Fe is a mecca of history, so there are plenty of historical markers in the area. On the southeast corner of the Place of the Governors lies the historical marker for Santa Fe’s first chapel.

According to the marker, the chapel was “Also used as two story defensive tower for Palace of the Governors during the 1600’s. Gen. Don Diego de Vargas was probably buried beneath the floor of this chapel in 1704”. The chapel was demolished in 1774.

Don Diego de Vargas

Diego de Vargas Zapata y Luján Ponce de León y Contreras, better known as Don Diego de Vargas, was a Spanish Governor of the territory of Santa Fe from most of the 1690s until 1704. He was in charge of the reconquest of the New Mexico territory after the Pueblo Revolt in 1692.

The Pueblo Revolt started in August 1680, and involved Pueblo people from different pueblos. While traditional extremely peaceful people, the Pueblo people were treated cruelly by the Spanish rulers. They overthrew Spanish rule in New Mexico and held the area for more than 12 years.

Location: N 35° 41.261 W 105° 56.266

New Mexico Historical Marker: Mother Magdalen and the Sisters of Loretto


This marker is located in the downtown area of Santa Fe at the intersection of East Alameda Street and Old Santa Fe Trail. The marker commemorates Mother Magdalen Hayden and Sisters Roberta Brown, Rosana Dant and Catherine Mahoney, who established the Our Lady of Light Academy (which became known as Loretto). This was the first school for young women in the New Mexico Territory.

The Sisters also worked with the local people to raise funds from 1863 to 1879 to build the Loretto Chapel, which is known for its “miraculous staircase”, which is a marvel of construction because it has no visible means of support.


Over the following century, hundreds of women, many who were of Hispanic decent, joined the Sisters of Loretto. The first native-born New Mexican superior of Loretto was Lucia Perea, who took over this position in 1896.

A note on the “A Catholic Mission” site provides a bit more information about Mother Magdalen:

“Joanna Hayden took on the name of Sister Magdalen Hayden when she took her vows to the Loretto Order in 1834. After spending time in Loretto, KY, Cape Girardeau and Bethlehem, MO, she entered the western missions.  In 1852, Sister Magdalen and a group of Loretto Sisters left the Kentucky Mother house for Santa Fe.  In route, the mother superior of the group died of cholera in Independence, MO.  Sister Magdalene became Mother Magdalene.  Mother Magdalene’s time in Santa Fe is well documented as the founder of several Catholic schools and the Superior of the Our Lady of Light Academy in Santa Fe, also known as the Loretto Academy.  The Loretto Academy in Santa Fe is very well known for the spiral staircase built during her time.”


Location: 35° 41.093′ N, 105° 56.279′ W