Fort Union National Monument 1851-1891

Fort Union National Monument Historical Marker, NM

Fort Union was the largest military fort in the 19th century in the American Southwest. It was established in 1851 to protect the Santa Fe Trail and lasted for 40 years. The fort was actually three different forts with the third and last fort being the largest of the three.

Fort Union acted as a military supply depot, military garrison and territorial arsenal for the entire region.

Besides the remains of the fort, visitors can also see Santa Fe Trail ruts.

Historical Marker Inscription

Once the largest post in the Southwest, Fort Union was established to control the Jicarilla Apaches and Utes, to protect the Santa Fe Trail, and to serve as a supply depot for other New Mexico forts. The arrival of the railroad and the pacification of the region led to its abandonment in 1891.


35° 44′ N, 105° 2.717′ W.

Traveling North on Interstate 25, Mile Marker 360, near Las Vegas, New Mexico

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

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.

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