Pecos National Historic Park

Written by on September 18, 2015 in NM History & Heritage - Comments Off on Pecos National Historic Park

Pecos National Historic Park encompasses 12,000 years of history, from the ancient pueblo of Pecos, to Colonial Missions, Civil War Battles, the Santa Fe Trail sites, and the ranching history of Forked Lightning Ranch.

Pecos National Historic Park was a home and place of trade for the Native American people, where the Pueblo people of the Southwest U.S. met with the Plains Indians to exchange goods. From skins to turquoise, corn to pottery, this was a great center of activity. The earliest residents dug pit homes in about 800 A.D. Three hundred years later, the ancestral Peubloans moved into the area and small pueblo villages. Those villages eventually grew into a sprawling 600-room dwellings with more than 2,000 residents — known today as Pecos Pueblo. Overlooking a ridge guarding one of the passes through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Pecos Pueblo, with its enclosing rock wall must have been an imposing fortress. With more than 20 kivas (places of worship) this must also have been the center of religious life for the region.

It was such a good location, that when the Spanish entered New Mexico, they also stopped in Pecos (what they called Cicuye) and built the first mission, also upon the same ridge. Needless to say, the Native American inhabitants were angry, and the mission church was burned during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. A second church was built on the remains of the first and relations between the Spanish and the Pueblo people remained strained. Eventually, in 1838, the last of the Native American people moved to the neighboring pueblo of Jemez.

Pecos also played a role during the American Civil War. The Confederate plan for the West was to march up the Rio Grande, turn northeast on the Santa Fe Trail after taking Santa Fe, capture the stores at Fort Union, head up to Colorado to capture the gold fields and then turn west to take California. Just outside of Glorietta Pass, a large running battle between the North and the South took place. Lack of supplies forced the Confederate troops to withdraw and By July 1862, all Confederate Troops had vacated New Mexico Territory and for the duration of the Civil War, New Mexico remained under Union control.

The newest portion of Pecos National Historic Park was donated by actress Greer Garson and her husband E.E. Fogelson in 1993, and includes the vast range of Forked Lightning Ranch. The original owner, who called himself Tex Greer, was a rodeo producer — from Madison Square Garden to London’s Wembley Stadium and everywhere in between. He eventually bought up 5,500 acres on the Pecos Pueblo Grant and called it the Forked Lightning Ranch. Tex hoped for a share of the grow­ing East Coast tourist market to New Mexico, since the ranch was less than two days by train from Chi­cago. He attracted hordes of tourists to his authentic ranch where the rich and famous stayed in style and comfort. Eventually, Tex went broke and had to sell the ranch.

W. C. Currier bought the Forked Lightning Ranch and eventually sold it to E.E. Fogelson, a Dallas oil man and ranc­her, who eventually married actress Greer Garson. After their marriage, the ranch house became a center for gracious enter­taining, even though it remained a working ranch with the famous Forked Lightning Santa Gertrudis herd.

Visitors to Pecos National Historic Park will have an opportunity to visit these locations, learn more about the history of the area and enjoy beautiful surroundings. The visitor center contains exhibits, a bookstore and a 10-minute introductory film. There is a one and a quarter mile self-guided trail through Pecos pueblo and mission ruins. Ranger guided tours are offered daily in the summer and by special arrangement the rest of the year.

There is no camping within Pecos National Historic Park, although Santa Fe National Forest offers plenty of locations. Lodging, dining and shopping are available in Pecos, Santa Fe and Las Vegas, New Mexico.

Pecos National Historic Park
P. O. Box 418
Pecos, NM 87552-0418
Phone: 505-757-7200

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