Pioneer Story of Jose Apodaca

During the Great Depression from 1936 to 1940 a WPA Writers' Project paid local authors to interview older local citizens and write reports (or "manuscripts") of each interview. The goal was to preserve memories of pioneers and collect oral histories.

Edith L. Crawford of Carrizozo worked for this Project, and on April 18, 1939 she interviewed Jose Apodaca. The manuscript she wrote after her interview is now archived at the Library of Congress. Here is her report of what Mr. Apodaca told her.

My father was Severanio Apodaca and my mother was Juanita Sanchez, both were born in Old Mexico and were married there. They came to the United States soon after they were married. I do not know when they were born or when they married or the year they came to the United States. They came to Lincoln County about 1871 and lived at Picacho for a while and moved from there to Agua Azul (now called Blue Water). Agua Azul in located on the south side of the Capitan Mountains.

Father moved there about the year 1872, and took up a piece of land and built a two-roomed hut on the place.

He had a few head of horses and cattle and farmed the place. There was lots of wild game in the Capitan Mountains in those days and they always had all the fresh meat they wanted.

About the first of January, 1873, while my parents were living at this place, a friend of theirs by the name of Marcial Rodriguez came to go on a hunting trip with my father. They got up at day-break one morning and went out to look for their horses. The men had to cross a flat which was between the mountain and a big arroyo. The juniper trees which covered this place had limbs that grew very close to the ground. While my father and Marcial were crossing this flat a band of Indians were hidden in the juniper trees, and as the men came out in the open the Indians began shooting at them.

They hit Marcial in the back and my father in the leg. The two men fought with the Indians all day and as it began to get dark Marcial told Father to make a run for the arroyo and try to get away and save himself, as Marcial felt that he was going to die and there was nothing that Father could do to help him. It was best for Father to go for help.

Father made a run for the arroyo with the Indians after him, but as it was dark he was able to get away from them. Father walked most of the night and came out at the Casey Ranch, which was about four miles north of Picacho. He told the Casey men about the Indians and that he had left Marcial Rodriguez seriously wounded on the flat at Agua Azul. Father was anxious to get back to his home and to my mother.

The Casey's formed a posse and sent word up and down the Rio Bonito for every man that could go to meet them at Agua Azul to fight the Indians.

The posse left the Casey Ranch just at day-break and went as fast as possible to Father's house to see about my mother, who was expecting a baby.

When they got there they found that the Indians had been there and taken my mother away with them. The posse, headed by my father, took up the trail of the Indians. When they got to the flat at Agua Azul they found the body of Marcial Rodriguez. The Indians had scalped him and cut off his right arm. The posse dug a grave and buried him where he lay. By this time several others had joined them and they started out after the Indians again.

They overtook them at the west end of the Capitan Mountains and the Indians and posse had a fight. Several of the Indians were killed but some of them got away. Some one in the posse noticed two squaws on the side of the mountain and started after them. The two squaws had my mother and when they saw the white men coming and knew that they could not get away with my mother, they split her head open with an axe and the squaws made their get away. When the men got to my mother she was dead and they found that

she had given birth to her baby, which was alive and a boy. The posse dug a grave and buried my mother right there on the mountain side.

My father took the baby to Lincoln and gave it to a woman named Tulia Gurule Stanley to care for. She raised this baby and called him "Jose Apodaca".

The Indians that killed my mother were the Mescalero Apaches. My father was killed by the Harrell Brothers, on the Ruidoso River, about where the town of San Patricio now is. My father was on his way to the Dowlin Mill, which was on the upper Ruidoso. He was taking a wagon load of grain to the mill to be ground. This was about a year after my mother was killed. The Harrell Brothers were from Texas and had settled on the Ruidoso River.

They had trouble with the Mexican people over water rights, which terminated into what is known as the Harrell War.

I grew up in Lincoln and was married there to Evangelesta Gamboa in 1900. There were no children born to us and my wife died in Lincoln in 1916 and was buried at Raventon. I have lived all my life in Lincoln County. I am now living at Carrizozo.

 

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