Thursday, August 19, 2010

Letters To Myscie: A Western Love Story By Suzanne E. Smith

Part 3 of a Series

Letters to Myscie, A Western Love Story is taken from original letters written nearly 130 years ago. While the script of the letters is quite handsome, it is not easily read, and so the letters are rewritten. In some cases, where the passion became too private, I have edited out, but I have not changed his tale.
Suzanne E. Smith

Socorro is located near the center of the New Mexico territory with Santa Fe one hundred fifty miles north. Socorro County being one of the original counties created by the act of the Territorial legislature of 1852, spanned some one hundred seventy miles to the Arizona border, and was nearly as wide. It’s vastness, and diverse country held a treasure in resources, and was home to some of New Mexico’s most colorful characters, most wanted outlaws, and vicious renegades.
The Rio Grande flowed gently through New Mexico most of the time, bringing floods in early spring and late summer, and dust much of the rest of the time. The acequias, or “ancient ditches”, which were dug by communities in order to bring water from the river to the valley lands had been in place for over 200 years. Catholic Churches were the hub of every little community, with extensive vineyards and farms providing subsistence for the people. Land not used for crops was pasture for cattle and sheep.
“Gringos” or Anglo Americans were resented to some extent by the natives whose primary language was Spanish. By the time J.E. Smith arrived in New Mexico, it had only been 35 years since the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which gave the United States ownership of the conquered Mexican lands, and there was strong resistance to the American ways and customs. Political leaders in Socorro, were predominately Spanish, and Mexican (now naturalized Americans). Their resentment was so strong that they often banded together to exclude any more “American” businessmen from their community. Subtle threats, and crimes often discouraged the weak hearted and it was mostly the rich and powerful, who could buy into the protection which came with being a part of the community. It took nearly 100 years to ameliorate this gap in culture that persists even today in some areas of New Mexico.
Along with Americans, Europeans were also infiltrating the area with money for building railroads, mines and industries. Most of the railroad companies campaigned to get immigrants to come to this great land of opportunity by advertising in European languages,
The Santa Fe Railroad, fully completed in 1885, owned track from Chicago to Los Angeles. During the early 1880’s, the railroad came through New Mexico. Historians report the event by citing articles in the Socorro Sun: “A strange sound was heard in this valley a few days ago. It was not the roar of a huge monster; it was not the roar of some dashing torrent cateract [sic], cyclone or hurricane. It was a noise such as had never before been heard at this place. The mountains, hills, valleys and llanos, had slept through silent ages and had never heard such a sound before, Men, women and children climbed upon the housetops to see whence proceeded the strange sound. Cattle, horses, sheep, goats and even the birds of the air all seemed alike alarmed, confused and terrified.
The black, fiery-looking smoke snorting demon-like monster came dashing down the valley of the Rio Grande. It was the first arrival of the railroad in Socorro, yesterday, August 12th, [1880], the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railway reached the old town of Socorro.”
The railroad brought in thousands of people from every walk of life with a wide variety of trades and skills. Miners, investors, entrepreneurs and capital equipment began to pour in, and native resistance could not deter economic development.The mines in the Socorro area were booming, and new homes and businesses filled the main street. J.E. Smith came to town with no plans beyond working with his childhood friend, Edwin Bass, the photographer. He reeked of Yankee blood, and English ways. He did not know what adventures lay ahead, nor did he realize that his naiveté made him an easy target for sharpers.
It is most likely that the wedding mentioned was at the San Miguel Church. There are a number of photos in the collection, with the one shown here appearing to be the oldest. What a time those boys had the night they arrived in Socorro, New Mexico. I wish I could have been there.

Socorro, N.M. March 5th 1883
Monday night 1:30 o'ck

My Dear, dear Myscie
I must tell you before I go to my room to retire what I have seen and where I have been this evening; although as you see by the heading, it is very late and time I was in my bed long hours ago. Wonders upon wonders. First = early this morning, before breakfast, Jim and I attended a Mexican wedding = it lasted about one hour and a half and such famis[sic] and queer ceremony as was passed through was to a stranger in a strange land- a peculiar and strange sight to witness = but this is not all = I will not stop now to describe = but will at some future time = for now, I want to write you about the best thing of the day or night as it were. They (the bride and bridegroom) have been having their good times at their residence all the day and to-night[sic] to wind up the ceremony with, they give a grand dance (Mexican Dance). About 9 o'ck Mr. Bass took us over to the hall = and such a sight = such a time I never have had before = how many times I wished you were there to enjoy the fun with us. It was laugherble = very = and yet at the same time one hardly dared laugh for every one dancing was so sober = they would go through a dance with out speaking a word to one another or even cracking a smile = but between the dances it was all "hurly burly" and confusion. But I have not told you the best of all yet = I danced too. "Ed", Mr. Bass told me to go on if I wanted to and it would be all right. I could not resist the temptation, so after a little I sparked up courage ("cheek")= (as Jim calls it) and went and offered my arm to = as Jim thought "the prettiest one in the place" (but my preferance was to the bride=) she was very very pretty though-jet black hair= pretty face= and sparkling eyes= about Annie Dobson's frame though a little taller. But such a picnic Myscie= it was a walse that I was dancing= their other dances I could not dance they were so peculiar. Wouldn't you have laughed though if you could have looked in upon me= just imagine me there dancing there with all those mexicans with a partner who could not speak a word of English, and I= not a word of Spanish conversing entirely by signs, how comical. I laugh now as I think of it.
Then picture Jim off on one of the side seets holding my hat and cigar looking on and laughing at me= But this is not all either= I had a dance with the bride next to the last dance- wasn't I honored? and to wind up with Jim and I after it was all over (for we bound to see the thing through if it lasted all night) went up and shook hands with the bride & bridegroom and offered our congratulations. Oh! my! such experiences = such sight seeing. I wish I had hours which it surely would take to tell you all about these things. Oh Myscie I shall have so much to tell you about when I come home= it will take weeks for me to tell you all, and go into the details= we will have such grand good times talking it all over. Jim says he is repaid allready. Every thing is so peculiar= so strange, so different from our American ways. But= I forgot to tell you= during the last part of the dance we came near having a grand row at least so threatening were the look of things that about 2/3 of the ladies left the hall and went home= but it all settled down after a while and the dance went on smoothly for the rest of the evening or night. Oh my I could sit here and write all night to you Myscie= but I must stop and go to bed, it is two o'ck but I don't feel sleepy a bit, I am too full of excitement= But in it all Myscie I don't forget you a minute= when I'm seeing those things that are the most wonderfull to me and wrap me all up= the first thought Oh I wish Myscie was here= But you shall see it all sometime Myscie.
I must stop its no use= so good-night my dear girl= how I wish it was only good night and I was to see you to-morrow morning. Oh Myscie if you only knew how I feel as I am trying to close this letter- it does seem as if I could not let go of the pen and stop= There is such a lump in my throat.
Goodnight my dear dear Myscie.
Yours with all my love,

Letters to Myscie, a Western Love Story written by Suzanne E. Smith, All rights reserved.

Photographs © J.E. Smith Collection

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