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Jemez History

Historical Downtown Jemez SpringsHumans have probably inhabited the Jemez Valley since 2500 B.C. The name "Jemez" is from the Native American Tanoan dialect in which it has the form hay mish, or "people."

Recorded history of the area begins when the Spaniards arrived in the area in 1540. In 1583, the Spanish explorer Espejo visited Jemez.

When Coronado made his headquarters near present day Bernalillo, he sent exploring parties in a number of directions. Captain Francisco de Barrionuevo reported visiting seven Jemez towns and said that there were more further north. Some historians believe that there may have been as many as 20 Jemez pueblos in the Jemez Valley at one time.

One of the most important of the mission churches built by the Franciscan fathers was San Jose de Guisewa, just north of Jemez Springs. Made with Native American labor, Guisewa was one of the largest of the Jemez pueblos in the area. Guisewa means "place of boiling water." San Jose was built between 1620 and 1621. It was abandoned in 1630 and the mission church was destroyed in the Pueblo Rebellion of 1680 which sought to expel the Spaniards from New Mexico. In 1692, the New Mexico was re-conquered for the Spanish crown, but the Jemez did not surrender until 1694. Gradually, the Jemez moved to what is today the Pueblo of Jemez, called Walatowa in the Towa language of the Jemez.

During the 1800s, the area was largely occupied by farmers, sheep herders and ranchers. In 1849, Richard Kern, who accompanied Colonel John Washington on a mapping and scientific expedition of the Southwest, painted the Pueblo of Jemez and some of its dignitaries. He also journeyed north to today's Jemez Springs to sketch the hot spring, called Ojo Caliente, that probably is the one feeding the current Jemez Springs Bath House. He also sketched the ruins of the ruined San Jose mission.

On his second trip to the Jemez in 1891, Adolph Bandelier explored the ruins of Guisewa de San Jose. These ruins are now the Jemez State Monument (photo left). The first post office, named Archuleta, was opened in 1888. In 1894, Postmaster Francisco Perea requested the Postal Service to change the name to Perea. By the late 1800s, Jemez Springs was becoming a thriving community. Jemez Springs first appeared on the official US Postal Service postmark in 1907.

Photos of downtown Jemez Springs prior to 1910 picture the Presbyterian Church, what is today the Jemez Canyon Inn, the Jemez Springs Bath House and a mercantile store that is today's Laughing Lizard Inn & Cafe. In 1912, Moses Abousleman, a Lebanese immigrant who operated two stores in the Pueblo of Jemez, moved his family into the big white house which stands next to the Jemez Stage Stop (formerly Deb's Deli & Mercantile). Moses built the general store that would become the Los Ojos Restaurant and Salon, and operated a bath house on his property that survived as a business until the flood of 1941. The springs that fed the bath house are now on the grounds of the Giggling Springs.

Stories from early days abound. The fiesta days on August 15 saw tables piled high with food for visiting priests and friends, men and boys running a bull through the street with impromptu capes flying, horse races to Soda Dam and back, the church lit by the glow of many farolitos, dancing in the streets until dawn. Health-seekers poured in to immerse themselves in the mineral-heavy waters.

Slowly, however, modern times came to the Jemez Valley.

The Servants of the Paraclete was founded in 1947 and set up a complex of retreat houses just north of Jemez Springs. The Handmaids of the Precious Blood was also established in 1947. In 1948, The Jemez Mountain Electric Cooperative was established. State Highway 4 was first paved through the village in 1949.

Looking Southeast © Greg Shores 2010Jemez Springs was incorporated as a village in 1955. Telephone service reached Jemez Springs in 1964. During the 1970s, the valley acquired a medical clinic, library building, and emergency services. Since then Jemez Springs has continued to grow at a slow but steady pace. Currently there are some 380 full-time residents and another 120 or so part-time residents. Today it is a thriving small mountain community. An estimated 1 million visitors a year visit the area via State Highway 4.

 

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