Hot Grease Saves Pioneer Women             

 

Taken from a newspaper clipping dated May 26, 1961. The name of the newspaper is unknown, I assume it was the local paper. Ed.

 

By J. S. C.

 

Maria Torres y Sandoval, member of a family of one of the first settlers of Lincoln County, who died at a ripe old age, used to relate the following Indian episode which took place in the ancient village of Manzano in the year of 1858.

Her family, which consisted of her parents, Jose and Trinidad Torres; three brothers, Juan, Jose and Doroeto; two sisters, Viviana and Isiguia, and herself, and also a widowed aunt whom they called Yilla, lived at that hamlet in a high rock dwelling with a loft and two high, small windows barred with cast iron. The one door was built of heavy timber and could be securely bolted from the inside.

Yilla’s husband had been killed in an Indian uprising and she lived with her sister and family of six, who ranged in ages from two to 12 years.

Maria was eight at the time and she remembers clearly the tribulations and they underwent by the ever-marauding Indians.

Her father, a full-blooded Indian, had been drafted in the U.S. Cavalry to pursue his brethren and also as an interpreter whenever they were victorious in skirmishes with the long-tressed redmen.

Once in a great while, when the men folks were not on the hot trails and events warranted it, they would go to their home to replenish the dwindling larder (the high loft) and also haul and cut sufficient firewood for the hearths.

Some would return only to find the ugly truth, that their families had been massacred and their homes ransacked from the bin of corn meal and dried jerky to the milk goats and cows.

The women went about their daily chores with an alert eye for impending danger, and before the sun had set in the horizon they gathered their offspring in the one-room house and bolted the heavy door for the night.

 

One afternoon, just about dusk, as related by Mrs. Sandoval to her children and grandchildren, her aunt Yilla was frying “sopasillas” in an earthenware pot on the fireplace, when she saw a fleeting shadow high on the opposite wall from one of the barred windows. She turned slowly without uttering a sound and saw the hairs of an Indian, who was peering through the opening at his intended prey. The women had forgotten to fetch in the house ladder with oaken rungs fastened with rawhide thongs, and the Indian had found it to good advantage.

Yilla, who was a hardy woman of steel nerve, picked up that pottery with boiling mutton tallow and edged to the wall beneath the window, and with a mighty heave of her arm hurled the pot with hot grease in the prowler’s face. He toppled down with the ladder and they could hear his screams of agony as he groped and stumbled away from the house.

When there was absolute silence from the outside, they huddled in a corner to eat their meal, after which they put out the fire and tucked the children to sleep.

The elders stood watch through the night, listening for more unwanted visitors and smoking punche in their corncob pipes and papers smoothed out from cornhusks. (Punche is raised to this day in Anton Chico and vicinities.)

As the sun was about to rise the next morning, there was a hard knock on the door and a gruff voice accompanied it. It was Jose Torres, the man of the house, and he had an Indian child in his arms.

 

They had routed the Indians in defeat and taken many squaws and papooses captive, all of whom had been taken to the soldier’s outfit as refugees. The mother of this child had been killed and Torres adopted him with the commandant’s consent.

The child was christened Teodosa and when he grew to manhood, he became an expert an expert hunter with bow and arrow and kept the household well supplied with venison and other wild game, including bear.

In one of those encounters with a grizzly, he was mauled and chewed beyond recognition, and threw in the sponge as a brave hunter, then he died before he could be carried to his loved ones.

 

When Trinidad told the tale to Torres of what had happened the night before, he trailed the moccasin tracks of the warrior to the rock barn where they kept their two milk goats, an old mule, one cock and a few hens. There in a heap of cornhusks lay the lifeless Indian with bulging eyes and blistered face, Torres dug a trench behind the barn and buried him with out ceremony.

No more Indians appeared, as was to be expected, so it was assumed that the lone Indian was on a scouting foray, or else had strayed from the beaten and retreating tribe.

 

When the Civil War came to an end, Torres and his family, and many of his soldier cronies, who had already been in these parts on their tour of duty, decided to come and stake their luck in the uninhabited and virgin lands east of the Rio Grande and what is now Lincoln County.

Among them were: Col. William Brady, Capt. Saturnina Baca, Corporal Jesus Sena Sandoval, Christobal Chavez, Juan Andres Silva, Aniceto Luceras, Apolina Sedillo, Dan McKinley, Jose Chavez y Baca, Pablo Pino, Joseph Swan and others whos names we do not recall.

 

Torres homesteaded below Nogal, where he Rasied his family, many head of cattle and about 500 head of burros.

Maria married Sandoval who continued with the U.S. Cavalry in Ft. Stanton as mail carrier and scout on muleback with lead pack mule, until he sold his Ojo Sandoval ranch and moved to White Oaks, where he died in 1898.

Viviana died in childhood and Isiquia married Jose Vega and immigrant from old Mexico, who became one of the respected and outstanding citizens of Lincoln County.

Doroteo married Veneranda Cordova, Juan married Rita Padilla and Jose married Tiburcia Telles.

Sandoval, we might add; was a veteran of the battles of Valverde and Glorietta Pass.

Torres died at the age of 105 and Trinidad was nearing the century mark when she passed away.

 

A musician in old Manzano composed “La Indita de Cochiti” and after he and his entire family were massacred by the Indians, another musician composed “La Indita de Jose Luis” in his memory.

Our grandmother Maria used to hum these tunes as a lullaby for her small grandchildren.

 

All those mentioned in this article have gone to the promised land, but left many sprouts of their generation scattered all over the Land of Echantment.