Mesilla New Mexico or Old Mesilla
Mesilla is the best known and most visited historic community in southern New Mexico. Before it was bypassed by the railroad in 1881, it was the largest town between San Antonio and San Diego
in the United States and a regional center for commerce and transportation. The traditional adobe buildings remain as a tangible reminder of its long and significant past. After 1800, the
vicinity of Mesilla was a camping and foraging spot for both the Spaniard and Mexicans. It wasn't until after the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 that the first permanent settlers came to
Mesilla to make it their home. By 1850, Mesilla was a firmly established colony. The constant threat of attack by the Apache put these early settlers on constant alert. Apaches
periodically swept through the Mesilla area, stealing livestock and foodstuffs, murdering colonists and seizing captives. Just as frequently the villages swiftly retaliated by sending out the
Mesilla Guard, a militia comprised of a man from each household. Time after time the militia wrought revenge on any Apache in the area. In 1851, Apache depredations in the Valley caused the
United States government to establish fort Fillmore to protect the newly conquered territory and its people. As a result of the Mexican War and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Mesilla was within
the strip of land claimed by both the United States and Mexico, a "no mans land". In 1854, the village, being closer to the fort than either Las Cruces or Dona Ana, became the supply
center for the garrisoned troops, providing entertainment, food, hay and building materials. The Mexican inhabitants of Mesilla also provided the knowledge needed to build a fort of adobe. The
colony of Mesilla flourished. It was a major stop on the crossroads of the Chihuahua trail, and now the fort demanded items Easterners were accustomed to having. Business prospered and Anglo
merchants such as Reynolds, Griggs and Bean, many of whom had come with the first armies were among those who reaped the profits of commerce. In 1854, The Gadsden Purchase determined Mesilla as
officially part of the United States. As Mesilla was the most important community in this parcel, the treaty was consummated by the raising of the American flag on the town plaza with much ceremony
on November 16, 1854.
The United States government now had a reliable route to the west coast and encouraged stage and freight services connecting California and the eastern states. The San Antonio-San Diego Mail began
offering mail and passenger services 1857. The Butterfield Overland Mail and stage Line, established in 1858, set up its regional headquarters in Mesilla where El Patio restaurant is
today. some of the finest hotels and restaurants in the region such as El Meson and the Texas-Pacific Hotel did booming business during this period. Within ten years of settlement , Mesilla had
gone from a tiny colony struggling for survival to the largest and most important town in the area. The Civil War temporarily interrupted this bustle of activity. On July 25, 1861, Confederate
Colonel John R. Baylor and 220 Texas Mounted Troops entered Mesilla. Following a skirmish on the outskirts of Mesilla, the five hundred or so Union troops garrisoned at Fort Fillmore surrendered to
Baylor a few days later near San Augustine Springs in the Organ Mountains. The Confederates set up their regional headquarters on the site of the present Fountain Theatre and proclaimed Mesilla the
territorial capital of Arizona, which then encompassed what is now southern Arizona and southern New Mexico. Thus, an uneasy quiet prevailed over the town for the year the Confederates were in control.
Texans who had repeatedly attempted to take over the territory continued as the traditional enemies of New Mexico.
To be continued...