History Timeline 1600s

Picture above: Pocahontas, Source: World Noted Women, D. Appleton and Company, 1883, Wikipedia Commons. Right: Pocahontas Saving the Life of Captain John Smith, New England Chromo. Lithograph Company, 1870. Courtesy Library of Congress.


Pre-Revolution Timeline - The 1600s


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  • Timeline

  • 1608 Detail

    Spring 1608 - Juan Martinez de Montoya founds the settlement of Santa Fe, the second oldest Spanish city of New Spain in North America.

    Santa Fe Trading Post

    The Spanish had been lapping the other colonial powers in the first century of exploration and settlement in the New World since the first landing of Christopher Columbus in 1492. They had founded Caparra in Puerto Rico in 1508, although it would not last. They had founded St. Augustine in 1565, and it was, and still, does. But they were far from the sole settlements spread about New Spain, although, like Caparra, most would not last. The New Spain military commander, Juan de Oñate, had founded Santa Fe de Nuevo México, a province of New Spain, in 1598, and had begun to establish pueblos and missions. His headquarters, i.e. capitol, was in the pueblo of San Gabriel, near San Juan de los Caballeros, both north of the Santa Fe area. The region was not unknown to settlement when the Spanish arrived, with the native Tewa and their town of Ogha Po'oge along the Santa Fe River near the eventual downtown plaza circa the year 900.

    The founding of the town of Santa Fe, however, has been the subject of unclear details for centuries. There area those who assumed that Coronado had established the town during his excursions of 1540-2. He had not. It was later thought that Antonio de Espejo, a Spanish explorer, who visited the area in 1583, had then established the town. He had not either. These were stories concocted by a late 19th century tourism scheme, but hard to refute as most of the papers of the 17th century had been eradicated during the Pueblo revolt of 1680.

    The debates continued for decades. A trading post was established in 1603, still standing, but did that indicate founding of the town. Historians began to use the date of 1605, unknown reason, then jumped to 1610, as that was the date Oñate's successor, Don Pedro de Peralta, moved the capital there. But in between those two dates and acts, the story of Oñate and Montoya took shape.

    Since the founding of the province in 1598, Oñate was continuously in trouble for his administration, was going broke (he had not found the lost city of gold, Gran Quivera), and treating the indigenous people poorly. When he received military reinforcements, Juan Martinez de Montoya arrived, and became his secretary of war and government. Montoya did not agree with Oñate about the treatment of the natives, his penchant for spending time and money on his fools errand of gold, and lack of interest in the faction of settlers who wanted to farm and the Franciscans who wanted to convert. Montoya began to lobby for his removal.

    Oñate resigned in August 1607, hearing of the pending removal, with Montoya scheduled to replace him, per the viceroy, but deemed unacceptable by the council of the colony. However, sometime during this debate, with Oñate's son Christobal put in place temporarily, and before the second governor of the colony could be appointed and arrive, Don Pedro de Peralta, Juan Martinez de Montoya established a military camp and started the settlement of Santa Fe in the plaza during the first months of the next year, 1608.

    How Santa Fe Grew?

    During the fractious year of 1608, with Oñate removed, his son in charge, and Montoya disillusioned, the remaining members of the settler faction asked the viceroy for a new capital, away from the Oñate's and San Gabriel. When Pedro de Peralta arrived, he had been given orders from King Philip III on March 30, 1609. He was to establish a royal colony and build on Montoya's plaza, the village at Santa Fe, turning it into a town. That town would become the provincial capital in 1610.

    The plan for Santa Fe (technically known as the Villa Real de Santa Fe de san Francisco de Asis) called for a church, San Miguel Chapel, still there, on the east side of the plaza and the governor's palace on the north side (still there as well). The plaza would be designed to hold one thousand people, five thousand head of sheep, and more. It would serve as the capital until the Pueblo Revolt.

    But what about that original trading post? The foundation of the trading post and a water well from 1603 still survives. Today you can visit the location and shop its wares of Native American jewelry.

    The history of Santa Fe would survive the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, its reestablishment of Spanish, then American settlement, and the years of the Santa Fe trail, which began in 1821 when William Becknell, a Missouri trader, created the first legal international trade. That act would lead to nearly sixty years of profitable trade and history.

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    Image above: Trading Post established at Santa Fe in 1603, 2012, Elisa Rolle. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Below: Photo of San Miguel Church, the oldest church in America, circa 1829-1865, Riddle. Courtesy Library of Congress. Info source: "An Uncertain Founding: Santa Fe," 2003, James Ivey, Commonplace, the Journal of American Life; The Threads of Memory, Spain and the United States, New Mexico History Museum; cybergata.com/roots/santafe.htm; santafe.org; Wikipedia.

    Sante Fe Church

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