The Ghost Town of …. Las Vegas New Mexico


Situated on the highlands of eastern New Mexico Las Vegas is a nice little city and one would not even consider it as being a ghost town.  Yet for a short time in the late 1700’s it was vacated and left to the winds of time. 

Settlers from Spain were traveling to the New World to settle and get away from the persecution in Europe.  Santa Fe was a northern capitol of New Spain and was a jumping off place for new arrivals to the America’s. 

I have misplaced my notes, so the dates will only be an approximation.  The mid 1700’s a group arrived in Santa Fe from Spain to settle in the New World.  The families and stores were left in town and some men went into northern New Spain to scout a place to begin a new life. 

When the traveled over the mountains east of Santa Fe they come on the Highlands.  Her was everything they wanted.  Water, good soil for their crops and grass for the livestock.  Measurements were taken and the men returned to Santa Fe. 

Here in the Capitol city they filed their claim for a land grant from Spain.  They were granted their land and eastward the people began their trek. 

Arriving in the area of present day Las Vegas, the settlers began to establish their village.  Homes were built, crops were planted and pens for livestock were built.  Life was looking good for the settlers.

The local people did not like the invaders in their land.  The Indians began mounting attacks on the little settlement.  The newcomers were able to ward off the attacks with little loss but the Indians did not stop.  Over the years the attacks continued.  Some crops were burned, some livestock was driven off and the occasional settler was killed. 

After about 10 years the people gave up the battle with Indians.  They packed up and returned to the safer area near Santa Fe.  For years the little village lay in ruins.  Europe was in turmoil and in the first decade of the 1800’s, Napoleon forced the Spanish rulers, the Borbons into exile.  Napoleon’s brother became the ruler of Spain and a puppet was sent to rule New Spain in Mexico City. 

Shortly after this, the Mexican revolution began.  Eventually the French were pushed out and New Spain became Mexico. 

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During this time more people were fleeing the turmoil in Europe.  Another party had arrived in Santa Fe to look for a place to settle.  They traveled east over the mountains from Santa Fe and found the New Mexico Highlands to their liking. 

Returning to Santa Fe the filed for a land grant.  This time the grant was processed through the government of Mexico and the Mexican government issued them a grant.  There was no cross reference with Spanish land grants. 

The people loaded up and went east to settle their new land grant.  This group was large enough that the Indian attacks were minor and they were able to easily fend off the Indians.  The little village of Las Vegas began to grow and prosper. 

There was more turmoil on the horizon.  The westward expansion of the United States soon had them at war with Mexico.  The Mexican/ American War ended in 1848 with the signing of a treaty.  Now the New Mexico portion of New Spain was a part of the United States. 

With the signing of the treaty, the United States agreed to honor all land claims.  People were pouring into Santa Fe with their land claims to file them with the new government.  The people that had the Spanish land grant came forth claiming their grant at Las Vegas.  There were people living there and they had a grant from the Mexican government.  The United States could not chase the later settlers out of Las Vegas.  So the holders of the Spanish land grant were offered other parcels of land in exchange for their Spanish grant. 

These 100,00 acre parcels given to the Baca’s in exchange of their Spanish land grant. These parcels stretched into northern New Mexico and southern Colorado.  One of the 100,00 acre parcels became a part of the Bell ranch in eastern New Mexico.  For the Baca;s immediately sold their parcels off. 

Someplace in the present day city of Las Vegas is a portion of the first little village settled there then abandoned. 



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