Mesilla, New Mexico
Early History
Founding of Mesilla
Gadsden Purchase
Civil War Period
Lively Social Center
The Rio Grande
The Railroad
Political History
The Plaza
Political History

history of Mesilla, New MexicoIn 1850, the Mesilla Civil Colony Land Grant was established by the Mexican government to give settlers in Mesilla land ownership. The grant was later honored by the United States Government. The Civil Colony Land Grant was established to govern the entire town and to distribute the common lands. Father Ramon Ortiz was the Commissioner of Lands in 1851 and in 1853, Guadalupe Miranda filled the office. The Civil Colony Grant Board does not exist today. The Town of Mesilla was incorporated in 1861. In 1882, the year after the railroad was constructed, Mesilla lost its position as the county seat, which it had held since 1855. The county seat was transferred to Las Cruces. In 1958, Mesilla became re-incorporated and became governed by a mayor and Board of Trustees.

Perhaps one of the more infamous political mishaps of Mesilla's storied past occurred Sunday, August 27th, 1871. On that day, organized members of the democratic and republican parties, held rallys on the plaza.  In the interest of peace, leaders of both parties agreed to meet in different areas, the democrats on the plaza and the republicans in front of the residence of their leader, John Lemon, at the Southeast corner of the plaza. At first, it appeared both meetings had taken place without incident. However, agitators from both parties were not satisfied. It seems they wanted to close their respective meetings with procession and marching around the Plaza.  The cheapest of whiskey had flowed freely among the participants. The two processions met on the west side of the Plaza, in the area in front of the present day Mesilla Book Center. Angry discussions lead to shots being fired and several fights. In the end, nine men were killed including John Lemon and between forty and fifty were wounded. Troops were summoned from Fort McRae to restore order. They remained for a few nights until calm was restored.  Fortunately, despite the number of women and children in the Plaza, none were killed or injured that day. 

With no judge in that district at the time, a judge was summoned from another district to hold an investigation into the matter. After three days, the judge determined it was too dangerous to do any investigation, became demoralized and returned home without any action.  Nobody was ever punished by law for any of the incidents that occurred that day. (For more information on this event, read History of the Old West by George Griggs.)

Mesilla, New Mexico, USA
Mesilla, New Mexico

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