MORA COUNTY - New Mexico

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Mora County ... The Early Years

Before the Spanish conquest, Mora County was primarily Indian Country, Mora Valley having been used by the Utes, Navajos, and the Apaches. After Spanish conquest, it was primarily a travel way for Spanish explorers, and was not really settled until the beginning of the 19th Century.

The earliest records of Mora County come from 1817, when a group of settlers from San Juan de los Caballeros petitioned the Catholic Church. They had wanted a church to be built in Lo de Mora, the former name of Mora County. 

28 September 1835  

Albino Pérez, Governor of New Mexico Territory, gave over 800,000 acres of land to 25 families.

"Mora" today is actually three plazas and three villages; Mora, Cleveland (originally San Antonio), and Chacon. Holman (originally Agua Negra) lies between Chacon and Cleveland.

Historical and genealogical records for Mora are difficult to obtain for a number of reasons. One is that Mora was destroyed by Americans in 1848 in the course of the rebellion against the new government, and most of the archives were lost. "Not until artillery was brought up (by the United States Army) and Mora practically destroyed did the insurgents yield." A US Government Proclamation at the time (February 15, 1847) wrote that the US Army " proceeded with a body of men and one canon to Moro and razed the towns (Upper and Lower Moro) to the ground."

Revolt of 1847

The Mexican War with the United States was fought between 1846 and 1848, and, following the ratification of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, New Mexico became part of the United States. Mora was affected by the war. In 1847, Manuel Cortez and Pablo Montoya began stirring up the northern counties to revolt against the occupiers. Governor Charles Bent was assassinated in Taos on January 19, 1847. On that same day, a group of eight traders passing through Mora were murdered. On January 24, 1847, a band of American volunteers headed from Las Vagas to Mora planning to exact retribution. The band lacked sufficient ammunition and powder for facing the well-defended village. Private John Hudgins described the village:
". . . about 250 or 300 yards square, with lines of adobe houses joined together except in two places which was occupied by cedar pickets eight feet high, one two-story L adobe building at the northwest angle and a wood block (house) at the southeast angle. The two-story building was pierced with loopholes for small arms and one embrasure for cannon (but no cannon) all in the upper story."

The attack failed when Captain Israel Hendley, commander of the group, was killed, and the group left the area. This failed attack was followed on 1 February 1847 by another expedition under Captain Jesse I. Morin. Armed with cannon, this group succeeded in destroying the village and proceeded to burn ranches and grain fields. An eyewitness gave the following account from the vantage point of Morin's position:
"As they lived all scattered in their fields, they joined together as soon as they were appraised that they would be attacked by the American soldiers, and fortified themselves with whatever kind of logs they could find ready, at the foot of the mountain on the road going from Mora to Cebolla, there they were attacked by the soldiers, who killed one of their own men, Manuel Gallegos and wounded another named Juan Guillen. After this attack the soldiers turned to the houses and destroyed them by fire before leaving the Valley." (from Jose Ramon Pacheco, The Mora, New Mexico Story.)

In 1860, Mora County was established. Before this time, most of the county had been part of Taos County and San Miguel County. The new Mora County was nearly twice the size of what it is today. A process of take away was begun, and, by 1900, it had been reduced to a size only a little larger than it is now. Since then, some of the eastern county was added to Harding County.