THE LEADING FACTS OF NEW MEXICAN HISTORY, VOL I
Facsimile of Original 1911 Edition
FOREWORD TO THIS EDITION
Richard Melzer, Ph.D.
Historians have long admired Ralph Emerson Twitchell’s The Leading Facts of New Mexican History, considered the first major history of the state. Put succinctly by former State Historian Robert J. Tórrez, Twitchell’s five-volume work (of which this is one of the first two volumes Sunstone Press is reprinting in its Southwest Heritage Series) has “become the standard by which all subsequent books on New Mexico history are measured.”1
As Twitchell wrote in the preface of his first volume, his goal in writing The Leading Facts was to respond to the “pressing need” for a history of New Mexico with a commitment to “accuracy of statement, simplicity of style, and impartiality of treatment.” Twitchell added that he sought to make his work “available to the person of moderate means,” a truly ironic goal as copies of the first edition of The Leading Facts sell for well over $500 on the current rare book market, if one can find them.2
Ralph Emerson Twitchell was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on November 29, 1859. According to a fifty-seven page genealogy he prepared and published privately, the Twitchells (or Twichels or Twichells) date back to the time of William the Conqueror in English history. The earliest Twitchell to emigrate to the American colonies arrived in Massachusetts in 1630, “imbued with the spirit of the Puritans,” in Twitchell’s words. Twitchell’s great grandfather fought on the rebel side in the American Revolutionary battles of Lexington and Bunker Hill.3
Twitchell earned his LL.B. degree from the University of Michigan in 1882. By December of that year the twenty-three year old had arrived in Santa Fe to serve as a law clerk to Henry L. Waldo, solicitor of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad in New Mexico.4 Upon his arrival, the Santa Fe New Mexican described Twitchell as “a pleasant young gentleman of excellent social qualities and fine legal attainments.”5 Twitchell worked for the Santa Fe in increasingly important roles for the balance of his legal career.
Twitchell was involved in political and civic activities from his earliest days in New Mexico. In 1885 he helped organize a new territorial militia in Santa Fe and saw active duty in western New Mexico. Later appointed judge advocate of the Territorial Militia, he attained the rank of colonel, a title he was proud to use for the rest of his life. By 1893 he was elected the mayor of Santa Fe and, thereafter, district attorney of Santa Fe County. He was, in fact, one of the capital city’s greatest boosters, supporting the use of traditional Southwest architecture, serving as the president of the local chamber of commerce, and acting as director of the Santa Fe Fiesta when it was rejuvenated shortly after World War I.
Twitchell probably promoted New Mexico as much as any single New Mexican of his generation. An avid supporter of New Mexico statehood, he argued the territory’s case for elevated political status, celebrated its final victory in 1912, and even designed New Mexico’s first state flag in 1915. He served on the management team of New Mexico’s prize-winning state exhibit at the Panama-California Exposition in San Diego and was responsible for suggesting the exhibit’s unique design, a replica of a Spanish colonial mission church, which later became the design of Santa Fe’s new Museum of Fine Arts. Twitchell served on the board of regents at the Museum of New Mexico and, briefly, on the board of regents at New Mexico A&M (now New Mexico State University).
Active in seemingly countless organizations, from New Mexico’s Good Roads Club to the National Irrigation Congress, Twitchell consistently rose to leadership roles in each group he joined. In the Republican Party, he chaired the party’s central committee in New Mexico from 1902 to 1903. A life member of the Historical Society of New Mexico, he served as the society’s vice president from 1910 to 1924 and its president in 1924.6 Twitchell was even credited with rescuing the Spanish and Mexican archives when the territorial capitol burned in May 1892. Many of his contemporaries must have reiterated the question that former governor L. Bradford Prince posed in a personal letter to Twitchell in 1919: “How [do you] do it?”7
No person could have served so long and have done so much without controversy; Twitchell was no exception. As early as the 1890s he had joined other Republican leaders in the Knights of Liberty, a secret society often identified with the Santa Fe Ring.8 Twitchell split with several key leaders of his own party, including Max Frost, the editor of the Santa Fe New Mexican, whom Twitchell described as “a lying scoundrel,”9 and Thomas Catron, the most powerful Republican in the territory in the late nineteenth century. In 1892 Catron went so far as to accuse Twitchell of being “under the influence of whiskey and frequenting a very low dive,” among other things, at the territorial fair in Albuquerque.10 Such behavior would have been unusual for Twitchell, if it happened at all, but Catron’s charges illustrate the degree of animosity that had developed between the two men within a decade of Twitchell’s arrival on the scene.
Twitchell could more accurately be accused of being overly zealous and, as a result, sometimes offensive. In 1901, for example, he wrote to the editor of the Albuquerque Evening Citizen with the assertion that any businessman who did not publicly support New Mexico statehood should be “smoke[d] out,” implying that those who opposed statehood should no longer be welcomed in the territory.11 As a result of such statements and poor relations with top Republican leaders like Catron, Twitchell was not included as a delegate to the state constitutional convention of 1910, an affront that undoubtedly bruised his considerable ego.
Twitchell was also involved in two serious controversies regarding Native American rights. In the first of these confrontations, Twitchell had overseen the filming of the sacred Corn Dance, banned to the general public at Taos Pueblo. Without obtaining permission, Twitchell included images of the dance in a movie shown to thousands of visitors to the New Mexico exhibit at the Panama-California Exposition. Convinced that these public showings had caused illness among Indians employed at the exposition, someone broke into the New Mexico building and confiscated the ill-gotten film. Despite an investigation by Pinkerton detectives, the thief was never found. Far worse, Twitchell showed no remorse for betraying the Indians’ trust. In fact, he wired Santa Fe for another copy of the film (stored at the Museum of New Mexico), showed the second copy, and blatantly exploited the incident to promote New Mexico and its exhibit at the exposition.12
Twitchell became embroiled in a far wider Indian controversy when he served as one of the principal authors of the infamous Bursum Bill in the early 1920s. Introduced by New Mexico’s Senator H.O. Bursum, the bill gravely threatened pueblo water rights and considerable portions of Indian lands. Although Twitchell was appointed special assistant to the U.S. Attorney General and traveled to Washington, D.C., to testify before House and Senate committees, the legislation was defeated by the combined effort of pueblo leaders, organized as the All-Pueblo Council, and agitated artists and authors of the Taos and Santa Fe art colonies.13
Fortunately for Twitchell, he is less remembered for his involvement in such controversies than for his magnum opus, The Leading Facts of New Mexican History. Relying on his own extensive library, the libraries of many colleagues, and every document that might “throw light upon the occurrences of the past,” Twitchell created a work in which he “tried to be accurate and fair.”14
While many contemporaries praised Twitchell’s accuracy and fairness, others wondered how fair he could be if one of his major goals, as stated on the first page of his first volume, was to “impress upon the reader’s mind the fortitude, the courage, the suffering, and the martyrdom of those who first brought to New Mexico the banner of Christianity and civilization.”15
Native Americans might well take exception to the idea that only those representing the Catholic faith and Spanish culture displayed fortitude, courage, suffering, and martyrdom in the Spanish colonial period. Spanish newspaper editors also took exception to Twitchell’s devotion to English as the preferred language in schools and businesses, at the risk of losing “el idioma de Cervantes” and, hence, a major part of their Hispanic culture.16 Others, like the Hispanic historian Benjamin M. Read, questioned how well Anglo authors like Twitchell could translate Spanish documents and how much accurate historical information was literally lost in their ethnocentric translations.17 Finally, some questioned Twitchell’s objectivity when it was rumored that “the amount of space allocated to contemporaries [in The Leading Facts] was weighed by the amount of their subscriptions to help pay for [publication costs]” of at least volumes three, four, and five.18
There is no indication that Twitchell heeded this criticism, especially given the near universal acclaim his books received among Anglo peers in New Mexico and across the country.19 Inspired by this success and truly devoted to the study of history, Twitchell became the most prolific historian of his era, writing several additional histories of the Southwest, making frequent historical addresses, and founding, financing, and editing an ambitious, but short-lived, periodical called, Old Santa Fe: A Magazine of History, Archaeology, Genealogy, and Biography.20
But The Leading Facts remained Twitchell’s major contribution to New Mexico history. Limited to fifteen hundred copies in its first edition, The Leading Facts had become a rare book by the 1960s when its first two volumes were reissued by Horn and Wallace in 1963. A rare book again by the late twentieth century, a new, affordable edition is long overdue and quite timely. Just as Twitchell’s first edition in 1911 helped celebrate New Mexico’s entry into statehood in 1912, the newest edition serves as a tribute to the state’s centennial celebration of 2012.
Colonel Twitchell would have wanted it that way; boosting New Mexico, its resources and citizens was, after all, the central purpose of Twitchell’s long life and productive career. In the apt words of an editorial in the Santa Fe New Mexican at the time of Twitchell’s death in 1925: “As press agent for the best things of New Mexico, her traditions, history, beauty, glamour, scenery, archaeology, and material resources, he was indefatigable and efficient.”21
1 Robert J. Tórrez, UFOs Over Galisteo and Other Stories of New Mexico’s History (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2004): 131. Also see Howard Robert Lamar, The Far Southwest (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2000): 457.
2 Ralph Emerson Twitchell, The Leading Facts of New Mexican History (Cedar Rapids, Iowa: The Torch Press, 1911): I:ix.
3 Ralph Emerson Twitchell, Genealogy of the Twitchell Family (n.c.: privately printed, 1929). A rare copy of Twitchell’s genealogy can be found in the Ralph Emerson Twitchell Papers, Box 1, Folder 4, Fray Angélico Chávez Library, Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe, New Mexico; hereafter sited as the Twitchell Papers. General biographical works on Twitchell include Myra Ellen Jenkins, “Ralph Emerson Twitchell,” Arizona and the West, vol. 8 (Summer 1966): 102-06; J. Michael Pattison, “Four ‘Gentlemen’ Historians of New Mexico” (Unpublished M.A. thesis, New Mexico Highlands University, 1992): 43-9.
4 Twitchell so admired Waldo that he named his first and only son after his supervisor. The boy’s mother, Twitchell’s first wife Margaret, died on January 29, 1900. Twitchell dedicated The Leading Facts in Margaret’s memory. He married his second wife, Estelle Bennett (1872-1952), in 1916. Twitchell, Genealogy, 446.
5 Quoted in the Santa Fe New Mexican, August 15, 1999.
6 Appropriately, the Historical Society of New Mexico’s annual Ralph Emerson Twitchell Award is given “for significant contributions to the field of history by individuals, organizations, or institutions.”
7 L. Bradford Prince to Ralph Emerson Twitchell, Flushing, New York, September 10, 1919, Ralph Emerson Twitchell Collection, New Mexico State Records Center and Archives, Santa Fe, New Mexico; hereafter cited as the NMSRCA.
8 Victor Westphall, Thomas Benton Catron and His Era (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1973): 208-09.
9 Quoted in ibid, 390n.
10 Quoted in ibid., 261. Twitchell and Catron also argued about a loan Catron had made to Twitchell near the turn of the century. Ibid., 390.
11 Albuquerque Evening Citizen, April 25, 1901, quoted in Robert W. Larson, New Mexico’s Quest for Statehood, 1846-1912 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1968): 200.
12 Matthew F. Bokovoy, The San Diego World Fairs and Southwestern Memory, 1880-1940 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2005): 132-34.
13 The best description of Twitchell’s role in drafting and defending the Bursum Bill is found in Lawrence C. Kelly, The Assault on Assimilation: John Collier and the Origins of Indian Policy Reform (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1983): 203-54. According to Kelly, Twitchell’s defense of the bill “crumbled and his composure wilted” under close examination before a Senate committee. “By the time [Twitchell] completed his presentation, there was little doubt that the original Bursum Bill was indeed a dead letter.” Ibid., 239. On the Santa Fe New Mexican’s coverage of the bill and its fate, see Oliver LaFarge, Santa Fe (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1959): 274-81.
14 Twitchell, The Leading Facts, I:viii.
16 Doris Meyer, Speaking for Themselves: Neomexicano Cultural Identity and the Spanish Language Press, 1880-1920 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1996): 119-20.
17 Ibid., 200-01. For Twitchell’s strong feelings regarding the teaching of English, see The Leading Facts, II:508-09, and his address, “The Public School,” delivered at high school commencement in Raton, New Mexico, on May 24, 1899. Ralph Emerson Twitchell, Vertical File, Fray Angélico Chávez Library, Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
18 Beatrice Chauvent, Hewett and Friends: A Biography of Santa Fe’s Vibrant Era (Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press, 1983): 104. For a sample prepublication subscription card for volumes one and two of The Leading Facts, see the Twitchell Papers, Box 2, Folder 7, Twitchell Papers.
19 For a sample of this praise for The Leading Facts, see a promotional brochure produced by its publisher, the Torch Press, found in the L. Bradford Prince Collection, NMSRCA.
20 Twitchell’s other histories include Spanish Archives of New Mexico, 2 vols. (Cedar Rapids, Iowa: The Torch Press, 1914) and Old Santa Fe: The Story of New Mexico’s Ancient Capital (Santa Fe: Santa Fe New Mexican, 1925). The periodical, Old Santa Fe, served as the Historical Society of New Mexico’s official bulletin from its inception in 1913 till its demise three years later.
21 Editorial, Santa Fe New Mexican, August 26, 1925. Twitchell died at the Clara Barton Hospital in Los Angeles, California, of a paralytic stroke and heart failure on August 26, 1925. He was sixty-five. His last wish, to be buried below the Cross of the Martyrs in Santa Fe, was unanimously approved by the Santa Fe city council, but he was temporarily buried at Fairview Cemetery until a site below the cross could be identified. His funeral was one of the largest in Santa Fe history, with leading members of both major political parties present and a line of cars stretching half a mile. His temporary burial site at Fairview has become permanent and his last wish was never fulfilled. Santa Fe New Mexican, August 26-29 and 31, 1925; Paul A.F. Walter, “Obituary: Ralph Emerson Twitchell,” New Mexico Historical Review, Vol. 1 (January 1926): 78-85; Richard Melzer, Buried Treasures: Famous and Unusual Gravesites in New Mexico History (Santa Fe: Sunstone Press).