After a leisurely morning we hopped in the car and drove into the lovely little town of Trinidad. Our plan was to check out its museum. Once inside the town, we travelled over its red brick roads. Trinidad is famous for its clay and has a long history of making red bricks. Each brick is stamped with the word “Trinidad” in the middle, so you’ll never doubt where is was made!
Trinidad Red Brick Road
The Trinidad History Museum consists of an entire block on Main Street which is part of the original famous Santa Fe Trail. The block is composed of three 1800’s original homes and a garden. These include the original Baca family house built in 1867 when Trinidad was just a struggling settlement isolated in the middle of Indian territory, the adobe structure behind the Baca house which was the servant quarters and now houses the Santa Fe Trail Museum, the Bloom House which is a beautiful Second Empire house and the Bloom House gardens is the third home on the block.
We first entered the Santa Fe Trail Museum and were greeted by the young docent. She informed us that the museum was free and that there would be a tour of the two houses in 45 minutes which cost five dollars. We spent that time totally mesmerized by the various displays in the museum. For such a small town (it only has a population of about 9000) it was a remarkable museum.
Here Are A few Of The Wonderful Displays That We Saw
We learned that the site of present-day Trinidad provided a good spot for traders and wagon trains using the Santa Fe Trail to set up camp next to the Purgatoire River. Around 1860 Hispano settlement began to push north from New Mexico to this area east of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Looking to expand their sheep business, the Gutiérrez family built the first permanent cabins at the site of Trinidad in 1859. Several more families, including that of Felipe Baca, followed in 1860–61; the town may have been named after one of Baca’s daughters. The new settlement developed around the intersection of two different segments of the Santa Fe Trail, which became the town’s two major streets, Main and Commercial. By 1861 the settlers had built irrigation ditches and were starting to raise wheat, corn, and sheep for sale in Pueblo to the north. The town quickly became the main population center in the Purgatoire Valley and served as a vital connection to northern New Mexico and Santa Fe.
Numerous wild west famous or infamous characters traveled to or through Trinidad. The town back in the mid to late 1800s was a proto-typical wild west town with more than its fair share of saloons, prostitutes, gunslingers, hangings and shootouts. Such characters included Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and Jessie James.
Through this period, five of the town’s law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty. Trinidad had one deputy sheriff who ended up being the role model for a number of latter day western movies. George Titworth, whose career spanned over 30 years of being a law enforcement officer. His nickname was Alkali Bill due to his relentless tracking prowess. Some of the infamous outlaws he tracked down included Kid Curry of Wild Bunch fame, Black Jack Ketchum with his Ketchum Gang (who were notorious for bank robbing) and the Hole-In -the-Wall gang. Titworth once loaded his posse and their horses onto a train and used it to deliver themselves from Trinidad to Cimarron. There, he rediscovered the Ketchum Gang trail, cornered them in the Cimarron Canyon where a shootout entailed that resulted in the killing of some of the gang members and capture of the rest. No doubt about it, Trinidad is rich with wild west lore!
Black Jack Ketchum Getting A Shave
All too soon it was time for the tour. Joined by just two other ladies, we had what was essentially a private tour. We learned that in 1873, Felipe and Dolores Baca traded 22,000 pounds of wool for an unusual adobe house built for John Hough, a Trail entrepreneur. The Baca House boasts two stories, a widow’s walk, and Greek architectural details. Colorful Rio Grande textiles, Victorian furniture, and other period furnishings evoke the lifestyle of this prominent family.
Baca House Photos
Cattle baron and banker Frank Bloom and his wife Sarah, pioneers from Pennsylvania, had their hillside home moved into their new home in 1882. It was a bit ironic to us that they sited their house right next to the Baca House. The Baca’s were sheep barons and now the region’s cattle barons would be living side by side. The history between sheep and cattle ranching during the late 1800’s is pretty ugly. Generally, the cattlemen saw the sheepherders as invaders, who destroyed the public grazing lands, which they had to share on a first-come, first-served basis.
Between 1870 and 1920, approximately 120 engagements occurred in eight different states or territories. At least 54 men were killed and some 50,000 to over 100,000 sheep were slaughtered. And yet, here in Trinidad, with its long history of bad guys, gunfights, lynchings and all the rest, had the two factions living within 50 feet of each other. Go figure!
With its tower and iron cresting, the Bloom Mansion is an excellent example of Second Empire architecture.
Bloom Mansion Photos
We returned to our campsite where Mary Margaret made a delicious Hungarian dinner of lecho and then we retired to the campfire and finished this fun day enjoying a mesmerizing campfire.