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Episode 17 - From Miners to Millionaires
Michael Swickard here. Welcome to Enchanting Stories of New Mexico sponsored by the Fresh Chile Company in Las Cruces, N M. Our award-winning Hatch Green and Red Chile is brought to you from locally owned farms in Hatch, NM, The Chile Capital of the World.
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A little history of New Mexico: The U.S. territorial New Mexico census of 1850 found 61,547 people living in all the territory of New Mexico. Now you and I think of New Mexico as being beside Texas, Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Utah and and and, Arizona. That is now, back then New Mexico bordered Mexico, Texas, Colorado Utah and California. Yep, I skipped Arizona because all the land in today’s New Mexico and Arizona was only New Mexico back then. When the Territory of New Mexico was created as a U. S. Territory in 1850 the entire area was New Mexico administered from Santa Fe. Then with the start of the Civil War the confederates divided New Mexico into half and on the western half called it the Territory of Arizona. The Civil War battle fought the farthest westward was the 1862 Battle of Picacho Pass or Picacho Peak. Nope, not the Las Cruces New Mexico Picacho Peak. This peak was about fifty miles northwest of Tucson. Small engagement with three union soldiers killed and less than a couple dozen on either side participating.
A large group of Union sympathizers about 1500 in number from California, The California Column led by General James Henry Carleton ran the confederate out of Arizona and New Mexico in 1862. Many of the members of the California Column have descendants living in the Mesilla Valley. I will speak to these group in another podcast.
In February of 1863 President Lincoln signed a bill establishing the Territory of Arizona out of the western half of New Mexico. So the Census of 1850 and 1860 was for both states as just New Mexico. Now gold and silver was found in both Arizona and New Mexico in the 1860 which sparked a flood of get-rich miners to both areas. Arizona’s first official territorial capital was Prescott in 1864. Prescott was first known as Fort Whiffle. There was an intense gold rush to the central part of Arizona. Later it moved to Tucson and finally to Phoenix.
Let me tell you some good culinary news: the 2023 Hatch Chile Pepper growing season is in harvest. Therefore, the Chile Roasting Drums are fired up with that wonderful sound and smell of roasting Hatch Green Chile. Fire-roasting gives the Chile a wonderful smokey flavor.
Michael Swickard here with Enchanting Stories of New Mexico sponsored by the Fresh Chile Company in Las Cruces, N M. Hit subscribe to automatically get these podcasts. And be a Fresh Chile Company Podcast Podner by hitting share and letting your friends and family hear these stories also. Thank you so very much.
Fishing is good in New Mexico – Some lakes and streams are “Special Trout Water,” which are called “Quality Waters.” For most, only artificial flies and lures with single barbless hooks can be used. All have bag and possession restrictions. Out-of-state anglers must purchase an annual fishing license, a one-day license or a five-day license. The fishing license year is April 1- March 31. A fishing license is not required for 11-year-olds and younger. You can get a license online at the New Mexico Game and Fish website. 70 years of age or older your fishing license is free. If have a fish for dinner and use the Fresh Chile Company products to enhance it, take a picture and post it and recipe on the Fresh Chile Company Facebook page.
More history. General Lew Wallace was appointed at this time in 1880 to be the Territorial Governor of New Mexico. A job he found difficult at best. History remembers him as not doing well in the Civil War battle of Shiloh. But in 1880, besides becoming the Territorial Governor of New Mexico, a state in crisis because of the lawlessness of the Lincoln County War, he was to be a best-selling author with his book, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. Fast forward seventy-eight years and it was made into an Oscar winning movie. Trivia: The opening scene with the Chariots racing required 15,000 extras on a set outside Rome which was 18 acres. That riveting scene took five weeks to film.
But there is a more important Lew Wallace point. He wrote the best description of New Mexico according to many people when he wrote: All calculations based on our experiences elsewhere fail in New Mexico. Lew Wallace spent two and a half years being frustrated at how things worked or more precisely how things didn’t work in New Mexico.
Fast forward to World War Two and New Mexico. Several units of the New Mexico national guard were in the Philippines when war broke out and were prisoners of war for the duration including the Bataan Death March. For its population the state of New Mexico lost more servicemen than any other state. New Mexico, because of its wide open spaces and mild climate was a place where bomber pilots and bombardiers were trained with the Carlsbad area having some and the Alamogordo area having B-24 training. North Africa, the first place these bombers were stationed for many. It was very much like New Mexico in climate.
Originally, the Tularosa Basin ranchers were to be displaced for maybe a couple years but there was an unforeseen complication. All over what is now federal restricted White Sands Missile Range is unexploded ordnance from many sources. There have been attempts to return some of the land to private use but the danger of the unexploded shells has canceled that idea. And, there have been quite a few soldiers and technicians on the White Sands range who have been killed or injured with that mysterious danger of unexploded ordnance. Working on the range, those people have been schooled on being careful. My uncle, Eugene McKim was a radar expert for Civil Service and worked on the Range for 42 years. He mentioned the danger several times but was never injured himself.
More history: did you know that in 1898, Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb and much more came to New Mexico to do something that most said was impossible. He was intending to invent something for the Galisteo Company, a mining company in Northern New Mexico. What they wanted to do was to mine certain minerals without using precious water. Edison designed a mill for this purpose and personally came out to guide the construction and then the use of the mill process. The net proceeds of the mill were supposed to be one third to Thomas Edison and two thirds to the Galisteo Company. Unfortunately, the theoretical process that Thomas Edison had designed did not work. He said shuckins and left without making any money. He has several quotes on the process: I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work. Thomas A. Edison
Speaking of New Mexico counties tied to history, There are some of the 33 counties tied to national politics such as Lincoln County – President Abraham Lincoln; Roosevelt County, President Teddy Roosevelt; Harding County, President Warren G. Harding; McKinley County, William McKinley and last but not least, Grant County, President Ulysses S. Grant. Now Grant county has a connection to Colfax county. Do you see the connection between Grant and Colfax? Schuyler Colfax did not invent the FAX machine, he was President Grant’s Vice President. Colfax county has Raton at the border with Colorado as its county seat. Kind of a small county in that in the recent Census there were 12,387 residents. Grant County on the lower western edge of New Mexico has Silver City as the county seat and 28, 185 residents as of this last Census. Partly personal, I was a U. S. Census Bureau supervisor this last Census and spent time in the Silver City area, actually way out in the hinterlands working with some of the ranches north and west of Silver City. I really enjoyed that job. Continuing with Counties with presidential names, Harding County in the Northeast part of New Mexico is the least populated with 667 residents. Roosevelt County, the county seat of Portales, has 19,191 residents. Lincoln County has 20,269… I worked all over Lincoln County too for this last Census. McKinley County, with the county seat of Gallup about 120 miles west of Albuquerque, has 72,902 people making it the most populated of Presidential named counties.
One thing is for sure: all Chile Peppers are not the same. Some have more or less taste heat than others, some taste a bit more sweet. Well now, the same is true with onions. And New Mexico State University is one of two universities that really researches the different varieties of onions. They do so for taste, ability to resist onion diseases and stuff tied to growing and harvesting the onions. So, there is a term that is used, Sweet Onions. Those are onions that are not as strong, not as pungent as other onions. Here in our area and for sale at the Fresh Chile Company are Sweet Onions that are also used in the development of Chile and Onion sauces. Have I tried this combination? Oh yes, and it is ever so great when I put it on Mashed Potatoes and also on steaks that I am grilling. Other uses of Sweet Onions I haven’t gotten to yet, but I will. About ten percent of the onions grown in our area are Sweet in nature meaning they are not as strong which is what some people like. Some people like me, that is.
Nu-Mex Sweet is a holding name for several that have high productivity, low pungency and are disease tolerant as compared to other onions. New Mexico State University researchers have been working on onions clear back to the days of Fabian Garcia in the 1920s who started many of the programs for Chile Peppers, Pecans and Onions. There are many competitors, and the onions are constantly being evaluated and adjustments made to make them the best for consumers and for use in commercial operations. Again, The Fresh Chile Company have the fresh Nu-Mex Sweet for sale and also, we are using these onions in other products such as a great onion dressing which will be released shortly. Enjoy.
Michael Swickard here with Enchanting Stories of New Mexico. What is coming with this 2023 Hatch Chile Harvest is that the Fresh Chile Company is offering a special reserve release of the Hatch Green Chile varietal Big Jim in a 16-ounce jar. Varietal means that this product will only be made with Big Jim Chile, which is sweet and has a medium heat level.
Big Jim is very popular in New Mexico restaurants & homes. In 1975, Big Jim was listed in The Guinness Book of World Records as having the largest Chile Pods, perfect for Chile Rellenos. It was developed by Chile Researcher Dr. Roy Nakayama at New Mexico State University. It is a hybrid of New Mexico Chile Peppers and a Peruvian pepper Nakayama and fellow researcher Jim Lytle combined. Big Jim is named for Jim Lytle who died unexpectedly at that time. I talked about Dr. Roy Nakayama on last Wednesday’s podcast.
One thing that happens when people live in Las Cruces or happen to be in our little slice of paradise. They can come by the Fresh Chile Company Gift Shop at 1160 El Paseo Rd, Suite D7A in Las Cruces, NM. It is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Now I need to tell you about some new products at the Fresh Chile Company that I find wonderful. There is a Local Honey with Hatch Red Chile that is great on biscuits. French fries are so much more with the Fresh Chile Company’s Hatchup which is ketchup and Hatch Red Chile. Come browse and there are many more surprises and also, there are some frozen surprises that I assure you are wonderful. Again from Monday to Saturday, the Fresh Chile Company Gift Shop at 1160 El Paseo Rd, Suite D7A in Las Cruces, NM. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
This is Michael Swickard with Enchanting Stories of New Mexico brought to you by The Fresh Chile Company. Thank you for your time today. We will have lots of News and stories about New Mexico for you on these Podcasts, If you have something or someone you want me to talk about, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a great rest of your day. Oh yes and eat plenty of that good Hatch Valley Chile. Like I always say, “Some Chile is good, more is better.” Bye for now.