This Day In History: New Mexico Admitted To The Union (1912)


On this day in 1912, New Mexico is admitted to the United States as the 47th state. New Mexico was first visited by Spanish explorers in the early 1500s. They discovered evidence of an earlier civilization, this was the ‘Pueblo’ civilization that flourished in the 12 and 13th centuries in the area. The Spanish explorers had come to the area because of stories of cities filled with gold and precious jewels.  The Spanish explorer Coronado explored the area in the 1540s in order to discover rich cities. But he only met with tribes who were possibly the predecessors of the Apaches. The Spanish established ranches and missions in the territory. The missions had little success in converting the local tribes who often attacked the early Spanish settlements. In the 1590s the Spanish in order to secure the area for the Spanish Crown appointed a governor to the territory. Juan de Oñate with some 400  settlers and soldiers and large herds of cattle and horses found the first permanent Spanish settlement in New Mexico. He later found the capital of Santa Fe, which flourished for several decades. However, the Apaches had become the predominant tribe in the territory and they launched many fierce attacks on the Spanish settlers. The Spanish were accompanied by Franciscan Friars who established missions that sought t control the Indians and force them to adopt Christianity. The Franciscan Friars eventually became all-powerful but they alienated the local Indians and this led to the Pubelo Revolt.  The Indians in 1680 succeeded in pushing the Spanish out of New Mexico but they returned in the early 1700s and managed to regain control of the area.

New Mexico remained sparsely populated and Spanish control of the area was tenuous. In 1821 Mexico became independent and New Mexico became part of the new state. The Mexicans were eager to develop the area and encouraged American settlers to come to the area. In 1846 the Mexican-American war broke out and the US army later captured Santa Fe and occupied New Mexico with little opposition. The Americans defeated the Mexican army and forced the government to cede to the US, large tracts of land north of the Rio Grande. In 1853 the territory was expanded  through the Gadsden Purchase. The territory had not really been pacified by the Spanish and the Mexicans and the Apache and other tribes regularly attacked settlements and the area. The US army and the Indian tribes battled each other for three decades. The Apaches were later led by the great war-chief Geronimo and he resisted the Americans for many years. He was finally forced to surrender in 1886. After peace was brought to New Mexico many settlers came and the population exploded. The Santa Fe railroad led to a cattle boom and soon the territory was dotted with large ranches.  The territory was finally admitted to the Union in 1912.

Geronimo (on the right) with warriors in 1886