Surveying Pueblos 1859

Zuni Pueblo 1879 by John K. Hillers

J.L. Collins, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for New Mexico Territory, wrote to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in 1859:

          “I advised you some time ago that the surveyor general had commenced the survey of the Pueblo land grants…I was advised yesterday by the surveyor general that the survey of the Pueblos…had been suspended on account of some disagreement about the lines, which will make it necessary for him and myself to visit the Pueblos to settle and arrange the matter in dispute.
          “The Indians of several of the Pueblos have met with heavy losses by the Navajos, of whom they very justly complain. In other respects they are quiet and contented. The internal government of these Pueblos is left entirely to themselves.
          “The officers are elected annually, by a vote of the people. In these elections, party divisions not unfrequently (sic) create much excitement among the Indians, and questions arise that have to be referred to this office for settlement. They are always submissive, and acquiesce without further trouble.”
          Collins proposed establishing schools for the Pueblos. “A moderate education would make the Indians of these Pueblos useful and obedient citizens. They are very good farmers, posses excellent land for cultivation, and now raise a surplus which could be greatly increased under proper instruction.”

Photo courtesy National Archives and Records Administration

Text from Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs 1859

Published in: on September 26, 2011 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Surveying Public Land 1859

Survey crew at work near Arbourville, Chaffee County, Colorado - photo by William Henry Jackson about 1879

After the Revolutionary War, the United States government wanted to reward soldiers for their service by giving them land in the areas west of the thirteen colonies. First, the government had to identify the specific piece of land each soldier would receive. 
          The General Land Office sent teams of surveyors out to map available land. The Public Land Survey System, proposed by Thomas Jefferson and defined by law in 1785, was used.
          In addition to offering land for war service, the government was eager to sell land. Between July 1, 1859 and June 30, 1860, land sales in 14 states and 5 territories generated $1,776,493 for the United States Treasury (Source:
          The surveys sometimes generated complaints, particularly in Indian country. In an 1859 letter to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, J.L. Collins, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for New Mexico Territory, expressed concerns about government land surveys being conducted in Indian territory:

          “I mentioned, in a letter to you…my doubt about the propriety of pushing the surveys of the public lands so far into the Indian country. I am now still more strongly convinced of its impropriety. These surveys have been extended very nearly to the Texas line, on our eastern limits, and lands have been surveyed in that section that will not sell in the next half century; and, among them, were those that were being surveyed by Colonel Clements at the time he was driven in by the Indians. If it is, indeed, proper that the fund of the government shall be thus used, let it be done where there is less exposure. The country may not be so beautiful and open in other places for ‘running lines’ [surveyor’s measurements], but localities can certainly be found that will be much more likely to sell, and where there will be no risk of bringing on a collision with the Indians.”

Photo Courtesy Denver Public Libary, Western History Collection

Quoted text from Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs 1859

Protecting Citizens in Indian Country 1859

J. L. Collins, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for New Mexico Territory, believed in punishing Indians for crimes against settlers. He also thought settlers needed to protect themselves.
          “It is not practicable,” he wrote to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in 1859, “to have [military] troops in every neighborhood, and it seldom occurs, when a depredation [crime by an Indian] is committed, that a notice can reach the troops in time to enable them to effect anything.”  
          “How were the frontiers of Kentucky and Tennessee defended in the first settlement of those States? …[hearing] an alarm of Indians aroused every [male] citizen; they shouldered their rifles, and rallied to the rescue, leaving their noble wives and daughters to defend their homes and firesides, while [the men] followed the enemy…”
          Collins had little patience with people who complained that the military did not do enough to protect settlers in the vast New Mexico Territory. “…Now, we expect the government to do everything. In place of fighting to defend our own interest, we spend our time writing letters and newspaper editorials, condemning a policy that has been approved by the wisdom of each successive administration for the last thirty years.”

Map by M.A. Leonard

Text from the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs 1859

Dangerous Roads West 1859

In his 1859 report to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Superintendent J.L. Collins of New Mexico Territory defended the Indians against public outcries over Indian raids on the Santa Fe Trail. 

          “How often has the mail stage been stopped on the route from Independence to Santa Fe? During a term of nearly two years, there was hardly a stage passed that was not stopped by the Indians. It became so common an occurrence, that the conductors, every trip, carried an extra amount of provisions to meet the demand. This, I admit, should not be allowed; but would hungry Americans do less?”
          “What has been the conduct of our own citizens on the route from Pike’s Peak to Kansas City the past summer? Trains were robbed by them [citizens], homes broken into and robbed, and in some instances, the jewels were torn from the persons of respectable ladies: such, at any rate, was the newspaper account given at the time.”
          “If our own citizens, men who receive a Christian education, do those things, what ought we to expect from savages?”

Published in: on March 21, 2011 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Safety in Indian Country 1859

Colonel Philip St. George Cooke

The Department of Indian Affairs, New Mexico Superintendency, covered a huge territory and diverse Indian nations in 1859. Superintendent J.L. Collins reported, “Our Indian population numbers nearly four hundred thousand souls. They occupy the country extending from Texas to Washington Territory.”
          Collins noted improvements in the past ten years. “For thirty years before the country [bordering the Gila River] became part of the United States, nearly all communications through it had ceased on account of the Indians. Mining interests were broken up and abandoned, stock farms destroyed, trapping parties…were defeated…
          “When Colonel Cook[e] passed through the country with his command, in 1846, he was in many places unable to follow the roads; they had been so long abandoned and out of use.”
          “What is the condition of the country now? We have a weekly line of stages running through it, with mail stations occupied by two or three men, which remain unmolested. The roads are constantly travelled by men unarmed, in parties of two or three, and often by single individuals.”

From the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for the year 1859, New Mexico Superintendency, pages 334-362

Published in: on March 14, 2011 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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