- Tour of San Elizario
- Casa Ronquillo
- Casa Ronquillo originally consisted of 12 rooms built around a courtyard, the house is the object of many legends, tales and ghost stories. According to legend a Spanish viceroy
named Don Juan de Casteneda buried his gold in the house. The floors have been
destroyed by those digging for the treasure. In 1835, while San Elizario was a Mexican
municipality a man named Don Jose Ygnacio Ronquillo was the "Alcalde" and is
believed to have lived in this house. In 1870's, now a part of Texas, Charles Ellis, a
prominent businessman and his wife Teodora Alarcon lived there. She decorated it with
expensive furniture and landscaped it with fig trees and grapevines. During the Salt Wars
of 1877 her husband was dragged to his death through the streets and was buried in the
courtyard. The house was vandalized. Years later the fine old building was a Motor Inn
housing weary travelers. Now vacant, only five rooms remain.
- El Molino
- The building knows as “El Molino” by local residents has served the community since the 1870’s. Company N of the Texas Frontier Forces used it as headquarters when the San Elizario group of Texas Rangers was formed. Captain Gregorio Garcia, Telesforo Montes, Maximo Aranda, C B Miller, Charles Kerver and J M Lujan were some of the local members of the Rangers.
- This building has served also a residence, an office, and a warehouse for the Grist
Mill. It has been a post office, a grocery store, a service station and a gift shop. Now it
houses a Christian Pentecostal Church, Llamamiento Final.
- Los Portales
- The most historically significant building in this area is “Los Portales.” Built in the early 1850’s, it is just one of the many buildings of similar architecture that extended out to form the town of Old San Elizario such as it was in the 1800’s. it is constructed of adobe with thick walls and has a flat roof supported by cottonwood rafters(vigas), saplings, and thatch. Built in the territorial style, it features milled wood detailing. Because of its distinctive inset gallery (Portal), it became known as Los Portales. The roof is covered with soil and about six inches of adobe clay to keep out the rain.
- Local farmer, rancher and landowner, Gregorio Nacenseno Garcia constructed
Los Portales as his residence in about 1855. He was justice of the peace in the 1880’s,
and occupied some space within Los Portales as his judicial office. In 1877 Gregorio
Garcia was elected County Judge and Los Portales experienced a lot of political activity
including the hostilities of the Salt War.
- By the late 1870’s and early 1880’s, the building was being used as a school. The first teacher was Octavio Larrazola, who later became governor of New Mexico and as U.S. Senator. Los Portales also has served as residential apartments.
- San Elizario Presidio Church
- With the establishment of the two communities in Socorro, the final group of Otermin’s caravan had moved on to the last settlement. The governor called it San Lorenzo to commemorate the fatal attack made on Santa Fe on the day ( August 10 ) his feast is celebrated. The party reached a site about five miles southeast of Socorro, it was later (before 1744) to be known as Hacienda de los Tiburcios (Tiburcios’ Estate) This was approximately the site now occupied by San Elizario. Otermin made San Lorenzo his military headquarters for the next three years. He had a military chapel erected which became the deposit for an extraordinary religious art collection, brought in the caravan
that fled from Santa Fe. The Conquistadora Statue, now high above the main altar in the
Santa Fe Cathedral, once stood in the San Lorenzo Chapel for more than three years until
moved in 1684 to the new presidio nearer the present day Juarez. The presidio chapel was
the meeting place not only for the soldiers and officers of the garrison but also of a
religious association (called Confraternidad de Nuestra Senora La Conquistadora): Our
Lady of the Conquest made up of the families in and about San Lorenzo.
- Even after the Hacienda de los Tiburcios was established some time before 1744,
no mission church was erected in the area until the presidio at San Elizario was founded
in February of 1780, a hundred years after the Ysleta and Socorro missions. This first
center of worship erected in San Elizario was either swept away in the 1829 flood or
abandoned at that time as unsafe. Some or all of the soldiers were withdrawn from San
Elizario in 1814 to participate in Mexico’s War of Independence ( 1810-1821). A new
and larger chapel was built about 1840. There was no resident pastor, the priest who said
Mass there had to come from Socorro, Ysleta or even El Paso del Norte.
- The present beautiful mission is relatively modern, although some of the materials
and objects in it are from earlier structures. The church begun in 1877 was completed ten
years later. Its interior was severely damaged by the 1935 fire.
- While the present mission was being built, the valleys first large school – not just
a small group of a few pupils in a private home – was opened in San Elizario by the
Loretto Sisters. For thirteen years from (1879-1892) the school drew students from more
than a hundred miles away in 1892 the school was transferred to the Sacred Heart Parish
in El Paso, Texas.
- San Elizario Jail
- On January 3, 1850 El Paso County was created from Bexar County. San Elizario, one of the largest and most thriving towns in the area, became the first county seat. With
responsibility of county business being conducted in San Elizario there came the need for
a jail to incarcerate short-term prisoners. A flat roof adobe building that may have been a
residence during the Mexican period from 1821 – 1848, became the county’s first
“Jurado”. Commissioners Court approved the purchase of a pre-fabricated iron cell with
two compartments able to hold six prisoners. It was manufactured in Chicago and the cell
designed in the penitentiary style, was into the room adjacent to the Court House
- The San Elizario jail is best known as the jail that Billy the Kid broke into. W. H.
Timmons, a professor emeritus of history at UTEP states that “according to a manuscript
written in 1880 by Charles Frederick Rudolph, a member of Pat Garrett’s Posse that
captured Billy the Kid in December, 1880. “ Billy the Kid in Las Cruces learned that his
friend Melquiades Segura had been arrested in San Elizario. He then set out on horseback
and arrived in San Elizario about three o’ clock in the morning. He knocked on the door
of the jail, waking up one of the Mexican guards, who asked, “Who is it?” “Texas
Rangers,” Billy answered in Spanish, “We have two American prisoners.” The guard
opened the door, peered out, and found himself face to face with Billy’s .44 revolvers. He
then relieved the other guard of his gun, found the key to the cell, released Segura, locked
the two jailers in the cell and threw away the keys. They then crossed the river into
- In 1877 there broke out the bloodiest civil disorder in the county’s history. The
Salt War, featuring mob violence, rape, looting, and murder, most of which took place in
and around San Elizario. No doubt the old jail got plenty of use during that bloody and
violent period until peace, law and order was finally restored. It continued in use as a
facility to confine thieves and drunks until the 1940’s. Now it serves as an unofficial
museum and tourist attraction.
- The canal behind the old jail is the San Elizario lateral. It has served the San
Elizario community for more than 100 years.
- The Old Cementary
- The old San Elizario Cemetery served the community over one hundred years.
Many people who struggled to build the San Elizario community found their final resting
place in this “Holy Ground.”
- In 1871 District Judge Simon Newcomb, for sanitary reasons, ordered it closed.
Sheriff Charles Ellis served papers on Padre Antonio Borrajo forbidding the burial of any
more people in this cemetery as the new “Campo Santo” had already been established a
few miles out of town. The first to defy the order was Padre Borrajo himself. According
to C. L. Sonnichsen in his book Pass of the North, the very next day Padre Borrajo led a
funeral procession to the old cemetery and buried a child there. Following his example
some of the families of San Elizario insisted in burying their relatives in the old cemetery
in defiance of the ban.
- Honoring those who have been buried here,
The marker states:
San Elizario Catholic Church during early times served as
The Mother Church for this and surrounding communities.
This land served as a cemetery from the early 1770’s to
1896. Early settlers, Indians, U.S military personnel, clergy
And members of religious orders were buried here.
The last known person buried here was Juanita Escajeda
Carreon in 1896.
- The youth of San Elizario dedicate this land as a Memorial to those people buried in these grounds.
- The Old Roller Mill
- On Main Street behind El Molino the remnant of an old roller mill is a long
standing monument to the people of San Elizario. The Grist and Roller Mill had been in
operation in San Elizario for many generations. Farmers would load their wagons with
wheat and corn bringing them here to be ground and sacked. Charles Ellis of the Salt War
fame used to own and operate “El Molino”. He produced several brands of flour, but the
most popular seller was the Eagle Brand.
- The completion of Elephant Butte Dam in 1916 ushered in the invasion of cotton
to the Lower Valley. The fields of corn and wheat gave way to a new era in agriculture
and the “El Molino” rollers became idle. Now all you can see of “El Molino” is this old
relic of a time gone by.