Tag Archives: Montoya

Estaca – Plaza at an Ancient Crossroads

When my husand and I were deciding on where to vacation last year – New Mexico or the Ozaarks – it was an obvious choice for me!  Of course, I wanted to go to nothern New Mexico to visit the ancestral family home of my Montoya family.
After spending a few days in Santa Fe we headed north. And there we found Estaca – a small series of villages nestled between the Sangre de Cristo Mountains (the lower Rockies) and the mighty Rio Grande on the high road to Taos.  As I understand it, Estaca is comprised of several small communities (or villages) and the names are very often used interchangeably in the records:  Rancho de los Lopez; Acequia de San Rafael; Plaza de San Francisco; Rio Grande Bosque; Rio Grande; and Arroyo del Palacio.  All of these small communities lie in the Espanola Valley which is about halfway between Taos and Santa Fe.  Would it sound cheesy and predictable to say that my spirit immediately felt “at home” ?
Our fist mission was to find the San Juan de los Caballeros Church at San Juan Pueblo. Within the walls of this church are kept the records of at least three generations (and probably four) of my Montoya family recording births, christenings, marriages, deaths and burials. The pueblo was founded around 1200 by the Tewa people who moved there from the north (perhaps southern Colorado). The Spanish conquistador Don Juan de Onate took control in 1598 and renamed the pueblo San Juan de los Caballeros.  He then established the first Spanish capital of New Mexico nearby, thereby merging two great cultures.  In November of 2005 the pueblo returned to its pre-Spanish name – Ihkay Owingeh – “place of the strong people.”

San Juan Pueblo - abt 1906 - church in background

After touring the church grounds and the pueblo, the hunt was on for the ruins of the Montoya adobe. However, before we found them, there were more surprises in store for us. We headed north from the church and crossed the Ro Grande River on the San Juan bridge, from there we took a right on the first road – the Camino Real.  We drove about four miles and we were there.  We came to a small plaza of sorts and in the middle of the road stood a small chapel.

San Juan de los Caballeros Catholic Church - present day

Unbeknownst to me at the time, we had arrived at The Plaza and La Capilla (Little Chapel) de San Francisco de Asis.  Delfinia Romero lovingly speaks of the Capilla in a book written by Mary Coyne entitled, A History of Estaca, New Mexico:

The Capilla remains at the heart of this community still, and as I look at it from my window, I contemplate how through the passing years it has consistently been solid, true, constantly there. The purpose of the little brown chapel has always been the same: to give devotion to el patroncillo, the patron Saint Francis and his ideals of hard work, poverty and love of animals. The devotion renews the beliefs and values at the very core of existence for the families in Estaca.

When the story is told of the building of the chapel, we recall that the women….Elizaida, Margarita, Rosaura and Ramoncita {Ramoncita Montoya Gallegos – my great aunt} – used their bare hands to spread the mud plaster on the walls, rubbing gently to make them smooth and to forever imprint upon the capillita their souls as well as their very beings. It will be told that the grave in front of the chapel is that of Antonio Martinez, who gave the land for the capilla because the bulto (statute) of the village’s patron saint, San Francisco, didn’t have a home and was passed from house-to-house throughout the years. Antonio’s gift made it possible for the community to come together and build the little chapel.

Capilla – The satisfaction of a beautiful form
Proportion of vision, Crypts close to ancestor roots
Tribes whisper names, stories
Holy ground. Numinous space. Capilla in Estaca
Fresh glitter of the jewels
Private suffering and death
Written by:  Margaret Rose Coyne (1943-2001)

The Plaza and La Capilla (Little Chapel) de San Francisco de Asis

As a postscript:  That day, we did find what I believe are the ruins of my great grandfather Montoya’s adobe home. The ruins sat on fenced property about a mile south of the “little chapel.“ There wasn’t much left of the adobe.  I’ve posted a picture on this site when I wrote about Maximiano Montoya – you can see it there.  Behind the ruins sat a more modern home; although, it was also in disrepair. Behind that I could see what might have been the apple orchards and behind that was the Rio Grande River. I cannot say for certain that this was the right place; however, I felt peace. It was almost as if the ancestors were whispering, “Welcome home.” 

Since we were technically trespassing – we didn’t stay long! There was a car next to the home, but I didn’t feel comfortable about pounding on doors. I would have loved to have been able to visit with the locals. I would surely have found many relatives. However, this is a culture and a community that does not always accept outsiders. We received several uneasy looks from folks. We did strike up a conversation with an older man on his front porch; but, he claimed not to know about any Montoyas or any ruins in the area……..even though we found them less than a mile up the road!!

 New Mexico – I now understand why they call you the Land of Enchantment – I will be back.

Espanola Valley and Sangre de Cristo Mountains

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Posted by on March 20, 2011 in Montoya, Times and Places


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Aunt Ramona – Maria Ramoncita Montoya Gallegos

Maria Ramoncita Montoya Gallegos was my grand-aunt – she was known as Aunt Ramona to my father – and she was the dearly loved grandmother of my second cousin Carma Gallegos Owen.

Ramoncita Montoya Gallegos - Photo from the collection of Carma Gallegos Owen

Ramoncita Montoya was the first child born to Maximiano de Herrera Montoya and Maria Juana Adelia Martin”ez.”  Born 27 Feb 1897 in Bosque, Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, her birth and christening (7 Mar 1897) are recorded in the books of the San Juan de los Caballeros Catholic Church.

Aunt Ramona lived in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico her entire life.  We can find her there in the 1900 census where she is three years old.  Her parents at this point have been married four years.  Her mother has given birth twice but only Ramona is alive.  Sister Elisa was born in 31 Jan 1899 and died before the 1900 census.  Living nearby is Ilario J. Montoya and wife Josefa Montoya.  Ilario is Ramoncita’s grandfather.  Also close by is her grandmother – Agustina Herrera with several of Ramoncita’s aunts and uncles.  Additionally, her future husband, Florentino Gallegos can be found in the census living nearby with his uncle Roybal Soledad. 

By the 1910 census Ramona is 13 years old.  She is with her parents, Max and Juanita, who have been married 14 years.  Her siblings present in the home are:  Francisca, 10, Leopoldo, 8, Celestino, 6 (my grandfather), and Juan, age 6. 

On 5 July 1916, Ramona married Florentino Gallegos in the San Juan de los Caballos Catholic Church in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico.  Florentino was born on 11 Nov. 1873 to Juan Francisco Gallegos and Maria Isabel Martin. 

Florentino and Ramona Gallegos - abt 1947 - photo from the collection of Carma Gallegos Owen

My Aunt Margie and Uncle Louie (along with their other siblings, including my father) spent some summer vacation time with their grandparents in New Mexico.  What Aunt Margie remembers the most about Aunt Ramona was that her house was always very neat and clean.  She doesn’t remember much about Ramona’s husband other than she remembers him being very tall and quiet.  Aunt Ramona spoke no English – only Spanish so there was somewhat of a language barrier.  Margie said that one afternoon she was at Aunt Ramona’s house – in one of the bedrooms – and a snake slithered in and hit itself under the bed.  Margie was screaming out the Spanish word for snake – but must have gotten it wrong – because Aunt Ramona just laughed and shook her head at little Margie!  

My cousin Carma Gallegos Owen has done extensive research on her grandparents, and all her family, and has written about them comprehensively.  Here is an excerpt of a piece that was published in the New Mexico Genealogist – The Journal of the New Mexico Genealogical Society, which was published June 2006 (Vol. 45, No. 2): 

Florentino and Ramoncita had five children, two of whom died in childhood.*  Florentino was a well-respected carpenter and was known for his large vegetable garden and fruit orchard.  He was well over 6 feet tall.  In contrast Ramoncita was short.  She enjoyed sewing and embroidery and was an excellent cook.  Besides raising their family, one of their contributions to the community was the assisting in building of the Capilla de San Francisco de Asis in 1936.  The construction, in the center of Estaca village, took two years to complete. 

*Maria de los Angeles born 1918; Jose Eugenio born in 1920; Juan born in 1923 and Josifita “Josie” born in 1926.  The name and birth year of the fifth child are unknown to me.  

Florentino Gallegos died at the age of 84 on 5 Nov. 1958.  He is laid to rest in El Guigue Cemetery in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico.  Ramona lived to be 84 years old as well, dying on 27 Oct 1981 in Espanola, Rio Arriba County, New Mexico.  She is laid to rest with her husband in El Guigue Cemetery.  

Ramona Montoya and Florentino Gallegos


Posted by on March 19, 2011 in Gallegos, Montoya


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Richard Earnest Montoya – My Dad

So far I’ve resisted writing about those very close to me – don’t know why – too personal – too raw maybe?  However, twice in the last few weeks I’ve had an opportunity to talk to people about my Dad. 

First – Uncle Louie called to ask about my Dad’s military service.  One of the retirement communities in Ogden is having a fundraiser, and Uncle Louie is having a “brick” made for my dad that will list his years of military service, etc. and then it will be placed in a certain area there at the center which will be dedicated to veterans.  It’s good to know that my dad will be honored in his home town.  Thanks Uncle Louie!! 

Richard E. Montoya - abt 18 yrs old

One of the neat things about having the blog is all the wonderful like-minded people who I’ve met online.  One of them being Charles Hale… awesome writer!  I highly recommend his blog to you – “Stories Connect – Love Heals.”  I’ve added his site to my “favorite blogs” in case you want to check back often.  Charles and I got to talking about one of his recent posts and an idea sprung out of that conversation.  He has written a thought-provoking piece on the Vietnam era – and has included my memories of having a father who served in Vietnam.  You can read the story here:

Richard E. Montoya - either 1967 or 1971 - don't remember which tour






Posted by on March 18, 2011 in Montoya, Times and Places


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Aunt Francis – Maria Francisca Montoya Sanchez

Maria Francisca Montoya was known to my father as “Aunt Francis.”  She was one of the daughters born to Maximiano Montoya and Juana Martin in Bosque, Rio Arriba County, New Mexico on 3 Aug 1900.  The Montoya families were members of the Catholic faith, and thus, shortly after her birth on 8 Aug 1900 she was christened in the San Juan de los Caballeros Catholic Church in Rio Arriba County. 

Aunt Francis with her brother Jose Celestino Montoya and husband Abel Sanchez in the background

At the age of 16, on 29 Jan 1917, Aunt Francis married Jose Abel Sanchez.  The marriage took place at (and is recorded in the marriage books of) the San Juan de los Caballeros Catholic Church.  Abel, the oldest son of Luis M. Sanchez and Maria Ascension Martinez, was born in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico on 28 Sept. 1890.  When Uncle Abel filled out his World War I Draft Registration Card on 5 June 1917, at the age of 27, he lists himself as “married,” and a railroad track man by occupation.  He is employed by The New Mexico Lumber Company in El Vado.  He described himself as being short and with medium build with black hair and brown eyes.

 In the 1920 census period, Aunt Francis and Uncle Abel are still in Rio Arriba County – living in El Vado.  El Vado, once the “company town” for R.G. & SW rail line and a booming and bustling lumber center in northern Rio Arriba County is now a ghost town.  In the census, Uncle Abel is listed as a “section foreman working for the railroad.”  It is assumed that he was employed by R.G. & SW.  

El Vado Lake - near the defunct lumber/rail town of El Vado, New Mexico

 In 1930, Francis and Abel are still in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, and in fact, I believe they lived their entire lives there.  Interestingly, all of our Hispanic ancestors in New Mexico are listed as “white” because they are of Spanish descent.  According to this census, Francis and Abel owned their own home (which is a farm); but, do not own a radio.  For some strange reason – this was one of the questions on the 1930 census! 

 Aunt Francis and Uncle Abel had the following known children:  Luis in 1918; Augustina/Filomena in 1920; Orlesta in 1922; Delfin in 1924; and Arturo in 1928. 

 This is the last known record that Maria Francisca Montoya Sanchez left us.  The Social Security Death Index has a listing for:  Marie F. Sanchez – 29 Oct. 1988 in Chimayo, Rio Arriba County, New Mexico.  I feel this is probably her – but, unfortunately, the birth date does not match – so I cannot say for certain.  The family recollection is that Aunt Francis died around 1986 in nearby Ojo Caliente. 

Abel Sanchez died 28 January 1978.  His Social Security card was issued in Colorado.  When the railroad town of El Vada shut down in 1923, they moved their operations to Colorado.  So it is very likely that Abel spent some time working in Colorado between the 1920 and 1930 census period. 

I know next to nothing about the children of Francis Montoya and Abel Sanchez.  I assume that there would be some descendants – and that they would probably be living in the Rio Arriba County area of New Mexico.  If any of the children and/or grandchildren of Francis and Abel stumble across this posting – I would love to hear from you !


Posted by on February 13, 2011 in Montoya, Sanchez


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Our Roots Run Deep

The latest episode of Who Do You Think You Are featuring Tim McGraw’s discovery of his family’s “rags-to-riches” story with ties to George Washington got me to pondering about our collective families and the role they played in shaping our nation.  Several of the family lines that we are working on have deep roots – in fact they were present here even before America became a nation. 

Brothers, Joseph Curbow (1755-1850) and William Curbow (1757-?), were both Revolutionary War soldiers who served on the North Carolina Line.  According to William’s pension papers, the family home in North Carolina was burned to the ground by the British.  William also spent the brutal winter of 1777-78 in Valley Forge with General George Washington.  The family story that has been passed down is that both Joseph and William were present at the British surrender in Yorktown in 1781.  Fact or fiction?  I don’t know – but it is fascinating to contemplate, don’t you think?

Edward Grantham (1643-1704) is my son’s 9th great grandfather.  He was known as Old Edward.  He lived in Surry County, Virginia.  The family home was known as Grantham Reeds and was located directly across the James River from Jamestown, which was founded on May 14, 1607, and is the first permanent English settlement in what is now America! 

My husband’s gg-grandmother was Ellen Elizabeth West.  The West family has a long and interesting history in America and in England.  John West (1590-1659) was the colonial Governor of Virginia from 1635-1637.  He was the fourth son of Thomas West, 2nd Baron De La Warr.  Did you know that this is where our state “Delaware” got its name?  John West’s plantation is the site of present day West Point, Virginia.  One of the sons of Governor West was Lieutenant-Colonel John West.  He was married to Unity Croshaw, a granddaughter of Raleigh Croshaw, one of the founders of Jamestown, Virginia.  Time and legend have not been kind to Unity – it has been reported that she was a shrew, and that she divorced her husband for adultery when he left her to live with Cockacoeske – Queen of the Pamunkey  – and purportedly a cousin to Pocahontas.  Again – fact or fiction?  I don’t know.

Meanwhile, out west, Bartolomé de Montoya, a Spanish Conquistador arrived in New Mexico on 24 Dec. 1600.  The family came as part of the second Onaté  expedition, whose colony consisted of 65 settlers.  The Montoya family brought with them 25 servants, cattle and equipment needed to start a new life in Nuevo España.  From the family of Bartolomé de Montoya the Montoya surname was firmly established in New Mexico – and virtually all Montoya families from New Mexico descend from him.  

And yes, in case you are wondering – we have our fair share of lunatics – thieves – and drunkards in our family tree too.  Trials, tribulation, tragedy and drama were often the norm – divorces, family feuds, unplanned pregnancies, “bar-room difficulties” and the like have been uncovered.  Our Ham family can be tied to the outlaw Jesse James; and our Curbow family can be linked with the gunslinger John Wesley Hardin.  It’s all good though……they’re family!


Posted by on February 12, 2011 in Curbow, Grantham, Montoya, Odds and Ends


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Jose Leopoldo Montoya


Jose Leopoldo Montoya – Photo courtesy of Margie Montoya

Jose Leopoldo Montoya was my grand uncle – born 27 Aug 1902 in Bosque, Rio Arriba County, New Mexico – one of the sons of Maximiano de Herrera Montoya and Maria Juana Adelia Martin – and the older brother of my grandfather.  Leo was christened in the San Juan de los Caballeros Catholic Church on 7 Sept 1902.  Leo spent his childhood with his family growing up in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico.  We can find him there in the 1910 and 1920 census periods.  Leo states that he has been attending school; that he can read and write; and that he speaks English. 

In the 1930 census there is a Leopoldo Montoya, age 28, born 1902 in New Mexico living and working at the Sunnyside Mine in San Juan County, Colorado.  (Sunnyside was a gold/silver/lead/copper/zinc mine.)  Leo is indexed as a boarder and a Mexican.  With him is a Joe Montoya, age 23.  I don’t know for certain that this is Uncle Leo (and my grandfather Joe Montoya) – but it’s a strong possibility.  My grandfather and my uncle were ore miners.  They left New Mexico during the Great Depression looking for work.  They ended up in Bingham Canyon, Utah where they worked the Kennecott Copper Mine (also known as the Bingham Canyon Mine). 

Bingham Mine - 1942

 Kennecott is located southwest of Salt Lake City in the Oquirrh Mountains.  It is the deepest open-pit mine in the world.  The mine has been in production since 1906  – and has been designated as a national historic landmark.  

Bingham Mine

 According to his death certificate, Leo did marry.  I do not know when and where.  His wife’s name was Ermelinda Herrera.  Ermelinda was born around 1900 in New Mexico.  I do not know what became of her – and would be interested in hearing from any of her children and/or grandchildren.

Unfortunately, Jose Leopoldo Montoya died young in life (as did many of Maximiano’s children) – he died of pneumonia after abdominal surgery at the Bingham – Salt Lake County Hospital at only 32 years of age on 16 May 1935.

Leo is laid to rest in the Bingham Canyon Cemetery in Salt Lake County, Utah.  The Bingham Canyon Cemetery is defunct and abandoned and was taken over by Kennecott Mine several years ago.  Most of the remains were moved to the newer Bingham Cemetery on old Bingham Highway.  A volunteer checked the cemetery map for me.  He found Jose Leopolodo Montoya – but sadly he is listed as “unknown.”  He is one among 1,100 unknown burials.  The majority of these people were employees at Kennecott Copper Mine.  There have been several attempts to clean the cemetery, but most of the markers are in disrepair, and there was an estimate that 75 percent of the graves aren’t actually marked.  The volunteer has visited the cemetery on many occasions and he stated that a good portion of the graves are marked with tin funeral home markers that are so worn from the elements, a name doesn’t even remain, just a weathered tin rod.  There is a cemetery survey that was completed as part of a Boy Scout project a few years ago online:

Name: Leo Montoya
Birth: 28-Aug-1903, Lyden, New Mexico
Death: 16-May-1935, Bingham Canyon, Utah
Burial: 19-May-1935
Cause Of Death: Bilateral Lower Lobar Pneumonia. Surgery for Pyloroplasty, Cholecystectomy
Father: Maxiniono Montoya – New Mexico
Mother: Juanita Martinez – New Mexico
Spouse: Ermelinda Herrera Montoya
Cemetery section: UNKNOWN
Original Cemetery Reference #: M84 & M118
Information about this burial in old Bingham Mortuary records: YES

Bingham City Cemetery


Posted by on January 26, 2011 in Montoya


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Maximiano de Herrera Montoya – the Spaniard – El español

Maximiano de Herrera Montoya – known in life as Max – was my great grandfather.  Max was born 21 Aug 1871 in Estaca, Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, one of the sons of Jose Ylario Montoya and Maria Augustina de Herrera.  

Maximiano de Herrera Montoya

The village of Estaca is located in the Espanola Valley on the “high road” to Taos. 

Estaca, also known as the Plaza de San Francisco, is home to the descendants of early Spanish settlers.  (The village names of “Plaza de San Francisco” or “Estaca” and even “Bosque” seem to be used interchangeably.)  I believe that Max’s genealogy will eventually be tied to that of Bartolome de Montoya (born in Cantillana (near Seville), Spain) who came to New Mexico via Mexico City with the Second Onate Expedition in December of 1600. 

It does not appear that Max’s parents were married.  Max’s mother, Maria Augustina de Herrera seems to have been the mistress of Max’s father.  She lived in the same village – in fact, directly across the street from Jose Ylario Montoya and his wife Josefa.  I image THAT could have been awkward. 

Max married my great grandmother Maria Juana Adelia Martin on 6 Apr 1896 in the San Juan de los Caballeros Catholic Church in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico.  The couple had a large family – Maria Romancita (“Aunt Ramona”) born 1897; Elisa born 1899; Maria Francisca (“Aunt Frances”) born 1900; Jose Leopoldo born 1902; Jose Celestino (“Grandpa Joe”) born 1905; Juan Nepomuceno born 1908; Jose Amadeo born 1912; Augustina Felipa born 1914; Jose Hilario (“Larry”) born 1915 and Crecensio Raymundo born 1918.

Max and his wife owned a lovely property in the Espanola Valley bordering the Rio Grande River (Rio Bravo del Norte).   On it stood the Montoya adobe compound along with the fruit and vegetable orchards which supported the family.  As written to me by my cousin Carma:  “In 1980, I traveled with my parents to New Mexico.  We saw the home of Max and Juanita and it was made of adobe and was beginning to show its age.  It had been vacant for many years and the center beams were falling.  As my dad remembered the fun times at his grandparents, he told of wonderful meals, loving hugs and well wishes, of chile ristras and corn hanging from the porch, and of the happier times of youth.  Dad told me several times that he truly felt loved by his Grandpa Max and Grandma Juanita.” 

Remains of Montoya adobe home (Dated 1974 - Photo Courtesy of Carma Owen)

 When my husband and I traveled to Estaca in 2009 – my goal was to find the remains of the Montoya adobe – and we DID find it!  Sadly it is almost in ruins – but still there nonetheless.  Very near that location – in Velarde – we found a street named Camino Montoya (“Montoya Way”).   

 Maximiano de Herrera Montoya died in Lyden, Rio Arriba County, New Mexico on 30 July 1945.  He is laid to rest in the Velarde Cemetery – his gravestone is not identified but may “possibly” be marked as M.M.

Montoya Section of Velarde Cemetery - There is a stone marked "M.M."


Posted by on January 1, 2011 in Montoya


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