Elephant Butte Inn and Spa

History of Sierra County..Before it was Sierra County, Pt. 2

In 1598, Don Juan de Onate led as many as 500 people into New Mexico, intent on creating a permanent colony. While native people and the Spanish had used the trails along the river for decades, Onate took his wagons through the Jornada del Muerto, establishing El Camino Real de la Tierra Adentro, a road used continuously until the railroad arrived in the 1880s. He chose to use the dry Jornada through Sierra County because the land along the river was full of deep arroyos, scree-covered escarpments, and quicksand.

The Spanish demanded tribute from the Puebloans, virtually enslaving them. The Apaches acquired Spanish horses and raided Spanish settlements. The socio-economic equilibrium of the native peoples was destroyed. By 1680, they so resented the Spanish intruders, the Puebloans revolted and forced them to retreat to Mexico. As they moved south to El Paso, the Spanish were joined by the Piro people. Except for the Apaches, Sierra County was empty of people. But the Spanish returned twelve years later, this time to stay.

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