Pigeon’s Ranch, New Mexico


Pigeons Ranch Today by Kathy Weiser-Alexander

Pigeons Ranch Today by Kathy Weiser-Alexander

Located on the Santa Fe Trail and the pre-1937 alignment of Route 66, between Pecos and Glorieta, New Mexico is Pigeon’s Ranch. Portions of the 1962 Civil War Battle of Glorieta Pass were fought here. All that remains of the ranch today is a storied history and a three-room adobe structure situated on the northeast bank of the Glorieta Creek, adjacent to New Mexico Highway 50, about 20 miles southeast of Santa Fe.

This area was part of a land grant issued by the Spanish government to Juan de Dios Pena, Francisco Ortiz, Jr. and Juan de Aguilla in 1815. Later, Juan Estevan Pino purchased the land and his son sold it to Alexander Valle in 1852 for 5,275 pesos. The land, situated on the north boundary of the Pecos Pueblo Grant, then became known as the Alexander Valle Grant.

Alexander Valle, who also went by the name of Alexander Pigeon, was a French-American born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1817. Along with many others from the St. Louis area, Valle made his way west along the Santa Fe Trail probably in the late 1830s. Making his living as a Santa Fe Trail trader, he was living in Santa Fe by 1842-43. In 1850, he was still living in Santa Fe with his wife Carmen where he operated a frontier store that sold mostly liquor. At that time, he was a well-known gambler and land speculator when he turned his attention to the Pecos Valley.

Land records show that he was illiterate, but that obviously didn’t impair his abilities as a businessman. Upon his grant, Valle built a large adobe ranch home, a hostel, and a tavern along the Santa Fe Trail. His complex grew to include several buildings corrals, stables, granaries, and a water well. His inn was said to have had about 22 rooms and was large enough to accommodate as many as 40 people. It was estimated to have been between 70 and 100 feet long in the front with 50-foot wings on the sides. In the front, was a broad porch. In the back was a large courtyard.

Pigeons Ranch in 1880, by Ben Wittick

Pigeons Ranch in 1880, by Ben Wittick

He also ran cattle and sheep in his fenced-in pastures that stretched for a mile along a nearby creek bottom, as well as a well-cultivated farm. Valle first called his land Rancho de la Glorieta, but it became known as Pigeon’s Ranch.

A stage line had operated in the area since 1850, and after Valle established his ranch, it became a stop along the Barlow & Sanderson line which was running semimonthly in 1857, but by the next year, was running weekly along his property. Valle brought his last wagon train across the Santa Fe Trail in 1859 and then concentrated on his ranch. His ranch was a popular spot among Santa Fe travelers who described as a genial, vivacious and obliging, host.

In March 1862, his ranch and inn would be in the path of two advancing Civil War military forces. During the Battle of Glorieta Pass on March 26-28, 1862, both Confederate and Union troops utilized his ranch for various purposes. On March 25, some Confederate troops encamped there and the next day were captured there. On the 26th, some 400 retreating Union troops established a hasty field hospital at Valle’s ranch and encamped there, utilizing corn, hay and other supplies from granaries. The next morning of the 27th, the Union troops, with the exception of a hospital steward and wounded, retreated to Kozlowski Trading Post.

With reinforcements having arrived, some 900 Union troops arrived at Pigeon’s Ranch in the morning of the 28th. About an hour later, so did the Confederate Army. Union troops used the adobe fence wall of the compound as cover and others made their way to Sharpshooter’s Ridge. As Confederate prisoners were taken, they were held at Pigeon Ranch. This battle was occurring while the Valles were in residence and when they tried to flee, they were captured by Confederate forces.

Civil War Battle at Pigeon's Ranch, 1862

Civil War Battle at Pigeon’s Ranch, 1862

The Rebels pushed the Union forces out of the area in the late afternoon and took control of Pigeon Ranch. There, they camped until the morning of March 30. Thinking they had won the battle, the Confederates also left the area moving westward to Johnson’s Ranch, where they found all their supplies and animals had been destroyed by Union forces. This forced them to retreat to Santa Fe, the first step on the long road back to San AntonioTexas. The Battle of Glorieta Pass was the turning point of the war in New Mexico Territory. In the end, it resulted in 331 total casualties – 142 Union and 189 Confederate.

The use of Valle buildings continued to utilized as a field hospital by Union stewards into May.

Though Union  Major John M. Chivington claimed that the hospital flag he placed on the building on March 26th had protected Valle’s buildings from direct bombardment during the heated fighting on the 28th, but the main building was caught in the crossfire damaging walls, doors, windows, and furnishings.

After the Civil War ended, Alexander Valle submitted evidence for a claim for reimbursement for goods stolen, damage to his buildings, and household goods destroyed by Union forces during the battle and after. He further claimed that he was a U. S. government forage agent and bought hay and corn from Pecos farms that he sold to government caravans traveling between Fort Union and Fort Marcy. During the battle, he said that 31,000 pounds of corn, 3,000 pounds of fodder and 10,000 pounds of hay were taken and that cattle on his ranch were killed.

In his claim for damages, Valle reported that he had begun to repair the ranch during the summer of 1862. However, the repairs weren’t completed that summer because Santa Fe Trail travelers reported in 1863, that they had to camp outdoors at Pigeon’s Ranch because the inn repairs were not finished. However, in July 1865 the Senator Dolittle commission stayed at Pigeon’s Ranch during a meeting with Kit Carson, so the inn had obviously been repaired by that time.

In 1865, Alexander Valle sold the Pigeon Ranch to George Hebert and then moved to his Valley Ranch just north of Pecos. Valle was ruined financially by the 1870s, either because of the war or his gambling habit. He died at his ranch in June 1880.

Pigeons Ranch in 1880, by Ben Wittick

Pigeons Ranch in 1880, by Ben Wittick

George Hebert was a French-Canadian blacksmith and was known to partner in several land deals. He earlier lived in Pecos, where he probably arrived in the 1850s. In the summer of 1865, Jicarilla Apache raided the Pecos Valley, killing two shepherds near the ranch and wounded Hebert. By this time, the Barlow & Sanderson stagecoaches were stopping daily at the ranch and Hebert’s station was reported to be the largest stop along the Santa Fe Trail from Las Vegas to Santa Fe.

He and his wife, Isabel, continued Valle’s tradition of catering to Santa Fe Trail travelers and in 1867 a newspaper article reported: “the admirable cuisine and other needful accommodations awaiting the tired and hungry traveler at Mr. George Hebert’s hotel at Pigeon’s Ranch.”

By the late 1870s, the ranch had changed little but a row of one-story adobe structures had been built on the south side of the trail, one with a saloon sign out front, which catered to travelers and railroad construction workers. At this time, Hebert was also the postmaster for the small community of La Glorieta and the post office was situated on his ranch.

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