Saturday, May 20, 2006




Obviously there are places all over the world with interesting histories, but what I am learning is that Taos really stands out, at least for a small town in America, for having an unusually dense and varied and violent history.

One of the more interesting episodes is the combined Spanish and Native American revolt of 1847. In a nutshell, what happened was that these two groups of people, who had managed to live in some semblance of peace for almost 200 years, found common cause in their distrust of the newly arrived anglos. In January of that year, a mob rose up and killed many whites in and around Taos, including the newly appointed first governor of the state, who had been in office only five months. After rampaging through town, they went 12 miles north to Simeon Turley's whiskey mill.

Turley had been making whiskey in Taos for a long time. In fact, his whiskey, referred to as Taos Lightning, was the town's main export for years. When the mob arrived at his mill, Turley made the mistake of trying to talk things over with them. A two-day siege ensued, in which all but two of Turley's men were killed and his mill destroyed. Turley himself was decapitated.

Needless to say, the American Army soon arrived from Santa Fe and proceeded to kill 300 to 400 Spanish and Natives in retaliation for the 25 or so whites killed by the mob.

Not long after reading this story for the first time, I accidentally stumbled upon the unmarked, overgrown ruins of Turley's mill. The ruins sit by a river, the same river that ran the water-wheel which powered the mill. I was walking a friend's dogs, including the three-legged Jack (look closely... he's missing his front left leg), when all of a sudden I was standing in what was left of the mill.

This is only one episode in a pretty rich history. If you want to read more, there's a good synopsis here.

2 Comments:

Blogger Helga said...

Nicely done, interesting reading!
You seem to be OK! Property, fence and all, please write more!

4:28 AM  
Anonymous Yvette said...

I am the third Great Granddaughter of Simeon Turley and was interested in your little blurb about his mill and the happenings there. Actually, he was not decapitated, and he was not actually killed at the Mill. He and another man tried to escape, Simeon was not successful as he was found in a hiding spot not to far from the mill by a supposed friend and was betrayed and killed there. The other man, whose name I have somewhere..if you would like it, actually was the only survivor and made it out alive.
Just thought I would let you know...no decapitation there, although it was brutal anyway.

8:35 AM  

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