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Where the present meets the past
Là où le présent rencontre le passé
Donde el presente se encuentra con el pasado

Thoughts, anecdotes, excerpts from the book, and more,
seen through French eyes, of course

June 27, 2020
French place names  of New Mexico

As places bearing the names of “villains” are in the news, below are a few places which commemorate French and French-Canadians people or places. More is under the PLACES tab of my website and in my book www.FrenchInNewmexico.com

Chapelle, Charette Lake and Charette Mesa, Clairmont, Clovis, De Armand Spring, French Henry Ridge, Gascon, Jardin, La Lande, Lamy, Ledoux, Los Febres, Pendaries, Pigeon’s Ranch, Saint Vrain, Socorro ’s French Quarter. And of course, there are many French street names across New Mexico.

June 23, 2020
A man ahead of his times
In our times of soul searching about historical villains, let’s honor a hero who has no statue yet, Charles Blanchard, a French-Canadian entrepreneur in New Mexico, ahead of his times. In his memoir (1868), he wrote: “ […] the Indians should be absolved of their crimes, and the greed of white people made responsible for their acts of cruelty […] Pillage and plunder foremost in all transactions with the Indians […] In order to carry out their diabolical plans, in the removal of the Navajos four years before, the handful of speculators had enlisted the services of the military heads of Fort Union and Sumner, cheerfully assisted and were made beneficiaries in the plunder […] Our Indian wars were needless and wicked, the North American Indian was the noblest type of a heathen man on the earth […]These memoirs being written for the benefit of my children and grandchildren […]”

Below are longer quotes from Charles Blanchard’s memoir.

There are but few men in the west who have suffered more than myself at the hands of the Indians, and I shall persist in saying to the last day of my life that the Indians should be absolved of their crimes, and the greed of white people made responsible for their acts of cruelty.

Pillage and plunder foremost in all transactions with the Indians; public security being of secondary importance, if at all considered. In order to carry out their diabolical plans, in the removal of the Navajos four years before, the handful of speculators had enlisted the services of the military heads of Fort Union and Sumner, cheerfully assisted and were made beneficiaries in the plunder.”

Near the end of his memoir, he quotes testimonies taken from official records about women and children killed, scalped, and mutilated, about cutting fingers off and scalping dead Indians, breaking women’s arms with sabers, cutting a woman open with her unborn child within, practicing target shooting on children, and other atrocities. The memoir concludes with these sobering considerations:

Nations, like individuals, reap exactly what they sow; they who sow robbery, reap robbery; the seed sowing of inequity, replies in a harvest of blood. The Indian Bureau represents a system, which is a blunder and a crime. Our Indian wars were needless and wicked, the North American Indian was the noblest type of a heathen man on the earth. He recognized a great spirit; he believed in immortality; he had a quick intellect; he was a clear thinker, brave and fearless, and until betrayed, he was true to his plighted faith; he had a passionate love for his children, and counted it joy to die for his people. […] These memoirs being written for the benefit of my children and grandchildren […]”

June 21, 2020
Culinary divinities
Did you know – you would have guessed it – that many French chefs, cooks, inn keepers and restaurant owners, are part of New Mexico’s history. Vignettes about 15 of them are below, spanning the years 1795 to 1973. If you know of more, please let me know. For today’s food gurus, click here. Enjoy this and many other stories in my book.

In early 1795, two Frenchmen were taken into custody in New Mexico. Domingo Labadie, a French Basque, and another Frenchman, Pierre Labouré, who had been a former cook for the viceroy.

The “Pastry War,” fought between France in 1838/1839, started after a French pastry cook, Remontel, claimed that Mexican officers had looted his shop in Mexico City ten years before. A long story! It is during the Pastry War that Antonio López de Santa Anna (also known as “The Napoleon of the West”) led Mexican forces against the French. Santa Anna was wounded in the left leg by French grapeshot and was amputated.

In the 1840s, Charlotte, nicknamed “Chipita,” worked at Bent’s Fort. Traveler and author Lewis Garrard called her “the culinary divinity.”

Antoine Deslauriers was a cook with author Francis Parkman during his voyage in 1846.

Alexandre Valle, alias Pigeon, owned and operated “Pigeon Ranch,” the largest hostelry on the Santa Fe Trail, which was at the center of the Battle of Glorieta.

In the 1870s, Alexandre Le Beau was a cook in the US Army. He was killed in an Indian raid.

Henri Lambert (founder of the legendary St. James hotel in Cimarron around 1880) worked as a cook with a Spanish circus troupe, and entered the service of the US Army, again working as a cook. It has been written that for some time he cooked for Union General Grant, and that he became the chef in President Lincoln, but this is not substantiated.

Gold was discovered in Pinos Altos, north of Silver City, in 1860. Louis LeGros, born in Alsace-Lorraine, and his wife, Emma, from French Switzerland. operated a rooming house, restaurant, and bakery, hosting visitors for years.

Sometime in the mid-1800s, Jean Bouquet established a fruit ranch near Pojoaque Pueblo, a few miles north of Santa Fe. It was a stopping place with frequent visitors. Captain Bourke, in his notes of 1881, often mentions visits to Bouquet and his Mexican wife. Jean Bouquet’s ranch, El Rancho de Bouquet, is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

George Hudon served in the U.S. Cavalry and became a chef after his discharge. Capt. French (not French!) employed him as a cook around 1883, and told at some length anecdotes about him being drunk. His final “offence” had been to disappear in his quarters for two days, until visiting ladies found him there drunk and naked, causing great commotion.

Pierre Girard founded the Girard House in Albuquerque and in 1886, was working as a chef at the College of the Christian Brothers of New Mexico.

E. Bullard was a chef in San Pedro, now a ghost town in Santa Fe County. He operated the successful Delmonico restaurant, serving the mining community in 1887.

Charles Blanchard and Jean Pendaries built the Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas. It hosted prominent guests such as Theodore Roosevelt.

Petrus A. Guillon, a Frenchman from Lyons,  worked in Albuquerque as a chef for Fred Harvey in 1896. Later and until 1910, he leased the Savoy Hotel in Albuquerque, a showpiece featuring double-storied rows of protruding bay windows with turrets at each corner.

Parisian Renée Johnson (born Lefebvre), started Santa Fe’s first French restaurant. In 1947, worked as a hostess at a Los Alamos social club and ran the Doghouse Café in Española. In 1957, the Johnsons bought a bar on Cerrillos Road and remodeled the old bar into a restaurant called Chez Renée. Her husband left, and she managed the restaurant alone. It was one of Santa Fe’s best restaurants until it closed around 1973.

June 17, 2020
Frenchman nearly kills Kit Carson
Santa Fe mayor Alan Webber called for the removal of the Kit Carson obelisk. Did you know that Kit Carson was nearly killed by French-Canadian trapper Joseph Chouinard, known as the “bully of the mountains.” They had their eyes on the same girl! Read more below, and enjoy this and many other stories in my book.

Quote from the book:
In the summer of 1835, five years after his first California expedition, Carson, then 25, was attending the annual Mountain Man Rendezvous in Wyoming. While there, he allegedly became interested in an Arapaho woman, Singing Grass. Singing Grass had also caught the attention of a French-Canadian trapper, Joseph Chouinard. Chouinard was known as the “bully of the mountains,” and he had the reputation of being a splendid shot. What exactly happened is not known for sure, but soon Carson and Chouinard were charging each other on horses, brandishing their weapons. Carson and Chouinard apparently fired at the same time. Carson’s shot hit his opponent’s arm or thumb, spooking Chouinard’s horse. Chouinard’s bullet barely missed, grazing Carson below his left ear and scorching his eye and hair. Chouinard’s fate is not clear, as different authors, including Kit Carson himself in his memoirs, have told different versions of the story, sometimes giving such precise detail that it is hard to believe that they were not exaggerated or romanticized. In one version, Chouinard survived; in another, Carson killed him with a second shot; a third suggests that Chouinard may have died of an infection caused by his wounds.

June 14, 2020
French politicians in New Mexico
Over the last 200 years, there were over 20 politicians of French origin in New Mexico? For instance, French Canadians Antoine Robidoux and his brother Louis were the first  mayors of Santa Fe (1830 and 1831).

More about French politicians:
Saturnino Pinard was the sheriff who shot and captured train robber Black Jack Ketchum in 1899. Tranquilino Labadie held at least twelve official positions between 1878 and 1911, including member of the Constitutional Convention (1910) and member of the First State House of Representatives (1911). Joseph A. DesGeorges was mayor of Taos in the 1950s and a New Mexico State Senator (the library at Taos High School is named in his honor).

Tranquilino Labadie’s official positions included: interpreter in the House of Representatives in Santa Fe (1878), Deputy County Clerk for San Miguel County (1879-82), first City Clerk for Las Vegas and at the same time reappointed interpreter in the House of Representatives (1882-85), Deputy Sheriff, postmaster, and ex-officio collector for San Miguel County (1885-90), Regent of the New Mexico Normal University (1893-96), Deputy Probate Clerk and office manager for Guadalupe County (1905-07), member of the Constitutional Convention (1910), and member of the First State House of Representatives (1911).

In alphabetical order and not in order of importance, politicians included Adolph. P. Barrier, Claude Blanchard, Etienne de Pélissier Bujac, Seferinot Crollot, Louis-Joseph Darras, Gisèle Gatignol, Joseph Des Georges, Hess Dunand, Charles-Francois Guillon, Michel Harriett, William H. Henrie, Tranquilino Labadie, Jose Elogio Lacome, Fred Lambert, Michel (Mike) Mandell, Tony Mignardot, Marguerite Pendaries, Pierre-Leon Pinard, Antoine and Louis Robidoux, Saturnino Pinard, Joseph Frank Tondre III, and Henri Toussaint. My apologies to the families of those I have missed.