Sunday, March 29, 2015

A visit to historic Mesilla, New Mexico

Basilica of San Albino
Mesilla, New Mexico, is a small town, seemingly quiet today, quite unlike how it was a century or so ago when it played an important part in the history of the West.
Located just a few miles from Las Cruces, Mesilla had an important part in the Civil War, serving as capital of the capital of the Confederate Territory of Arizona.
A block or so off the main drag is the plaza, which is a National Historic Landmark. Signs on some of the buildings gave their history. Anchoring one end of the plaza is the Basilica of San Albino that was originally built in 1852 when Mesilla was part of Mexico. Mesilla became part of the United States as a result of the 1854 Gadsden Purchase. The current church was built in 1906.
Mesilla was the most important city in the region for nearly 30 years, especially since two stage lines crossed through here, Butterfield Stage and Santa Fe Trail. It would have retained its importance as a transportation hub had the residents not demanded so much money for the Santa Fe Railway to pass through; the railway instead routed its rails through Las Cruces.
.Billy the Kid was convicted of
murder in this building in Mesilla
Today, Mesilla is probably better known as the place where the gunslinger William H. Bonney, better known as Billy the Kid, The gunman, captured by Pat Garrett in December 1880, went on trial in Mesilla for the murder of another sheriff. He was convicted and sentenced to hang. Before the hanging, he was transferred to Lincoln, but shot his two guards and escaped. He was killed a few months later, while still on the loose, by Garrett at Fort Sumner where he was buried.
Another legendary gunman to pass through Mesilla was PanchoVilla, a man famous for being the Robin Hood of Mexico. In 1916, he invaded New Mexico at Columbus to get more military equipment and supplies to continue a fight back in Mexico. Eighteen Americans were killed, turning him into a villain in the southwestern United States.

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