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John L. Kessell Papers

Identifier: MSS-767-BC

Scope and Content

The John L. Kessell Papers consist primarily of Kessell's research for several of his historical works. Much of the research consists of Spanish language materials photocopied and translated by Kessell into English. Other materials include notes and manuscripts related to the same studies of the Spanish frontier in New Mexico, Arizona and Sonora. Translations, notes and transcriptions made by Kessell or other researchers are noted as such. Some primary documents are only marked with brief synopses of the material; those documents are marked as containing "explanations." The collection is divided into six series of research materials: Pecos, Arizona-Sonora, Salinas, Maria de Agreda, Missions, and Correspondence.

Pecos Research: Materials in this series were collected by Kessell as primary research for Kiva, Cross and Crown: the Pecos Indians and New Mexico, 1540-1840. Aside from copies of original Spanish materials, there are also studies conducted by the National Park Service on the Pecos area, Kessell's manuscripts, including an unpublished manuscript Kessell wrote as a Pecos historical handbook. Also included are cards containing abstracts of archival sources.

Arizona-Sonora Research: This series contains research materials on Spanish missions such as Guevavi and Tumacacori and activities of the Jesuit and Franciscan priests in the Arizona-Sonora area. Much of the research is related to Kessell's Friars, Soldiers and Reformers: Hispanic Arizona and the Sonora Mission Frontier, 1767-1856, other materials are tied to Kessell's research for articles and essays, and Kessell's book, Mission of Sorrows; Jesuit Guevavi and the Pimas, 1691-1767. A few of the articles are included in both early and final drafts. Representative materials in this series include notes, outlines, photocopied documents, maps and correspondence. Also included are cards containing abstracts of archival sources.

Salinas Research: Kessell received an assignment from the National Park Service to conduct preliminary cultural research on Salinas Pueblo. Relying mostly on resources from the University of New Mexico Zimmerman Library, Kessell assembled materials documenting the Spanish period at Salinas. This series also includes National Park Service issued reports on other properties of the Salinas area.

Maria de Agreda: This series contains research materials and published and unpublished writings relating to Maria de Agreda, the Lady in Blue (1602-1665). Kessell used this research for Kiva, Cross, and Crown and Spain in the Southwest . Maria de Agreda preached Christianity in the American Southwest -- most notably in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.

Missions: This series contains research material gathered by Kessell for his book, Missions of New Mexico since 1776. Articles, clippings, correspondence, photographs, and notes pertaining to New Mexico missions are contained in the collection, as are materials related to publication of the manuscript.

Correspondence: This series documents nearly 5 decades of Kessell's personal and professional activities. Included are letters between Kessell and scholars researching the history of New Mexico, as well as documents and correspondence with institutions such as the New Mexico Historical Review and the University of New Mexico, as well as correspondence wtih friends, students, administrators, scholars and publishers. Unpublished papers, secondary source materials, newspaper clippings, travel mementos, postcards and photographs are scattered within the correspondence. A 2016 addition to this series focuses on Kessell's research and publication about Bernardo de Miera y Pacheco.


  • 1582-2020

Language of Materials

English Spanish

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of CSWR material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws. Permission is required for publication or distribution.

Biographical Information

After receiving his M.A. from the University of California at Berkeley, John L. Kessell worked for a number of years as resident historian at Tumacacori National Monument in Arizona. Later, he returned to his studies by enrolling in the Ph.D. program at the University of New Mexico. He received his Doctorate in History in 1969. Aside from ultimately publishing his dissertation, Kessell also published a number of articles in journals such as the New Mexico Historical Review and the Journal of Arizona History on topics related to his earlier work in Tumacacori and his studies on the Spanish Colonial presence in Arizona and Sonora.

Kessell later returned to the National Park Service and took several contract positions. While on assignment he wrote Kiva, Cross, and Crown: The Pecos Indians and New Mexico, 1540-1840. He also conducted some preliminary research on Salinas Pueblo National Monument.

John L. Kessell is retired from the History Department at the University of New Mexico.

Source: Kessell, John L. Friars, Soldiers, and Reformers. Tucson, University of Arizona Press, 1976.


17 boxes (16 cu. ft.) plus 5 boxes (5 cu. ft.) of unprocessed materials.


As one of the leading historians of New Mexico and the Spanish Southwest, John L. Kessell conducted extensive research in these areas. This collection includes photocopies of some of the primary source materials he used for his scholarship, as well as notes, correspondence, manuscripts, and other research materials.


Six series:
  1. Pecos Research Materials
  2. Arizona-Sonora Research Materials
  3. Salinas Research Materials
  4. Maria de Agreda Research Materials
  5. Missions Research Materials
  6. Correspondence

Related Archival Material

Jane C. Sanchez Papers Center for Southwest Research. University of New Mexico. Catholic Church Report Regarding New Mexico Missions, 1794. Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico France V. Scholes Papers. Center for Southwest Research. University of New Mexico. Eleanor B. Adams Papers. Center for Southwest Research. University of New Mexico. Documents from the Archivo General de Indias and other related archives. Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico Vargas Project Records. Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico Archivo General de la Nación de México (AGN) Center for Southwest Research. University of New Mexico.

Processing Information

Maria de Agreda, Missions, and Correspondence series were added in March 2010.

Correspondence from 2011-2016 added in January 2018.

Please inquire with reference staff regarding access to the following unprocessed additions: November 2020, five boxes; May 2021, four boxes consisting mainly of illustrations and slides related to Professor Kessell's research and published works; June 2021, two boxes and rolled maps/illustrations. All are shelved on B3-2B.
Finding Aid of the John L. Kessell Papers, 1582-2020
Processed by Jason Strykowski, Twyla Reinig
©2006, ©2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English
Funding provided in part by Center for Regional Studies, University of New Mexico, Dr. Tobías Durán, Director

Revision Statements

  • Monday, 20210524: Attribute normal is missing or blank.

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131