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Albert Jennings Fountain Document

Identifier: MSS-8-SC

Scope and Content

The photoprint of the handwritten document by Colonel Albert Jennings Fountain is entitled "Confundis de la Historia del Pintoresco Pueblo de la Mesilla." This description of "the picturesque town of la Mesilla" outlines the role of Mesilla in New Mexican and American history. It describes the settlement of this town by 300 families from what is now Ciudad Juarez and lists assorted families involved in that colonization. The author mentions the building of acequias and the planting of fields which marked that settlement. The author then describes the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo through which the national affiliation of la Mesilla remained vague. Fountain describes the ceremony in which this area was formally recognized as United States territory following the Gadsden Purchase. Fountain explains that "that was a day of glory" in which a speaker in these ceremonies "explained to the town that the mother country had sold that land but left to its inhabitants the privilege, according to the treaty, the duration of one year from that date to declare whether or not they wished to remain Mexican citizens or adopt the new country with the same rights as American citizens." Also described in Fountain's document is the role Mesilla played in the Civil War. He proudly reports that the United States government asked for volunteers to fight for the Union and "although la Mesilla only had six years as the adoptive daughter [of the United States], it had the honor of offering more than its share of soldiers." Furthermore, he mentions this town's occupation by the Confederate Army. Finally, he writes of Jacinto Armijo's donation of land in Las Cruces to be used as the new county seat, thus indicating la Mesilla's end as such.

The document is written in Spanish.

The collection was previously called Albert Jennings Fountain Papers.


  • 1838-1896


Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication 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

Colonel Albert Jennings Fountain was born in Staten Island, New York in 1838. His early military career led him to various parts of the country, including -- perhaps most significantly, New Mexico. Fountain served with the First Regiment of the New Mexico Volunteer Militia during New Mexico's Territorial period. He was stationed at Fort Fillmore, in Mesilla, where he met and married Mariana Pérez. Fountain's pioneer activities included militia service, involvement in the capture of Geronimo, work as an attorney with the Southwest Cattle Association, and service as Senator of Texas, Senate Majority Leader, and Speaker of the House from 1888-1889. He was involved with the Masonic Order and contributed to his community in numerous ways, including as editor of a local bilingual newspaper (the Mesilla Valley Independent). He was a promoter of statehood for New Mexico Territory. Later in life, he moved from Mesilla to Las Cruces, New Mexico, as this became the new Doña Ana County seat,. Fountain was active in the prosecution and fight against cattle rustling, including that done by Billy the Kid and other infamous outlaws. He disappeared in 1896, along with his youngest son, and was presumed murdered in Lincoln County by a notorious gang of cattle rustlers he had prosecuted unsuccessfully.

The Mesilla Valley (now southern New Mexico and Arizona south of the Gila), once the judicial center for federal, territorial, and county courts in Doña Ana County, prior to Las Cruces' assumption of this role, has a long and significant history in New Mexico. Following its initial population by Native Americans, the Mesilla Valley was inhabited by the Spanish party of Friar Agustin Rodríguez in 1581. Later, this area was the subject of dispute between the United States and Mexico. After the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which signaled the end of the Mexican War, a colony of individuals not desiring American citizenship moved across the Rio Grande and established the town of Mesilla, then thought to be under Mexican jurisdiction. The Treaty, however, established only vague boundaries based on a map with inaccurate lines of latitude and longitude. This vagueness led to a dispute over this territory claimed by both nations, which James Gadsden was sent to Mexico to negotiate. The United States was particularly interested in owning the Mesilla area because it was seen as an ideal location for a railroad route to the Pacific, which would connect the rest of the nation to California, where gold had recently been discovered and to where a large population was moving.

The Gadsden Treaty was signed on December 30, 1853 after the region was purchased for ten million dollars, resultiing in the addition of Mesilla to Doña Ana County. This was the last acquisition in the Southwest. It is argued that the people of Mesilla, petitioned the United States government (via the governor of New Mexico) to maintain their citizenship with the United States. The Mexican government reportedly then considered Mesilla part of that nation, but did not consider the inhabitants Mexican citizens. On that basis, the Americans there were dispossessed of their land.

During the Civil War, a force of Union soldiers was stationed at Fort Fillmore in Mesilla which had, at one point, been occupied by Confederate soldiers who wished to attach this area to the Confederate States. In 1871, following the Civil War, an election riot broke out in Mesilla in which nine men were killed and many more wounded. It is considered that the Civil War delayed the entry of a railroad through this area, and, finally, the railroad was routed through Las Cruces, instead, which eventually replaced Mesilla as the county seat.

P.M. Baldwin considers the history of the Mesilla Valley "a record of the struggle of obscure, industrious, brave, and patient men and women against harsh frontier conditions and their gradual subduing to the uses of civilization." As such, that same author considers it "a stanza in the national epics of the American people."


1 Folder


This collection consists of one photoprint of a handwritten document, entitled "Confundis de la Historia del Pintoresco Pueblo de la Mesilla," by Colonel Albert Jennings Fountain. The document outlines the role of the town of la Mesilla in the history of New Mexico, with regard to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the Gadsden Purchase, and the Civil War.

Relevant Secondary Sources

  • Baldwin, P.M. "A Historical Note on the Boundaries of NewMexico," New Mexico Historical Review 5 (2): 117-137, 1930.
  • Baldwin, P.M. "A Short History of the Mesilla Valley," NewMexico Historical Review13 (3): 314-324, 1938.
  • Coffey, Frederic A. "Some General Aspects of the GadsdenTreaty," New Mexico Historical Review 8 (3): 145-164, 1933.
  • Garber, Paul Neff.The Gadsden Treaty.Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1959.
  • Gibson, A.M.The Life and Death of Colonel AlbertJennings Fountain. Norman: University ofOklahoma Press, 1965.
  • McAllister, Dan. "Old Settlers in Otero County," New MexicoHistorical Review 26 (2):128-136, 1951.
  • Miller, Darlis A. "Cross Cultural Marriages in the Southwest:the New Mexico Experience, 1846-1900," New Mexico Historical Review 57 (4): 335-359,1982.
  • Rasch, Philip J. "The Rustler War," New Mexico HistoricalReview 39 (4): 257-273, 1964.
  • Twitchell, Ralph Emerson. The Leading Facts of New MexicanHistory, vol. 5. Cedar Rapids: The Torch Press, 1917.
Finding Aid of the Albert Jennings Fountain Document, 1838-1896
Edited Full Draft
Processed by K. Stocker
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Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • June 28, 2004: PUBLIC "-//University of New Mexico::Center for Southwest Research//TEXT (US::NmU::MSS 8 SC::Albert Jennings Fountain Document)//EN" "nmu1mss8sc.sgml" converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • 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