After almost 50 posts and three and a half months of writing this blog, the post on Gallegos in Harding County continues to be a favorite among readers. That first post was pretty short and sweet – an anecdotal look at my own memories about Gallegos and my awe at its continued beauty. I’ve had a chance to take a closer look at the actual history involved – here’s just a small taste of what I’ve found about the church.
The Centennial Celebration brochure created for the churches of the Gallegos and Bueyeros communities says that until 1894, all of northeastern New Mexico was part of a parish in Springer. In that year Archbishop Placid Louis Chappelle visited the settlements in Union County, Flosom, Clayton, Bueyeros and Rincon Colorado (Gallegos) with a Rev. Ghislain H.Haelterman, in order to administer the sacrament of confirmation. On August 15, 1894, after visiting eight other parishes, the two spent the day at Gallegos, and gave confirmation to 171 people, the largest number they had found in their travels. On that day, the Archbishop wrote, “The church is long, accommodating and under the care of the family of don Francisco Gallegos.”
I found a photo of the original church, built in 1876. The photo caption in one book states that the man in the hat in the door is Pastor Conradus Lammert, who moved from Springer to Bueyeros on April 1, 1900. (1900 would be the first year mass was offered at Bueyeros.) Portions of the original Gallegos church wall were constructed with peepholes where rifles could be trained to face emenies aproaching the church. The original bell supposedly came from a chuch near Las Vegas, New Mexico, weighing over 200 pounds and carried to Gallegos in the back of a wagon. According to several sources, the original structure was destroyed by a twister in 1909.
For the next several years, parishioners and ranchers worked to reinforce the remaining walls, increasing the size of the church and adding a veneer of native sandstone, which still stands today. Lifesize Italian statues were ordered from Chicago, and delivered by train to Logan, where a wagon picked them up for the trip to Gallegos. In “A History of New Mexico”, Mary Grooms Clark says that Sara Gallegos de Baca decided to give the church a special gift and had her gold jewelry melted down and made into a crown for the statue of the infant Jesus. Mexican goldsmiths created the crown and set jewels in it from her elaborate earrings. A sterling silver choker with 50 different jewels, was refitted and made into a crown for a Blessed Mother Mary statue.
The statues still stand watch over the hand-carved altar, and the church still sits quietly in the valley under the red mesa. According to the Centennial Celebation brochure, the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is August 15, which is the patronal feast of the church. One thing you can always count on is Mass on Christmas Eve.
If you want to admire the church without going to Mass, remember that the Gallegos Ranch is private property and not open to visitors. Just as it was in 1872 when Don Francisco Gallegos settled this land, the Gallegos Ranch is still a working ranch. If you come back to the blog sometime soon, I’ll pass along some of the history of the Ranch. I even have ghost stories!