Thursday, 18 December 2014 21:29

Sam and Elvira Montoya's stories of old Agua Fria

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Sam Montoya use to tell me:

“Who can? Montoya can!”

When we were about to lift a big board or move a full 55 gallon drum of water to make adobes.

I would go into his house and Elvira Baca Montoya would say that Sam was sitting in the living room.  Every time I would come in to the living room, he would be singing a little corrido ( a ballad


Then he would tell me a story about the olden days and say “Son of a gun” at the end.  Almost as in disbelief of how long ago it was.


Sam was the head of the household when he was 12.  He had been at the boarding school of the N.M. Deaf and Dumb School in Santa Fe because of a hearing problem he had. He would come home from the school on vacations and would give his school-issued boots to his siblings.  Then when he got back to school, he would say he lost his boots, and would get a new pair.  When his dad died and his mother came to get him and tell him he had to quit school and be the man of the house.  His brother, seventeen-year-old Ramon had abandoned the family and taken all the family’s cows to El Rancho as a dowry to marry a girl up there. 


Sam gathered his things and came home.  The situation was bad because six of the eight mules, the finest harnesses and the best wagon that were used for hauling wood were taken by the two older half-brothers as their inheritance.


Sam helped his mom cook the meals for the other eight children who were all smaller and many almost infants and toddlers.  Then he would help feed them.  He would not eat until all the other children would fill up.  Then he and his mother ate the rest of the food.  Sam needed to eat a lot since he worked from sun up to sun down, and then helped with the family at night.  If he finished his chores on the Montoya farm, he would go to the neighbors to ask for work for cash.  He would do any kind of work: digging, chopping wood, building, or cleaning corrals.  His dad was well known as a hard worker and one of the strongest men in the village.  Sam use to tell us he was the strongest man in the village.[1]  So this made it easier to get jobs.  Then he would go to the Romero general store and buy the biggest roast he could for a dime and take it home to the family. 



Agua Frians:

La gente de Agua Fria

Todos en Agua Fria


In the 1930 and 1940’s, in Agua Fria Village, when it was hot in the houses from a long summer’s day, people would go outside to their porches and sit there to catch a breeze.  Men who had been working all day in the fields and women who had also been doing their day-full of chores would be out on the porch.  Famed wood craver (santero) Celso Gallegos would go outside to his porch and start playing his violin.  Elvira Baca Montoya and Tia Senaida Gallegos would walk up the street from their houses near the San Isidro Church and stop on the road in front of his house (there wasn’t much traffic then, especially at night; only a few cars existed in the Village), and start to dance.  He would play faster and play funny songs, and the two dancers would respond in an equally humorous fashion, and start twirling each other around and make funny faces.  Don Celso would also make some funny faces.  The children upon hearing this commotion would come off their porches and gather.  They would sit down together in between the violin and the dancers, with a great position to look at both.   I was a very small child at the time, but enjoyed it immensely.  The night would wind its self down and everyone would go home to return on another night, realizing that they would have another full day of work tomorrow.

William H. Mee, Personal Conversation with Amada “Mae” Montoya on November 30, 2012.   

[1]  Sam Montoya’s personal conversations with great nephew Dale Joseph Montoya.

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William Mee

Resident of Agua Fria Village Traditional Historic Community (THC) a place of settlement since 1640, grew up by Cerrillos, N.M.  Went to SFHS, NMSU and College of Santa Fe; and later UNM.  Member of Agua Fria Village Association and Acequia Agua Fria Association.


  • Comment Link William Mee Thursday, 18 December 2014 22:37 posted by William Mee

    From Mae Baca Montoya on 2-17-2012:
    She remembers her grandmother with two buckets tied to a stick carrying water from the Tanque by Lopez Lane. Her grandfather and father would water the horses at 4-5 a.m. to get ready to go for wood at the Caja del Rio Grant ("La Mesa").

    Mae says that there was a dairy at the Rectory that the Grill family had and her aunt would go there to wash the bottles in the early morning.
    So I need some help in going back and documenting all these oral histories I have sharing with you, any ideas?

  • Comment Link William Mee Thursday, 18 December 2014 22:34 posted by William Mee

    William Mee, Personal Conversation with Elvira Baca Montoya (7-14-1908 to 6-24-2002), November 20, 2000. When she was a small girl, perhaps 6, living down by Lopez Lane, across from the tanque in Agua Fria Village (the irrigation pond), a raiding party from Cochiti Pueblo came and kidnapped a small girl. The bells at the church rang and the people assembled by the church and the men got a wagon full of ears of corn and about a dozen men on horses accompanied it and they made an exchange for the girl near the Pueblo.

  • Comment Link William Mee Thursday, 18 December 2014 22:30 posted by William Mee

    Another story connected to this that I need to get more info on is: that there was another half-brother who had gotten rabies (apparently from a skunk that came up from the river and bite him). So the other half-brothers put a stake through a chain and chained him in front of Jose Lino Montoya's house (Sam's dad who had died), the house where he was born. Sam would go out and feed him water and food and be sure that he was at the opposite end of his chain so he wouldn't be bitten. He also discouraged the smaller children from going by him. He only lasted only about two weeks.

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