A Southwestern Gateway: The Human History of Pecos
Preceramic Period (11,500 B.C.-A.D. 600)
Prior to the Ancestral Pueblo people, Paleoindian and Archaic hunter-gatherers lived in the Upper Pecos Valley. The Paleoindians hunted now-extinct, large animals such as mastodon and giant ground sloths. Archaic hunter-gatherers began supplementing their diet with agricultural foods like corn, beans, and squash beginning circa 3500 BC.
Developmental Period (A.D. 600-1200)
During this period, early hunters and gatherers increasingly began to settle in locations near water sources as they took advantage of a wetter climate and relied more on agriculture. Near Glorieta Creek, they began to build semi-permanent subterranean structures called pithouses between AD 800 and 900. Different tasks like farming, hunting, gathering, tool making, and food processing were divided among the community members. By the mid-1100s, people began to live above ground structures, in multi-family pueblos—or villages as they became more reliant on agriculture.
Coalition Period (A.D. 1200-1325)
During the Coalition Period, the number of Ancestral Pueblo sites in the Rio Grande Valley increases, suggesting increased population levels. Expansion into areas outside of the Rio Grande Valley includes the Upper Pecos Valley, where villages like Forked Lightning Pueblo and Rowe Pueblo were established along Glorieta Creek and the Pecos River.
Classic Period (A.D. 1325-1600)
During the Classic Period, the many 50-100+ pueblos that had once dotted the landscape began to consolidate into one larger settlement at Pecos Pueblo by A.D. 1450. Because of the village’s commanding location near Glorieta Pass, Pecos Pueblo hosted a lively trade between the Plains Indians and Rio Grande Pueblos. By the mid-1500s, this prominent pueblo known throughout the Pueblo world, had become an attractive target for the Spanish Conquistadors during their explorations of the Southwest.
Early Colonial/Pre-Revolt (A.D. 1600-1680)
After initial contact with the Pueblos, the Spanish began to establish a colony and Franciscan missions were started at the largest pueblos. Spanish rule attempted to govern and control the Puebloans including their economy and belief systems. Due to the way the indigenous population had been treated, many pueblos banded together to create the first American Revolution, the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.
Pueblo Revolt (A.D. 1680-1692)
Fed up with ill treatment at the hands of the Spaniards, the Pueblos banded together on August 10, 1680 to expel the Spanish government and Franciscan Friars from the Southwest. The successful revolt, led by Po’pay from Ohkay Owengeh (San Juan Pueblo), represented the only time that European invaders were successfully expelled from the country.
Late Colonial/Post Revolt (A.D. 1692-1821)
In 1692, the Spanish forcefully reclaimed New Mexico and re-established missions at many of the pueblos including the Pecos Pueblo. While the recolonization of New Mexico had been difficult, the Spanish found little resistance from Pecos Pueblo. Because of raids by Comanches from the Plains, European introduced disease spreading throughout the community, and theft of pueblo land, the Pecos People slowly declined throughout the 1700s.
Mexican/Santa Fe Trail (A.D. 1821-1846)
The legendary Santa Fe Trail, which passed right through the park, opened in 1821 after Mexico won its independence from Spain. Settlers and travelers riding the trail between Santa Fe, NM and Independence, MO passed right by the remnants of Pecos Pueblo. In the 1830s, the last remaining Pecos people migrated permanently to the Pueblo of Jemez where the Pecos traditions live on.
United States Territorial (A.D. 1846-1880)
During the Mexican-American War in 1846, New Mexico officially became a U.S. territory. Evidence of this period can be seen in the park today with Martin Kozlowski’s Trading Post and the Civil War Battle of Glorieta Pass.
Railroad/Tourism (A.D. 1880-1941)
Signs of the Industrial Revolution arrived in the Pecos Valley and cemented this place as a key transportation corridor and a hub for tourism. Train horns could be heard by the late 1800s, followed quickly by car horns in the early 1900s. Travelers could take a day trip to see Alfred Kidder’s excavations at Pecos Pueblo, take one of Fred Harvey’s Indian Detours, or stay for an extended vacation at Tex Austin’s Forked Lightning Ranch.
Tex Austin Period (A.D. 1925-1941)
Tex Austin built the Forked Lightning Ranch in 1925. Austin, famous as a rodeo promoter, operated the ranch as a dude ranch from 1925-1935. His business was successful up until the 1930s when the Great Depression forced Tex out of business. The property sat empty until 1941.
Fogelson/Monument Period (A.D. 1941-1991)
E.E. “Buddy” Fogelson purchased Forked Lightning Ranch in 1941. After World War II, he met the famous Hollywood Actress Greer Garson and invited her out to the ranch. She fell in love with the area and after they married in 1949, they spent the next 40 years splitting their time between Texas and New Mexico. After their deaths, the Forked Lightning Ranch House, Kozlowski’s Trading Post and thousands of acres of ranch land was added to Pecos National Monument to transform it into Pecos National Historical Park.
Last updated: June 11, 2020