History & Culture

A Southwestern Gateway: The Human History of Pecos

Between the towering Sangre de Cristo mountains and the flat-topped Glorieta Mesa lies Glorieta Pass, through which a continuously unfolding story of human culture has traveled to and from the Pecos Valley for thousands of years. Pueblo and Plains Indians, Spanish conquerors and missionaries, Mexican and Anglo armies, Santa Fe Trail settlers and adventurers, tourists on the railroad, Route 66 and Interstate 25...the Pecos Valley has long been a backdrop that invites contemplation about where our civilization comes from and where it is going. Thousands of years of this rich history is preserved for visitors at Pecos National Historical Park. Follow the timeline below to access more information about the history of the people and the park.

A person throwing a spear at an animal in the distance.
Archaic hunter-gatherers hunting deer in the Rio Grande Valley.

HFC Commissioned Art Collection

Preceramic Period (11,500 B.C.E. - 600 C.E.)

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.

Two people inside a building holding baskets with buildings on the outside.
Native Americans lived in pithouses prior to building permanent pueblo structures.

NPS/Roy Andersen

Developmental Period (600-1200 C.E.)

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 800 and 900 C.E. 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 in multi-family pueblos, or villages.

Ancient remains of an ancient building.
The remnants of Forked Lighting Pueblo after excavations by Alfred V. Kidder in the 1920s.

NPS Photo

Coalition Period (1200-1325 C.E.)

During the Coalition Period, the number of Ancestral Pueblo sites in the Rio Grande Valley increased, suggesting a growing population. 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.

Two people with tools in hand with corn plants in the background.
Pecos People practiced agriculture by growing what is called the 'three sisters'. The 'three sisters' are a group of three crops that are grown together: corns, beans, and squash.

HFC Commissioned Art Collection

Classic Period (1325-1600 C.E.)

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 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.

Ancient building with people gathering in the foreground.
Pecos Pueblo and other natives gathering in front of the pueblo grounds for trading. This painting is a scene of the Pecos Pueblo before the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

HFC Commissioned Art Collection

Early Colonial/Pre-Revolt (1600-1680 C.E.)

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 control every aspect of the Pueblo world, 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.

People throwing objects while a building is on fire.
Destruction of the 1625 Spanish Mission Church during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

Painting by Roy Andersen

Pueblo Revolt (1680-1692 C.E.)

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.

A drawing of an old building.
A drawing of the Spanish Mission Church built in 1717 after the Pueblo Revolt.

HFC Commissioned Art Collection

Late Colonial/Post Revolt (1692-1821 C.E.)

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.

People gathered around a campfire with wagons on either side and a building in the background.
A camp of travelers along the Santa Fe Trail. You can see the 1717 Mission Church of the Pecos Pueblo in the background.

Painting by Roy Andersen

Mexican/Santa Fe Trail (1821-1846 C.E.)

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.

People walking in a group with a firearms around a campsite with trees in the background.
The Civil War Battle of Glorieta Pass occurred here in 1862. This battle is considered to be the 'Gettysburg of the West.'

NPS Photo/Gary Cascio 2018

United States Territorial Period (1846-1880 C.E.)

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.

A map of Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico showing a line representing railroads going through the states.
The Industrial Revolution introduced new technologies such as railroads that spread across the west. Railroads replaced the old trail systems such as the Santa Fe Trail. Thus began the era of tourism that would spread across the Southwest United States.

HFC Commissioned Art Collection

Railroad/Tourism (1880-1941 C.E.)

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.

A building with people on horses and wagons gathered in the foreground.
Tex Austin built the Forked Lightning Ranch in 1926. The ranch was used as a dude ranch, enticing guests to experience the West in a new and exciting way.

NPS Photo

Tex Austin Period (1925-1941 C.E.)

Tex Austin purchased land in the area and created the Forked Lightning Ranch in 1925. Austin, famous as a rodeo promoter, operated the ranch as a dude ranch from 1926-1935. His business was successful up until the 1930s when the Great Depression forced Tex out of business. The property sat empty until 1941.

People gathered in front of an old building.
Greer Garson and Buddy Fogelson at Pecos National Monument. The Fogelsons were instrumental in helping to create Pecos as a park unit in 1965.

NPS Photo

Fogelson/Monument Period (1941-1991 C.E.)

E.E. “Buddy” Fogelson purchased the 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 were added to Pecos National Monument, transforming it into Pecos National Historical Park.

Last updated: January 21, 2021

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Pecos National Historical Park
P.O. Box 418

Pecos, NM 87552


505 757-7241

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