In the 1950s Frank Waters observed, “For a tiny hinterland community that has never heard the whistle of a train, (Taos’s) impact has been exceeded by a few metropolitan communities.”
Surprisingly, the last full-length book to attempt the history of this storied town is Blanch C. Grant’s 1934 When Old Trails Were New. That was almost 80 years ago. Now, there is a new book that fills the need for a substantial new account of this place, where three cultures–Tiwa, Spanish and Anglo–have shared land, water, and traditions continuously for at least 700 years.
In six parts and 25 chapters, Taos: A Topical History delivers Taos’s story in topical increments, some large and some small, to about 1960. Beginning with Taos Valley’s highly dynamic geology and its complex archaeology and concluding with surveys of artists and writers who made Taos lately famous, topics include early trade patterns and land grants, uprisings, revolts, and the American Civil War, traditions of the Catholic faith in Northern New Mexico, and journeys through time at Taos Pueblo. Headnotes to every chapter provide continuity and context.
Edited by Corina A. Santistevan and Julia Moore of the Taos County Historical Society, the clothbound book contains 320 pages, 36 black-and-white images, It was published in association with the Museum of New Mexico Press and retails for $34.95.
Dr. John Ramsay of Los Alamos is one of the authors included in the book. His chapter in the book is “A Mutiny in Taos, 1855.”
A public reception and book signing with contributors will be hosted by the Society 4-6 p.m., Nov. 22 at the Spirit Runner Gallery, 303 Pueblo de Pueblo Norte, Taos.
The Taos County Historical Society records and preserves the irreplaceable. For the last two decades, members of the Society have been concerned that, with the passing of the previous two generations, Taos’s past has been slipping from memory and could be lost forever, and, with it the past when Taos was a remote, harsh place that sheltered and fed northern New Mexico’s culture.
The Taos County Historical Societybhas its headquarters on the second floor of the Old County Courthouse on the Plaza. Its collections includes among other items 200 digital recordings by Taosenos housed at the Southwest Research Center at UNM-Taos and the Society’s historical newsletters, 1985-2004. Monthly programs, open to the public, are on the first Saturday of the month with various speakers addressing a variety of topics. Visit taoscountyhistoricalsociety.org for information on current events, resources or membership.