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Bloomfield History

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Area Geography

Bloomfield, NM sits in San Juan County, in the Four Corners region. It received its first post office in 1881 as a small agricultural village, and currently depends on the area's oil and natural gas for its survival.
 
On this site you can learn more about the town, area and the people who've lived there.

Bloomfield on Wikipedia, including 2000 census info: click here.


A Quick Area History

   

         Although there is evidence of pre-historic peoples living in the area, the town built by the Chacoan culture is the earliest proof of permanent settlement in the Bloomfield area.  Now called “Salmon Ruins,” the carefully constructed pueblo was built in 1088 A.D., mid-way between Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon.  There is evidence the Chocoans built a road from the city in Chaco Canyon to the town, and forded the San Juan River at the place Peter M. Salmon used when he entered the area.

            The Chacoans left the area in the mid twelfth century, and the site was vacant for nearly a hundred years until the people of the Mesa Verde culture occupied the town at Salmon Ruins.  Before the end of the thirteenth century, however, the Mesa Verdeans also abandoned the area.

            Navajo clans settled in the Largo Canyon around 1500, building forked stick hogans on ridges overlooking the canyons.  They also built huts of timbers, brush and mud.  The Navajo tilled flood-watered valleys, growing corn and squash, and also hunting game.

            After the Pueblo Revolts of 1680 and 1696, some Pueblo Indians left their homes along the Rio Grande and came to the Largo-Gubernador area, settling with the Navajo to be free of Spanish rule.  They introduced weaving, pottery and some religious ceremonies to the Navajo culture.  In the mid eighteenth century, because of Ute raids and droughts, these groups were forced west to the area of the present-day Navajo Reservation.

            Until 1874, probably only the occasional Spanish exploring party passed through the area.  Padre Escalante came through in 1776, naming Mesa Verde after climbing up the face of the mesa.  After Navajos became shepherds, some clans brought their herds to graze along the river bottom in the summer and moved back to the mesas in winter.

Hispanic families began to settle in what is now Turley in 1874, coming down the Largo Canyon from Colorado.  The widow Mrs. Juanita Valdez Lobato and her son David E. Lobato are credited with being the first family to put down roots in the area. 

            In 1876, the San Juan County region was opened for settlement.  Peter M. Salmon and his family came a year later, as did Orange Phelps and others. Early settlers describe the region as covered in grama grass that brushed the stirrup.  It was ideal grazing land for both sheep and cattle.  As the mines in Colorado grew in the 1880s, the demand for beef rose dramatically.  Cattle rustling became a common problem, and residents of the Bloomfield, Farmington, and Aztec areas formed militias to protect their herds.

            There was also friction between sheepherders and cattlemen since their stock competed for the same feed.  Some of the tension might also have been the clash between cultures, as most cattle raisers were Anglo and most shepherds were Hispanic.  John Arrington tells of Port Stockton riding with a posse (before he became seen as an outlaw) and shooting a Spanish-American shepherd on sight because he was a “natural enemy” of cattlemen like himself.

            Water is another valuable resource in the San Juan County.  The confluence of the La Plata, Animas and San Juan Rivers caused Navajos to call the Farmington area “Totah,” meaning “three rivers” or “land of waters.”  Farmers appreciated these rivers as irrigating sources, which allowed beans, hay and orchards to be grown.

 

For more information on individual towns, see the Town Biographies.

This site is run by Jocelyn McDaniel.  For comments/questions, please email me at salamander5@go.com.  Include "Bloomfield history" as the subject line.
 
Although I don't live in Bloomfield, my family ties to the area are strong.  I was raised in a house only a few hundred yards from the homestead where my father was born.  My grandmother is Bertie McDaniel, whose life story (part of it, anyway) is posted here.
 
Please be patient with the site and visit periodically.  As you'll note, some pages are under construction and more are planned. 
 

This site was created as a history project for Dr. Earl Mulderink's History 2710 class at Southern Utah University, in April, 2006.