Friday, December 9, 2011


El Morro National Monument is located on an ancient east-west trail in western New Mexico. The main feature of this National Monument is a great sandstone promontory with a pool of water at its base. As a shaded oasis in the western U.S. desert, this site has seen many centuries of travelers. The remains of a mesa top pueblo are atop the promontory where between about 1275 to 1350 AD, up to 1500 people lived in this 875 room pueblo. The Spaniard explorers called it El Morro (The Headland). The Zuni Indians call it "A'ts"ina" (Places of writings on the rock). Anglo-Americans called it Inscription Rock. Travelers left signatures, names, dates, and stories of their treks. While some of the inscriptions are fading, there are still many that can be seen today, some dating to the 17th century. Some petroglyphs and carvings were made by the Anasazi centuries before the Europeans started making their mark. In 1906, U.S. federal law prohibited further carvings.

Note: Remember, if you click on the photos they should be able to enlarge to see detail better.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


All photos are mine, and I did my best to collect some of the most interesting inscriptions. In no way could I capture the total amount of these inscriptions, but I did my best to reflect the concept of this monument. Some inscriptions did not photograph very well, however if you would click on the photos you can enlarge them and should be able to make out most of the writings. I want to thank the Western National Parks Association for almost all the information I added on this blog. If you are ever out in New Mexico, try to take time to visit this interesting monument. It is on Interstate 40 west of Albuquerque about 2 hours, close to Gallup..


This is El Morro, which is Spanish for "the headland" or "the bluff". From 700 year old pueblo bricks to hundreds of ancient inscriptions, this sandstone bluff holds much history. What brought all these travelers and inhabitants here is just a simple pool of water; sometimes the only water for over a fifty mile radius. Unlike some historians say, this pool is not spring fed. The pool is fed largely by rainfall in July through September, and in the springtime, by melting snows. The water from the top of these bluffs funnel down to the pool. When the pool is full it is about twelve feet deep and holds about 200,000 gallons of water. The pool never empties but evaporation can shrink it from its banks until refilled by precipitation. When the pueblos on the bluff were at peak population at approximately 1,500 people, back around 1275-1350 A.D., the water was life-sustaining. Within 300 years the Spanish made many a visit through this area, with the Americans coming along 200 years after that. El Morro was designated a national monument in 1906. In the 1920's, the first superintendent decided to erase any inscriptions added to the wall after 1906 because they were graffiti and unlawful. Numerous spots on the wall you can see large smooth areas where the inscriptions were removed. Now the chalkboard is rather historic, unblemished by man of our modern world.


Just a couple more Spanish inscriptions.....


The vast majority of inscriptions were made by men which history only knows of them by their simple marks upon this sandstone walls. This post is made up of a collection of English and Spanish names, and  a few petroglyphs from the original settlers.

Monday, October 31, 2011


This translation of this inscription reads: "In the year 1716 on the 26th of August don Feliz Martinez, Governor and Captain General of this Kingdom, and the reverend Father Antonio Camargo, Custodian and Ecclesiastical Judge, passed by here to the conversion and conquest of the Moqui {Hopi}." Apparently Martinez was a bit over zealous in this remark, he found the Hopi unwilling to accept Spanish domination. After two months of quarreling, the expedition returned to Santa Fe. When the time came for Martinez to relinquish the office of governor, he refused until pressed by adversaries. Martinez died in Mexico City in 1731, leaving a large debt behind him.


To understand this inscription a brief history lesson will be helpful. The translation of  this inscription reads: "On the 23 of  March {or May} of the year 1632 we travel to avenge the death of Father Letrado ..Lujan. In the year 1629 Father Letrado built the earliest mission chapel at Gran Quivira. He was transferred to Zuni in February 1632 and was killed just one week later. On hearing the news, the governor sent a punitive expedition of soldiers, one named Lujan, from Sante Fe to Zuni to pacify the Zunis.


E. Penn. Long of Baltimore, Maryland, was a member of a U. S. Army expedition led by Lt. Edward F. Beale to find a wagon route from Fort Smith, Arkansas, to the Colorado River. The group, which first passed El Morro in 1857, was also testing the usefulness of camels in crossing the deserts of the Southwest. Although Beale wrote positively about the camels in his journals, the Army abandoned the experiment at the onset of the Civil War. Long and two other members of Beale's group probably made their inscriptions during a second visit to El Morro in 1859. "Mr. Engle" is in block print and "Mr. Bryn" in script. Engle was Beale's second in command.


This simple inscription was made by one of three Spanish soldiers left to "guard" two thousand Zuni Indians in 1699. It reads " I am of the hand {that is, written by} of Felipe de Arellano on the 16th day of September, soldier.


A couple of the first known American travelers to El Morro was Lt. J. H. Simpson, an engineer for the army, and Mr. R. H. Kern, a Philadelphia artist employed by the army as a topographer. They were the first English people to make a record of Inscription Rock. They spent two days copying the inscriptions and petroglyphs, and their reports of the visit show that not a single English inscription could be found on the rock at that time-September 17-18, 1849. They even noted the crossed out gentleman in Governor Eulate's inscription (mentioned in a another post on this blog). It is kind of humerous that although they were so careful to duplicate that remark, they failed to be so careful in making their own inscription. Along with their names they misspelled the word inscription.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


This inscription is done by the wagon train leader, L. J. Rose. he was the one who led the ill fated wagon train in 1858. There are four separate postings with six inscription names tied to this event. Mr. Rose, Sallie Fox, Miss A. E. Baley, John Udell, Isaac Holland, and P. H. Williamson. Rose was originally from Germany but made his fortune in dry-goods in Iowa. He led the group of forty families toward California in 1858, stopping by El Morrow for water. It was at this time when several of the members left their mark upon the sandstone walls. After they left here they were attacked by the Colorado River by Mojave Indians. There is insignificant history to know who all of the survivors were, but we do know that Rose was one. The remnants of the party walked most of the way back to New Mexico,and spent the winter there. In the spring most of them started again to California with Lt. Edward F. Beale, a man which is tied to many other inscriptions.


This inscription is very difficult to make out in a photo; however, it is a post which ties it to our wagon train led by L.J. Rose in 1858. Sallie Fox was twelve years old when she traveled with the ill fated caravan. Although everyone called her Sallie, she inscribed her proper name, "Sarah Fox". Sallie was shot with an arrow during the attack at the Colorado River, but she survived. Her inscription is very small and is placed right above the "CA".

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


The last inscription from Spanish colonial times is by Andres Romero. He wrote "Andres Romero passed through here in the year 1774." "After his visit, turbulent times were seen by the Spanish. Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821. Then, following the U.S.-Mexican War from 1846-1848, the Treaty Of Guadalupe Hidalgo ceded large areas of land from Mexico to the United States. This new land, the New Mexican Territory, opened the way for the Americans-the last of the inscribers-to come through El Morrro."


Interesting research in all these names on this sandstone rock brought two of these inscriptions together. In a few posts on down from this one is one which mentions Miss Baley; this one connects their stories together. There are three men's names in these pictures, all were written close together at the same time. P. H. Williamson, Isaac Holland, and John Udell, they were members of the first emigrant wagon train to try this route to get to California in 1858. The original caravan consisted of forty families and was led by L. J. Rose, who was born in Germany. At El Morro these three left their inscriptions and then moved on to the Colorado River. There they were attacked by Mojave Indians. Because of journals kept by the emigrants, we know that survivors of the attack, including Rose, the Baley sisters, and Udell and his wife who were both in their sixties, walked most of the way back to New Mexico to wait out the winter. As for the other names, apparently there was not any definitive history.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Somewhere along the line, inscriptionists decided to put their names and or initials in a box. There are dozens of examples of this.


Perhaps a spontaneous action, maybe offering an addendum.Corporal Trujillo's follow up remark is probably one of a kind on this sandstone wall. The top two lines of inscription reads: "The 14th day of July 1736, General Juan Paez Hurtado, Inspector, passed by here." Right below this is "And in his company, Corporal Joseph Trujillo."



One can only wonder where these people traveled to, where they lived their lives. The signatures are mostly in the mid 1800's.


The only poem on the rock, in translation, reads: "The Lord and Governor Don Francisco Manuel de Silva Nieto came this far with our Lord King's wagons. With his indubitable arm and valor,  he has already overcome the impossible, a thing which he alone accomplished 5 August 1629 so that one may well proceed to Zuni and carry the Holy Faith." Nieto was a knight of the Order of Alcantara. He was appointed governor in 1628 and served from 1629 to 1632. Controversy surrounds Nieto to what kind of a man he was, some scholars say that he was well liked while others state that he was so disliked that he was murdered by his own servant.


Don Joseph de Payba Basconzelos, a council member paid for expelled council (cabildo) members to return to Sante Fe from Mexico City after a 3 1/2 year banishment by New Mexico's governor. During his return trip he stopped here for some cool water and to leave his mark upon the sandstone. The translation of this writing is "The Ensign Don Joseph de payba Basconzelos passed through here on the 18th of February, 1726,  the year he returned, at his own expense, the menbers of the cabildo to the kingdom.{New Mexico}

Saturday, October 22, 2011


P. (Peachy) Breckinridge was the man in charge of the twenty-five camels used by Lieutenant Beale in 1857. After concluding his work with Beale, Breckinridge returned to his home state of Virginia and then fought in the Civil War. He was killed during a battle at Kennon's Landing, Virginia in 1863.


Just among the numerous unknown names that adorn the rock. So many names representing just blank faces. The Monument has written inscriptions for almost 300 years. In 1906, U.S. federal law prohibited further carving.


Very few women left their inscriptions at El Morro; Miss A. F. Baley was one of them. America Frances Baley and her sister Amelia were part of a wagon party headed from Missouri to California in 1858. Their group followed a recent newly surveyed route done by the U. S. Army; at that time this route was known as Beale'sWagon Road.
Her travels soon after would have made her reconsider her intentions. Just east of the Colorado River, eight hundred Mojave Indians attacked the wagon party and killed nine and injured seventeen of the members. The Mojave suffered heavy casualties themselves, eighty-seven in all. The wagon party returned to New Mexico to spend the winter in Albuquerque or Santa Fe. Eventually both sisters made it to Fresno County, California.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


The inscription reads, "We, Sergeant Major and Captain Juan de Arechuleta and Adjutant Diego Martin Barba and Ensign Agustin Agustin de Ynojos, passed by here, in the year of 1636." Back in that time period a Sergeant Major was not an enlisted man as he would be now, he was an officer in direct command of troops. The ensign was the standard bearer. Arechuleta was among the first colonists to come to New Mexico with previous posted governor, Don Juan de Ornate in 1598. Arechuleta and Martin Barba were implicated in a plot to assassinate the colonial governor, Ornate. They were beheaded on Santa Fe's plaza in 1643.


This inscription when translated means "Pedro Romero passed through here on the 2nd of August, year of 1751." This inscription is an example of what early park managers did to try to preserve these inscriptions, they darkened them with graphite/pencil lead. A bit intrusive for preservation attempts, this practice was ended in the 1930's.


"From the time Ramon Garcia Jurado moved to New Mexico as a colonist in 1693 until his death at the age of  80 in 1760, he was a witness and participant in the Spanish settlement of New Mexico. It is likely he was on a campaign against the Navajos during his visit to El Morro in 1709." His inscription is enclosed in the box, it says "On the 25th of the month of June, of this year of 1709, Ramon Garcia Jurado passed through here on the way to Zuni."


This was attributed by Governor Eulate, and it reads "The governor and captain general of the provinces of New Mexico for the King, our lord, passed by here, returning from the Zuni pueblos on July, 29, 1620; he left them in peace, at their request, asking for his favor as vassals of his majesty, they again rendered their obedience; he did all this attention, zeal, and prudence, as such a particularly Christian gentleman and gallant soldier of unending, praiseworthy memory." What one finds interesting in this inscribed is the word "gentleman" which is highly scrathed out. A Mr. R.H. Kern an artist employed by the army in 1849, made an historical comment about this as he was documenting this site.


The rock is inscribed with hundreds of names, most have unknown history. Common man, and yes even a few women, with a knife, perhaps a chistle, even a horse shoe nail would leave their mark behind.