A Story of Survival
The Taos Massacre of August 4, 1760
Synopsis by Patricia Sanchez Rau
Early New Mexico was considered by the Spaniards a land of opportunity; however, they felt that they were up to the challenges. The original soldiers that came with Don Juan de Oñate in 1600 were given large tracts of land called encomiendas. The struggles that the original settlers endured were not totally documented, but we know they faced drought, hunger, and attacks by the Native American Tribes that were already living on the land.
Don Hernán Martín Serrano, a soldier from Zacatecas was given a huge tract of land in what was known as Rio Arriba bordering on Taos. He and his family were on the outskirts of the settle land, but he and his sons were known as great Indian fighters and had been able to occupy the land and make a good living.
In 1680 there was an uprising from the Indians and they drove the Spaniards and all their families from New Mexico. They were exiled for 12 years and then in 1693, Don Diego de Vargas led the reconquest back into New Mexico.
The old families sought to resettle their land, among them being the Martín Serrano family along with other early settlers including the Marcial Torres family. Marcial married Rosa Luján Martín in 1730 at San Juan de los Caballeros, and had eight children; Joaquin, Leonarda, Paula, Petronila, Jacinta, Cristobal, Pablo and another child whose name we were unable to find. His first wife died about 1747 and Marcial remarried to a María de la Luz Martín and had five more children; Juliana, Antonio, Manuela, Domingo, and another child whose name we were unable to determine.
The family was very resourceful and various types of defensive towers built at the corners of their hacienda for protection. The older children had all married so the extended family had grown quite large along with the neighbors who were not too far away. Everything was peaceful until the early morning of August 4, 1760, when they were attacked by a tribe of Comanches. Three thousand braves swept in and although the battle was fierce, the Torres family and the neighbors and extended family soon succumbed. It is unknown who gave the alarm, if the Torres family or one of the neighbors had been able to send an out rider to raise the alarm or if someone survived and had made it to safety.
What is known is that when the neighbors came to help, this is what they found.
The Dead & Captured:
Marcial Torres father-in-law Antonio Martín outlines who was killed and captured. The number is nowhere near the reported 64 dead and 54 captured although he is mainly outlining the Torres Family.
- Marcial Torres, edad, his second wife María de la Luz Martín captive.
- Jose Joaquin Torres, dead and his wife Pascuala Martín captive. He is the son of Marcial and she was another daughter of Antonio Martín and Catalina Villalpando.
- Petrona named as captive.
- Antonio Joseph Torres, son of Jose Joaquin Torres and Pascuala Martín , orphaned living with Antonio Martín .
- Pablo Torres, dead and his wife Francisca Salazar captive (son of Marcial), she was the daughter of Jose Antonio Salazar.
- Julian Jacquez, dead, his wife Jacinta Torres captive and their daughter Francisca, captive.
- Cristobal Torres (son of Marcial) – taken captive
- Three children from this second marriage of Marcial Torres and María Luz Martín taken captive – one named María and the other unnamed, plus Francisca killed.
- Orphaned Juliana Torres and Juan Domingo, children of Marcial and 2nd wife María Luz Martín – it is for these children that the grandfather Antonio Martín is seeking division of the estate.
- Pablo Villalpando left no issue, so his 3 children were either killed or captured. [María, Pablo, Ana María and his wife Francisca Luján].
- Among the other neighbors who were taken captive was María Rosa Villalpando, wife of Juan Jose Jacques.
- Others were probably taken as hostages, however, no legal papers or other items were found to help identify the killed or captured.
The remaining settlers immediately fell into pursuit. One of the captured Petronila Torres was either recaptured or redeemed.
Many years pass, and evidence was found that Jacinta Torres had been sold by the Indians to a trapper in Arkansas. Rosa Billalpando was also redeemed by a trader from Saint Louis.
The entire account of Jacinta Torres and Rosa Billalpando and the strange twists their lives took after being captured by the Indians can be found in the article by the same name which was published in Herncia Quarterly Publication of the Hispanic Genealogical Research Center Volume 14 Issue 3 July 2006 by Henrietta Martínez Christmas and Patricia Sanchez Rau.
Link to HGRC Quarterly Journal page. http://www.hgrc-nm.org/herencia.html