Tags: US State Facts | New Mexico History | Land of Enchantment | Santa Fe Railroad

New Mexico History: 8 Events That Shaped the State

Image: New Mexico History: 8 Events That Shaped the State
Billy the Kid (1859–1881). (wikimedia/commons)

By    |   Friday, 27 Feb 2015 04:34 PM

New Mexico history involves the conflicts of the Wild West and frontier disputes. Despite its difficulties in the early years of U.S. westward expansion, the state played a pivotal role in the country''s development.

Here are eight events that helped shape the state of New Mexico:

1. New Mexico was colonized by Spain throughout the 1500s, but the U.S. acquired most of the state in 1848 with the rest becoming a U.S. Territory in 1854 under the Gadsden Purchase, a treaty that turned over southwestern New Mexico and southern Arizona to the U.S. from Mexico, according to History.com.

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2. New Mexicans aided the Union during the Civil War, helping to stop a Confederate invasion. Confederates had occupied Santa Fe in 1862. Volunteers from New Mexico and Colorado joined Union soldiers to defeat Confederate Gen. Henry Hopkins' army in a battle that has been called the Gettysburg of the West.

3. A reputation for lawlessness developed in New Mexico because of the Lincoln County War, a range war between merchants and cattlemen from 1878 to 1881, and the emergence of outlaws such as William H. Bonney, known as Billy the Kid.

4. Territorial disputes were resolved and economic progress took place with the arrival of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, which crossed through New Mexico beginning in 1879.

5. Volunteers from New Mexico once again came to the aid of the U.S. by enlisting in Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders to fight in the Spanish-American War in 1898. Roosevelt was impressed with the volunteers and worked to bring statehood to New Mexico, which finally became a state in 1912 under President William H. Taft.

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6. Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa contributed to New Mexico history when he crossed boundaries into the state, burning down Columbus and killing 17 of its residents in 1916. Gen. John J. Pershing was sent in to pursue Villa into Mexico, but was called back by President Woodrow Wilson, who was preparing the general for World War I.

7. The first atomic bomb was tested in central New Mexico at the Trinity Site on July 16, 1945. The area was used during the Manhattan Project that began in 1942 to develop a nuclear bomb before Germany during World War II. According to History.com, the explosion could be felt 160 miles away. Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory continues to test nuclear and solar energy.

8. Roswell has become an area of research for UFOlogists and tourists because of a July 1947 incident that many people believe was the result of the crash of an alien spacecraft. According to History.com, a farmer found unusual debris in a pasture just outside of Roswell, but Air Force officials said it was debris from a weather balloon. However, the town has become a popular tourist attraction for UFO buffs.

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New Mexico history involves the conflicts of the Wild West and frontier disputes. Despite its difficulties in the early years of U.S. westward expansion, the state played a pivotal role in the country's development.
New Mexico History, Land of Enchantment, Santa Fe Railroad
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2015-34-27
Friday, 27 Feb 2015 04:34 PM
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