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San Felipe Pueblo

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Pueblo of San Felipe
Pueblo of San Felipe

At my first visit to San Felipe I was denied entrance to the pueblo, owing to a secret dance which was in progress. The next day, coming on invitation, I found the council of principals already assembled and anxious to make amends for the inhospitable treatment of the day before. We discussed 2 large tracts of land, each available for cultivation, one needing an extension of the acequia and the other a boom in the river, Upon leaving the line of San Domingo, along which every foot was cultivated, one enters a tract of the same sort of land, 2,500 acres, covered with sagebrush, where a large band of San Domingo horses ranged. The land cultivated by the San Felipeans lies on the left bank above and on both sides below the town. A mile south of this the river divides, leaving an island of the richest loam 1.5 miles long and a third of a mile wide.

The grant of San Felipe extends for 9 miles on the west and 8 on the east along the river. An irrigating ditch lines the east side for about 7 miles, passing the little Mexican village of Como, whose inhabitants use the water. This settlement has been here for a long time. I was unable to find whether it had been found before the confirmation of their grant in 1858. In proportion to the population (554) San Felipe has more land available for agriculture than any other pueblo. It has, therefore, become wasteful of its privileges. The town, of recent construction, is laid out with the precision of a military camp, surrounding a plaza 250 by 175 feet. The houses facing this have been whitened for the first story, the second, when there is one, being left in its original color. The effect is striking. At the corners of the plaza are openings wide enough for a horse to pass through, and on the north and south sides are gates for wagons. To the south stands the church, a large building of greater architectural pretensions than any other among the pueblos. Many images are found in their houses, pertaining both to their own and the Catholic religion. Opposite the center of the north side is the great circular estufa, and on the center of the east side a lesser estufa. Between this and the river, which flows about 100 yards from the plaza, runs a line of cedar corrals, and directly opposite these, on the west side, another series parallel with the line of houses. Outside the fort-like inclosure a few houses have been reared without regard to regularity. All the land of the town is drained toward the plaza, and the result during the rainy season is a rectangular pond to be circumvented or forded by the inhabitants. Two hundred feet of pipe would drain this into the river. The whole town is shadowed on the west by a high volcanic mesa, which rises abruptly to a height of 650 feet. On the top of this, half a mile above, are the ruins of the old pueblo from which the inhabitants moved. Pasture for burros and cattle is found on the mesa, but the 400 horses range on the bottom lands. But few orchards, very small, are found at this pueblo, all lying directly opposite the town on tho east bank of the river. A bridge was built a few years ago, but it is now partially destroyed. San Felipe raises only cereals. I was not able to go over the whole tract and estimate the crops. The land lying idle and easily utilized is about 3,000 acres. San Felipe has food and to spare. The land grant of the pueblo is 34,767 acres.


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