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Las Cruces icon Nestor Armijo has Feb. 28 birthday


Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023, is the 192nd birthday of Don Nestor Armijo, patriarch of one of the most important families in Las Cruces history.

The property he bought (for $4,050) in 1877 at 150 E. Lohman Ave., now called the Armijo House, is today home to the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce (GLCCC). A 2015 historic preservation grant from the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division and the National Park Service Historic Preservation Fund helped Mesilla Valley Preservation, Inc. (MVP) renovate the house, and the chamber held a grand opening Dec. 7, 2017.  

Research conducted by MVP, in partnership with Architectural Resources Group based in San Francisco, shows the likely builder of the two-story adobe house, in 1866, was Mesilla Valley pioneer John D. Barncastle, MVP said in a news release. The carpenter likely responsible for the house’s defining woodwork was Benjamin Franklin Hanover, MVP said.

Barncastle and Hanover were veterans of the Union Army who came to the Mesilla Valley with the California Column that marched nearly 1,000 miles through Arizona and New Mexico territories April through August 1862, during the second year of the American Civil War.

Nestor Armijo was born Feb. 28, 1831, in Los Padillas, New Mexico, now part of Albuquerque. He was the eldest son of Juan Cristobal Armijo and Juana Chavez, according to historical records.

Armijo attended St. Louis University and married Maria Josefa Yrissari (1838-1906) in 1851. In 1853, Armijo drove 55,000 sheep from New Mexico to California, braving multiple manmade and natural dangers along the way. Armijo and his younger brother, Nicolas, ran mule trains transporting goods from St. Louis to stores Nestor Armijo owned in Las Cruces (opened in 1862), El Paso and Chihuahua, Mexico.

Armijo was credited with thousands of acts of charity and in February 1904, was elected first vice president of the new Mesilla Valley Chamber of Commerce – the president was Hiram Hadley (1833-1922), founder of New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, which became New Mexico State University.

Nestor and Josefa’s son, Carlos (1855-1903), married Beatriz Otero in 1877. Carlos Armijo managed Three Rivers Ranch (“Tres Ritos”) near Tularosa, which his father owned. Carlos and Beatriz, who both pre-deceased Nestor and Josefa, had four children who survived to adulthood: Nestor Jr., Dolores, Gertrudis (“Nina”) and Josepha (“Josephine”). Three of the four married siblings of the prominent Ascarate family of Las Cruces; Josephine married Peter Gallagher of El Paso.

Nestor Armijo lived in the house that bears his name until his death there on May 7, 1911, at age 80. Members of the Armijo family are buried in their own section of San Jose Cemetery, 101 N. Espina St.

The chamber has many original photographs of Armijo and his family and a sizeable collection of family heirlooms. New Mexico State University Archives and Special Collections has “quite a lot of Armijo family papers, photographs, etc.,” said Department Head Dennis Daily.

Visit www.facebook.com/NestorArmijoHouse, www.lascruces.org, nmarchives.unm.edu/repositories/18/resources/4312, www.findagrave.com/memorial/29142149/nestor-armijo and santafetrail.org/about-us/hall-of-fame/pdf/Nestor%20Armijo%202021.pdf.