December 22, 2013
Santa Fe New Mexico
So maybe now I have some answers to why I am drawn to this area of the country and have been coming out here so frequently since being in my 20's. And why I have spent hundreds of hours trying to learn how to become fluent in Spanish. My brother Paul III, told me over the Thanksgiving holidays that his research showed that my great great grandmother, Maria Teresa deJesus Armillo Symington Pratt (Teresa Pratt), was somehow related to the last governor of the New Mexico territory, Manuel Armijo. Later, I discovered that Manuel Armijo was my great great grandmother's uncle, she was the daughter of his brother, Ambrosio Armijo. My whole life I had been told that our mothers relatives were originally Native American and I had always imagined that back in time my great great great grandmother lived in a tepee, but no, she was from either Mexican or Spanish ancestry and I had a NAME: Armijo.
Photos of Manuel and Ambrosio and Teresa Pratt. Connected..like a tree?
As the last governor of New Mexico prior to statehood, the portly and vain Manuel Armijo was known for being rather scurrilous ie leaving his wife when the confederates took over Albuquerque and fleeing to Mexico in 1??? ...handing over the territory to the US troops without a fight in 18?? when it looked like his army was hopelessly outnumbered. He was quoted as saying “ I stole everything I ever got and thats how I got ahead” One can also conjecture from his overly stylized signature that this was a man who loved the flourishes of life more so than substance.
Copy of his signature
However to this day his picture is seen immediately upon entering the Santa Fe History Museum, which is right off the plaza behind where all the Native Americans sell their wares.
His brother, Ambrosio Armijo, owned the only trading post in the area, and was a powerful businessman in the fledgling town of Albuquerque. Apparently, when he first laid eyes on John Symington a newly graduated surgeon, who arrived by stagecoach, he was not impressed with his daughter's future husband..He said to his brother who was the driver of the stagecoach " Who is that gringo?" Ambrosio Armijo was a "padrone" and being the owner of the trading post in Albuquerque, extremely powerful in his day. He may have been instrumental in obtaining for John Symington the post of doctor at the Army fort which allowed him to have a more secure future.
Teresa Pratt married Dr.John Symington in , but there is some evidence that she had 2 men vying for her hand in marriage. One whom she married 40 years later, Mr Pratt, XX years after John Symington died, who lived only one year after she married him when he was 61 yrs old. Dr. John Symington and Teresa Pratt had one child who they named John Symington who had 2 daughters, my grandmother Elizabeth Symington and her sister Elise. (Bunny?)
So yesterday I walked into the library into the archive section which is open from 10 to 5 the third person that I talked to you was a volunteer by the name of Cheryl Raub. After I showed her my scratchy piece of paper which showed my connection with Maria Teresa DeJesus Armijo Symington Pratt , she said that she happened to know, not only where the graves of Ambrosio Armijo and his relatives were in Albuquerque, but that there were boxes and boxes of information in a different library in Albuquerque (Special Collections) that contained photos and all kinds of documents about the Armijo family and the Symington connection. She was very deft on the computer and after few keystrokes she showed me a dark picture of a passport of Maria Teresa Pratt and other documents on ancestry.com and findagrave.com about John Symington's life. We ended up spending the rest of the day together.
I had scheduled a historical tour of Old town Albuquerque because the oldest restaurant in the state of New Mexico, La Placita, is in the same building where Ambrosio Armijo had his trading post. It had been rebuilt in the 20's but, amazingly enough, it still contains the staircase where my great-great grandmother had stood in her long wedding gown as she was getting married to Dr. John Symington.
Photo of La Placita and the staircase
So Cheryl, the volunteer I had met in the library, joined me on this tour and from time to time she would correct the tour guide about certain details about the Armijo family. The tour guide said that the Armijo family was the most prominent family in Albuquerque in their day, but Cheryl disagreed. She rattled off the names of a few other prominent families, and gave me names of books to read that would fill in the details.
Photo of Cheryl and the tourguide.
After the tour, we went to the graveyard that Cheryl has taken upon herself to become the local expert in. She has a passion about documenting more accurately who is buried there and discovering as much as she can about her ancestry which is also connected to the Armijo family. She took the tour guide and I right to Ambrosio's grave as well as graves of quite a few of his immediate relatives at the Mt Calvary graveyard on ...street.
Photo of Cheryl and a gravestone and Ambrosio's gravestone
Then it was back to the special archive museum in Albuquerque to look through a fraction of the papers that were collected and donated to the library by John Colligan over the course of many many years containing his research on the Armijos and the Symington connection. Although there were eight boxes of information, we only pulled out two, and I actually spent the last few hours in the afternoon just looking at one folder from one box. It became clear that I could probably spend a month or 2, looking through all eight boxes, 40 hours a week, and learn quite a bit quite about the Armijo family and the Symingtons. Of particular interest was his correspondence with people from colleges and the War Department regarding both Dr. John Symington and his son, Lt John Symington, legal documents that comprised of the divorce of John Symington from his wife Elise, testimony to the Veterans Department and numerous affidavits from acquaintances of Teresa Pratt so that she could receive a pension after her second husband, Pratt died. I discovered the saddest of notes from the mysterious Elise Ducat, my grandmothers mother, who was married John Symington Jr for 5 years, in which she described being considered the blackest of black sheep, and how she was going to let him divorce her, and lose custody of her angel children, and she would return to a life of rags.
Copy of one page of the letter.....