Native Americans are likely present in the area now known as New Mexico. The hunter-gatherer Clovis culture, likely persisting for about 500 years, hunts big game in the region. The Folsom replace the Clovis around 8200 BCE, who are in turn replaced by various pre-historic desert cultures that gradually develop agricultural skills, pottery making, and fine basket weaving.
700– 1300 CE
The modern Pueblo (a Spanish word meaning "villages") have evolved from their more primitive forebears. They primarily live along the area’s few rivers, such as the Rio Grande and the Pecos. Here they build adobe houses and further develop agricultural practices. The Great Pueblo of 1050 to 1300 construct irrigation and road systems and build multi-story dwellings in small settlements.
Semi-nomadic Apaches and Navajo, both Southern Athabaskan tribes, are present in the region. They trade with Pueblos, and the process becomes important to both groups. Today the Navajo represent the largest tribe in the U.S., living in northwestern New Mexico and northeastern Arizona.
The Rio Grande Classic Native peoples settle west-central New Mexico’s Rio Grande Valley and adapt new styles of building houses and pottery. The three largest settlements in New Mexico are Zuñi, Santo Domingo, and Laguna. Today there are still roughly 35,000 Pueblo Natives living in New Mexico and Arizona along the Rio Grande and Colorado rivers.
1535–1806 SPANISH EXPLORATION AND SETTLEMENT
Spanish explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, one of only four survivors of Pánfilo de Narváez’s ill-fated Florida expedition of 1527, recounts Native stories of the legendary Seven Cities of Cibola in New Mexico, the mythical "seven cities of gold."
Famed Spanish explorer Francisco Vázquez de Coronado begins a massive two-year expedition to find the Seven Cities of Cibola. After several skirmishes with unfriendly Zuni and Hopi Pueblos and the failure to find any mythical riches, Coronado leaves New Mexico broken and penniless. He leaves several horses behind, and these breed in the wild, eventually becoming the horses Natives ride 150 year later.
(July 11) Juan de Oñate founds the first Spanish settlement in New Mexico, San Juan de los Caballeros ("Saint John of the Knights"). Onate founds the Province of New Mexico for New Spain, and pioneers the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, "The Royal Road," a 700-mile (1,100 km) trail from the rest of New Spain to New Mexico. He stages raids on Native pueblos, and encounters resistance from the Acoma. When the battle is over, approximately 200 Acoma of 2,000 survive.
Pedro de Peralta establishes the settlement of Santa Fe. Today Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in the U.S.
(August) Tewa religious leader Popé leads the Pueblo Revolt against the Spanish. The Taos, Picuris, and Tewa attack, killing 350 and besieging the city of Santa Fe.
(September 21) Spanish settlers retreat from Santa Fe. Under penalty of death, Popé orders his people to destroy all vestiges of Spanish culture and Catholicism. He rules the city until his death eight years later.
(July) Diego de Vargas leads the successful bloodless reconquest of Santa Fe when Native leaders allow him to peacefully retake the city. In the following years, de Vargas will wage several attacks against the Pueblos to maintain control of the region. The Second Pueblo Revolt is attempted in 1696, but is quashed by the Spanish.
Spanish settlers found Albuquerque.
1807–1849 AMERICAN EXPLORATION AND SETTLEMENT
The U.S. purchases the vast Louisiana Territory, which extends to the northeastern corner of New Mexico, from France.
U.S. lieutenant Zebulon Pike crosses into the San Luis Valley in northern New Mexico. His expedition group is arrested but eventually returned to U.S. soil.
New Mexico remains part of Spanish territory under the Adams-Onís Treaty.
The Mexican War of Independence ends, and newly independent Mexico claims New Mexico as its province, opening the area to American trade.
(September) William Becknell leaves Missouri for Santa Fe, opening up the Santa Fe Trail as a vital transportation route for the first time. The trail continues to serve as an important route until the introduction of the railroad to the area in 1880.
American fur trapper Jedediah Smith explores the Old Spanish Trail, a trade route connecting northern New Mexico to Southern California.
The Santa Fe Trail Trading Company opens its first trading post in New Mexico.
Christopher "Kit" Carson begins using Taos as a base camp for his fur trapping expeditions.
The Mexican government places a bounty on Apache scalps.
Feeling they are being unfairly taxed, Chimayo residents revolt against the Mexican government. They occupy Santa Fe and execute Governor Albino Pérez before Mexican soldiers control the rebellion.
A group of mercenary soldiers from the newly formed Republic of Texas cross into New Mexico to assert Texas’ claims to the region. Governor Manuel Armijo has them arrested, and they are eventually imprisoned in Mexico City.
The Mexican-American War. American General Stephen W. Kearny and his army, along with other mounted American cavalry, seize Santa Fe without opposition, establishing a joint civil and military government with The Santa Fe Trail Trading Company’s Charles Bent. New Mexico soon falls under full U.S. control.
Kearny establishes a form of marital law known as the Kearny Code, which promises religious and legal claims in the region will be respected. It becomes the basis for New Mexico’s legal code during its territorial period.
(November 21) The Navajo sign the Bear Spring Treaty with the U.S., agreeing to cease raids on New Mexican settlers (although New Mexicans are still permitted to wage war on the Navajo). Despite the treaty, Navajo raids continue, along with raids by Apache, Comanche, Ute, and Kiowa.
(January 19) The Taos Revolt. Taos rebels assassinate Governor Charles Bent along with about 10 other Americans. In retaliation the U.S government kills about 150 rebels and captures another 400.
(February 9) Six rebel leaders are hanged for their role in the Taos Revolt. By mid-month, the rebellion has been controlled.
Mexico cedes much of its northern territory to the U.S. under the Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo. While the New Mexico Territory meets the population criteria to become a state, Congress declines to make it one.
(August 29–30) Ostensibly meeting with the Navajo for peace talks, Colonel John Washington and his troops open fire on Natives, killing seven. Navajo Chief Narbona is scalped by a white settler.
1850–1911 NEW MEXICO TERRITORY
(September 9) The U.S. government grants New Mexico territorial status. At this time, the area encompasses all of Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of Colorado. While slavery is never officially made illegal or legal at this time, it is rarely seen in the region, owing largely to older Mexican traditions that expressly forbid it.
Santa Fe becomes the official capital of New Mexico Territory.
The U.S. receives a portion of land in present-day southwestern New Mexico and southern Arizona in the Gadsden Purchase.
(March 6) Four hundred Mexican soldiers from Sonora attack Apache chief Geronimo’s camp outside Janos while Apache men are absent. Geronimo’s wife, children, and mother are all killed. Geronimo earns his Spanish moniker when Mexican soldiers plea to Saint Jerome ("Jeronimo!") while under his attack.
(January 14) The U.S. House of Representatives Committee of Thirty-Three recommends the immediate admission of New Mexico as a slave state, an act that would effectively extend the Missouri Compromise to all remaining U.S. territories.
(February) The U.S. Congress defeats a bill that would grant New Mexico statehood.
(July) Under General Henry Sibley’s command, Confederate troops briefly occupy southern New Mexico.
(March 26–28) The Battle of Glorieta Pass. Sometimes called "the Gettysburg of the West," the battle ensues when Confederates attempt to break the Union possession of the West at Glorieta Pass in New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Confederates retreat when their supply train is destroyed and their horses killed. Eventually they are pushed back into Arizona and Texas.
The Arizona Territory separates from New Mexico Territory.
Responding to increasingly common Native American raids and a belief that gold exists in Navajo country, Brigadier General James H. Carleton develops a plan to drive the Navajo off their land. Under Carleton’s direction, Kit Carson and his volunteer militia wage a "scorched earth" campaign, burning Navajo fields and homes and killing livestock.
Defeated by Carson’s forces, 8,000 Navajo are forced to walk 300 miles to Fort Sumner in what becomes known as "The Long Walk." As many as 300 die during the journey.
After signing a treaty with the U.S. government, the Navajo are allowed to return to their land. Today it is the site of the Navajo Reservation
tThe Catholic Church establishes an archbishopric center in Santa Fe.
The railroad reaches Santa Fe and quickly replaces the Santa Fe Trail. Rail transport leads to a cattle boom in the 1880s, leading to many land claim conflicts. Ranching remains integral to the New Mexico economy today.
(February 18–July 19) The Lincoln County War. John Tunstall attempts to open a bank and store in Lincoln County, thus breaking a monopoly of the government-sponsored L.G. Murphy and Company. When Tunstall is murdered by a sheriff’s posse, his cowhands form the revenge-minded Regulators, a group that includes legendary outlaw Billy the Kid. Several battles are waged, resulting in fewer than 20 deaths on each side, before they reach a stalemate.
American forces capture Geronimo, and the Apache leader surrenders. Along with other Apaches, he is sent to Fort Pickens in Florida and is never allowed to return to his homeland.
The New Mexico Military Institute is founded in Roswell. Upon admitting female cadets in 1977, it becomes the only state-supported co-educational college-prep military boarding high school and junior college in the U.S.
George McJunkin discovers Folsom Site, a paleo-Indian cultural site dating from 9000 to 8000 BCE. The site is excavated in 1926, when it is found to have been a marsh-side kill site featuring 23 bison slain with distinctive tools known as "Folsom points." It is declared a National Historic Landmark in 1961.
1912–PRESENT THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO
(January 6) New Mexico becomes the 47th state admitted to the Union.
(February 21) New Mexico becomes one of the last states to ratify the 19th Amendment, which grants women suffrage, before it goes into effect.
As a result of a federal Public Works Administration project, the New Mexico Supreme Court finally gets its own building.
A diphtheria epidemic sweeps the state, killing 20.
The U.S. government secretly founds the Los Alamos Research Center during World War II. Then known as Site Y, the facility serves as the epicenter of the Manhattan Project, which leads to the development of the first nuclear weapons. Today it is the largest institution and employer in northern New Mexico. While its employees also conduct research in fields like nanotechnology and supercomputing, it is one of only two laboratories in the U.S. still conducting classified work on nuclear weapon design.
(July 16) The first atomic bomb is detonated at the Trinity site on the White Sands Proving Ground near Alamogordo, signaling the beginning of the Atomic Age.
(July 8) The "Roswell UFO incident." The alleged crash and recovery of UFO and alien debris occurs near Roswell. While the military insists it merely recovered a high-altitude surveillance balloon from the classified program "Mogul," rumors of a cover-up persist to the present day. Since the 1970s, Roswell has become synonymous with alien and paranormal activity of all kinds.
The privately held Sandia National Laboratories is established in Albuquerque to conduct nuclear research and weapons development for the U.S. government.
The New Mexico Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination and segregation in places of accommodation, resort, or "amusement" nine years before the federal Civil Rights Act is passed.
The result of a controlled burn gone awry, the Cerro Grande fire leaves over 400 families homeless in Los Alamos. Structures at Los Alamos National Laboratory are also destroyed.
The state legislature outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Governor Bill Richardson announces New Mexico’s partnership with billionaire Richard Branson on Spaceport America, the first "purpose-built commercial spaceport" in the world. Slated to open in 2010, the site is located near Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Named for state bird the Road Runner, The New Mexico Rail Runner Express high-speed commuter train begins operations between Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
(March 18) New Mexico repeals the death penalty, making it the second state to repeal it by legislative means since the 1960s.
Click to enlarge an image
1200: Apache hide
1598: Inscription by Juan de Oñate at El Morro National Monument
1598: Map of El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail
1821: Momument to the Mexican War of Independence
1821: Santa Fe Trail logo, present day
1828: Kit Carson
1841: Map of the Republic of Texas
1846: Stephen W. Kearny
1853: Map of Gadsden Purchase
1858: Ta-ayz-slath, wife of Geronimo, and child
1858: St. Jerome
1862: Map of the Battle of Glorieta Pass
1863: Map of the Arizona and New Mexico territories
1863: James Henry Carleton
1864: Navajo on Long Walk
1868: Map of the Navajo Nation, present day
1878: Billy the Kid
1945: The Manhattan Project's Trinity test
1947: A NOAA weather balloon just after Roswell launch