El Padre Eterno
(La Historia del Rio Abajo is a monthly column about Valencia County history written by members of the Valencia County Historical Society. Dr. Matt Baca, the author of this month’s column, is a native of Adelino who spent many years as a teacher and administrator before retiring from the Belen Public Schools and as a university instructor.
He has contributed many articles to La Historia del Rio Abajo, focusing on our community’s traditions and cultural diversity.
Opinions expressed in this and all columns of La Historia del Rio Abajo are the author’s alone and not necessarily those of the Valencia County Historical Society or any other group or individual.
The following people contributed to this article: Ramon Torres, Dr. Richard Melzer, Walter Jackson, Leonard Castillo, Fransisco Sisneros and Tony Moya)
One of the great mysteries of the 19th century involve two friends, Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy, the first Archbishop of the Diocese of Santa Fe, and his friend, Father Jean Baptiste Ralliere, the pastor of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Tomé. He served as pastor from 1856 until 1910.
Both of these curates were of French decent, arriving in New Mexico in the middle of the 19th century.
The mystery is — were the two abandoned Navajo twin boys that Bishop Lamy found near a river the same Navajo boys that Lamy and Ralliere each adopted and reared?
It is not a well-known fact that Lamy legally adopted a Navajo boy and named him Miguel Lamy. But locally, it is well-known that Father Ralliere legally adopted a Navajo boy and named him Andres Ralliere.
Tomé Historian Ramon Torres attests to the fact that Andres Ralliere, a Navajo and adopted son of Father Ralliere, married Torres’ great aunt, Agapita Torres, the daughter of Juan Torres and Maria de Pilar Romero.
Legend has it that Archbishop Lamy found two abandoned Navajo twins near a river on one of his many excursions in the state. The question is: Were the twin brothers Lamy found the same boys adopted by these two prelates?
At that time, the Navajo Nation had been forcibly marched by the United States Army, under the leadership of Kit Carson, from western New Mexico to eastern New Mexico. Nearly 8,000 Navajo men, women and children had to walk about 433 miles to Fort Sumner. Many died during this forced march, and the survivors had to live in terrible conditions in the Bosque Redondo detention camp near Fort Sumner for about two years.
In 1868, the U.S. government released them. They were allowed to return to their native lands. Again, the Navajos had to suffer on their long return trip. It was later infamously referred to as The Long Walk.
Of the people returning, it is estimated that 2,000 were children under the age of 12, some still in the arms of their mothers.
It is perhaps at this time that Lamy found two small, abandoned Navajo twin boys, and out of pity and compassion, took them in. Nobody knows how old they were. Perhaps less than 7 years old.
Again, the question is, did Lamy give one of the boys to Ralliere?
One can imagine that Lamy was on his way to Santa Fe and stopped in Tomé, as bishops often do on official business, and either asked Ralliere to care for one of the boys, or Ralliere offered to take in one of the boys.
By this time, Ralliere had probably already established an orphanage at the church.
We do not know for a fact that these two boys were twin brothers, but we do know that these boys were Navajos. Bishop Lamy named his adopted boy Miguel Lamy, and Ralliere name his adopted boy Andres Ralliere.
One can’t help but wonder if the boys ever met again, if they were indeed brothers.
Could it be that Archbishop Lamy brought Miguel with him on the visits to Tomé? One can imagine the two boys happily running and playing.
Or is it possible that Father Ralliere took Andres with him on his official visits to Santa Fe, and the boys enjoyed each other’s company?
Later on in life, Father Ralliere gave Andres a piece of farm land near Tomé Hill. As property owners, they both paid taxes to Valencia County in 1886, as shown in the tax assessment records of that year.
Records in 1886 show that Father Ralliere officiated at the wedding ceremony of his adopted son, Andres.
Other records show that Lamy enrolled Miguel Lamy in El Colejio de San Miguel in Santa Fe. He later married and lived on Cerro Cordo Street in Santa Fe with his wife and five children. Miguel lived to a ripe old age and died in Aug. 29, 1938.
In the Tomé Catholic Church, on Sept. 15, 1881, the church bells rang “el doble” as it was called in Spanish, announcing a Requiem Mass for Maria Mercedes Josefina Ralliere, the infant daughter of Andres and Agapita Torres Ralliere and the granddaughter of Father Jean Babtist Ralliere, the pastor of the church.
According to Tony Moya, Andres and Agapita also adopted a son, Avaristo Buena Ventura Ralliere, who also died in infancy from smallpox.
This information is shown in the Compilation of Burial Records from 1847-1920 by Oswald and Mary Ann Baca’s research report No. 006, page 63 and page 79. This report was sponsored by the Southwest Hispanic Research Institute.
Historian Ramon Torres regrets the fact that the Ralliere name was not passed down from generation to generation, being that he was such an influential person in the history of Tomé and the valley.
“To have had the name Ralliere would have been a prestigious thing,” Torres said.
It has been said that the history of Tomé is closely tied in with that of Father Ralliere.
Canon law did not prohibit priests, or even bishops, from adopting children. Even Bishop Lamy (1814-1888), adopted a son. Ralliere also unofficially adopted Luis Padilla.
The history of Father Ralliere starts in 1853 when, at the age of 30, he arrived from France at La Parroquia de la Immaculada Conceptioñ de Tomé after being appointed pastor by Bishop Lamy. Little did he know at that time he would be pastor for more than 55 years in Tomé.
They called him El Padre Eterno (the eternal priest) for his long stay, service and devotion to the church he loved so dearly.
When he arrived, he just didn’t hunker down behind the walls of the church. Besides the sacramental work at the parish, he took an active part in helping and educating humanity in the community.
Father Ralliere had a rich, restless and brilliant mind that he put to good use in the church and the community.
There was no end to the things that he did.
He taught music, he wrote religious hymns, and taught individuals to play the organ. He had several organs brought in from the eastern part of the United States to be used in several churches.
Church music made life more enjoyable to those individuals living in such a rural and secluded area. El padre felt that music lifted up people’s spirit and promoted a closeness to God.
He was a great theologian and led many theological discussions.
He had many agriculture endeavors, including harvesting fruits and vegetables. From the vineyards he planted, he made fine wine. He had a stable of fine horses and was instrumental in animal husbandry.
He even had a part in secular education by serving as superintendent of public schools.
His greatest endeavor was probably opening up orphanages for displaced children, no matter their ethnicity or their religious affiliation.
He opened up schools, teaching children the rudiments of reading and writing.
Father Ralliere’s stint as a pastor was not without controversy. There were many issues and controversies. Perhaps the most famous one was that of the church bell.
As Ralliere stated, “… the feud (was) between the church, the Oteros and other wealthy families. The controversy continued from 1869 to 1879. Finally, I had enough; I was so worn out from all the arguing that I could not contain my hostility anymore.
“I ordered the names of the two families that had donated the bell struck off the surface so that they should be forgotten forever …”
Father Jean Baptiste Ralliere died in 1910 in Tomé, and was buried underneath the altar at Immaculate Conception Church.
He was very devoted to the church.
Il a etétrés consacré a léglise.
El fue muy dedicado a la iglesia.