Images of Los Lunas

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The multicultural roots of the village of Los Lunas run deep in a rich tapestry woven from Pueblo Indian, Spanish and German ancestral threads.

Photo courtesy of the Valencia County Historical Society: Workers are baling hay at the Jose Pasqual Sais farm in Los Lentes in this c. 1915 photograph. The hay was cut in the field using horse-drawn mowers and then transported by wagons to the baling site, where it was stacked. The hay was then fed into the baling machine to be compressed and tied with baling twine.

Local author and historian Baldwin G. Burr, the Los Lunas Museum of Heritage and Art photo archivist and researcher, has put together a volume of Los Lunas history released last month in the “Images of America” series of books by Arcadia Publishing.

There are an abundance of historic photos from the museum’s archives and other sources printed on quality, semi-gloss paper.

The extensive research Burr undertook fleshes out the photo history in a concise, easy-to-read format.

Burr has lived in New Mexico since 1964 and Valencia County since 1973. He has degrees in anthropology, art history and a master’s degree in the history of photography and education.

Burr explains that the Tiwa Indians lived in the area when Francisco Coronado came north up El Camino Real, the Spanish Royal Road, in 1540 from Mexico City.

Spanish explorers introduced sheep, horses and other livestock into the area. The Pueblo Revolt in 1680 drove the Spanish from the area in such haste that they left the animals to the pueblos, which led to the plains tribes’ horse culture.

Don Diego de Vargas reconquered New Mexico in 1692, and Dona Ana Sandoval de Manzanares requested a land grant of the area from the Spanish crown, Burr writes.

The land grant came to be known as the San Clemente grant from which the Catholic church on North Los Lentes was named.

Felix de la Candelaria inherited the land in 1716 and sold it 34 years later to Domingo Luna, who passed it on to Don Antonio Jose Luna, frequently called the “father of Los Lunas.”

In 1855, Luna joined with a Peralta man, Don Antonio Jose Otero to drive a herd of 50,000 head of sheep from Los Lunas to California where the mining enterprise created a large demand for meat.

They were able to get $15 a head for their lambs in California, about $14.50 more than they could in New Mexico, thus establishing their wealth.

His son, Solomon Luna, married Adelaida Otero, and his daughter, Eloisa Luna, married Adelaida’s brother, Manuel B. Otero.

“That links two of the most powerful families in New Mexico,” Burr said.

These families are among the most politically active in Los Lunas history. The “father of Los Lunas” was active in politics from the earliest days of New Mexico’s territorial era.

He had the Luna Mansion, a popular steak house today, built in 1880 after the railroad bought his original hacienda property.

“Unfortunately, he never got to live in the house,” said Burr. “He died just before completion.”

Another big name in Los Lunas, the Huning family were German immigrants seeking economic opportunity.

Books and dime novels written by authors romanticizing the West were common in Europe during the early 1800s.

German authors, most of which had never even traveled to the West but were very taken with the idea, wrote largely fictional stories and novels about the American West to capture the imaginations of their German readers, Burr said.

“Germany — well Europe was in the middle of a depression, so there weren’t a lot of economic opportunities,” Burr said. “And Germany was at war, so there was a draft.”

Many young German men who were seeking opportunity or to avoid the war were seduced by the novels to take their chances in America.

The Huning brothers, Franz and Carl, were the first of the Hunings to travel to America. They came ashore in New Orleans and worked their way up the Mississippi River to St. Louis, where they hooked up with some merchant mule trains going from St. Louis to Santa Fe, he said.

“Franz clerked for other German merchants in Santa Fe for awhile, and eventually established his own mercantile in Albuquerque,” Burr said. “A few years later, his two brothers, Louis and Henry, followed and worked for their brother in Albuquerque for awhile, and then he sent them to Los Lunas and they established the store down here.”

Of the four brothers that came to the United States, 11 or 12 kids remained in Germany, he said.

“Franz was mostly mercantile, and a saw mill and a flour mill were his main economic endeavors,” Burr said.

Through proceeds from a land sale to the railroad, Franz was able to buy more land east of Old Town in Albuquerque.

He called it “New Town,” and developed residential lots when the railroad came, he said.

“Franz Huning was the first residential developer in Albuquerque in the 1880s,” Burr said. “So, most of Franz’s fortune came from the saw mill, the flour mill and real estate development.”

Brothers Louis and Henry came down to Los Lunas and formed the L and H Huning Mercantile. They also established other branches in Belen, Zuni and Arizona.

“At some point, Louis and Henry had a falling out, and they decided to split their holdings,” Burr said. “And on a flip of a coin, one of them would get the New Mexico properties and the other would get the Arizona properties.”

Louis got the New Mexico properties.

“Almost all of his fortune was based on mercantile,” Burr said. “Henry, on the other hand, was a very successful cattle rancher in Arizona.”

When Henry retired, he moved to Santa Barbara, Calif., and built the “Huning Mansion,” and of course, we have the Luna Mansion in Los Lunas.

“Then we have the Huning Castle in Albuquerque that Franz built,” Burr said.

Ironically, Henry, who had made a fortune in Arizona and built a mansion in Santa Barbara, would die in the Huning Castle while on a visit with Franz’s widow, Ernestine, Burr said.

Louis, the youngest of the Huning brothers, is the great grandfather of his namesake, Louis Huning, who served as the Los Lunas mayor from 1982 until 2005.

Last May, Burr presented a paper on the Huning German Merchants at the state history conference in Santa Fe.

A book signing event at the Los Lunas Museum of Heritage and Arts will be held from 2 to 4 p.m., Saturday, July 14, and Burr will give a talk about the history of Los Lunas.

The book can be purchased at the Los Lunas Museum of Heritage and Arts, the Back Door Emporium, the Old Mill Mercantile, the Branch Bookstore, Hastings and Walgreens in Los Lunas, at Page One Bookstore, Barnes and Noble, and Hastings in Albuquerque, at Walgreens in Belen, and online at www.amazon.com and www.arcadiapublishing.com.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.