Though silent, he speaks
(La Historia del Rio Abajo is a 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 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 author wishes to thank Andres Armijo and the members of the Valencia County Historical Society for their help in researching this column.)
Every object has a story.
In 1908, The Woodmen of the World Insurance Co. built a tombstone for the P. S. Baird grave. They then inscribed on it: “Dum Tacet Clamat,” meaning “though silent he speaks,” in Latin.
This monument has withstood the test of time for more than a 100 years. Although lately it seems to be leaning precariously and needs reinforcement. It has the cross, the symbol of Christianity, but the rest is a source of mystification.
I refer to the Paul Spruce Baird’s grave in the old (hidden) cemetery in Tomé. The information on the grave is written in English, Spanish and Latin, starting with his name then his birth date of 1883 and the date of his death, December 1908.
Also stated in Spanish is the fact that he was buried “en el cemeterio de los riccos,” or “the cemetery of the rich,” which is how it was referred to for a long time. It also has the symbol of the Woodmen of the World Insurance Co.
He has been buried there for more than a century, but to this day, nobody recalls who Paul Spruce Baird was.
Many people have wondered about this mysterious person with the imposing granite tombstone, surrounded by a rusty, wrought iron fence.
We are still puzzled as to who he was. His Anglo name was not common to the area, although he must have interacted with the local Spanish-speaking people. But why aren’t there any records of him anywhere, except his tomb? Was he a man of superior breeding and education? Or was he the product of his time — rough and tough?
In my research, I have found out that the Woodmen of the World Insurance Co. would design and construct rather elaborate tombstones for their deceased clients. They were either constructed of a tree trunk or granite, like Baird’s.
However, the Woodmen of the World stopped building these tombstones in the 1920s because it became too expensive to erect them.
The old cemetery of the Immaculate Conception of Tomé was abandoned due to the fact that is was in a low-lying area and prone to flooding. A new cemetery was created higher up on the foothills east of Tomé. My grandparents were buried in this old cemetery in the middle 1930s. Not too many people know of this old cemetery. It is located southwest from the church itself. To get there, one must travel south and west from the church square. One must travel beyond the old jail house that was used when Tomé was the county seat in the 19th century, then continue down a winding dirt road among the cottonwood trees for less than a quarter of a mile. There you’ll find a peaceful area with surrounding alfalfa fields and birds flying overhead.
Upon reaching the cemetery, one can see that the Tomé Land Grant Association has recently undertaken its restoration. It was felt that it was worth it to preserve this historic cemetery though the church no longer takes care of it.
Among other things, a new meandering adobe wall has been built on the perimeter, including iron gates, arches and nichos carved into the 5-foot high wall. Once inside, one can see that the cemetery is only about an acre and a half in size, with only about a dozen graves evident. It is obvious that many of the graves are no longer visible due to neglect and erosion.
Baird is buried next to the graves of my grandparents, the Miguel E. Baca family. In the graves are the bodies of Miguel, his wife, Clara, their son, Manuel B. Baca, and a daughter, Alicia Baca.
The fact that Baird is buried in close proximity to the Baca family graves lends itself to the speculation that he was associated with Miguel and was perhaps a close friend. As was the custom in those days, people were buried next to or close to relatives and friends.
It must be pointed out, also, that a small grave with an iron fence lies almost next to Baird’s grave. I suspect this is a child’s grave, and one wonders if this was an offspring of Baird.
Did the child precede Baird in death, and did he ask to be buried next to his child? Or is the reverse true and the child was buried next to his father? We will probably never know the answer to these questions.
In searching for the parents of P. S. Baird, I have found out that a certain William Baird migrated to western Texas, where he practiced law and became a judge. From there, he migrated to Albuquerque in the early 1880s, where he practiced law. And for a few years, he operated a ranch south of Albuquerque.
Later, he moved to Colorado. It is here that the family of P. S. Baird is shrouded in the midst of time.
Did William Baird marry Isabella Baca from Albuquerque and later divorced her and moved to Colorado? Did from this marriage come a son by the name of Paul Spruce Baird. Later on, did Paul Spruce Baird marry a lady from Albuquerque or possibly from Tomé? Could her name have been Amanda Baca?
Historical records show that as late as 1930 there lived an Amanda Baca Baird, living with a Baca family in Albuquerque’s South Valley. Could this have been P. S. Baird’s widow?
P.S. Baird could have been associated with Miguel’s cousins in Albuquerque and with Miguel Baca in some kind of a commercial business. He might have also lived and farmed in Tomé.
Perhaps that is the reason he was buried in Tomé. However, church records do not show burial records for P. S. Baird.
It is guessed that he was also associated with Miguel’s brother, Timoteo, who was a “flatero,” transporting goods to Quemado from Albuquerque and to other places, such as Adelino, where Miguel had his businesses.
They transported merchandise from Mexico and from St. Louis to Albuquerque, Adelino and Belen. In some instances, he brought coffins to Miguel from St. Louis, because Miguel was in the mortuary business in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
It is possible that Baird once brought a piano for Miguel from St. Louis. This piano was in the Baca house until the 1960s.
We don’t know the cause of Baird’s death, who died at the early age of 25. It could have been due to the small pox epidemic or some other epidemic, which were very prevalent and deadly at the turn of the century.
When Paul Spruce Baird died, Miguel would have had to intercede with Father Railliere, the pastor of the church at the time, to allow Baird to be buried at the Catholic cemetery. This was not an easy task since he probably was not Catholic and, as far as we know, not a member of the church.
Thus, perhaps Miguel donated a part of his family burial plot to Baird for his burial and for him to be close to his offspring.
(Note: It is hoped by this writer that somebody might come forth with more historical information on the mysterious P. S. Baird.)