The Connelly-Archuleta Family

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Some can say a sense of duty is in Edward Connelly Archuleta’s blood.

Henry Connelly

In 2001, when discussions of annexing sections of the community of Peralta first arose, Archuleta rolled up his sleeves and got to work.

He met with other concerned community members to come up with a plan to fight the annexation efforts of the villages of Bosque Farms and Los Lunas that would change the community’s identity forever.

Once the talk died down, Peralta residents went on with their lives, until another issue ― a river crossing ― arose that highlighted the community’s inability to control its destiny.

Sometime around late 2004 or early 2005, Archuleta and his neighbors formed a five-person committee to explore the pros and cons of seeking independence from the county by forming a new town and incorporating Peralta.

“Peralta is a much older community and preserving the identity for us was very important,” Archuleta said. “So when the threat of Peralta disappearing basically came about, that became a passion for me, as far as making sure we preserved our identity.”

Based on what they learned, committee members went forward with plans for incorporation and, in March 2007, the new town of Peralta held its first municipal election.

Archuleta said the idea for incorporation first surfaced in the late 1980s but the idea “wasn’t popular with the old timers.” So he didn’t give it a second thought until he went away to college at Highlands University in Las Vegas, N.M. While attending school, he met his wife, Diane.

More than 250 years earlier, Edward’s, great-great-grandfather, Henry Connelly was fulfilling a sense of duty when he accepted Abraham Lincoln’s appointment as governor of the New Mexico Territory. Lincoln appointed Connelly governor in 1861 just as Confederate soldiers were threatening to take over the Rio Grande Valley.

Although Connelly was from the south, he supported Union causes. He had strong rapport with native New Mexicans for increasing the odds that anti-slavery Union soldiers would hold off Confederate advances.

His disdain for slavery and the Confederate cause was so strong, the family’s oral history says that in 1862, when Confederate soldiers begin gaining momentum in New Mexico, Connelly gave much of his property, including his ranch equipment and livestock, to Peralta residents so they would not fall in Confederate hands. In the end, Confederate forces did take over his hacienda, took what they could and destroyed what they couldn’t.

Edward Archuleta, the family’s unofficial historian, said Connelly relocated to Missouri from Chihuahua, Mexico, after his first wife died. While in Mexico, Connelly gained a reputation as an honest businessman that would follow him to Missouri.

His ascension to political prominence began after he was commissioned to bring back, to Peralta, the possessions of a New Mexico governor who had died while traveling through the Midwest. Upon his arrival in Peralta, Connelly would eventually marry the governor’s widow and make Peralta his home.

The family’s account of Connelly’s adventures were pretty close to historical accounts. Connelly and his wife moved to Missouri. After her death, he moved to Santa Fe and started a trading company along the Santa Fe Trail.

On one of his trips from St. Louis to Santa Fe, he was commissioned to return the possessions of another trader, former Republic of Mexico Gov. Don Mariano Chavez, who was murdered while traveling through Kansas. Connelly ended up marrying the widow of Mariano Chavez, one of the last Mexican governors to hold office before the territory gained statehood.

As the first territorial governor to live in the territory, the people of New Mexico elected him governor because they thought statehood was imminent.

His appointment would be the first of a long tradition of community involvement by the Connellys. His grandson, Julian Connelly II, held several public service positions in the mid-1900s, such as deputy sheriff, county commissioner and justice of the peace.

Peralta’s first mayoral race, in June 2007, stacked Connelly’s great-great-grandson, Edward Archuleta, against write-in candidate Juanita Burks. Archuleta won by a landslide, but would lose a bid for re-election eight months later to current Mayor Bryan Olguin.

Edward wasn’t the first Archuleta to seek political office to lead a new community. Edwards’s grandfather, Antonio Archuleta, was the first-elected mayor of Los Lunas. His term lasted from 1928 to 1930. Once his term expired, he didn’t seek re-election, but his commitment to public service would not ebb. Prior to serving as the town’s first mayor, Antonio upheld the law as Valencia County sheriff from 1926 to 1928.

In the late 1930s, Antonio sat on the Los Lunas Board of Education, where he would serve as the board’s chairman. In addition, to helping establish village laws and school board policies, he helped enforce many of the laws his mayoral administration enacted as a justice of the peace.

The family’s involvement with community affairs didn’t wan with future generations. Antonio’s son, Augustin Archuleta, was appointed county manager and elected clerk-treasure of Los Lunas.

Earlier this year, Valencia County named Rudy Archuleta, the great-grandson of Antonio Archuleta, public works director. He said he is proud to come from a family that has a tradition of community involvement.

“It’s a great opportunity to take what my forefathers have done in the past and continue to walk in their footsteps and make positive change,” Rudy Archuleta said.

He said the thought of holding an elected office briefly crossed his mind, but he quickly dismissed the idea because his current position allows him to have a direct impact without term limitations.

His cousin, Edward, can attest that politics isn’t for everyone. Edward said he is a hard worker, who can accomplish anything he sets his mind to, but learned from his brief stint in office that he isn’t a politician.

“I used to think that I was …,” he said. “Sometimes you have to compromise what you really believe in and I am pretty firm on some of the things I believe.”

Navigating the business world is far different than operating within the confines of government, said Edward, who has earned an MBA and is a banker by trade.

“You can’t please all the people all the time, and obviously some decisions aren’t popular,” he said. “I’m not good at shaking hands and kissing babies.”

Edward, the youngest of five siblings, said that his community awareness is a by-product of his upbringing. His mother died in child birth and, as a result, family life consisted of his elderly grandmother and himself. His brothers and sisters were raised in Los Lunas with their father. He said Los Lunas was a very different place, and the community had a big part with helping raise his siblings.

“There were a lot of good people in Los Lunas that helped with my brother and sisters,” he said.

Although his grandmother, who was 70 when he was born, didn’t have much to offer a young child, the lessons and oral history she provided was priceless. He said listening to conversations and stories his grandmother had with family and friends taught him the importance of the valley’s heritage.

Through those conversations, he learned that his grandfather’s uncle — landowner, rancher, politician and lawyer Jose Francisco Chaves — was assassinated and his grandmother’s grandfather, a buffalo hunter, had his legs amputated by his fellow buffalo hunters after they froze while camping. Historian Rico Gonzales from the Los Lunas Heritage Museum said he believes Chaves’ assassination stemmed from his political activities. His influence throughout the area was so widespread that Chaves County is named after him.

Over the years, Edward has shared many of the stories his grandmother told him with his four children, but said he feels like he may have fallen short on conveying the importance of heritage.

“I don’t think I have been able to emphasize the importance or passed along as much (culture) as I would like. We get caught up with everyday life and there are extra curricular activities, like sports. I think I bore my kids because I used to love to sit and listen to my grandmother talk about history and family lineage,” he said with a smile.