The Baca / Douglas Genealogy and Family History Blog

06 April 2014

Socorro Poltiical History Notes - early 1900s.

A Republican political rally reported in the 5 November 1904 issue of the Socorro Chieftain.
My 2nd great-grandfather Jose Epitacio Torres was a prominent Republican politician in late 1800s and early 1900s Socorro County. Among the offices that he held were mayor of Socorro, a member of the Socorro city council, and Socorro County Treasurer and Collector. He was also at one point the Chairman of the Socorro County Republican Party Central Committee.

On Wednesday, November 2, 1904, the Socorro County Republicans held a political rally for Governor Miguel A. Otero II and "Senate" candidate William Henry Andrews (he actually was running for, and was elected, as a non-voting delegate to the U.S. Congress.) At 7:30 PM, Chairman Jose E. Torres called the assembly to order. He chaired the election of Juan Jose Baca as president of the county Republican Party and M. Cooney and A. Shey as Vice-presidents. Other luminaries at the rally included Mayor A. C. Abeytia, Elfego Baca, A.A. Sedillo, and, Juan Juan Baca's brother Sevaro Baca.

According to the November 5th newspaper, the rally was "the greatest political demonstration witnessed in Socorro in recent years". The paper reported that "all day long the crowd in the city kept increasing by the coming of people from the surrounding country and villages...." and "...the spacious auditorium was crowded with expectant people ...."

Back in April 1903, Socorro was in a political crises. Mayor M. Cooney had apparently abandoned the city,  and the city council had neglected to issue a proclamation announcing the upcoming election. At an April 7th meeting, five councilmen met to issue the election proclamation. The mayor, city clerk and three other councilmen did not attend. A.C. Abeytia was elected as president pro-tempore, effectively making him mayor of the city.

The proclamation declared that the council was unsure as to their duties as per changes in law. However, they said that "the voters of the city of Socorro, New Mexico, are entitled to and it is their right to have a general city election on the day and date aforesaid" and it was "likewise the duty of the present city officers" to provide the legal means for the election.The wording of the document seems to be justifying the council's power to issue the proclamation.  There may have been questions as to whether they had that power.

The proclamation stated that the election would be held on April 7th, just 6 days after the issuance of the proclamation, and three days after it was published in the newspaper. The city clerk was ordered to provide ballots, polling places were set up in four wards - three of them in the homes of prominent Socorro men: Don Esquipula Pino, Sevaro A. Baca, and Francisco Padilla y Lucero. Councilmen Anastacio C. Torres and Florentino Gallegos were appointed as the election commission. Sixty dollars was set aside to pay for the election.

On April 3rd, "a meeting of prominent citizens was held". The chairman of the meeting was attorney James G. Fitch. He argued that Socorro needed reforming because taxes had been collected and no one knew where the money was spent. The interest on city bonds had not been paid and the roads were in bad condition. He would support "capable and honest candidates for city offices regardless of political considerations." J. A. Smiley was chosen as secretary of the meeting and J. J. Trujillo was the interpreter.

Jose E. Torres moved to nominate a ticket known as the "People's Ticket". A. C. Abeytia moved that the secretary be instructed to issue a call to the citizens of Socorro to attend a convention at the courthouse on April 4th. Both motions passed.

J. J. Trujillo then moved to have an advisory committee be set up to help the chairman for the election. These men included Masias Baca, Frank Abeyta (1st ward); L. A. Kittrell, B.A. Pino (2nd ward);  J. W. Terry, J.E. Torres (3rd ward); Florentino Gallegos, Rafael Lopez (4th ward.) This committee was to report to the convention names of available candidates for office. The motion was passed.

"Convention and Election" in the 11 April 1903 "The Socorro Chieftain"
Why did the city council move so quickly to hold an election? The April 11th issue of "The Socorro Chieftain" had an explanation:
The state of political affairs in Socorro promises interesting developments. It will be remembered that the 35th general assembly passed a law extending the terms of elective city officers one year, and afterwards passed another law exempting the terms of the officers of the city of Socorro from the provisions of the first law. It was intended, therefore, that the city of Socorro should hold a regular annual election on the first Tuesday in April under the provisions of the old election law, and Socorro
was the only city in New Mexico that might do so.
Originally, there was no quorum for the April 1st council meeting. Therefore, the council adjourned to the house of Councilman Cortinas who was too sick to be out. It also appears that Mayor Cooney was simply out of town, and had not actually abandoned the city. According to the article, all councilmen were informed of the meeting

On April 4th, seventy-five people met at the courthouse for the People's Ticket convention. The meeting was called to ordered by the Honorable A. C. Abeytia, who had A. C. Torres read the proclamation. James G. Fitch was elected as president of the convention. He gave another speech in which he said that Socorro "should at once solve 'the question as to whether the city is to be governed by the people or a clique who are afraid to go before the people on their record."

After Fitch's speech, A. C. Abeytia nominated J. W. Terry as mayor. Estevan Baca second the nomination which was approved by acclamation. Frank Abeytia nominated Eduardo V. Baca for city clerk and E. L. Price for treasurer. Both were accepted by acclamation. Candidates were then nominated for city council and board of education.

A committee of eight were chosen to employ judges and clerks for the election. At the end, the convention chose a clasped hands emblem for the party.

Although not all of the votes were counted by the April 11th issue, it was a foregone conclusion that the People's Ticket won. They had the only candidates on the ballot. However, The Socorro Chieftain figured that some questions would have to be decided in court before the results could be released.

The controversy over the election could be read about in the same newspaper. On the Monday before the election, a city council meeting was called. Abran Abeyta, one of the councilmen who did not attend the special council meeting, objected to the acceptance of the minutes of that meeting. A vote was taken, and the council approved the minutes, with the mayor vetoing the vote. (Did you know that a mayor could veto an approval of the minutes?)

I went through a few more months of issues, and I wasn't able to find out the resolution of this controversy. If I find out, I will add the story to this post.

The Socorro chieftain. (Socorro, N.M.), 05 Nov. 1904. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>, retrieved 6 April 2014.

The Socorro chieftain. (Socorro, N.M.), 04 April 1903. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>, retrieved 6 April 2014.

The Socorro chieftain. (Socorro, N.M.), 11 April 1903. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>, retrieved 6 April 2014.

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