Cañon History

Taos History



Cañon Neighborhood Association

Cañon Neighborhood Association

A Brief History of the community of Cañon

Cañon is a traditional community located in the Taos Valley of Northern New Mexico with a long and cherished history. The Cultura y Tradiciones are inextricably tied to the land and acequias, carried on by generations of families who are descendants of both Native cultures who in habited the region for thousand of years and the Spanish who arrived in the 1500's.

Cañon has always been a farming center for the Taos Valley, growing corn, wheat, barley, oats, beans, squash, and chili. Orchards of fruit trees containing peaches, plums, apricots, pears, apples, and cherries flourish. Weaving, blacksmithing, milling, bootlegging, and trading have been common occupations.

A thousand years ago Cañon was the home of Ancestral Puebloan people, both living a little West of the mouth that was the site of the Guardian Pueblo of Taos Canyon, and also a little Northwest of the site to the outlier Pueblos near the church that is Our Lady of Sorrows on the Old Taos to Picuris Trail.

There are two natural trails that parallel the Rio Don Fernando as it emerges from Taos Canyon, one on the North, and one on the South, first blazed by animals, later by man.

The History of Taos, both ancient and modern, has developed along these routes.

The first inhabitants, the Ancestral Pueblo Indians, had major settlement sites in two places, at the viewpoint on South Cañon Ridge just above the mouth of the canyon, and on the flats near the old walled village of El Cañon de Taos there is a large concentration of potshards and lithic scatter indicating the existence of several outlier pueblos, there an up on the ridge.

El Cañon de Taos, the Spanish village, experienced its first establishment at the mouth of Taos Canyon, its namesake, with Don Fernando Duran and Chaves, a settler soldier form the Oñate expedition of 1598.

About 1615 he created a stoutly-built adobe compound. There he lived until the Pueblo Revolt of August 1680. He was out hunting with his nephew and so missed the massacre of all other Spanish people in the Taos Valley.

That seems the end of Cañon at the original spot in the Seventeenth Century.

However, in the Eighteenth Century, a new Town of Cañon, a walled adobe compound farther down the Rio Don Fernando near where the North and South Trails met and crossed, sprang up.

About 1780, the little village of Cañon was founded as a crossroads town on the Taos to Plains Trail, and the Camino Real de Arriba (Camino Alto). The new settlers eventually erected an adobe church dedicated to Nuestra Senora de Dolores (Our Lady of Sorrows). Circa 1830 in the walled compound, a small tienda (store) was set up.

Just up the road was a farmstead today known as the Old Taos Guesthouse, first constructed about 1820. Down the same road, just behind the crossroads, Vicente Trujillo constructed a dam, a mill race, and a functional Molino (grist mill) on Rio Don Fernando. ( Mackaness, Peter; Historian research notes)

The first village site was in an area called El Cañon Arriba, Upper Cañon. The second site was named El Canñon del Medio.

What makes the story of Cañon most interesting is the way it was established. It is really a series of Placitas in an area about three miles long and two miles wide.

In Upper Cañon, the Rio divides the area into two different sectors, on the North side of the Taos to Plains Trail, the Penitente Morada and the Dolores (Sorrows) Cemetery, while on the Southside Trail into Taos the ruins of the old Pueblo.

The community around the old walled village and the adobe church was called El Cañon de Taos del Medico.

Important buildings constructed in the central district during the early Twentieth Century were the Anglada Cantina and Dance Hall. Erected across the Taos Canyon Trail was the Cañon Public Elementary School in the 1930's.

Farther toward Taos, down Kit Carson Road, was El Cañon de Taos de Abajo, (Lower Cañon). On Las Cruces road still stands an Old Cañon School House Built about 1880. Near the end of the road stood Our Lady of Guadalupe Morada of Lower Cañon, as well as an associated cemetery. The East lay (1925) the red adobe Russian Mansion of Leon Gaspard the well Known painter and one of the founders of the Taos art community.

Just a little southwest of this complex was a residential area involving Liebert and Dolan streets. This was still Lower Cañon, where Teresita Ferguson lived, later the residence of Taos painter E. Martin Hennings.

Two other important areas that bounded Cañon were Cañon Ridge on the North and Cañon Heights (El Canon Alto) on the East.

Growth had been slow at first. The San Geronimo Lodge was the first successful dude ranch, than an inn, and finally a bed and breakfast conference Center. Located and flourishing now in Upper Cañon, another motel, the Inn on the Rio, also succeeds East Kit Carson Road.

The boundaries of El Cañon de Taos are extensive:

On the North, the Taos Pueblo Boundary fence:

On the South, both the Canon by-pass (NM 585) and Cruz Alta Road;

On the East, the Forest Service Boundary line;

On the West, Washam Gas Company

The Cañon- Talpa Road that intersects Paso Del Pueblo Sur is the old Track of a connector road from Camino Del Valle de Taos (south Santa Fe road) and El Camino Real de Arriba (El Camino Alto).

Cañon landmarks include the residence of Mike Reynolds, solar architect, and inventor of "The Beer Can House". His first two architectural pieces are built on the south side of the Rio Don Fernando just north of the San Geronimo Lodge. Part of his property includes an ancient Molino (Mill) that lies next to his property.

Along Witt Road also lived Patrocinio Barela the famous world renowned Santero sculptor (Saint Sculptor), known for his many abstract religious and secular carvings, often of Saints.

Just Northeast of Cruz Alta Road was a wonderful commercial orchard established in the 1920's for the production of cider.

At the intersection of Witt Road and Los Pandos Lane is Cañon Brethern School established in the 1960's complete with a Church and Chapel, and up on Forest Road #1(Piedmont Drive) the Cañon Brethren Cemetery.

On Don Nicolas Romero Road (Takiyama Road) is the two-story territorial adobe house built by Nicolas Romero about 1895, visible from US64 (Kit Carson Road)

The John Young-Hunter house and studio was built in the 1920's by the well known painter.

The notable Winkert barn and pasture are landmarks along US64 (Kit Carson Road) built circa 1920.

Another impressive feature along Kit Carson Road is the Leon Gaspard House Built by Russian Painter in the 1920's.

El Monte Auto Court and Motel circa 1920 (now the site of El Monte Sagrado) was once a popular rest station. Nearby was the Don Quixote Bar and Dance Hall, built in 1950.

The Mariposa Apartments were constructed in the 1970's as low income housing.

An interesting old protestant church exists on Liebert Street, now remodeled into a house.

There also exists on Liebert Street a classic house in the rare classic international architectural style circa 1955-1960.

The ancient Upper Cañon Trail to Taos Pueblo takes off on Forest Road #1 (Piedmont Drive) and goes along the base of Cañon Heights and leads over to the Pueblo Plaza.

Just off Cruz Alta is the Hobby Horse Ranch Started in the 1920's.

The Cañon by-pass is marked at its crest by the Guardian Pueblo.

Just off Witt Road is the Old Randall Pond.

Northwest of Kit Carson Road lies the Old WPA Elementary School.

Two Acequias supply water to Cañon, The North Cañon Acequia and The South Cañon Acequia.

There is in existence The Ca&ntilfeon Mutual Domestic Water users Association, with a tank near Outlook Pueblo on NM 585.

At this Time the people of Cañon have been incorporated into the Cañon neighborhood Association. The driving force for the communities organizing is the Town of Taos' idea of annexation of Cañon, desirous of Cañon's waters both surface and subsurface. The community is adamantly opposed to annexation and sees the future of Cañon as open space and the continuous use of land for sustainable agricultural uses.