About Mora County
A Rich History
The area now known as Mora County and particularly the Mora River Valley has attracted inhabitants and travelers for centuries. The Jicaralla Apaches were some of the earliest inhabitants. The Spanish Conquistadors traveled through the Mora valley in the 1600’s and Mora’s streams and mountains attracted French trappers in the 1700’s. Already by 1835 there were three thriving settlements in the valley and the town of Mora was the most significant town between Santa Fe and Taos.
By the mid 1800s, Mora’s population was one of the most ethnically diverse within New Mexico with many tracing their ancestry to Native American, Spanish, French, and other Anglo fore bearers. The Santa Fe Trail traversed the eastern part of Mora, and Fort Union was established to provide protection along the trail. The Mora Valley has always been a fertile area, but the demands of Fort Union for wheat flour sparked an agricultural boom. For decades Mora was known as the breadbasket of New Mexico and the several flour mills still standing are reminders of Mora’s farming history.
Prior to Spanish conquest, the Mora area was Indian country. Although not an area of heavy Indian settlement by such tribes as the Pueblo Indians, the Mora valley was much used by nomadic tribes: the Utes, Navajos and Apache. The Mora Valley then became a travel-way for various Spanish explorers and others.
Ceran St. Vrain, a major fur trader from the Taos area, settled in Mora in 1853. He built a grist mill in 1864 and became a major supplier of flour, grain and fodder to Fort Union. In 1864 the Army moved 6000 Navajo Indians to a Reservation about 150 miles southeast of Fort Union and the Army was responsible for their food. St. Vrain had the contract for their feeding. The Mora Valley became the bread basket for the southwest.
Earlier in 1843, there was a raid on the town of Mora by Texas freebooters under Colonel Charles A. Warfield claiming that the people in Mora had purchased stolen beef from the Comanches. The Texans killed five men and took eighteen women and children captive as well as 75 horses. The people of the Mora Valley convened a posse, overtook the Texans, and sent them back to Texas on foot.
Mora’s Milling History
The Cleveland Roller Mill Museum preserves northeastern New Mexico’s history of milling through photographs, documents and physical exhibits. A molino grist mill, dating back to the 17th century and on loan from the Palace of the Governers in Santa Fe, can also be seen on the grounds.
Each year the Cleveland Roller Mill is the site of the area’s annual MillFest on Labor Day weekend, organized by the historic Mora Valley Foundation and the Mora Chamber of Commerce. The two-day celebration features dozens of local artists, dance exhibitions, native foods and baked goods with musical entertainment.
The Cleveland Roller Mill Museum is located two miles northwest of the town of Mora. To get there from Las Vegas, New Mexico, take State Highway 518 north to mile marker #31. The museum is open weekdays from 10am to 5pm and on weekends from Memorial Day through Labor Day from 10am to 3pm. The entrance fee is $3 per person, with daily tours at 11am and 2pm.
La Cueva Mill
Fort Union National Monument
Fort Union National Monument is located on the ruins of historic Fort Union, the largest military installation of the 19 th century Southwest. It is situated on the Santa Fe Trail and ruts from the wagons can still be seen at Fort Union today. One of its key purposes was to provide protection to travelers and traders on the Santa Fe Trail. Its other purpose was as the central supply, or quartermaster, installation for all other military posts in the Southwest. Today, only the ruins of the post’s buildings remain and the park service is preserving these ruins as an outdoor museum and as a memorial to the men and women who won this part of the west.
Fort Union is located on Highway 161, eight miles from Interstate exit number 366, at Watrous , New Mexico. Operating hours are 8:00 am to 6:00 pm from Memorial Day through Labor Day and 8:00 am through 4:00 the rest of the year. Telephone number for information is (505) 425-8025. More information is available on the National Park Service website: www.nps.gov.