"Family Portrait", by Frank Eliot McCulloch, July 1950
[Picture not reproduced here of "Dona Deluvina -- her descendants number 140"]
[Picture not reproduced here of "The DesMarais home on the Las Vegas plaza. It is now a church parish home"]
Little Deluvina had risen this morning with happiness in her heart because this was her seventh birthday, September 11, 1837. Birthdays were celebrated in the extensive household of Don Juan Vigil almost in the manner of fiestas; and on this occasion Deluvina would be the center of the festivities. Her good friends, the Bustamente sisters, would come in from their home out on the road to Taos pueblo, and the Don Pedro Salazar family would come from their home near Arroyo Hondo. Best of all, the head of the Vigil clan, old Don Juan Vigil y Montes de Santa Ana, would carefully ease his three-hundred pounds from a specially reinforced carriage, transferring his tremendous bulk to [...] chair in the patio, where this morning there was a veritable bee hive of activity. There were endless preparations to please not only little Deluvina but all the guests as well.
But a touch of sadness had crept into Deluvina's manner because of something which she had heard when she came home from Mass. Near the big family kitchen she was arrested by the shrill voice of Carmelita who reigned supreme in the Vigil kitchen. Carmelita was describing the recent scenes in Santa Fe as they had been told to her by Benito Mares, mayordomo of the Vigil estate, who had just returned from the terrorized Capital City. The horrors of the Indian massacre lost nothing as they were retold by the expansive Carmelita. Dwelling on the Indian orgy in detail, she had described the beheading of the jefe politico or governor of New Mexico. Don Albino Perez, how his head has been thrown around the plaza, going on to the climax of her story as she recounted how the Governor's only child, a baby boy named Demetrio, had been hidden by his mother in a basket behind an adobe wall.
The plight of this helpless child was the reason for Deluvina's sadness and when she was joined by her sister Filomena, some years older than Deluvina, Deluvina told her sister the harrowing tale she had heard from Carmelita. Filomena, always a practical soul, had her own opinion of governors and politics and changing regimes. She felt that the least thing a Governor could do was to keep his head on his shoulders. Don Albino had been sent by Mexican authorities to occupy the exalted but precarious position of Governor of New Mexico, and Filomena still had some loyalty left for Spain and the Spanish king, under whom she had been born. Although she could remember only the days of Mexican rule, she was proud of the fact that her earliest forebear, a Marques de la Pineda, had come from Spain to Vera Cruz, Mexico, coming on to Ocate and thence to Taos.
Just then, the two girls were aware of the fact that they were no longer alone and were aware startled to see the weird form of old Luz, the witch of Taos community. Satisfied with a full meal which Carmelita had given her (partly to stay in the witch's good graces and partly to hear Luz' prophecy as to how her one-sided romance with Benito Mares would turn out) old Luz clutched her rebozo with her talon-like fingers and bowed to the Vigil daughters, saying "Weep not for little Demetrio. He will come to no harm. His mother, with the aid of the Perezistas, will succeed in getting him down the river. When these days are but a memory, when neither Spain nor Mexico sit in the seats of the mighty in distant Santa Fe and when the gringos from the States shall have successfully invaded this unhappy country, then you and little Demetrio, a man filled with many years, will meet on a distant plaza. In fact, it is written in the stars that some of your own descendants will also trace their ancestry to this baby who now lies hidden in a basket behind the walls of the Palacio de los Governadores."
Somewhat taken aback, Filomena and Deluvina looked at each other in astonishment and the former, always the first to collect herself, said "Come, little sister, let us rejoice, this is your birthday. Forget old Luz and her idle tongue, forget the tragedies of Santa Fe. Light a candle tomorrow for old Don Albino and say an Ave for his soul -- light a second one for little Demetrio, and -- valgame dios, say nothing of all this to Padre Matrinez. he dislikes old Luz and claims she is an incarnation of the devil, but more than he dislikes old Luz, he hates the gringos and her prophecy regarding them will ruin today's celebration if old Luz' remarks are brought to his attention."
Deluvina agreed and joined Filomena as they entered the main house through a carved archway. But now Deluvina was puzzled again as still another problem occupied her mind. Why are the gringos so hated in this northern New Mexico outpost? She knew only one American, Kit Carson, and he was certainly an unobtrusive soul. Her grandfather loved him and even called him Don Cristobal.
Shaking off her mood, she joined the festivities, entering an enormous sala where she spied her venerable grandfather, receiving two of his friends, Padre Martinez and the famous scout and trapper, Kit Carson. The later was presenting three French Canadians, Carlos Beaubien, Ceran St Vrain and Michel Des Marais, three men who had come to New Mexico as trappers with the Hudson Bay company. They had named the distant town of L'eau noire, only to have it later changed by the native people to Mora. They had also given the name "Rio de la Casa" to Mora's nearby river. As she was presented to Michel Des Marais, a tall blue-eyed individual from far-off Montreal, she was impressed; but little did she realize this was the beginning of her destiny.
Eighteen hundred forty-six; Deluvina and her husband Michel Des Marais, have now been married a short time and the latter already Don Miguel to his neighbors and friends, has a thriving mercantile business in the town of San Miguel, destined to be the metropolis of northern New Mexico. A man of forty, he adores his sixteen year old wife. More or less the victim of the heavy Spanish etiquette which governed the great household, of New Mexico, Don Miguel had properly requested Don Juan Vigil's permission to marry Deluvina. Attracted to this teen-aged girl, he was painfully aware of the fact that he himself was already a middle-aged man. However, with no thought of consulting Deluvina, old Don Juan had accepted him as a son-in-law. And much to Don Miguel's surprise, Deluvina herself was delighted. True, she had been a little attracted to a dark-eyed boy named Pedro Mondragon, whose guitar had added much to Taos gatherings. She had also enjoyed doing las quadrillas with a soft-spoken Virginian who fancied himself a real vaquero in this frontier country. But Deluvina knew that when it came to seriously considering someone for a husband -- well, that should be left in the capable hands of her father. Deluvina was a product of her time, and the times called for "arranged" marriages. Upon whom could she better depend than on old Don Juan? He, more than any one else, had her interests close to his heart. Such a system could not be wrong, else how could she and Don Miguel have found such happiness. Soon the Des Marais are to find that San Miguel is not destined to be the metropolis of the territory as they had thought and by 1849 they move to Las Vegas, accompanied by the first of their nine children, Louisa.
Eighteen hundred sixty-five: The stage from the east was lurching and jolting its way into Las Vegas in the late spring of 1865 and from the portal of the Des Marais home on the plaza of Las Vegas, Dona Deluvina's quick eye noticed that the ancient and battered vehicle was adorned with mourning, black crepe having been fastened to the doors of the stage coach. Turning to her house guest, recently arrived from Canada, she said "Hurry, Carlos, something has happened in the States. Who is dead? Go ask the driver what all this means."
Carlos Blanchard, as curious as his hostess, hastened across the plaza, only to be told by the irate and harassed driver: "Don't you damned fools in this God-forsaken country ever hear anything? President Lincoln was assassinated a month ago."
As this information was relayed by the Canadian visitor to his hostess, Deluvina made the sign of the cross, little realizing that the eastern portion of the United States had been literally shaken with this stupendous news. She knew that the Civil War had ended and with its end had come the liberation of the negro slaves. She also knew that the territory of New Mexico had officially been on the side of the north and therefore, on the winning side. Deluvina was glad the negroes were free but already their freedom was bringing up a ticklish subject in the territory. Deluvina had listened to many conversations regarding slavery (meaning negroes) as compared to peonage -- the peonage of New Mexico and Mexico. She hoped that Washington would not now get ideas about her own servants. Without peonage -- what a harsh word -- how could she and Don Miguel carry on their business and maintain this establishment? So far they had been able to do very nicely and when her daughters married, she planned to give each of them ten thousand dollars in gold and three Indian peons -- no, they weren't slaves.
Right now, Don Miguel was ill and it kept three servants busy bottling fresh meat, later extracting the juices from the meat in order to furnish him with his required diet. With all the activities attached to running a large mercantile business on nearby La Celle del Puente, Miguel's illness meant that Deluvina's duties were multiplied many times over. From her [...] hung a large ring with many keys attached to it and all day long, someone wanted this door or that cabinet unlocked. Only yesterday, she had supervised the unloading of [...] mule trains and seen that all of the merchandise was properly placed.
Frontier New Mexico had taken its toll of [...] Miguel Des Marais. When they married [...] ago, he thought nothing of the tortuous [high?]ways of the territory. He took the mountain trails in his stride but that was long ago. The divergence in their years was now appearing but Deluvina had made her life and she had no regrets now. American ways were strange but with changing flags, she tried to make herself adaptable. Her eldest daughter had married, and to a man not of the faith of the Vigils and the Des Marais but Dona Deluvina saw that Joseph Bernard, in charge of the mule train which plied its regular route from Westport Landing to Santa Fe, was a good man even though he was certainly a stranger from the States ... some remote spot called Missouri, wasn't it? She was pleased with plans being made by the exuberant Paulita, as her choice had fallen on Rafael Romero, a member of a powerful political family which held the destiny of Mora County in its grasp and from their ancestral seat in La Cueva partially directed the affairs of the whole northern half of the territory. Of this match, even old Don Juan Vigil, now gathered to his fathers, would have approved.
Deluvina and Miguel were also pleased with the fact that Charles Blanchard, the same one who had been rebuffed by the stage driver, was seriously attracted to their sensitive and gentle Marguerite. Don Miguel had especially welcomed Don Carlos to his home. Had not the Blanchards and the Des Marais fought the English side by side on the Plains of Abraham outside Quebec? And little Emma seemed girlishly taken with another newly arrived Canadian, Avila Senecal. There seemed no end of Frenchmen in this frontier land.
With the exception of Josephine, Cleofas, and the infant Miguel II, Don Miguel realized his family was taking flight. And he knew this was inevitable. Life must go on and the generations succeed one another. He had given his best to New Mexico and New Mexico had been good to him. Material success had been his and he had founded a family of which any man might be proud, a family who would treasure the heritage he would leave behind. An alien from the frozen wastes of a northern land, he had warmed himself in the sunshine of New Mexico and had found it good. An anemic condition kept Don Miguel incapacitated and all these thoughts filled his mind as he sat in the sunshine of his patio near the river. True, he yearned for a bowl of onion soup such as his mother used to make in far off Montreal. He even longed for a taste of the chile con carne of the land of his adoption.
Instead he sighed and reached for a bottle of the ever-present beef broth.
Eighteen hundred ninety-four. Now Deluvina was dying and she wished she might have some privacy, at least a few hours to collect her thoughts. Father De Fouri had heard her confession but as soon as this was over, family, servants and friends felt that Dona Deluvina had had enough privacy and all trooped back into her bedroom. Too long had Deluvina held the reins to be ignored now that word had gone over town that the matriarch of the west Las Vegas plaza had been anointed and probably would not live to see once more the sun go down behind the timbered and rugged Creston range. Even the servants wanted their instructions from their mistress. Not so long as Deluvina lived would authority in this household pass into other hands.
Her daughter, Josephine, the only one who still shared her mother's home, wished to save Dona Deluvina all this commotion but she knew it would be useless to even try. Standing at the foot of her mother's bed, she was joined by her sisters, the widowed Louisa Bernard, Marguerite Blanchard and Emma Senecal. Marguerite knew that her mother wished especially to see Don Carlos Blanchard once more and therefore, she had dispatched a messenger to White Oaks, requesting his return. Deluvina was listening for the sounds which would mark his arrival. Once she was gone, Don Carlos would be needed. Her own son, Michel, was away at medical school and it was his mother's wish that his studies not be interrupted.
Deluvina glanced out her bedroom window and her eyes lighted on the balcony across the plaza where General Stephen Watts Kearny had raised the Stars and Stripes nearly fifty years before. She closed her eyes and allowed herself the pleasure of retrospect. Deluvina realized she had truly been a part of history, that she had witnessed a veritable panorama of frontier events from her own door-step. The Taos of her girlhood was only a memory. The Mexican Empire of Emperor Iturbide and its successor, the Mexican Republic, didn't matter much any more, having faded into oblivion along with the days when New Mexico depended on the kings of Spain for its welfare. She could recall the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo when New Mexico became a territory of the United States and the Gadsden Purchase which had added vast areas to its original size. It seemed that in Washington they could do almost anything.
In the midst of her reverie, Dona Deluvina heard the arrival of the trains in "new town," East Las Vegas. She felt that here indeed was progress. No longer did they have to depend on the snail-like progress of the caravans of oxen and mules as they wended their precarious way across the Kansas prairies from St Louis. She herself had ridden the steam cars from Las Vegas to Wagon Mound and on two occasions, she had been to Glorieta where her sister Rufina lived. On one of these two visits, she had been accompanied by Colonel and Mrs Charles Greene, of Mora, the latter being the indomitable Filomena of Taos days. Having buried two husbands, she was now the wife of a classmate of General U.S. Grant. The Colonel had followed his friend into the Civil War and had distinguished himself in many ways. While the three sisters enjoyed their reunion, Greene mentally revived his own war days by visiting the Glorieta battlefield, where the Tejanos had been defeated and driven back down the Rio Grande, passing hurriedly through Albuquerque and close by Val Verde, where only a short time before, they had ridden in triumph. Mora and Glorieta must have seemed far removed from his own native New England.
She was surprised when she thought of how many of her contemporaries she had outlived. Kit Carson had been dead some years. Archbishop Lamy had laid down his burdens and already, his successor, Archbishop Salpointe had resigned and a third Archbishop of Santa Fe, the Most Rev. P.L. Chappelle, was presiding over the destinies of the Church in New Mexico. "Uncle Dick" Wootton had passed away the other day, fighting to the last for his toll gate on the Colorado line. Mother Magdalena, who had piloted the first Sisters of Loretto to New Mexico almost fifty years ago, was now dying in Santa Fe, and Dona Deluvina wondered whether she or her old friend would reach eternity first.
These retrospective moments ended as Deluvina realized that horses were being secured to the hitching post outside her portal. She was happy because she recognized the clear voice of her son-in-law, Charles Blanchard. His entry into her room gave her renewed strength. With him was his oldest son; both had ridden from White Oaks. After exchanging news of the world outside Las Vegas, the younger Blanchard informed his grandmother that he wished to marry the daughter of her neighbor, Don Demetrio Perez and that the latter wished to pay his respects to Dona Deluvina Des Marais. She smiled to herself as she realized that in this romance, she would have little voice. That had been settled in a Taos garden almost sixty years ago.
Dona Deluvina dismissed her grandson with her blessing, requesting Don Carlos to remain by her bedside. She had much to tell him regarding her affairs and her final wishes. She knew that she didn't have much time. Into this household of women a man had come, and Dona Deluvina Des Marais could die in peace.
The subject of this sketch, Dona Deluvina Vigil y Montes de Santa Ana Des Marais, was a remarkable and most courageous woman. Her descendants, now having approximated one hundred and forty, live all over the United States and Mexico. Among her own grandchildren, there are eleven living today and they include Mrs Arrabella B Romero, Mrs Ella B Hunker and Michel Senecal, all of Las Vegas; Frank A Blanchard, of Santa Fe; Vincent Romero, of Mora; Mrs Marie Antoinette Blanchard Herman, of Albuquerque; Pierre Senecal, of Oklahoma; Michel Des Marais, of Phoenix, Arizona; and Mrs Blanche B Jaramille, Mrs Frances B Roahe and Mrs Marguerite B Brain, of Hollywood, California.
Included among her great-grandchildren now living in New Mexico, there are Mrs Marie R Rapkoch of Las Cruces; Mrs Lucille R Duran, Joe E and Coque Romero, of Las Vegas; the Very Rev Carlos Blanchard, Miss Stella Blanchard and Mrs Evangeline Blanchard Ortiz y Pino, of Santa Fe; Mrs Adeline O Rudolph, of Mora; Mrs Dolores O Hamilton, of Espinola; Mrs Pauline J Osborne, of Grants; Bernard and Chester Hunker of Clovis; and Mrs Charlotte Herman Meyer and Mrs Anna Herman McCulloch (the wife of the author), of Albuquerque.
Dona Deluvina is buried in the churchyard of the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows, Las Vegas, New Mexico.
--End of quoted paper--
The ancestry of Michel Des Marais has been traced back to France in the early part of the 17th century.