Monday, July 9, 2012

The Plot Thickens - Manuel's First Marriage

Today, I'm going to share what I would describe as "Quite a Find" a church record of the marriage of Manuel Banegas to Casilda Espalin. What?! Yup, you read that right and you can view the record online here.

"Mexico, Marriages, 1570-1950," Manuel Benegas, 1843

Groom's Name:     Manuel Benegas
Groom's Birth Date:    
Groom's Birthplace:    
Groom's Age:    
Bride's Name:     Casilda Espalin
Bride's Birth Date:    
Bride's Birthplace:    
Bride's Age:    
Marriage Date:     18 Feb 1843
Marriage Place:     Nuestra Senora De Guadalupe,Juarez,Chihuahua,Mexico

Unfortunately, no information was listed for their parents, nor were their ages listed. However, you'll notice that the marriage date is just about a year before the christening of their son, Jose Ysabel on 13 JUL 1844. I still plan to order the microfilms of the original records to see what else I might be able to learn.

Manuel is said to be one of the original colonists of the Dona Ana Bend Colony, and in doing research on the colony I have found that the first group of settlers established the colony in January, 1843. This raises some interesting questions. First, it makes me think that while Manuel was definitely an early settler of the area, he probably wasn't in that initial group of 33 colonists. (Since he was being married in Chihuahua a month after the first group left.)

As a side note, reading about the colony's history is quite fascinating. By April of 1843, only 14 members of the original 33 were still in Dona Ana. Life in the colony was difficult and dangerous. In fact, the site New Mexico History says "in an effort to avoid the complete failure of the colony, the remaining grantees requested the Governor of Chihuahua to station a small detachment of soldiers on the grant and furnish each colonist with arms and ammunition in order to protect themselves from the savages." (Read more at New Mexico History.)

This makes me wonder how a newly married man moves with his bride to such a place? Those were definitely much different times. This also comes from New Mexico History:

"Living conditions at the Doña Ana Bend Colony during its first year were extremely primitive. On one of his occasional visits to the settlement, General Mauricio Ugarte was met by only four of the colonists. When he inquired as to the whereabouts of the others, he was advised that they were hiding because they were completely without wearing apparel. Ugarte promptly outfitted the entire colony with military uniforms and gave them a horse and a mule, which for some time were the only domestic animals at the settlement. Living quarters consisted of a number of small adobe huts and brush jacals. The digging of the irrigation canals and clearing of the land was slow and tedious since all work had to be done with crude wooden spades and plows. Progress was further slowed as a result of necessarily having to use one‑half of the entire town’s population as sentinels to protect the workers from surprise attacks from the Indians."

When did Manuel and his young family move to the colony?

Since Ysabel was christened in the summer of 1844 in Chihuahua, it seems logical that the family had not yet moved to the area. I suppose it is possible that they could have been a part of the colony and had traveled back for his baptism, but that doesn't seem likely since it is a six hour trip for us modern folk by car and money and resources back then weren't what they are now.

What if Manuel went on ahead of the family to join the struggling colony? Casilda would have become pregnant in the fall of 1843, so possibly he left shortly after that. What if Casilda died in childbirth and he had to return home for his son. Or, if he hadn't gone on ahead and was there in Chihuahua when she died, he became a widower with an infant son. Would he forge on to join the colony with a baby in tow?

As of now, the timing of Manuel (and his family) joining the colony is still unsure.

What became of Casilda?

Did she die in Chihuahua during or shortly after childbirth? No record has been found yet. Did she travel to Dona Ana and die there or along the way? No record has been found there either. Keep in mind that there wasn't a church in Dona Ana in the mid 1840's. The colony was occupied with building the Acequia Madre and defending themselves from the Mescaleros. The first church, Our Lady of the Purification was probably built around 1865 (though the settlers may have begun using a temporary structure on the designated site as early as 1844). In any case, as far as I have been able to determine there are no church records that date back to the mid 1840s. When and how Casilda died is still a mystery.

As you can see, there are still lots and LOTS of unanswered questions, and pieces of the puzzle to be discovered. but hopefully persistence will pay off again as it has with these two new discoveries (Ysabel's birth record and Manuel & Casilda's marriage record).

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