Juan and Jesusita Tafoya

Jesusita Garcia was born on 7 September 1894. She was the oldest daughter of Manuel Savino Garcia and Maria Juanita Sanchez. She spent her childhood years in Mora County, New Mexico - at El Morphe, a little farming community in the mountains above Ledoux. She learned to read and write, to speak Spanish and to understand English.

When she came of age, Jesusita's parents arranged for her marriage to a neighbor named Juan Bautista Tafoya. Juan had been born on 24 June 1889. He was the second son of Lorenzo Tafoya and Tomasita de Herrera. He seems to have spent his youth at El Morphe. After the premature death of his father, fifteen-year-old Juan left home so as not to be a burden on his mother in her struggle to provide for her other children. By the age of twenty, Juan had built himself a two-room house in El Morphe just up the road from that of his mother.

The family community of El Morphe was located in the mountains about five miles west of Ledoux, New Mexico. Today a rutted gravel road -about three miles in length - leads from Ledoux to Morphy Lake. Beyond the lake, a jeep trail meanders another two miles westward towards Morphy Canyon, where the remnants of El Morphe can still be seen. At the time of Juan and Jesusita's marriage the road was probably no more than a trail.

By the second decade of the 20th century the settlement at El Morphe seems to have contained no more than a dozen or so families, most of whom were related either by blood or marriage. The two-room adobe house that Juan had built was located part way up the canyon. Nearby was the home of Jesusita's parents, Manuel and Juanita Garcia, and not too far away was the house of her sister Eulalia (Julia) and her brother-in-law, Fidel Casados. The little community school stood near the eastern end of the canyon.

It is not known exactly when El Morphe was first settled, perhaps one or two or more generations before Juan's birth. It is thought that this little mountain community occupied land originally part of the old Martin Herrera Land Grant. Family tradition holds that Juan's ancestors once owned much of the immediate area, including Morphy Lake. After the Spanish-American War of the mid-1840's, the family failed to file the necessary papers and Morphy Lake became state property. Today it is a well-maintained New Mexico State Park. The site of the El Morphe settlement, however, is still owned by descendants of Requeta Tafoya the first wife of Jesusita's brother, Tony Garcia.

By 1910, Juan Tafoya had married Jesusita Garcia, with whom he eventually fathered ten children. The newlyweds settled into the house he had built just across the road from the house of Jesusita's parents, Manuel and Juanita Garcia. Juan's house had wooden floors and sides of adobe. The interior walls were plastered with two shades of clay, the bottoms yellow, the tops white. The door and window frames were fashioned out of lumber cut from the local pine trees. One room was intended as a kitchen and dining area, the other as a bedroom. Juan also built one bedstead, strong enough to hold several mattresses. At night he removed the top mattresses and placed them on the foor for use by the children. He and Jesusita slept on the bed with the remaining mattress.

Sometime before his marriage, or perhaps just after, Juan opened a general store just down the hill from his house and across the street from the community school. The store was stocked with supplies hauled by wagon from the town of Mora. Unfortunately, Juan was soon plagued by the necessity of extending credit to his cash-poor customers, and was eventually forced to close his general store. The building was subsequently set on fire by persons unknown. Juan later admitted that he should have built his store in the nearby town of Mora, or perhaps in Las Vegas, where he might have enjoyed a greater degree of success.

To feed his growing family, Juan turned to farming. He planted wheat and corn, beans and peas, and put in a patch of potatoes down near Morphy Lake. He raised hogs and chickens, and always kept several horses. To make extra money for sugar, coffee and other staples, he also hired himself out as a sheepherder.

In the mid 1920's Juan moved his family to Las Vegas, N.M., so that the children might have a chance at a better education. He sold his property in El Morphe to a cousin, and moved to Old Town, the Spanish section of Las Vegas. A couple of years later, he decided on a move to northern Colorado, where the Great Western Sugar Company was recruiting families to work the beet fields. Juan, Jesusita, and their four living children (Charles 15, Eva 12, Jean 6, and Joe 4) left Las Vegas by train on 6 April 1926. Arriving in Longmont, Colorado, they were assigned to work for John Nelson, who had planted forty-five acres of beets on his farm four miles north of town.

For several years during the late 1920's and early 1930's, Juan spent the summers working the beet fields in northern Colorado. In the winters he rented a house in town so that his children might continue their education. Finally, in the mid-1930's, he moved his family to Denver, into a house on Arapahoe and 36th Street. He himself went to work for the Depression-era W.P.A.

Midway through the second world war, Jesusita was diagnosed with stomach problems. The doctor advised an immediate operation to find the cause, but Jesusita put off the surgery for more than a year. When she finally went into the hospital it was too late. She was sewn back up and told that she had terminal stomach cancer. Jesusita died on 28 April 1945. She was just over fifty years old.

Juan continued to work at the hospital until the age of seventy-five. He lived in a small house on Stout Street near downtown Denver. Death came on 30 October 1980. He was ninety-one years old. He had outlived his wife Jesusita by thirty-five years.

Juan and Jesusita Tafoya

Juan and Jesusita's ten children were:

1- Charles Tafoya (1911-1999) - He and his wife Carolyn had three children: Arabella, Rebecca, Charles Jr.

2- Eva Tafoya (1914----) - Married Margarito Montoya. Together they had eight children: Frank, Joseph Richard, David, Dorothy Alice, Margaret Jean, Mary Ann, Isabelle Kathryn, Patrick Anthony.

3-Clorinda Tafoya (1916-1920).

4-Juanita (Jean) Tafoya (1919-1995) - Married a man named Trujillo. Together they had three children: Arlinda, Patricia, Danny. Later married Robert Pate.

5- Patrick Tafoya (1926----) Married Beverly Martinson. Together they had nine children: Patrick (Jay), Paul, Linda, Sallee, Michaela (Boots), Raymond, Theresa, Gilbert, Barbara, Gloria.

6- Sam Tafoya (1928-1987)

7- Bejamin Tafoya (1930----) He and his wife Gloria had three children: Ben, David, Michael.

8- Gilbert Tafoya (1931----)

9- Eleanor Tafoya (1933----) Married Joe Montoya. Together they had three children: Joe, Paul, Ruth.

10- Elsie Tafoya (1934----) Married Max Abeyta. Together they had three children: David, Christine, Larry.

11- Johnny Tafoya (1936-1979) He and his wife had five children: Teresa, Jimmy, Jesse, Nancy, Michael.

Children of Juan and Jesusita Tafoya

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