Monica and Carlota Fuentes were sisters who married the Gallegos brothers, Francisco and Emeterio, on the same day on November 27, 1872. The two brothers recruited and led a group of settlers to a place then called Rincon, Colorado that later became known as Gallegos. The ranch grew to over three hundred thousand acres that was tended by close to one hundred ranch hands.
Monica reared three children and helped raise others from ranch employees who lost their spouses. She was known for her toughness, which was displayed when the infamous New Mexico outlaw Black Jack Ketchum with two of his fellow travelers came to the ranch house. Pregnant with her third child, and with her two young sons at her side, she defended her family with a six-shooter, holding off the three men while she locked herself and the kids in an upstairs attic. She succeeded in wounding Ketchum and that wound is the reputed reason that he eventually lost his arm. Early the next morning, she snuck out of the house and traveled barefoot to a nearby ranch camp to get help.
Monica operated the ranch’s general store and saloon. She issued scrip in her name. She and Carlota were instrumental in starting and building the Immaculate Conception’s Catholic Church from 1876-1877. They furnished the church with large Italian statues that they had purchased and imported from Chicago. They also promoted and helped build a school—thus ensuring that the children in that remote area had an educational opportunity. Carlota had twelve known children—all of whom stayed on the ranch. Obviously, religion and school would be important.
Monica’s husband died in 1889 and Carlota’s husband passed away around 1910. Monica died in 1909, survived by her children and sister who lived until 1936. The same year that Monica died, a tornado destroyed the small adobe Gallegos church. Carlota was instrumental in the church’s reconstruction. Its present picturesque style dates to the 1912-14 construction. Carlota later had the church and the land it inhabited donated to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe on the condition that members of the Gallegos family could be buried inside the church. The last burial was Sara, the daughter of Monica.
The Gallegos sisters, along with their families and early settlers who moved with them, helped establish Harding County. Their children and subsequent descendents have served on the county commission. Monica and Carlota Fuentes Gallegos are representative of many women who succeeded on the plains to build a future for their families and communities.
Callon, Milton and C. M. Montgomery (photographer). “The Red Corner.” New Mexico Magazine, August 1964, pp. 12-15, 31, 35.
Criswell, Elvin. “Gallegos Ranch: Portrait of a Dynasty and its Matron,” New Mexico Magazine, June 1998, pp. 64-68.
Davis Ellis Arthur, ed. The Historical Encylopedia of Nw Mexico. Albuquerque: New Mexico Historical Association, 818-19, 824, 826-27, 834-35.
Evans, Laurie and Perea, Martin (photographer), “ La Frontera del Llano Scenic Byway,” New Mexico Magazine, October 2004, pp. 68-69.
Personal Communication. Alberto Gallegos, July 24, 2007.