By Lyn Moncus: QCS Columnist
The New Mexico Jewish Historical Society, encouraged by Noel Pugach of the History Department at the University of New Mexico, has donated thirteen booklets about Jewish Pioneers of New Mexico to Tucumcari Historical Museum. These booklets will be available to the public beginning next week.
Because Mr. Pugach has called and corresponded with me for some time, he knew of my interest in our history and said he wanted me to have the opportunity to read the results of the efforts of many people involved in the project. He also wrote several of the booklets while serving on the Project Committee of the Jewish Pioneer Oral History Video Archive of History and the Center for Regional Studies at UNM. Each booklet contains highlights of those oral histories and tells the story of particular families.
Many of the families included came to New Mexico before the coming of the railroad and settled along the Santa Fe Trail. The Speigelberg family was the first in New Mexico and came to Santa Fe in 1845 to make their mark in banking, mining, education, and real estate. They left in 1892 but had encouraged many others to become pioneers. More pioneers entered our state with the coming of the railroad and settled throughout New Mexico as they worked hard to help build the territory and later the state.
Reading each booklet was a rare privilege because I recognized so many names of friends and acquaintances and most definitely felt the pioneer spirit at its height. Many of the early settlers were from the Old Country and were searching for a new life in our Southwest. As a result, they brought their culture, their religion, and their high regard for education. They learned the language of the people with whom they settled, helped to organize various communities and to prepare the territory to become a state while trying to live on the frontier.
The writers for the project emphasized the harsh life of the pioneers and showed the courage required to bring families to the new land. Most certainly had the strength and resolve to begin a new life and the tenacity to stay on the land or in the towns as they faced the hardships alongside all the other pioneers in our state. Whether ranching, mining, working in various professions, or performing menial tasks, they had their hearts set on making a new life in a new land.
Those of you interested in our history are in for a treat as you go to the museum to read these booklets. Most are about twenty pages in length and are so well written that you will find yourself reaching for the next booklet in order to continue learning and remembering stories you have heard from our pioneers in our county. You’ll also be reading about friends you have known or people about whom you have heard. If your reading experience is as thrilling as mine was, you’ll be hoping that more stories will be forthcoming.
We surely appreciate the donation from the New Mexico Jewish Historical Society and will treasure each booklet. Such contributions make more people want to visit our museum in order to learn about the pioneers of our area and our state.