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Exploring lives of 19th century homesteaders

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Dorothy Hoard, local historian and author of several books on the homesteading era in northern New Mexico, will give a free presentation 7 p.m. Oct. 23 at PEEC. During the presentation, Hoard will help attendees envision what it was like for homesteaders who lived in this area in the 19th century.
In 1887, when the Chili Line of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad commenced, it opened up the land around us, which would eventually become Los Alamos, for settlement. Hoard will discuss some of the tribulations faced by families while proving up on homesteads in Los Alamos County and how they overcame such challenges.
At the time of the army take-over of the Pajarito Plateau in November 1942, all private holdings, save two of 38, had originally been acquired under the Homestead Act of 1862.
For some homesteaders, the process of acquiring a home under the act was seamless, but others met with enough difficulties, obstructions, misunderstandings, mishaps, shenanigans, delays and tragedies to fill a book.
“Add to the list of difficulties that the Pajarito Plateau was a rugged landscape with a most unfriendly climate for farming, and one comes away with great admiration for those who persisted in just looking for a home,” Hoard said.
Hoard arrived in Los Alamos in 1963 and for 10 years, she and her fellow hikers from the Los Alamos Outdoor Association “walked down every canyon and every mesa in Bandelier.” She founded Friends of Bandelier in 1987 and has served as president since its inception. She is also a recipient of the Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation for her work cataloging the petroglyphs in Los Alamos County.
Hoard is the author of several books on the local area, organizes the annual butterfly count, has inventoried local plants and teaches plant identification classes.
The program is free and there is no need to register in advance. For more information about this and other programs offered by PEEC, visit PajaritoEEC.org, email Programs@PajaritoEEC.org or call 662-0460.