Hear the history of LA’s roads

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By Kirsten Laskey

Before the Manhattan Project and previous to the Ranch School, there were homesteaders.

In 1862, the U.S. Congress passed the Homesteaders Act, Los Alamos author Dorothy Hoard said. Under this act, people applied for entry to live on a piece of land.

 If accepted, the homesteaders lived on the land for five years, farmed it, improved it and after the five-year period, they applied for a title.  If they received the title, the homesteaders owned the land. All the private land in Los Alamos, before the Manhattan Project in 1943, Hoard said, was settled under the Homestead Act. The first homesteaders were in 1887 and there ended up being 35 patented homesteads.  

As a result, the homesteaders played an important role in Los Alamos’ history, she said.

It seems fitting then with celebrations of the county’s 60th anniversary underway, to recognize some of the area’s early inhabitants who helped usher Los Alamos into the present day. Hoard will discuss the homesteaders during the Los Alamos Historical Society’s lecture at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Fuller Lodge.

She said the talk is a joint venture between the Historical Society and the 60th anniversary committee. The presentation, which Hoard describes as a “pictorial virtual tour,” will feature the historic roads of Los Alamos. Hoard will discuss the development of the road system in the Pajarito Plateau and trace the 18th century cattle routes and the 19th century homestead roads.

Hoard will also present a slide show that features the historic road and she will explain the reasons for the roads’ locations.

Hoard said, “One of my principal interests in history is what people did to make life better for themselves using the tools of the day,” Hoard said. These old roads, she added, were used to settle the area. Hoard has celebrated the historic roads in several books including several hiking guides such as “Los Alamos Outdoors” and “Guide to Bandelier National Monument.” In 2002, she successfully nominated several homestead roads to the National Register of Historic Places. Los Alamos Historic Society published her latest book, “Historic Roads of Los Alamos.”

 To continue celebrating Los Alamos’ historical roads, the society and the anniversary committee is sponsoring  two hikes. Hoard will lead both hikes. The first will  be along the Lujan Trail or Bio Trail on May 30 and the other hike will go along the Grant Trail on Sept. 19.