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The heart of the picturesque village of Mesilla is much the same as it was one hundred years ago. Thick walled adobe buildings, which once protected residents against Apache attacks, now house art galleries, restaurants, museums and gift shops. Today, tourists stroll on the peaceful plaza and imagine life as it might have been many years ago.
After the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which concluded the Mexican War in 1848, the Mexican government commissioned Cura Ramon Ortiz to settle Mesilla. He brought families from New Mexico and from Paso del Norte (modern Ciudad Juarez) to populate the Mesilla Civil Colony Grant, which by 1850 had more than 800 inhabitants.
On November 16, 1854, a detachment from nearby Fort Fillmore raised the U.S. flag here confirming the Gadsden Purchase; thus, the Gadsden territory was officially recognized as part of the United States. In 1858, the Butterfield stage began its run through Mesilla. During the Civil War, Mesilla was the capital of the Confederate Arizona Territory.
Mesilla's most notorious resident, Billy the Kid, was sentenced to death at the county courthouse, but escaped before the sentence was carried out. Legendary hero Pat Garrett eventually tracked down and killed the Kid; later, Garrett was mysteriously murdered in an arroyo just outside of Las Cruces. He is buried in a local cemetery.
San Albino Church, on the plaza, is one of the oldest churches in the Mesilla Valley. Constructed in 1851, the present structure was built some 55 years later. The nearby Gadsden Museum houses Indian and Civil War relics and Southwest New Mexico artifacts.
Throughout Mesilla, colorful ristras, red chile strung together, decorate homes and businesses symbolizing the hospitality of the Southwest. Stop in Las Mesilla and step into another era!
Old Mesilla is located 5 minutes south of Las Cruces.
Town of Mesilla
P.O. Box 10
Mesilla, NM 88046
Web site: www.mesilla-nm.org