by Mary Davis, Corrales Historical Society

Did you know that in 1959 this is what the north end of Corrales looked like? The aerial photo of his house was taken by photographer Dick Kent. The house, which he built in the early 1950s, sits all by itself in the white patch of ground just east of the Main Canal. A lonely tree keeps it company. Kent reached his house on a narrow road (appropriately named Kent Lane) that ran west at the “Chavez Curve” where Corrales Road intersects Ruperts Lane. Loma Larga was a dirt ditch road by the Main Canal. Roads now running west from Loma Larga such as Sagebrush, Camino de la Tierra, and Tierra Encantada would not be built for a quarter century.

My family built our house up on the sand hills at the west end of West Ella Drive and moved in early in December 1972. Besides the unique solar home of our neighbor from whom we bought the land, there were no houses near us. There were meadowlarks, horny toads, scorpions and centipedes, rattlesnakes, scaled quail, and dove hunters. Cattle grazed near the intersection of the Main Canal and Meadowlark Lane. All gone now. We were forerunners of a growing tide of newcomers to Corrales: between 1970 and 1990 the “village” grew from 1,776 inhabitants to 5,453. 

View of the Baylor-Koontz Ranch, c. 1955, courtesy of Susi Baylor Eichhorst

Corrales sits on the Alameda Grant, land that stretches from the river to the edge of the Rio Puerco. For the people who settled in Corrales during the 200 years after 1712 when the Gonzales family bought the grant, the sand hills and the western mesa were empty country—home to antelope, wild horses, a profusion of flowers and edible plants, and wide open grasslands. There may well have been sites sacred to the Pueblo Indians who lived and farmed in the Rio Grande Valley. This vast open landscape can still be glimpsed from I-40 as you drive west toward the Rio Puerco.  

The early settlers used this huge empty country to pasture their livestock. The land became a recognized ranch only in the 1920s after an Anglo lawyer wrangled ownership of the western two-thirds of the Alameda Grant from descendants of the Hispanic settlers. Owned and ranched by the Thompson family for many years, the land was purchased in 1948 by the Baylor and Koontz families. Ten years later they sold the acreage west of the Thompson fence to AMREP, the development company which developed Rio Rancho in the early 1960s.

Sometimes, from our house up on the sand hills close to the border of Rio Rancho, I try to imagine what that empty grass-covered world looked like. I have some knowledge of the history of the landscape to help me with my imaginings, but I know my visions could not capture the sense of freedom, solitude, and possible adventure that once graced those vast acres. I hope those who did enjoy that freedom will share their memories with the Comment. You need to know what has been lost and to treasure what remains.

Information provided by Corrales Historical Society (CHS) Archives Committee. Want to learn more? Visit www.CorralesHistory.org for all the exciting things the Historical Society has to offer. New CHS members are always welcome.

Aerial of Kent House, 1959, courtesy of Kent family

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