AZTEC — In the late 1800s, William B. Haines moved to Bloomfield from England and became the town's first postmaster. Haines, who is among Bloomfield's first residents, also served as a justice of the peace and owned a business.
Catherine Davis, an Aztec author and historian, knew about Haines before she started writing the third volume of a series highlighting area pioneers. But what Davis found out while researching Haines took her by surprise.
Every year, the San Juan County Historical Society publishes a book about the history of the area. This year, Davis is writing the book, "Echoes of the Past Vol. III," which will be released in July.
While searching through newspaper archives, Davis found an article originally published in a Santa Fe newspaper. The article announced Gov. Lew Wallace had named Haines the captain of the San Juan Guards, a group tasked with stopping outlaws such as the infamous Ike Stockton.
That information, she said, changed the focus of her book.
"I thought this man really was quite the mover and the shaker in the time he was here," Davis said.
But what happened to Haines remains a mystery.
Davis found his name listed in the census from 1880, but it is not in the 1900 census. The census of 1890 was lost in a fire, and, with that, possible information about Haines vanished, Davis believes.
Haines isn't mentioned in any of the area burial records. Davis speculates he may have been buried at a family plot or perhaps taken back to England. Or maybe he left the area before his death.
In the early days of San Juan County, it wasn't unusual for people to come from England and settle in the area.
"It always amazes me that they came to this area because this area is so isolated," Davis said.
The first train didn't reach the area until 1910, after Haines either died or left the area.
Davis spent time a few years ago researching the railroad when she wrote "A Railroad Here: Meet the Red Apple Flyer." Later, she switched to writing about area pioneers. The first two volumes of "Echoes of the Past," both written by Davis, were published in 2010 and 2011.
Davis' curiosity about the pioneers started when she looked at San Juan County streets and landmarks, such as Jackson Lake, and began thinking about the origins of their names.
"There had to be a Mr. Jackson somewhere along the line," she said.
Many Farmington streets are named after early residents. Behrend Avenue, for example, is named for Otto Behrend, though Davis said he only lived in Farmington for a few years.
Locke Avenue is also named for an early pioneer — William Locke, who brought the first fruit trees to the area in 1878. He planted these trees on his 84-acre orchard called Sunnyside Orchard, according to Farmington Museum records. Farmington would later become known for these trees.
"A lot of times you can live in a place and not know any of its history, and I think that's so sad," Davis said.
Efforts from area museums and the historical society are keeping local history accessible to the public. The society is working on digitizing its records, and the Farmington Museum currently has an exhibit featuring Farmington's history. The Aztec Museum offers brochures of a walking tour of historic sites with brief descriptions of each place.
Sarah Adams, the collections manager at Farmington Museum, said the museum's current exhibit shows how Farmington has changed over the years, with a focus on landscapes and buildings.
The museum also owns the Palmer House, located at 210 N. Allen Ave. in Farmington. While the Palmers were not the first owners of the house, they are one of the early families to settle the area, Adams said.
William Giles Markley and his wife, Mary Markley, previously owned the home. William Markley moved to Farmington in the late 1870s and homesteaded 160 acres. His family joined him in 1880.
The house, which was built in 1876, is the oldest home in Farmington. Right now, the house is vacant, and the museum has completed minor repairs to preserve the building.
Adams said the museum foundation eventually hopes to restore the house.
Another family mentioned in Davis' upcoming book is the Hanna family. The family included one of the last surviving Civil War veterans, who was a photographer and taxidermist. Davis described him as a colorful character who liked to drink.
"In one book, it says they just kind of existed. They just were," Davis said.