Besides their love for history, Las Vegans Rudy Laumbach and Jim Abreu share something else in common.
Both have ancestors who traveled the historic Santa Fe Trail, an international trade highway that offered new opportunities and helped Las Vegas grow. Their families may have even crossed paths.
To commemorate the 200th anniversary of the New Mexico-Santa Fe Trail, Laumbach and Abreu will talk about their families’ experiences at a three-day conference in Las Vegas and Santa Fe. The two will perform on November 12 at the Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas. The conference will continue at the Plaza Hotel on the morning of November 13, and then continue in Santa Fe later today and on November 14.
The event will include presentations, lunches, dinners and entertainment. For more information or to register, call 425-8803.
The chapters of the Camino de Corazon & End of Trail Santa Fe Trail Association, the Daughters of the State of New Mexico of the American Revolution, the New Mexico Historical Society, the New Mexico Genealogical Society and the Center of Hispanic New Mexico seekers are sponsoring the event.
Laumbach’s family hiked the 869-mile trail from Franklin, Missouri to Santa Fe between 1840 and 1861. The first was his great-great-great-grandfather, Bernardo Martin. Martin went to Missouri on a shopping trip and took his 10-year-old son. The boy was robbed while in Missouri and returned to New Mexico 10 years later, but did not stay in the area.
A retired civil engineer, Laumbach’s great-great-grandfather made a one-way solo trip to western New Mexico on the track in 1861. Andreas D. Laumbach I was born in Germany and am arrived in the United States in 1856, settling in Iowa. Andreas Laumbach was killed in the spring of 1864, east of Springer on the south bank of the Cimarron River. The Indians attacked him while driving cattle in Mora County, according to Rudy Laumbach.
A 14-year board member of the Las Vegas Citizens’ Committee for Historic Preservation and a 10-year member of the Corazon Chapter of the SFTA, Laumbach has also walked the trail.
“I was on the track from Independence, Missouri to Santa Fe,” the 90-year-old said. “There are paths that are close to the trail and much of the trail is on private property.”
Abreu’s family took the trail in different directions.
Santiago Abreu II walked the trail as a Spanish soldier and a Mexican soldier. His son, Jesus Abreu, came with the volunteers from Missouri. He was an interpreter and worked for several businessmen in New Mexico.
“He even went to Kentucky and New York as a businessman,” said Jim Abreu, a retired Highlands University dean of education in New Mexico who now oversees the Northeast. Regional Education Cooperative.
Jesus also carried mail on the trail a few times.
“It was very dangerous,” said Jim Abreu. “The Indians were everywhere, the Apaches, the Crows. It was still a really wild country.
Laumbach noted that travelers who took the southern route had little water once they left Kansas.
“They entered Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico; there weren’t many water points, ”he said. “The northern route (went through) Colorado and Raton Pass. The south was shorter but drier, but the Raton Pass was a hell of a place to cross.
Jim Abreu worked as a seasonal ranger at Fort Union National Monument for three years while in college.
“The tracks are right there,” said the 69-year-old. “I learned a lot about the fort, the history, the families and I found old letters from my ancestors.”
On Jim Abreu’s mother’s side was Carl Wolf Wildenstein, who operated textile factories in England. Wildenstein walked the Santa Fe Trail in 1872 and became an engineer for Samuel Watrous, after whom the town of Watrous is named. Wildenstein married Watrous’s daughter and they had seven sons and a daughter.
“In fact, the great historical legacy we have in Las Vegas and New Mexico comes from the Santa Fe Trail,” said Jim Abreu. “It’s part of the story here. I think it is important to teach children. I passed it on to my son and daughter and now to my granddaughters.