Despite his being a fairly prominent trader of his time, we actually know relatively little about James Wiley Magoffin and his associates and their roles in Southwestern trading between the early 1830s and the American Civil War. Historian Cameron Saffell, a recipient of a 2016 Office of the New Mexico State Historian-History Scholars’ Program grant, will report on what he’s learned about the “Magoffin Factor” in his exhaustive research at archival facilities in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Las Vegas.
This special lecture is at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 27, in the Theater at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces. Admission is free. The Museum is located at 4100 Dripping Springs Road.
Dr. Saffell researched two relatively distinct trading periods—the Mexican years (circa 1830–1846) when Magoffin traded along the Santa Fe and Chihuahua Trails, and a second period after the Mexican-American War when Magoffin founded the community of Magoffinsville, one of the forerunners of today’s El Paso and site of the second location of Fort Bliss through its loss to river flooding in 1868. In both periods, Saffell was interested in locating records relating not just to Magoffin, but to his trade associates that often included his brothers, brothers-in-law, and his sons. In his quest, he researched the Mexican Archives of New Mexico, District Court files, U.S. Army records for Fort Bliss and the Department of New Mexico, and numerous smaller collections of original documents and research files compiled by previous Southwestern military historians.
The findings are part of a larger research endeavor to learn more about Magoffin’s pre-Mexican War activities and details about the Magoffinsville settlement, which is rarely discussed except in its context as part of Fort Bliss. Dr. Saffell’s research grant was awarded by the New Mexico Office of the State Historian and was sponsored by the Historical Society of New Mexico.
Cameron Saffell is Assistant Professor of Museum Science and Curator of History at the Museum of Texas Tech University in Lubbock. He previously was Curator of History at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum from 1999–2012. He has been researching the Magoffin family of El Paso for about ten years. His article “A Reexamination of the ‘Bloodless Conquest’ of Santa Fe,” sorting out James Wiley Magoffin’s role in the American takeover of New Mexico in 1846, was published this past summer in the New Mexico Historical Review.