New Mexico Homesteads

Grocery Store in Sopris, Colorado (owned by Crist's Grandfather)



Huge coal deposits beneath the hills and mountains around Trinidad CO, south to the Raton NM, west along the Pugatorie River Valley and north to Walsenburg CO brought many settlers. By the turn of the century, Colorado Fuel and Iron had acquired the mineral rights and numerous mines were in operation. With this industry booming came the immigrants with the promised work in those mines. Mining camps sprouted all along the river valley west of Trinidad: Sopris, Cokedale, Segundo, Valdez, and Tercio were among dozens. Most of them were company towns, where houses, stores, and recreational buildings belonged to the CF&I The miners were often paid in script, redeemable only at the company store. Wages were low and the work was hard, primarily pick and shovel.

Coal mining in Las Animas County continued to expand and thrive through early 20th Century. Along with the growth came problems. Miners began to rebel against low wages and harsh working conditions. This led to strikes in 1913-1914 and armed conflict between striking miners and the Colorado militia sent in by the governors. The strikes culminated in the tragic Ludlow Massacre April, 1914, when miners , women and children died. The strike/s played a key role in better conditions.

A gradual decline in coal mining operations in Las Animas County began in the 1930's, accelerated in the 1950-60's until only the Allen mine was in operation. It was many years before people faced the reality that the "King" coal mining industry would not rebound. Today most of the camps are ghost towns. The memories remain forever part of the heritage of Trinidad and Las Animas County.


There were six brothers and one sister that homesteaded in New Mexico. They were - Angelo, Gaetano Fortunato (Fred), Gio Batta (John - Karylyn's Great Grandfather), Guiseppe Francesco (Betty Jo's Grandfather), Cristiano (his son Chris is still in Raton), Domenico & their sister Maria Angela.

Kiowa, New Mexico is located 15 miles SW of Capulin. Also known as Kiowa District, it was first known as Kiowa Camp. Although the Kiowa Indians never lived here, at certain seasons they liked to stop at this place en route to the East to fish and hunt and give their ponies rest and food.

The Kiowa District Post Office was sometimes called Cunico, a family name often heard in the section.
From 1927-1942, the area 30 miles SE of Raton on Interstate 93 was recognized as the town of Cunico New Mexico.

The "Homestead Act" gave emigrants the deed to parcels of land (400 acres), and in return, they agreed to farm, maintain & pay the taxes on the land. Several of them left the homesteads and went on to work in coal mines of Colorado and New Mexico. Several of the Cunico's from this area ended up working in the coal mines of New Mexico and Colorado. As Cunico’s left the the town of “Cunico” became a ghost town. Near Kiowa, NM you can still find some remnants of some of the old town.

Mary Ann Salas says Cunico was never a town as we know towns. It was registered as a  town  because they had a post office, and there was a service station. Her Nonno owed with a couple tiny cabins they rented to over nighters. She says it was the 1915/20 version of the Motel 6.


 Last updated 03/12/13 - (c)2007 - Barth Cunico - All rights reserved