Albert Eugene Van Patten was born on November 10, 1839 in Rome, Oneida
County, New York and died on February 28, 1926 in Las Cruces, Dona Ana
County, New Mexico. He is buried in St. Joseph's Cemetery, Las Cruces,
Dona Ana County, New Mexico.
In 1859 Eugene moved to El Paso, Texas where he was a stage coach driver for
the Butterfield Overland Mail Route (known by various names throughout the
years, but still in business, last known as American Express). A Confederate
officer during the Civil War (see Civil War - New Mexico), he took part in
battles at Val Verde and Apache Canyon (Glorieta Pass). Among the many
other accomplishments of his colorful career were: Indian fighter, Sheriff of
Dona Ana County, New Mexico, county judge, justice of the peace, interpreter
of territorial court, chief deputy U.S. Marshal for Western Texas (Billy the Kid
surrendered his rifle to Eugene during this time)(the rifle was temporarily lost
when a grandaughter traded it for a tank of gas in the 1930's, but is now safely
housed in a museum in California) and Captain in NM Territorial Militia during
the Apache and rustler wars. He befriended the local Tigua and Piro Pueblo
Indians and not only was he instrumental in procuring lands for them but was
their protector and advisor. Since 1872 he lived in Las Cruces and owned a
nearby resort (Van Patten Resort) in the Organ Mountains which, after years of
litigation over land ownership and other agreements, finally bankrupt him.
He was proud to have been co-founder of the New Mexico State University and
to have been consulted by Teddy Roosevelt concerning the formation of the
Rough Riders of Spanish-American War fame.
Businesses and schools closed in order that his friends might attend his funeral.
"Thousands of men and women and children trudged through the sand following
the procession which bore a little old man in a faded blue and gold uniform of a
Colonel to his last resting place". He had been promoted to Brig. General upon
retirement and was given full military honors by the 120th Col. Engineers at Las
Eugene was married in 1865 to Benita Madrid Vargas (1840 - 1879), a half
Spanish and half Piro Indian.
* An extremely thorough and interesting biography of Eugene Van Patten and
his family can be found in Frank J. Brito's 1998 book "The Brito Family - A
|Albert Eugene Van Patten
1839 - 1926
Van Patten Resort Ruins
Col. Eugene Van Patten
|New Mexico Militia
Capt. Eugene Van Patten - center
Albert Eugene Van Patten was born November 10, 1839 in Oneida, New York,
but many sources give a different, erroneous birth date.
In 1857 when John Butterfield was starting the Overland Mail Company, he
hired Van Patten and his three older brothers to help set up the El Paso link of
the stagecoach trail. They arrived in El Paso as part of the first Overland work
crew on December 23, 1857. Van Patten did all kinds of work for the Company,
including driving stages and serving as stationkeeper at the Picacho Station.
On February 9, 1860, Van Patten was the conductor of a stage coach ambushed
by Apaches in Cooke’s Canyon on its way from Tucson to Mesilla. After a long
standoff in which all of the coach’s mules but one were killed, Van Patten, the
driver, and the six passengers abandoned the coach and fortified themselves
behind rock outcrops. They were rescued eventually by scouts of a merchant
party which happened to hear shooting.
When the Civil War started he joined the Confederates, even though he was born
a Yankee. Following the war, he was a life-long Republican.
In 1865 he married Benita Madrid Vargas, a high ranking Piro Indian. This began
a life-long commitment to Indian interests, and he was a major player in the Piros
relocating to Tortugas and being granted title to that land by the State of New
Mexico in 1914.
He served in many offices, including county sheriff from 1884 to 1888 and
deputy U. S. Marshall from 1889 to 1896. He led the posse that tracked the
murders of Colonel Albert Fountain and his son Henry, and was a major witness
at the trial (the accused were acquitted). Although unable to serve, he helped
organize the New Mexico contingent of Roosevelt’s Rough Riders for the
Spanish-American War of 1898.
In 1917 (not 1915 as given by the historical marker) he sold the Van Patten
Mountain Camp to Dr. Nathan Boyd and entered a long period of financial
difficulties. When he died on February 28, 1926, he was almost destitute.