(February 11, 2016)—When you think about New Mexico history, most of it has been swept under the rug, as far as mainstream history in concerned. We’re always excited when we find stories that have been dug up, such as this one about the Old Brazito School House….
The Old Brazito School House, built in 1916, is probably the sole survivor of a little known war fought on the afternoon of December 25, 1846. The United States was at war with Mexico and the Battle of Brazito would be the only hostile encounter in New Mexico during the United States goal to achieve the Mexican provinces of New Mexico and California. President James K. Polk had ordered Colonel Stephen W. Kearny to seize New Mexico and to protect the interest of United States traders en route to Santa Fe. Colonel Kearny’s army was made up of the elite First Dragoons and the First Regiment Missouri Mounted Volunteers. The Missouri Mounted Volunteers, totaling 850 men, was commanded by Colonel Alexander Doniphan.
On Christmas Day the Missourians made camp at the old Camino Real campground at a place called Brazito or “Little Arm” on the east bank of the Rio Grande. Not all of Doniphan’s regiment was there as the company was staggered along the trail. Doniphan had given his men “the day off” in celebration of Christmas but that afternoon their peaceful day was interrupted by the Mexican army (estimated total of 700 to 1,000 men) led by General Antonio Ponce de Leon. A battle between the two armies took place but the Mexican army was no match for the seasoned frontiersmen of Missouri and the entire battle lasted no more than thirty minutes.
If the battle of Brazito had been in the Mexican’s favor it would have prolonged the war and perhaps the lower half of New Mexico would not have been annexed by the United States under the terms of the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. This small battle played a big part in the United States legal claim to New Mexico.
Over the next seventy years, the Brazito battlefield would turn into a popular farming community and the land would eventually be bought and donated in 1916 by F.M. Gallagher to the state for the purpose of building a school. The only stipulation Mr. Gallaher had was that if the building was no longer used as a school, it would revert back to his heirs. The state agreed and built the Brazito school house which held classes from 1916 to 1939. Then in 1954, it was purchased by the people of the Brazito community from Charles A. Edwards (Gallaher’s sole heir). During this time it was also used to hold church services on Sunday. In 1984, the community of Brazito could no longer maintain the building and it was sold again where it became part of a used car lot and fell to ruin. Then in 2000, George Lee Carver bought the property and restored the Brazito school house back to its original condition. It now houses the offices of Carver Electric Company, Inc.
Dahlstrom, J. From Battleground to Playground to Community Center. A History of the Site of the Battle of Brazito. Research History 111, TSU. Dr. Eichstaedt.
Mangum, N.C. (1997) The Battle of Brazito: Reappraising a Lost and Forgotten Episode in the Mexican- American War. New Mexico Historical Review, Vol . 72, #3.