Photo of Abiquiu Church. Courtesy of Conchita Thornton Marusich 

Traveler:  Santiago Chacon

When and Where  Starting in 1829, Santiago traveled over the Old Spanish Trail several times, the last trip taking place in 1843-1844

Submitted by:  Lisa Valdez Bonney, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Relationship:  Santiago Chacon was my great-great-grandfather


Born in Abiquiu in 1794, Santiago Chacon, a blacksmith, made several trips over the Old Spanish Trail with the Armijo family. In the fall of 1843, he left Santa Fe with a caravan going to Monterey, California. Once on the trail, he discovered his 16 year-old son, Serafin, who was a stowaway in the caravan and made him return home to his step-mother in Abiquiu. Santiago then continued on to Alta California.

When he arrived in Monterey, Santiago traded his woolen New Mexican goods for forty high quality horses. Impatient to get home, he left for Santa Fe before the return caravan, traveling ahead with his horses and only 5 other people, including an 11 year-old boy, Pablo, Pablo’s parents and a couple named Fuentes.

John C. Fremont, Courtesy of

On April 23, 1844, near Resting Springs, California, close to present-day Tecopa, Santiago and his group were attacked by Paiute Indians. Santiago and Pablo’s father were killed. Pablo, his mother, the Fuentes couple and the horses all disappeared into the desert.

The next day, 11 year-old Pablo and Andres Fuentes wandered into the camp of John C. Fremont, the famous explorer, who was traveling in the area. Fremont took the boy and Andres back to the site of the attack. Fremont wrote: “The dead silence of the place was ominous. We found only the corpses of the two men” — Santiago and Pablo’s father.  The two women were never found.  Fremont continued, “Pablo was overcome with grief, {crying}” Mi padre, Mi madre.”

Back in Abiquiu, 16 year-old Serafin luckily was still alive because his father, Santiago, had sent him home fearing that the journey would be too dangerous.  Serafin lived into his nineties and carried on the Chacon name. He lived to tell the story of his father’s last ride on the Old Spanish Trail.

Resting Springs. Courtesy of Conchita Thornton Marusich

Your interest
: I became interested in my great-great-grandfather because he was a courageous and ambitious man. 

Where did he settle: Santiago lived in Abiquiu, New Mexico.

Serafin Chacon with grandson, Patricio Chacon. Courtesy of Lisa Valdez Bonney

Unique story or fact: Santiago traveled over different trails from 1829 until his death in 1844. He traveled over the Old Spanish Trail and at other times on the Camino Real (de Tierra Adentro) which was not too far from present-day Santa Fe.  Santiago’s son, Serafin Chacon, was born in 1826 and died in 1918. Many of Serafin Chacon’s descendants live in New Mexico.

Sources: Information came from John C. Fremont’s writings and from Santiago Chacon’s descendants.  His grandson, Epimenio Chacon, shared information with the family.