The History of the Romero-Salman Ranch

The history of the Salman Ranch, and the land and building which constitute it, dates back to the Territorial Days of New Mexico.  In the early 1800’s the Governor of the New Mexico Territory granted some 32,000 thousand acres out of the original Mora Land Grant (a grant of some 827,889 acres), to Vincente and his wife Josefa.  Each of them received 16,000 acres of lush northern New Mexico land. Vincente is said to have slept, originally, in the small caves while tending his sheep and fishing in the streams and rivers.  It is said that he named the site La Cueva de los Pescadores (the cave of the fisher people). and the name La Cueva still survives on maps.  The area is now a National Historic Site and is identified on maps and road signs as the La Cueva Historic Site.

By the early 1860s, a number of buildings were completed at La Cueva, including the ROMERO HACIENDA, the MISSION CHURCH OF SAN RAFAEL, the GRIST MILL,  and the MERCANTILE BUILDING AND CORRALS.

Romero Hacienda

The ROMERO HACIENDA, built in the Monterey Peninsula Territorial Style, is a beautiful 8,000 sq. ft. adobe hacienda which acted as a social center for the territory around it, including Fort Union.  The wing of the Hacienda (on the southwest side) was built in the late 1830's.  The upstairs was completed in April, 1863; Vincente's initials, carved into the adobe plaster, attest to that date.  Much of the original glass, still in many of the windows,  was brought to the Hacienda on the SANTA FE TRAIL.  Their wavy visual surface attest to the handmade quality of the glass. In addition, the walls in the back provided the settlers in the area protection from Indian raids. A bell still mounted on the west side of the house rang out to alert settlers to gather and aim their muskets through holes--still visible--in the adobe walls.

Mission Church of San Rafael

The MISSION CHURCH OF SAN RAFAEL was built by the priests from Lamy and is one of the most photographed churches of northern New Mexico.  It is recognized for its French Cathederal windows, a unique detail in this small, intimate adobe chapel.


Grist Mill

The GRIST MILL, flagstone and adobe WALLS, and CORRALS became part of a major shipping center for the livestock and agricultural produce grown by the Romeros and their neighbors.

It was here that tack could be repaired and livestock shod while one's wheat was being ground for flour. 





Mercantile Building

The MERCANTILE BUILDING supplied the many customers with their basic supplies. Existing records from the mid-nineteenth century indicate up to 60 horse and ox drawn wagons were quartered at the ranch, destined to travel to Fort Unionand other army outposts in the area along with various farms and ranches.

The MERCANTILE BUILDING now houses the Salman Ranch Store, and once housed the U.S. Post Office. Its thick mud walls and hand hewn timbers capture the time and place in which it was built.


Vincente Romero

Vincente Romero was a man of vision.  The Acequia, which flows past the Cafe La Cueva and the La Cueva Nursery and nourishes the raspberry fields, was dug under his supervision and is a brilliant engineering feat.  It feeds numerous lakes on his original land.  He established the early water rights for the property, some dating back to 1835.  The property was left to his only son who, rumor has it, was educated at Princeton and came back to manage the ranch on the death of his father in 1881.  Phillip lived at a home which is still occupied on the ranch property, and it is aptly named the Romero House.  Records from the GRIST MILL attest to the many orders from Fort Union when it was occupied, and even at that early date, the Government was late in paying its bills.  Letters asking for late payment are numerous.  The Romero Ranch was sold off in pieces, and it was Colonel Wm. Salman who reunited those disperate holding, thus reconstituting the original ROMERO LAND GRANT. The ranch is now owned by G. Hughes and Betsy Abell.


Colonel William Salman

Years later, in 1944, Colonel William Salman, then director of the Port of La Havre, the major landing site for troops after D Day, asked his wife, Frances and his friend and business associate, Tex Grauer, to find a ranch where he could move his young family to safety after the War.  Most of his family were murdered in the death camps of the Third Reich.  They found the land at La Cueva, and the family moved in 1945 after Colonel Salman came back from World War II.  By 1950 Colonel Salman had reunited the five separate properties to restore the original Romero Land Grant of 32,000 acres.  Like Vincente. he loved the land, nurtured and nourished it, and integrated himself and his family into the community of Mora, Las Vegas, and northern NM.  

The Salman Family

Colonel Salman had two sons (William and David) and a daughter, Frances. David managed the Ranch for 40 years and was elected to the NM State Legislature where he was the Majority Leader in the House for over a decade. His legacy was a continuation of Colonel Salman's values: like his father he was a conservationist, and he sponsored legislation that protected the land and its resources. When he retired his younger sister Frances took over as Managing Partner and for over a decade protected and promoted the values for which the family was known until the ranch sold in 2016.

La Cueva Historic Site

A visit to the Salman Ranch is a historic walk into the 19th Century.  Lunch may be taken by the Acequia that Vincente designed and built.  The store's original counters, windows and shutters create a sense of an era past. The old corral walls now define the contemporary garden which is tended by ranch employees. The San Rafael Mission Church may be seen from the inside on private tours and the Romero Hacienda stands regal over the raspberry field, the flower and vegetable gardens.

The La Cueva Historic Site is a living, thriving community, visited by thousands who have enjoyed its ambiance and the walk back into the past.