Albuquerque Pioneer Families, Bernard Shandon Rodey, History of Albuquerque, History of New Mexico, Imaginative Memoir of New Mexico, Irish Immigrants into Southwest, Martin Pierre Stamm Albuquerque, Minerva Coddington Rodey, New Mexico History, New Mexico State Fair, New Mexico Territory, Railroad in the Southwest, Swiss Immigrants into Southwest
On the other side of Albuquerque, that is to say, once the tracks had been laid, various railway companies competing for lines, and the row of boarding houses filling with young men, many of them of Irish origin, with Swiss and German émigrés factored in, looking to go into business in the new territory, to go on to court the young Anglo belles of local balls, came one day one circa 1875 Martin Pierre Stamm, a circumspect man of Swiss descent, with his wife Naomi Ruth nee Jenne, in those days pronounced Jennie, three stairstep little boys and a sister.
He had earlier come ahead with cheese and butter on dry ice, something made possible only by the iron horse and its hieroglyphic tracks across the prairie frontier into the West and Southwest. He built a small house of local lumber from the Old Town sawmill, knowing that she would make it a home with her beautiful “things,” an heirloom iconography of mementos, china, sterling, linens—portraits, hand-woven afghans for nights at the stove, itself even necessary in Old ABQ on chillier nights.
For their wedding he had given her a handsome and heavy great family bible he had lovingly inscribed, in the notion that perhaps their settling in the Territory would launch a dynasty his family in Bern could be proud of, recalling them into his mind bundled up in furs, as they had driven him in their sleigh through the gay streets at Christmas time, every chalet adorned with fresh snow.
His own immigration had been unnerving and exhilarating. Not long after the New Year and despite the impassibility of the frozen cleft in the mountains, the very Brenner Pass, through which the Allies would fly less than a century later, Martin “Perry” Stamm had found his way through Austria and into Germany, packing his wicker creel with schnizel sandwiches and then down into Italy and Genoa on the Coast where, he thought it would have great meaning to follow Columbus’s lead, boarding yet another steamship packed with immigrants from around the world.
He had stayed overnight on the Swiss-Austrian border in Goethe’s own atelier, having had a somewhat harrowing journey by carriage through what would later become the Brenner pass, where the great writer had penned Faust, imagining him looking out at Lake Geneva. He carried a thin notebook only half-filled with reticent musings, a little record for short letters home he thought his mother would enjoy who could scarcely bear to see her only son leave their alpine valley over which the great sentinel mountains towered in their omnipresent mantles of snow.
Heading out to sea from the populous Italian lido, tossing and turning “in the chop,” the great steamship listing, fearful of storms that might see them all skid and flip from the deck like so many cod into the heaving waves, he prayed for safe passage for them all and that the captain he had seen nipping from a pewter flask would not steer them into an iceberg, perhaps even a great windjammer loaded with American cargo under full sail on a return voyage.
He had hoped in his pragmatic Swiss bones, he would meet a loving and sweet girl with whom to travel West, someone not as frail as the few well-off European women he saw in wicker chaises on the upper deck, tucked under deer-skin robes with ermine hats over their eyes.
In fact rough seas had nearly hurled them all into the harbor of Long Island Sound as the New York skyline loomed out of the fog. Martin rubbed scant and salt-water sleep from his eyes. He had once been to Paris, and twice to Rome with its majestic statuary and the alabaster poetry of its fountains, but America!
America, whose Eiffel-constructed Statue of Liberty jutted proudly into the sky in perpetuity. Would America and her shores embrace so many dreams, accommodate so much hunger?
He disembarked and with his dwindling change found lodging on a back street in Harlem’s precursor; from every tavern, a music he did not recognize—a seductive music with low and sad voices, from whom African American men and women emerged like night-colored ghosts to fade into the jumble of the evening city.
On impulse, young European on the loose in the streets of new York, he stepped in to see a dusky and sultry girl draped over a piano where another black man in a pork pie hat thumped out the blues.
Could these have been Lincoln’s freemen and freed women?
Taken with them, and a sensual music to which his ears were unaccustomed, he tossed back a frosty ale, his only touchstone with his homeland.
In due course Martin worked his way west, often out in the winter sun building more track, often in the shipyards unloading casks heavy with salted fish, exported wheels of cheese, flour sacks of semolina forwarded to Little Italy. At one point he had enough money to board the iron horse to Chicago and then on to the Kansas frontier.
One afternoon, after an ice cream social, he was introduced to one Naomi Ruth Jenne, who had stood under shady elms twirling her parasol; they had danced together, to a fiddler who played a reel.
That night he penned a note to his mother, who would have it read to her, clasping her hands in joy.
One such ensuing letter announced his engagement to this comely young woman, with her high cheekbones and wide mouth, her brunette hair and green eyes.
Of interest to them all was that Naomi Ruth’s great grandfather, one Samuel Jenne, was the son of a Dutch brewer, John Jenne’, who had come with the second influx of English to the Colonies, having escaped the terrible reign of George, England’s despot king, who had stripped his people of every right and freedom.
Samuel, according to SAR records, had fought alongside Miles Standish, driving back the British when the time came for a fledgling nation to claim its independence.
In time Martin Pierre would come to New Mexico Territory with butter and cheese on dry ice
He would become one of the most enterprising grocers in the fledgling town, Naomi mastering delectable Swiss pastry recipes sent to them by Granny Stamm, now widowed and spry, in the snowy realms of the Alps, a world away.
At night Martin would choose a passage from Luke or Mark from the family bible with its dramatic black and white illustrations of great angels wrestling with claw-footed satanic beasts. The stories would captivate their boys Roy and Raymond and little Henry, who after his steaming bath in the galvanized tub in the kitchen, would loll on the floor in his pajamas, while Naomi would sing in her lovely and low voice, American folksongs whose derivatives in turn were the melodies “darkies” had sung in the cotton fields.
She would sing Henry to sleep each night as follows with all the innocent devotion of the mothers of the day:
“I’se a li’l Alabama coon; I hasn’t been born very long. I remember seein’ one round moon; I member hearin’ one sweet song…..
Racism was not a concept anyone was to fully comprehend for some time.
In fact, as the Angelo families of old Albuquerque feathered their nests, A.M.Coddington would write at some point, in the first of a number of petitions for NM Statehood, of the “Mexicans” accruing to the Territory as being of “gentle,” “of kind character, hardworking.”
Marin Pierre and Naomi would safeguard the Jenne family crest in the drawing room of their simple home by keeping it in the pages of the very bible portaged across country in a prairie schooner, shielded from the wind and rain, surviving even the killing of its driver by a member of the Mescalero Apache tribe.
As his grocery business grew, he learned to irrigate and grow even the finest watercress for the ABQ elite, learning how to divert rivulets of water through copper piping siphoning up the blue and brown silt-laden waters of the Rio Grande.
In time, he would meet A.M., Coddington and other noteworthy businessmen, founding the New Mexico State Fair.
The first fair in the heat of summer saw every manner of cattle, milking cow, pig and horse brought proudly in to exhibit on the many pavilions set up near the hastily raised pine barns. Desert-bred Arabian horses could be seen cutting calves without any reins at all, with the merest pressure of the heel, little dogies bleating for their mooing mothers, looney eyed with anxiety.
Certainly money changed hand and awards were given out for the prize steer; strawberry and orange ices could be had, and chorizo sausages hand-stuffed by vendors of Mexican descent who themselves had settled in ABQ. The most popular treat was corn on the cob on the stick, dripping with butter—the pioneers had done well in forcing such a cornucopia from the very desert, having worked themselves to the bone.
Years later one of Rodey’s descendants would exhibit a textile-painted scarf at the fair; another would enter a steaming apple pie; loaves of bread plump with yeast would gleam with egg wash, sporting blue ribbons.
A portrait painter would render an endearing facsimile of someone’s child. That same child could ride a Shetland pony who wearily plodded in a circle wearing a pint-sized saddle.
Minnie Coddington would hand out glasses of water at the Fair all in the name of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. The men belonging to the corseted and demure women of the territory would gulp down the cold water and when left to break down the fair and its stores, retire to the Montezuma for brandy and illicit kisses, before returning home, family team in its polished harnesses prancing, Mexican grooms running up the lane to greet them.
The territory’s emblematic flag with its stylized sun would be lowered, and everyone would go home, their senses reeling, and as early as a week later, all would begin to dream of next year’s fare, of bronc riding and steer roping contests.
The Territory had given birth to an identity rich in tradition, arising from the sediment of many cultures.
Rodey and Minnie’s daughter Helen would attend a girl’s preparatory school in Washington and go to teas at the White House at the invitation of one Alice Roosevelt.
Naomi Ruth would endure heartbreak with the death of Henry who contracted diphtheria before he ever outgrew short pants.
But her other sons! What territory-spirited men they were, never once attempting to undermine the hegemony of the tribes although certain cattlemen of their acquaintance encroached on Indian grazing land which in turn was under disputed “ownership” with the Mexicans who like Rodey’s dark angel frequently took cattle across the river to feed their villages.
These men, their wise and courageous wives by their sides, turned to City Attorney Bernard S. Rodey for counsel, continuing ABQ’s growth, celebrating her multiculturalism, Raymond Blanchard Stamm, charismatic businessman cut of his father’s cloth, and Roy Allen Stamm founding the Albuquerque Balloon Festival
In time Raymond Blanchard would marry my grandmother, Helen Rodey; Roy Stamm would marry Elizabeth Baldridge of Baldridge Lumber, thriving today. The Coddington inheritance: through my great-grandmother but well before her, the colonial Coddingtons who would produce Rhode Island’s first governor, a Quaker. The Rodey-Coddington, Stamm-Jenne’ antecedents coalescing in one family, speak to America’s genesis as the history of families not of money but of vision, passion for the unknown, the yearning for adventure long advanced as the raison d’etre of the settling and character of the American West.
These people were not about striking it rich but staking their names to history, names rendered faint by time in the tome I have portaged from home to home like a millstone whose worn pages could tell me even better details than those my imagination angles for now, writing down the bones of our story.