History Of Corrales:

Corrales is a charming pastoral community with deep roots in New Mexico history. It lies along the west bank of the Rio Grande on the north side of Albuquerque and east and south of Rio Rancho. Until 2005, Corrales was a part of two counties with the majority (about 6,000 acres) in Sandoval County and the remaining 1,000 acres in Bernalillo County. In that year, a special election changed the boundary between the counties so that all of Corrales was within Sandoval County.

Before the coming of the Spanish conquistadors Tiguex Indians farmed along the river. Pottery shards can still be found hidden in the rich soil. After the Reconquest following the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, the Spanish Government tried to resettle the Alameda Pueblo but  the remaining Tiguex were at Zuni Pueblo and could not be lured back. In 1710 the king of Spain awarded the Alameda land grant to Francisco Montes Vigil, a soldier in the Spanish army, stipulating that he must settle the land.

Within two years he had sold a large portion of the grant to Captain Juan Gonzales BAS. Juan Gonzales was the Alcalde Mayor of Albuquerque. He had married Maria Lopez del Castillo and had many children, seven daughters and at least two sons. One son married Francisca Garcia de Noriega, a niece of Luis Garcia whose land lay just south of the Alameda grant. Gonzales' oldest daughter married a brother of Luis Garcia.  Luis Garcia’s only child, Rosalia, married Salvador Martinez, who later bought part of the grant form Juan Gonzales.

The Gonzales family would dominate Corrales for the next two centuries and members of the family still live in the area.  Historic  Gonzales homes now house the Casa San Ysidro museum and Casa Vieja restaurant.

The grant was much larger than present day Corrales. It ran from the Coronado monument south to Paseo del Norte. On the west side it extended nearly to the volcanoes. It extended across the river nearly as far as the railroad tracks.

The Gonzales family quickly dug a ditch to irrigate their farms. They settled along the river clustering in two areas, Santa Rosalia de Corrales along the upper part of the ditch, and San Ysidro de Corrales, along the lower part of the ditch. At first the collection of farms was Sandoval. It was officially changed from Sandoval to the Village of Corrales in the 1960s.

Access to water shaped the development of the village. The name Corrales comes from the corrals the conquistadors constructed for their horses to take advantage of the water and pasture along the river. As farming families settled they needed access to the all important irrigation ditches and the life giving water. Some plots of land were only a hundred to two hundred feet wide by two miles long, creating long narrow ribbons of land running east and west.

Juan Gonzales Bas received permission to build a chapel in Alameda early in the 18th century. The chapel had been ratified by Lord Bishop Tamaron in 1760 "because there are many people on the said hacienda and many ranchos of citizens near it, and the hacienda and ranchos are rather far from the villa." Fray Francisco A. Dominguez in his 1776 report on the missions of New Mexico located the chapel and Alameda upstream from Albuquerque on the east side of the river, so the Rio Grande must have shifted significantly during the 18th century.

In Father Dominguez' report, Corrales is divided into Lower and Upper Corrales, both on the west side of the river. Lower Corrales is located "above Atrisco to the north." It is "a settlement of ranchos" with 26 families and 160 persons and a farming community on the floodplain of the river like everywhere else in the valley. No patron saint is noted, but it is under the jurisdiction of San Felipe de Neri in Albuquerque. Upper Corrales, site of the present center of Corrales, is described as opposite the mission of Sandia and part of its district, on "not very good lands."  It was much smaller than lower Corrales with only 10 families totaling 42 people. In 1762 it was recorded as Santa Rosalia de Corrales, and under the jurisdiction of the mission church in Sandia. This was most likely the lands purchased by Salvador Martinez.

Existence was precarious, but the hardy population multiplied and the land was divided among the descendants of Juan Gonzales and his relatives into long, narrow ribbons, stretching from the river to the sand hills. The more fertile and irrigable land in the river bottom was for raising the produce of chile, corn, beans, fruits and vegetables, while the sand hills were used in common for the pasturing of sheep, cattle, and horses. Corrales' name is usually ascribed to the fact that many corrals were located here, both for military use (a first line of defense against raiding Apaches and Navajos), and to pen the many sheep and cattle which grazed on the mesa and river lands. A trail led from the Jemez mountains through the hills to the settlement of Corrales. Raiding Navajos would descend periodically onto the little settlement to steal the livestock grazing in the sand hills.

In 1821 Mexico won its independence from Spain and opened trade with the United States over what would soon be known as the Santa Fe Trail. By 1846 the Americans had won New Mexico as a territory.  Little is recorded of Corrales during this period since it was not on the major trade routes along the river from Santa Fe, but some residents undoubtedly prospered form the increased trade. The 1870 census, as reported in Pauline Eisenstadt’s Corrales- Portrait of a Changing Village, listed nine households owning 600-1200 acres each; all had one of four surnames: Gonzales, Montoya, Chavez, and Martin. Tradition has it that the Montoyas had settled in the far north end of the Corrales valley. In that year, Corrales had 141 households with 687 residents. The entire village probably pitched in to save what they could when the first church was inundated by the flood in the 1860s.The new church, dedicated to San Ysidro, the patron saint of farmers, was built on higher ground farther west.

The Alary family settled in Corrales in 1879 on the land bought from Don Diego Montoya toward the north end of Corrales. By the 1880s the Alarys were successfully growing varieties of grapes sent to them by a French man living in California. Up until that time the only type of grape grown in Corrales was the Mission Grape. By 1900 the Alary farm was known as the Alary Wine Ranch. They had been joined by the other European farmers and for close to 40 years Corrales was known for its vineyards and the making of wine, much of it grown and made by French and Italian residents. Among the Italian families who settled here were the Umbertes, Palladinis, and Salces.

At the end of the 19th century, Don Allejandro Sandoval moved to the village. He bought large tracts of land and became party to a suit to confirm the Alameda Grant. He served in the New Mexico House of Representatives and got the name of Corrales changed to Sandoval in honor of his father Francisco Sandoval. The name remained until 1960 when some determined residents got it changed back to Corrales.  Although Sandoval's name is not perpetuated by the village, it remains as the name of the county which he helped create in 1903. Corrales was the county seat for two years after the creation of the county. Court was held in the old Perea Home just south of the Rancho De Corrales, even after Corrales was no longer the county seat.

Another crop for which Corrales became well known was apples. The first commercial orchard was planted possibly as early as the 1880s by the Umberte family who lived in what is now the Rancho de Corrales restaurant.

By the late 1930s much of the land west of the old ditch parallel to Corrales Road was covered with orchards. A descendant of the Gonzales family, Alejandro Gonzales, also experimented with growing celery and hopes were high that this crop would become another major Corrales product. Gonzales also advocated the formation of farmers' cooperatives to more effectively grade and market local crops.

But history took another turn and held a different future for Corrales, one that saw a gradual decline in farming. The railroad had reached Albuquerque in 1880 and opened the area to a growing stream of immigrants. By the early 20th century, many "gringos" who had come to the area for their health or simply to make a new start, began to buy land in the North Valley and in Corrales. The rising water table had created alkaline fields unable to sustain crops and many owners were ready to sell at rock bottom prices. The land was later drained and improved by the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District in the 1930s and 1940s, but by then there was as much interest in building homes as in farming.  As new owners settled in the valley, the grassy mesa west of the village (some 55,000 acres), which had been held for over 200 years as common grazing land, was purchased by Robert Thompson in 1923-24.

Corrales became easier to reach after World War II. Prior to the war the Corrales bridge was often washed out in the floods and few roads were paved. A new Corrales bridge was built in 1957, Coors Road was paved, and the freeway bridge was built in the 1960s. Corrales began to attract a share of the population boom which began in Albuquerque after World War II. The newcomers were active in creating a volunteer fire department, art galleries, and a municipal library. They eventually joined with long time residents to incorporate as a village in 1971, in part a response to the fact that the huge Thompson ranch had been sold and was developing as Rio Rancho, one of the largest residential developments in the country. In the context of large surrounding urban development, Corrales residents continue to work and plan to retain the assets of the village's long history and balance these with the demands of rapid growth.

As the Albuquerque urban area expanded, the character of the community changed from faming to rural residential. The village was incorporated in 1971 to provide for increased services and control over development. The Village has enacted policies to protect its existing rural environment and character, including a recently enacted real estate disclosure ordinance.

The Village contains historic Casa San Ysidro, a restored Spanish hacienda from the 1700s, and the Old San Ysidro Church, built in the 1860s. Sandia View Academy, a preparatory school, is also located in the Village. Corrales celebrates with the annual Harvests Festival in October, and with numerous art shows, concerts and craft fairs throughout the year.

Although the population is now estimated to be a little over 10,000, Corrales continues to be a charming community. Its position adjacent to the Bosque makes it abound with wildlife.  It is a major flyway for migratory birds. Throughout the winter, sand hill cranes live along the river and feed in the fields in the village.

Written by Lawrence Hill Esquire
Corrales Resident

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