I discovered some interesting details about my Otero and Pino ancestors earlier this month as I reviewed pension records at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
I already knew that my Otero ancestors from Cubero, my Grandpa Louie’s maternal ancestors, had some wealth; they were educated; and they were politically active. My third-great-grandfather Gregorio Otero fought in the Civil War and served in the territorial Legislature. His son, Melquiades Otero, was a notary public and county assessor. And my Great-Grandmother Eliza Otero was a teacher in the early 1900s.
But while they were related to the prestigious well-known Otero family from Belen and Santa Fe, including a former Governor, it appears that Gregorio Otero’s success and prestige in northwestern Valencia County came more from his marriage into the Pino family.
Gregorio Otero was listed in marriage records as a resident of Las Colonias, Valencia County, when he married Maria de Jesus Pino, a resident of Cubero on June 15, 1853. The marriage record was part of the official federal record when Maria de Jesus Pino applied in 1900 for a pension after the death of her husband, Gregorio Otero. Those are the records I discovered in Washington.
Maria de Jesus Pino was the daughter of Pablo Pino and Maria Trinidad Vallejos. Her paternal grandparents were the Alferez Don Bartolome Pino and Dona Antonia Josefa Torres, of Belen.
While the pension records did not reveal any new family connections, they were nevertheless very revealing about the lives my ancestors lived, and the perceptions held by outsiders who ultimately denied the pension request.
Special Examiner J. H. Himes wrote that Maria de Jesus Pino was a “woman of good repute for truth.” But he also referred to her as a “very ignorant woman.” He called her brother, Narciso Pino, a “business man according to Mexican standards,” and “regarded as truthful.” He characterized a neighbor in Cubero, Rafael Romero, as an “ignorant old man of good intentions.” And Maria de Jesus’ son, my Great-Great Grandfather Melquiades Otero was considered by Himes to be an “intelligent Mexican…of good reputation for truth.”
It’s not clear whether the Special Examiner considered Maria de Jesus Pino to be ignorant because she only spoke Spanish, whereas her son, who was bilingual, was an “intelligent Mexican.”
You have to remember that these comments were recorded a half-century after New Mexico became a territory of the United States. Maria de Jesus Pino was a Mexican citizen as a child because New Mexico was a territory of Mexico. Before that, her parents would have been citizens of northern frontier of New Spain, which was modern-day New Mexico. Maria de Jesus’ husband, Gregorio Otero, fought on the side of the Union in the Civil War, known as the War of the Rebellion. He served in the Army for at least 90 days as a Captain in Company D – 2nd Regiment, New Mexico Volunteer Infantry, and was honorably discharged at Fort Craig, NM.
Gregorio Otero earned a disability pension of $8 a month in1892 for “inability to earn a support by manual labor,” which was the requirement of a controversial Pension law signed into law in 1890 by President Benjamin Harrison.
Gregorio requested an increase to $12 a month in 1895. In an affidavit written by his son, Melquiades, Gregorio recalled having dislocated his shoulder in July 1863 when he was thrown from a horse while riding from the top of San Mateo Mountains to his home in Cubero. He said the injury later resulted in Rheumatism. He also ruptured his groin, and all of those permanent disabilities, along with his advanced age, should qualify him for an increase of his pension. He pointed out that the disabilities, to the best of his knowledge, were “not due to vicious habits.” He applied again for a pension increase in February 1900, at the age of 68. He claimed that in addition to his previous disabilities, he now suffered as a result of heart disease, loss of speech and general ill health, resulting from an attack of apoplexy following a stroke while hoeing outside his house.
Gregorio Otero died April 12, 1900, just two months after that final pension request and three months after his stroke. He left behind his wife, Maria de Jesus Pino, and seven grown children.
Maria de Jesus Pino filed her pension request later that year as a dependent of her deceased husband. While the Special Examiner thought highly of Maria de Jesus’ son, Melquiades Otero, he recognized that Melquiades was likely exaggerating his mother’s indebtedness and financial condition in order to help her win a favorable pension decision. In fact, the Special Examiner wrote that no weight could be given to testimony from Melquiades, who he considered to be “biased…almost to the point of committing perjury.”
Instead, the Special Examiner relied primarily on the testimony of Maria de Jesus’ brother, Narciso Pino, and the ledger of the store in Cubero that the siblings inherited their father, Pablo Pino.
My Uncle Ralph Chavez once told me he remembered his father, my Grandpa Louie, talk about a Don Narciso as a prominent figure from his past.
The Special Examiner determined that Maria de Jesus Pino owned 1,500 sheep yielding 3,000 pounds of wool – worth about $330. He suggested, based on depositions from neighbors, that she may have owned as many as 3,000 sheep. She also had 50 lambs killed for home consumption at a value of $32.50; 25 lambs at the end of the season at a value of $26.25; 5 calves valued at about $32.50; and 4 wagon loads of corn, worth about $12. He estimated her gross income at $433.25.
Maria de Jesus Pino placed the sheep on shares with her son and son-in-law, which allowed them to earn money for caring for them, while paying her with wool and other benefits.
The Pino store had about $980 in debt and $2,000 to $3,000 in stock, which the Special Examiner concluded was sufficient to pay the debt. The store was owed about $30,000 in outstanding accounts, which was only expected to return about 1/8th of that amount.
The government eventually denied Maria de Jesus’ pension request, probably based on the Special Examiner’s conclusion that, despite being “very ignorant,” she was regarded in Cubero as a “rich woman; and, by the Mexican standard, she undoubtedly is.” He wrote a note at the end of his report that she lives in her own house and has no expenses.
In fact, Maria de Jesus said in her deposition that she owned a seven-room adobe home in Cubero, worth about $100. He neighbors estimated the value to be about $50. In addition to the sheep, she said she owned 30 cows and no other cattle; a team of horses; and about seven acres of land. Her neighbors and her brother estimated she owned about 10 acres that was worth little money because there was no irrigation.
I need to continue my research, but I am left wondering if the adobe house is the same house where my Grandpa Louie spent his childhood. I know he lived in a home with several rooms that his mother left for his sister, Perla Chavez, who in turn, donated it to the church. I also wonder if the land that Maria de Jesus inherited from her father was left for her own son, Melquaides, and his children, including my Great-Grandmother Eliza Otero. I was told that Eliza left land for my Grandpa, but I don’t know whatever happened with it. My Great-Uncle Lalo Chavez said my Grandpa never wanted to deal with the land, which he didn’t think was worth anything. In any case, it’s interesting to know that it may have been gone from the Pinos to the Oteros and to the Chavez family.