Monday, October 24, 2011
The Jose Maria Polancio Grave Expedition: Part II
After our hike in McKittrick Canyon, I convinced Noelle that we should go try and find the Polancio grave which I had unsuccessfully tried to find in September. We drove away from the canyon and headed to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park visitor center to use the restroom. From there we headed past the tall peaks of the Guadalupes to the small, unmarked Guadalupe Canyon Trailhead. We parked and quickly crossed modern US 62/180. On the other side we found the old roadway which had been abandoned in I believe the 1960s. We followed the road for a bit, crossed an old flattened wire fence and then followed the fence line for a bit, thrashing through catclaw, yuccas and cactus.
Once we hit the crest of a small hill, I looked down into a shallow wash and saw the object of our travels, an upright slab of tan stone that had been thrust into the ground. I waited for Noelle to catch up and then we dropped down into the drainage before ascending a little hill to the grave. It was in an impressive location with a nice backdrop of the Guadalupe Mountains.
The headstone itself was engraved with the inscription "Jose Maria Polancio, Guide, Killed Feb. 1855 by Indians".
I've recently taken a strong interest in the Butterfield Overland Mail and found a firsthand account of a traveler along the mail route. The traveler's name was Waterman L. Ormsby and he wrote a series of articles on the Butterfield Mail for the New York Herald in 1858. In his correspondence Ormsby writes of finding the Polancio grave. " Just before the bottom of (Guadalupe) Canyon is reached there stands the grave of a Mexican guide, who had ventured in advance of his party and was murdered by the Indians -a thrilling reminder of of another of the dangers of this dreadful pass." I find it incredible that the rough headstone has fared so well over the years.