Thanks to the support of Peter Parish Memorial Fund, I was able to go on a research trip to New Mexico in April 2018. The purpose of the trip was part of my research into the relationship between Protestant home missionary organisations and the state in the late-nineteenth century American West. I began my research at the Menaul Historical Library of the Southwest, a small archive based at the Menaul School, a former Presbyterian mission school established in 1896. Most of the holdings of the Library are related to genealogies and family histories, but the Library also holds a cache of materials related to Presbyterian missions in New Mexico that was invaluable for my research. The particular collection that I focussed on was the records of the Albuquerque Indian School, one of the many ‘contract schools’ established in collaboration between the Federal Government and church mission Boards, aimed at the assimilation of Native American children to U.S. cultural and social norms. This collection provided valuable insight into the inner workings of this ‘contract school’, revealing the competing agendas of the two agencies over the direction & purpose of the school – each side had competing ideas about funding for the school and the use of Native American languages in the school.
The second institution I visited was Centre for Southwest Research at the University of New Mexico. I had my planned items to research, however one particularly rich source was suggested by an archivist, the papers of William G. Ritch, Secretary of the Territory of New Mexico from 1873 until 1885. The Centre was in the process of digitising Ritch’s papers and the archivist allowed me to search through their working database. This suggestion from the archivist gave me the chance to focus on an historical agent I had not considered beforehand. With regard to Territorial governance, I had been focussing on Governors of the Territory, going through (with meagre results) Governor’s papers looking for relevant correspondence. Yet in the U.S. Territories, the Secretary also wielded significant influence, and was often more involved in decision making than absentee and disinterested Governors. William Ritch, for example, served for twelve-years in the role of Secretary, and saw four separate Governors walk through the Governor’s Palace in Santa Fe. Examining his papers I found corresponded with Protestant clergyman in New Mexico, who Ritch considered allies in his wider ‘crusade’ against what saw as the Roman Catholic domination of New Mexico. Overall, I left New Mexico satisfied with my research trip, and with the valuable resources to further my project.