Juan Padilla

Juan and Bartola (back row, left) and some of the children
Juan Padilla
by Lillian Padilla Autio
Somehow I learned many years ago that my grandfather was named Juan Padilla and that for most of his life he lived at the corner of Third and River Streets in Cerrillos, New Mexico. Early on it became clear that he was quite an extraordinary man. I never met him, a thing I now greatly regret, and consequently I’ve devoted several years now to learning all I can about him.


He came from a long line of Nuevo Mexicanos going back to his great-great-great-great grandparents, Francisco Padilla and Francisca Guillen. Grandpa Juan was born in La Bonanza in 1876, and for the last 35 years of his life he lived in Cerrillos.




The Padillas were around for the 1680 Pueblo revolt, which took place during Juan's great-great-great grandfather Manuel Padilla's time. It is family lore that during the Revolt Francisco’s (4 ‘greats’) son Manuel (3 ‘greats’) lost his life to a hail of arrows.


By the time my grandfather came on the scene New Mexico had gone from being a Spanish Crown colony, to a department of the new Republic of Mexico, to becoming a Territory of the United States. Juan was born in America as an American citizen.


Juan’s birth was three years before the railroad tracks appeared. In his younger years every little casita, if it was fortunate enough to have lighting, was lit by candles or kerosene, and he was born in a world where people got around by horses and carts and burros and walking. He lived in the days when, if sick, one turned to a curandero (healer), as there were few medical doctors and when you could find one they were expensive. He lived in the days before young mothers gave birth in sterile hospitals. He lived when cooking was done on open fires or a wood-burning stove, when most towns were small, and the old beliefs and traditions were the way of life.


Not that everything in Juan's world was different from today. Life meant work, church, marriages, babies, murders, and gossip. And more work and more church. He lived in a world where wealth meant water, land and livestock. Livestock, especially sheep, were everywhere, but water wasn't. Water, land and livestock was what people fought over.


The lands where the Padillas lived are geologically diverse; desert, gullies, arid expanses, and by the time of the arrival of the railroad those same lands were becoming known for their minerals; rich deposits of copper, zinc, lead, and turquoise.


When Juan Padilla was a child his father, Jose Roman, and his uncle Pedro owned two large parcels of land in and around old Los Cerrillos, near the modern day Bonanza Creek Ranch. The area was known as - and is still called today by old timers - 'La Bonanza'. That land would end up playing a significant part in all of my ancestor’s lives, as we will see later.


Juan's grandparents, Matiana Ortiz (baptized Feb. 27, 1830) and Pablo de Los Angeles Padilla (baptized Jan. 7, 1815), were married on Dec. 27, 1848 in La Castrense Parish church in Santa Fe. This church, no longer there, was situated where Woolworth’s was on the Plaza.


One of many children born to Pablo de Los Angeles Padilla and Matiana Ortiz was Jose Roman Padilla (some records say Ramon, but Roman is correct). Roman, who was my Juan’s father, was born about 1854 in La Cienega. Family lore says that Roman dug turquoise nearby, at what would later be known as the Tiffany Mines. In later years his son Juan, my grandfather, worked in those same mines.


Juan’s mother, Albina Urban, was from nearby La Cienega. She was born on April 7, 1851 but, in the manner of the times her important day came five days later when she was baptized. Albina’s father was Juan Nepomuceno Urban and her mother was Rosalia Martin. Her godparents, in the manner of the time as important as her biological parents, were Deonicio Urban and Manuela Montoya. [Santa Fe Baptisms Vol. IV. Frame 919]


So Juan’s parents, Roman Padilla and Albina Urban, were joined in Holy Matrimony in Santa Fe on November 25, 1874. Their Padrinos were Jose Padilla and Isidora Coriz.


Trust me. All these relatives and connections were of supreme importance in Juan’s world. Who you were, your very existence, was defined by all your family and social ties.


In the late 1800s Roman was employed with a team and wagon doing road work in the city of Santa Fe. He knew a lot about horses and probably bought and sold horses in addition to hiring them out for work.


Roman died in 1922 while being transported to Santa Fe via cart for medical attention. His grandson, my father’s brother, Conrado was with him at his death.


To say that Juan's extended family was large is no understatement! Both Juan’s and his brother Albino’s family line can be traced through their maternal grandmother back to Pedro Varela, who came with Oñate. Additionally, in Juan’s wife’s line there is Cristobal Baca. Through these two early ancestors the family members trace their connections.


It is ironic given the size of families that Juan had only one brother; Albino. (Note that Juan and Albino’s mother was named Albina.) In the 1910 census Albino was age 25 and lived in Cienega, Then five years later another census had him living in Cerrillos with his wife and five children. (To my best estimation when the 1910 census recorded him Albino may have been stopping with his father in La Cienega, without his wife. I think she remained in Cerrillos.)


Albino married Lugarda, and they had 5 children. They lived in Cerrillos. Their sons were Antonio, Alberto, and Pedro Padilla; their daughters Poncha and Anastancia (Stacey). Albino Padilla died on November 8, 1931 from injuries from being kicked in the chest by a horse. It took almost two weeks for him to die. Albino was buried in the Cerrillos Catholic cemetery.


Juan's relatives were mostly farmers, laborers, sheepherders, railroad workers, and one was even a deputy sheriff. I found that in the early 1930s two Padilla brothers in Santa Fe owned a coffee shop. Both were named Pablo and they were most likely twins.  


But as is the case whenever you have numerous family members, some of them are sheep of a darker wool. Witness this article:


Jose Padilla who has been in jail in this city for nearly a year and who has been under the death sentence, expects to be released on a $10,000 bond pending a new trial, at noon, as chief justice Smith returns to approve the bond. [Las Vegas Optic, Sept. 29, 1909]


Some other mentions of Padillas were happier:


On the 18th of June, 1845 Juan Nepomuceno Martines, single, son of Antonio Martines & Maria Manuela Tafoya of the jurisdiction of San Miguel del Bado, married Maria Paula Padia, single, daughter of Nepomuceno Padia and Juana Apolonia Silva of this city. [Santa Fe Marriages, page 220 frame 947]  


So far I have not found a death record of this ancestor, except records indicate Juan Angel Nepomuceno was born a twin. As was tradition in those days both twins were given the same name. His brother, however, died at a young age.


The Juan Nepomuceno mentioned above is a great-great grandfather of my Juan Padilla.


I have to mention one more important ancestor of Juan, his great great grandparents Manuel Padilla and his wife Gertrudis Sena. This information is courtesy of Aqui se Comeinza, A Genealogical History of the Founding Families of La Villa de San Felipe de Albuquerque, p. 259.


Maria Gertrudis (de) Sena was born between 1740 and 1745 in Santa Fe. She married Manuel Padilla, son of Francisco Padilla and Francisca Guillen, on June 24, 1760 in Santa Fe. The marriage witnesses were Isidro Padilla and Antonio de Rivera. She died on March 11, 1810 and was buried in Santa Fe two days later.


Maria’s husband, Manuel Padilla, was born circa 1730 in Santa Fe. He was killed by Apaches less than a year before his wife’s death, and was buried on June 8, 1809 in Santa Fe.


  La Bonanza, La Cienega, Peña Blanca, and the rest of them were all small towns whose people had lived there, sometimes, for generations. To my grandfather Juan and grandmother Bartola it must have felt as if they were related to EVERYONE




Juan Padilla was married at the family home at La Bonanza, N.M. on April 7, 1904, a springtime wedding, when the land must have been so beautiful. Juan’s wife was Bartola Baca of Peña Blanca. Bartola’s father was Esquipula Baca and her mother was Rosita Lucero. All fourteen of their children were born in Cerrillos, including my father, Roman, the thirteenth child (who was given the same surname as Juan’s father).


Imagine yourself in the tiny Padilla house and then put yourself in Bartola’s shoes. These are the children of Juan and Bartola Padilla:


  • Savino Padilla b.1905.
  • Felix Padilla b.1906.
  • Antonio Padilla b.1907.
  • Conrado Padilla b.1909.
  • Ignacio Padilla b.1911.
  • Pedro Padilla b.1913.
  • Lillie (Cirila) Padilla b.1916.
  • Pita Padilla b.1918.
  • Jeronimo Padilla b.1920.
  • Frank Padilla b.1923.
  • Simonita (known to me as Auntie Monsie) b.1925.
  • Tita Padilla b.1927.
  • My Dad, Roman B. Padilla b. Oct. 1928.
  • Lastly, John Padilla b.1931.


Between 1907 and 1913 Juan was employed by James Patrick McNulty for work on the turquoise mines. McNulty lived in Cerrillos and was the superintendent of the American Turquoise Company on behalf of C.L. Tiffany and others in New York.


The work at the Tiffany mines must not have been very regular because about this same time Juan started work for the Albuquerque and Cerrillos Coal Company of Madrid. He continued there for over twenty years. He usually worked in the Jones Mine or the Number 4 Mine.


One record of Juan, in 1927, shows his hand was hurt in an accident.


And again, in another mining accident record: he had been injured on March 28th, 1929. His check number then was 309 and that time he had to stay off work for four days before returning to the mines.


The third record of an accident, on September 5th 1929, indicated Juan was age 53, his check number then was 124, his weekly wages (before deductions) were $20.00. This time the report read that he had been employed at this work for 20 years. His right knee had been bruised badly by kneeling and digging coal.


I think you had to be there in Madrid in those days to know the true nature of the working conditions; the heat in summer and the cold, cold days of winter, the rattle snakes, the days when there was no work, and all the rest of it. As newspaper accounts regularly announced, there were cave-ins and explosions and men's lives were lost.


This all goes to prove what I already felt about my dad's father, Juan Padilla, that he was a very underpaid employee, an extremely strong individual, and - to steal a line from a John Wayne movie - he had true grit. He had what it took in those days to return day after day to arduous and foul work. As befits a miner Juan Padilla had big muscles and a strong back. He was no stranger to hard work.


Juan & Bartola both died in the same year, 1941, ten years before my birth, and it is my misfortune never to have known them. I never learned much through my dad either because he never talked much about his life in Cerrillos. He was orphaned at about 12 and was then bounced around from family to family.


On Juan's death certificate it was recorded that he had been born at La Bonanza, but confirmation of this awaits the discovery of a birth or baptismal document, probably from the records of the church of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe at La Bonanza. The church building is gone and the whereabouts of its records is unknown. His death record also says that his parents were both born in La Bonanza.


My dad, Roman, lived with one auntie in Gallup. And later my Uncle Nash helped to raise his two youngest brothers, my dad and Johnny. I remember Uncle Nash talking about the land at La Bonanza some Padillas once owned, and he and my Auntie told us how their grandfather, Roman, had been a miner and for a while even a sheriff. Lillie used to play guitar and sing, Uncle Nash told us. Lillie was beautiful and had died young.


Then there is the sketchy but reliable information about how Pablo Perea, the longtime caretaker of the Eves ranch, and his wife Chanita, wanted to adopt my Dad. Uncle Ignacio wouldn’t allow that because he did not want my dad’s name changed.


I was fortunate enough to know two of my uncles, and Auntie Monsie. And as an adult I got to know Uncle Tony through the few letters we exchanged. Uncle Tony lived in Montana and he didn’t see his family much.


I’m named after my beautiful Tia Lillie, and while doing newspaper research a few years ago I chanced upon her obituary. She died in 1939 when she was only age 22, many years before I could have met her. She died of tuberculosis and was buried in the Cerrillos Catholic Cemetery on May 3rd.  


All the Cerrillos Padillas attended the Church there. When my dad was in his early teens he served as an altar boy at St. Josephs. I doubt his altar boy days lasted very long.


Two of Juan and Bartola’s children committed suicide. Uncle Connie died by his own hands in the Las Vegas N.M. Asylum in about 1943. As for the other, though it was at first kept from me, I have learned that my Dad’s passing came about after six months of him knowing he had an inoperable brain tumor. He killed himself when I was only 16 ½.


Sadly, to sum up some of the most difficult episodes in my Grandpa Juan’s life, in 1922 his father died. And in 1939 his beautiful singer-daughter Lillie died. And eight years before that his only brother, Albino had been kicked by that horse and died.


I have not had much success finding information about Felix, Savino, Frank, Pedro, Pita and Tita. Maybe someday we will know their stories. Jeronimo, another beautiful son, died at age 13 and is buried in the Cerrillos Catholic Cemetery.


I am sure, if granddaughters have this kind of intuition, that if Grandpa Juan was anything like my uncles, then he was a pretty nice man to know. If his sons were like their dad, then they probably had great senses of humor and kind hearts. Another thing I feel I have learned is how busy Juan was, a hardworking, deeply involved man. He was always conscious of how others saw him. He worked by the book. Some would see him as a bit of a perfectionist but he never wanted to stop until the job had been done properly. He also was always ready to come to the aid of anyone unfairly treated. He prized fairness and did what he could to ensure justice, especially for people he knew. Juan was a loyal family man, but sometimes when he felt hemmed in he took off to the open spaces for a while.




I had the great good fortune of knowing four of Juan’s sons and one of my aunties, who was his lone surviving daughter. All the Padillas were sweet souls, exceptionally kind and thoughtful types. They loved to get together, take meals as family, and they not against enjoying a few adult beverages now and then. All of Juan's sons and his daughter whom I have known, in spite of living such hard lives, or maybe because it was so hard, were good people and eager to be helpful to others around them.



Lillian Padilla Autio is the granddaughter of Juan and Bartola and she is working on a compilation of the Padilla family history. If you want to know more about this topic, or if you have information to contribute, please contact her at, 1394 Bumblebee Dr. Gardnerville, NV. 89460 or Juansown@gmail.com  


My thanks go to my genealogy buddies from Southern California; Patsy Vasquez, Josie, Tom Martinez, Karen Cordova and so many more Primos who also are passionate about family and our New Mexico connections. Plus it’s hard to recall because it comes with tears, I have to thank with lots of love and warmth my Auntie Evelyn Padilla, and her husband Ignacio. My Uncle Nash, too, for fanning the interest and passion in me, and for our many trips to Cerrillos.


Once, when I was about 17, Auntie Evelyn, my Mom and I appeared in Cerrillos. Evelyn said “This is where your Grandpa was from.” My Mom introduced me to Edith and Corina Simoni. I love those memories. I still recall Corrina’s smile, and her eagerness to go through all those old pictures.


Thanks also to Pat and Todd Brown for helping me with headstones and the dirty work. Thanks, too, to all my cousins. You are all my best Primos.