It is a bit more than 70 miles west by road to Seboyeta from to Rio Rancho, but only a little more than half that as the crow flies.
Sources disagree on exactly when the first efforts were made to settle Seboyeta, originally called Cebolleta, or “little onion” in English.
Historian Abe Peña (1926-2014) wrote that a Father Menchero attempted to establish a Franciscan mission there in 1746. Other sources say the priests didn’t arrive until 1749.
Whatever the year was, the purpose of the mission was to accommodate the Navajos, who had agreed to support it. The Navajos soon lost interest.
The Spaniards then used Laguna Pueblo residents as slave labor to build the mission, and the Navajos feared they would end up in the same kind of servitude.
They withdrew their support by 1750, and the mission was soon abandoned.
The area was ignored for about 50 years. In early 1800, the Spanish Governor, Don Fernando Chacón, gave possession of the area to 30 families who previously resided near the Rio Grande in Albuquerque.
The names of some of those settlers remain familiar today: Aragón, Baca, Chávez, Gallegos, García, Herrera, Jaramillo, Márquez, Peralta, Romero and Santillanes.
The settlers officially took possession on March 16, 1800, and they immediately set about two tasks.
The first was to establish a church, which they called Our Lady of Sorrows. The next was to build a fortified village — some of the remnants of the old wall remain visible today.
The Spanish settlers and the native people of nearby Laguna got along well, but the Navajos in the area felt threatened, and justifiably so. The men of Seboyeta engaged in raiding Navajo villages for the purpose of kidnapping children, primarily females, whom would be sold into servitude in Albuquerque for about 500 pesos each.
It should be noted that the Navajos, in turn, kidnapped Spanish children.
In 1804, the Navajos laid siege to Seboyeta. They attempted to breach the walls and burn the village.
Doña Antonia Romero was considered a heroine of the battle when she killed a Navajo man who had climbed the defensive wall.
Another well-known citizen of Seboyeta was Manuel Antonio Cháves (1818-89), sometimes referred to as “The Little Lion of the Southwest.”
According to Peña, Seboyeta became the so-called mother village from which settlers founded other villages in the region. Among them were San Mateo in 1862, San Rafael in 1865 and El Concho, Ariz., in 1869.
As noted, the original name of the community was Cebolleta, but, according to historian Robert Julyan, the spelling was changed when the United States Post Office was established in the 1880s because there were already other Cebolletas.
(Don Bullis is a Rio Rancho resident, New Mexico centennial historian and award-winning author. He was named the Best Local Author in the 2018 and 2019 Rio Rancho Observer Readers’ Choice contests. “Ellos Pasaron por Aqui” is translated as “They Passed by Here.”)
Don Bullis’s latest book, “New Mexico Historical Chronology,” is available at riograndebooks.com.