Griggs family collection at NMSU’s University Library features Mesilla’s history


WRITER: tfrank
CONTACT: Dennis Daily , 575-646-4756, ddaily

For 79 years, La Posta de Mesilla Restaurant has been a mainstay in the Mesilla Valley. The history of the well-known establishment and its founders, the Griggs family, can be found at the New Mexico State University Library Archives and Special Collections Department.

“The Griggs family papers will be a valuable resource for students of Mesilla history, from its earliest days,” said Dennis Daily, associate professor and University Library, Archives and Special Collections department head. “Of particular interest is material that reflects the beginnings of the town’s cultural tourism economy and self-image, which the Griggs helped create.”

Descendants of the Griggs family donated materials to NMSU in February 2018. Materials in the collection include papers related to the Griggs families of Mesilla and El Paso, correspondence, writings, family histories, photographs, ephemera, Spanish and Mexican documents from Chihuahua, clippings and more.

“A treasure of material on early Mesilla history and culture, the Griggs family papers document the lives of several pioneering families of the Mesilla Valley, including the founders of several near-legendary restaurants – La Posta in Mesilla, Griggs Restaurant near El Paso and El Pinto in Albuquerque,” Daily said. “But the Griggs family has contributed much more to our region’s history than culinary delights, members of the family are in large part responsible for shaping the image of Mesilla and helping turn the town into a tourist destination.”

In 1859, James Edgar Griggs travelled west from his home in New Jersey to improve his health. He settled in Fort Filmore, New Mexico, located south of Las Cruces. Four years later, Griggs partnered with Joseph Reynolds to start a mercantile store in Mesilla, which became a success. In 1866, Griggs married Eugenia Ascarate, who was a member of a prominent Mexican family in the region.

“Their children, like so many of their generation, would grow up in a bicultural household, inheriting the traditions and customs of both Mexico and the United States that prevailed in the border region,” Daily said.

In 1877, Griggs died in a freak buggy accident leaving Ascarate to raise their six young children.

“The papers of the Griggs family reflect the strong family ties to the Ascarate and Chavez families, through letters, genealogies, sacramental documents, news clippings, ephemera and photographs,” he said.

A significant portion of this collection highlights the children and grandchildren of James Edgar and Eugenia. One of their sons, George Griggs, authored an early history of Mesilla and operated the Billy the Kid Museum, and another son, Gustave Griggs married Josefina Chavez, whose family recipes inspired their four children to establish successful restaurants, including Katy Griggs Camunez, who opened La Posta in 1939 in one of Mesilla’s historic buildings. The collection even includes an early menu from the restaurant featuring enchiladas for $.70 and $.85 with an egg, combination plate for $.85 and chile rellenos (in season) for $1.

For more information on NMSU’s Library Archives and Special Collections visit http://library.nmsu.edu/archives/specialcollections.html.


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