Visit the Mormon Colonies

in the northwestern corner of Chihuahua, Mexico!

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Colonia Dublan
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Colonia Dublan

The picture of the church - school was the building used by the Dublan Ward for years. It sat in the middle of the lot where the current Church building and Gym sit. It was used for all Church functions and for Elementary School grades 1 - 5. The current Gym was built on the North end of the current church lot. It burned down. When it caught on fire, many wells were dry. We made a human bucket line trying to put the fire out, but ended up having to rebuild it. After the second building of the Gym, the current Chapel was built. (Contributed by Joan Murri)
                                     Colonia Dublan 1888
Colonia Dublan was the largest and most prosperous of the Mormon Colonies in Mexico. In the spring of 1884 the family of George Lake arrived into what was later to become part of Colonia Dublan. However the deal for the land had not been finalized and it was not until 1888 that things were settled and the Mormons began moving in.
The families that settled Dublan were mainly of a fairly well to do class who had disposed of their properties in the United States and were able to support themselves while awaiting the harvest of their first crops.
Colonia Dublan is situated near the Casas Grandes River in northern Chihuahua. To the east lies a great plain about 50 miles long and 20 miles wide. There are many thousands of acres of fertile soil capable of producing good crops if water is available. The actual rainfall is not sufficient to make farming profitable. The northern part of Chihuahua is practically desert land.
Colonia Dublan is located approximately 150 miles south of Deming, New Mexico and nearly 170 miles from El Paso Texas. At the time of its founding, the nearest railroad station was Gallegos, a small station on the Mexican Central railroad about 110 miles away.
But a city so ideally situated was not long to remain isolated. In 1897 a railroad was built from Ciudad Juarez to a point 12 miles beyond Dublan to a ranch belonging to Don Luis Terrazas, called San Diego. Later the track was completed into the mountains in order to haul out timber. During the revolution the mill and other properties of the company were damaged or destroyed and the people were forced to abandon this project.
The railroad proved to be a great help to the Dublan people for now their goods could be transported from the United States to the Colony and it made it easier for them to market their dairy and agricultural products.
In 1907 they began to build a canal from the Casas Grandes river at Guadalupe to a great depression east of Dublan. This depression became known as the Dublan lakes which when filled with water became a reservoir 50 ft. deep and a mile across called the round lake. Below this lake was another depression called the long lake which also became a reservoir. The water which pours in to these lakes represents a surplus of water which rushes down from the mountains during the rainy season and is saved to be used only at times when it is necessary to help raise their crops.
Work on the canal was voluntary. All the Dublan men turned out to build the canal. The women set up kitchens to have food ready for the workers. The workers were paid in canal stock which gave them water rights for the irrigation of their land.
The growth of Dublan was good and had it not been for the revolution it probably would have become one of the most prosperous and influential cities in the State. At the time it had a population of more than twelve hundred inhabitants and its material prosperity could be seen by its beautiful big brick homes and pleasant surroundings.
Dublan was fundamentally an agricultural settlement yet her merchandising facilities were many and important to the Colonies.
The first store was opened by John Mc Farland in 1891 but lasted just a few years. A second store was established by Anson Call, Joseph Bentley and Dennison Harris. Later it was replaced by the Union Mercantile, a Co-operative store opened under the management of Henry E. Bowman. Later the Franklin D. Haymore store as well the Farnsworth and Romney store owned by the Farnsworth brothers and Orin Romney were opened proving to be a fine asset to the community.
Of prime importance to the people of Colonia Dublan was a flour mill constructed by Joseph Jackson. Later another mill was opened by Peter Skousen and the Taylor and Bowman mill owned by Harvey Taylor and Claudius Bowman and Co. which gave the colonists flour for their own use and an increased market for their grain.
The land in the Dublan purchase that could not be irrigated was good range for cattle. Blooded stock, both cattle and horses, were imported from the US . They also raised herds of dairy stock. A considerable amount of butter and cheese was produced. As the farmers prospered they equipped their farms with modern machinery and the Dublan area became the finest farming district in Northern Chihuahua.
The material interest of the people did not take precedence over the cultural and spiritual things. Even in the very early stages of the Community they realized the importance of spiritual life. Church and school were held in an adobe meeting house, a long one room building with an elevated floor at one end called the stage. It was separated from the main floor by a curtain. In 1892 the Dublan ward meeting house, a nice brick building, was built. It served as church and school house. This edifice served the needs of the community well until 1917 when it was burned by the Rebels. Competent teachers were employed to teach the children. Their salaries were low. Anson B. Call, one of the first teachers remembered that one lady paid him with two pair of socks and a homemade quilt.
After the destruction of the Church and school building, church was held in the tithing office for a while then moved to the Relief Society building where school also was held until 1928 when a new chapel and school was built.
It is important to know that in its very early history this colony was known as “Colonia Huller” then in 1889 the name was changed to “San Francisco”. When a ward was formed with Winslow Farr as its first bishop, the name of the Colony was changed to Colonia Dublan in honor of Manuel Dublan, the secretary of the treasury under President Porfirio Diaz.
Things were looking very good for the colony and the people were making plans for a greater city. Then the revolution struck and they were driven from their homes.
Dublan probably suffered more from the revolution than any of the other Mormon Colonies since it was situated on the railroad and near Casas Grandes where a great deal of the fighting took place. Hundreds of trainloads of soldiers continually passed through and since Dublan was a prosperous agriculture area many demands were made on the colonists not only for food but also for horses, wagons and any other supplies the soldiers needed.
The Colonists tried to remain neutral and help each group as they came through but soon supplies were gone. Small bands of rebels and bandits came through making demands on the colonists who were now nearly ruined by the ravages of war and finding it very difficult to supply their demands. The red flaggers were especially bad; robbing, pillaging, burning and making demands the colonists were not able to fulfill. The Farnsworth and Romney store and the Union Mercantile were robbed time and time again, not only of goods, but also of money. Horses and wagons were taken until the colonists had no animals to help them with their farm work.
In the summer of 1912 a demand came from the military authorities for the Mormons to surrender all their arms and ammunition. The town was surrounded by Salazars soldiers with orders to shoot all the Mormons if the guns were not surrendered. This order was sent to the Juarez Colony also.
The situation got so bad that it was felt that it was unsafe for the women and children to remain in Mexico. In July of 1912 a train was ordered to take them to the United States and they were loaded on a train for El Paso and only allowed to take a small suitcase and a roll of bedding. Temporary shelters were given to them in El Paso in the lumber yard of that city until they were able to find friends or family to help them.
The men stayed behind intending to protect their property but the climax came when the colony was surrounded by an armed force of men. Canons were mounted on flat cars and leveled at the Colony. The men were advised by their church leaders to leave as soon as possible. They left and joined their families in El Paso.
Dublan and Juarez were never completely abandoned. Some men and women stayed on protecting their properties. In September of 1912 Reuben and Wilford Farnsworth and Orin Romney went back to Dublan with a load of merchandise to open their store again. Some of the people returned to Dublan. Many never did.
Things began to quiet down a bit and the year 1913 was a good year with lots of rain and good crops though the Mexican revolution still raged and the colonists were continually robbed. Some of the men were taken and held for ransom but were released unharmed where the ransom was paid.
In September of 1915, Pancho Villa with about 15,000 soldiers began to arrive in Dublan on trains with the remainder of his once great army. He planned to go to Sonora and attack the city of Agua Prieta. He had been defeated in the South and needed a victory in the north to regain his power. The colonists problem was how they could feed that many people and animals. Villas army moved into every vacant house in the colony and camped in the streets. They remained for twenty two days. The general made his head quarters at the tithing office.
Bishop Call said, “Be it said to Villas credit that during the twenty two days stay of this multitude of armed men and camp followers, not a single man, woman or child among us was molested, injured or insulted. Not a house was broken into. Villa maintained perfect discipline. He was master of the situation.”
When Villa left Dublan he took everything with him. The Dublan people supplied him with as much food as possible. As he was going overland, he took some of their wagons and teams but allowed the men that owned them to drive them and told them they could bring them back. In spite of his defeat in Agua Prieta and his anger at the Americans for allowing Carranza to pass through the United States to get to Agua Prieta, he kept his promise and allowed the American men with their teams to pass into the United States.
After Villa attacked Columbus, New Mexico he threatened to kill all Americans and as he marched toward the colonies many American non Mormons were killed. Word came to Dublan that he was coming to the Colonies and would continue his slaughter of all Americans. The garrison of soldiers in Casas Grandes hurriedly left for Chihuahua. The Mormons were left alone, unprotected and unarmed with Villas army between them and the United States. Bishop Call was told to do what he thought was best. He was inspired to tell the Dublan people to go to their homes, pray to the Lord for protection, turn out their lights and go to bed.
That night Villas army came as far as the cattle corrals on the outskirts of Dublan, then turned east into the mountains passing east of Dublan and leaving the colonists unharmed.
Later, some of Villas men said that Villa said he could see many fires and soldiers in the streets of Dublan. His army wasn’t in any condition to fight a large army so they bypassed Dublan. The colonists believe that God protected them that night.
In March of 1916, General John J. Pershing of the United States and his cavalry crossed the border at Antelope pass and set up their headquarters on the outskirts of Dublan. His mission was to capture Pancho Villa. The expedition failed to accomplish the mission for which it was sent, but proved a blessing to the American colonists. During the time Pershing and his troops were in Dublan the colonists were protected from the soldiers, bandits and robbers that had preyed upon them before. The American troops were a splendid market for the food and goods that the colonists produced.
In January of 1917, Pershing was ordered to return to the United States. The colonists were frightened for fear the Mexican soldiers and populace would hold them responsible for Pershings army having been brought there and so they packed up and left along with the army. More than 1500 refugees followed Pershing to the United States.
The Mormon colonists didn’t remain long in the United States. Many never returned but a few remained only a few months and returned. The Farnsworth and Romney store kept operating as did the Taylor and Bowman mill but the conditions were not favorable and the armies and bandits continued to torment the colonists. By 1919 only 243 of the original colonists had returned to Dublan and though they prospered the majority that left never returned.
In 1928 the Dublan people built a new church and a school house on the same spot where one had been burned down in 1917. The people prospered. Men bought large dairy herds and a cheese factory was built. Colony cheese soon became famous throughout the state. A poultry business and turkey business helped the economy of the town.
Though many of the American Mormons never returned, the Mormon population among the Mexican people has grown rapidly. In 19?? there were enough Mormons in the area to have their own stake and a Dublan stake was organized. Dublan had formerly been part of the Juarez stake.
The people have prospered and though few in numbers still feel proud to be part of Mexico. Nuevo Casas Grandes, nothing more than a train station at the time of the Revolution, began to prosper and grow and has slowly began to absorb Colonia Dublan. Today Colonia Dublan has become the most desirable area in the N. Casas Grandes municipio to live. Still present are the wide streets beautifully lined with trees that has always been a trademark of Mormon settlements. The peace and serenity of the old Mormon colonies still persists there today. (Contributed by Florene Taylor)