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Estancia is a “small” town with a fluctuating population that hovers around 1,600 (2010 Census). It has all the necessary amenities –post office, grocery store, Dollar Store, gas stations, restaurants, hair and barber shops, Estancia Schools as well as the necessary fire, police and Emergency Medical Services.
One of New Mexico’s best-kept secrets is Estancia’s Arthur Park with its giant shade trees, a playground, the pond stocked with fish (for youth and seniors only), picnic areas as well as horseshoe and sand volleyball pits, a pavilion and basketball court.
This recreational area is central to the Torrance County Fairgrounds, the Estancia Library and the Estancia Aquatic Center (swimming pool.)
In the heart of Torrance County, Estancia is surrounded by an agricultural community that has been the foundation of the Town for more than 100 years. Ranching and farming industries remain strong influences to the flavor of life in the Estancia Valley and well as key contributing economic factors in the area.
An hour’s drive from Albuquerque, the Town offers a rural, homegrown atmosphere with easy access to big-city offerings. Located in the heart of Torrance County, Estancia has been the county seat since 1905 and houses the offices of Torrance County including the Torrance County Sheriff’s Office as well as the 7th Judicial District.
Located within Town limits is the Torrance County Detention Facility (TCDF), owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Originally as a 286-bed facility, in 1997, it was expanded to a 910-bed facility. TCDF currently houses United States Marshals Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service, and Torrance County inmates.
CCA is an important addition to the Town, participating in many community activities such as United Way Blood Drive; various Youth Athletic Leagues; Alcoholics Anonymous; Estancia Rotary Club; Torrance County Fair Association; 4-H Club; local Boy Scouts of America; Estancia Town Council; Estancia Basin Resource Association; Estancia FFA Chapter; USSSA; New Mexico Activities Association; Local Fire Departments; Moriarty Lion's Club; New Mexico Special Olympics; R.E.S.P.E.C.T Program; and American Cancer Society Relay For Life.
Estancia is one of the designated stops on The Salt Missions Scenic Byway, a mapped scenic drive through a variety of beautiful New Mexico landscapes and a range of historic communities.
When New Mexico became a U.S. Territory, county lines were drawn and county seats named. Changes were made just about every time the legislature met, but Estancia remained part of Valencia County until 1903, when Torrance County was created with Estancia as its seat. Los Lunas was the seat of Valencia County, and the biggest village on this side of the mountains was Manzano.
Joel P. Whitney, the purchaser of the Sandoval grant, and his brother, James G. Whitney, came to the valley and began telling the sheepherders scattered around it, whom they called “squatters,” that they would have to leave. They had been to Albuquerque and obtained a court order of eviction. Of course it wasn’t long before word of this development reached the Otero family.
On December 7, 1845, the governor of New Mexico, Manuel Armijo, granted much of the land within the Baca grant to Antonio Sandoval, a provincial official who was owed a sizeable sum in back wages. No reference was made to the Spanish grant of a quarter century earlier. Estancia was included in the 350,000-acre tract.
The heirs of the Baca grant sold it in 1874 to Manuel Antonio Otero of La Costancia, near Belén. Otero had made a fortune by herding many sheep from the Río Grande Valley to California after gold was discovered in 1849. Hungry prospectors paid handsomely for them. He and his family lived in luxury almost unequaled in the vast, empty region between California and Missouri.
Let’s jump forward again, to 1819, when Don Bartolomé Baca petitioned the governor of the Province of New Mexico, Don Facundo Melgárez, for a tract of land. Baca was a captain of the cavalry stationed at Tomé. He told the governor he had sheep, cattle, and horses and did not have a place to graze them. He described a huge piece of the Estancia Valley as a suitable place.
Spaniard met Indian at Estancia at some point between 1598, when Oñate’s large band of colonists came from Mexico (Coronado, who came here in 1540, didn’t mention Estancia), and 1779, when the map was drawn. But what happened before that?
Estancia is a Spanish word with several shades of meaning. It’s usually translated as “place of rest,” but it has other nuances. A “stay” in the hospital is an estancia in Spanish, as would be a “sojourn” abroad. The word also applies to the place one stays, and is used to mean “mansion” or “headquarters.” By extrapolation from that, big cattle ranches in South America are called estancias. It’s similar in usage to the English word, “estate,” which can also mean a big house as well as the land that surrounds it.
With little fanfare, the last legal hanging in New Mexico took place on a Friday morning at sunrise. It was April 6, 1923, in the town of Estancia.