A Step Back in Time
In the 1500s, when the Spanish came to what is now New Mexico, they found native people living in "pueblos," which is the Spanish word for "town." Many Native Americans were agricultural town and even city dwellers before Europeans came, and their culture was quite distinct from those of the nomadic peoples of the plains. The invaders asked the Pueblo peoples the names of locations throughout the area. When they came to the cliffs that stand north of the Pueblo of Pojoaque, the natives replied that the name of that particular place was Sakonaekwaeku'i'e, which translated to, "The little place at the tobacco barranca." A barranca is a cliff. On your way here, you may have noticed the pinkish cliffs slightly northeast of Pojoaque, a place where native tobacco grew wild. Another similar place name was Sakonae-onwekeji, which meant "pueblo ruin by the tobacco barranca." (This explains our logo, the cliffs on the logo are those cliffs, the tobacco barranca.)
A Maybe River
The Spanish heard the first part of this long name, Sakonae, (Zha-kho-nai-i) as Hah-ko-nah, Jacona, and this is the name they used as they infiltrated the little communities built up along the Pojoaque River, a maybe river (maybe today it’s a river and maybe tomorrow it isn’t) flowing westward to the Rio Grande. The little pueblo of Sakonae, Jacona, was, according to Bandelier, occupied until 1696, which means it was here when the Spanish first came, existed throughout the Pueblo revolt of 1680, when the Pueblo people drove the Spanish away, and was not abandoned until after DeVargas reconquered Santa Fe. There were other hamlets named Arroyo Jacona and Jaconita (little Jacona), perhaps on the sites of native summer communities. Among the people who lived in the pueblo, or town, for mutual protection, it was sometimes necessary to erect shelters or "summer houses" in the fields and orchards along the river when crops were ripening so they could be guarded against birds, animals, and predatory humans.
In 1702 a large area of the valley was granted by Spain to the family of Ignacio Roybal. The Ignacio Roybal House still stands, about a mile east along County 84, the paved road at the end of the driveway. Over the centuries, bits and pieces of this estate were built upon by family members, the original grant was divided and re-divided, some pieces were sold away. The area now comprising Jacona Ranch was first built upon in the early 1700s with the establishment of a two room house that survives as the eastern two rooms of Rooster House, which were then a bedroom with fireplace and a kitchen/living room with a horno, or adobe oven, out back. One viga, ceiling beam, had to be replaced in February 2001, windows have been replaced, but the walls, fireplace, horno and the rest of the ceiling are original. This house and others on the property were occupied by family descendants until 1929. The current owners were fortunate enough in the late ‘90s to have had a lengthy conversation with Professor Joseph Roybal, who was born at Jacona Ranch in 1906. He described the ranch as he remembered it from that time and told us what he remembered of the family history.
The present kitchen and breakfast room of the Main House were the Roybal living room and kitchen and were, Professor Roybal thought, built originally in the mid to late 1700s. The chimney that now serves as exhaust for the stove is the original fireplace/stove chimney. Extending north from that building, facing east, was an adobe wing with several bedrooms which had been built and rebuilt during the 1700s and 1800s. Two bedrooms now included in the main house were separate houses or rooms with the usual raised thresholds to keep out rain and snakes. These two buildings, about six feet apart, facing south, were occupied by family members. These various buildings could have formed a typical "compound" in which several structures face inward and open upon a central area, without interior hallways, though often with "portales," covered porches, sheltering the front from sun or rain.
The "old house", Rooster, originally without a covered portal, became the Boys’ House in the 1800s, still with no plumbing but having been expanded to four rooms from the original two, each with a door opening to the outside. The earliest pictures we have show it without the portal, which was probably built in the 40s, providing a sheltered area outside the doors. Three of the original four doors are now windows. The original building was sunk partially into the ground, as was often done at that time, to keep the house cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Though the house had fireplaces, it was also heated by two free standing stoves, one in the former kitchen and one in the end room to the west (holes in the ceiling show us where the stove pipes were.) Professor Roybal explained that families often provided separate houses for boys and girls, once they were half grown, in order to allow the parents some peace and quiet. What is now the living room and bathroom of Raccoon House was the "girls’ house," built in adobe. The history of this house is a little mixed up. It was rented at times—former renters dropped by to revel in nostalgia—but it had no kitchen when the place was purchased in 1985. The frame area which is now the kitchen was equipped as a laundry: tubs, ironing board, sewing cabinet, but when or by whom is unknown.
The place was always known as Rancho Jacona, and on maps the arroyo that runs through it is identified as Arroyo Rancho Jacona. In Spanish, "rancho" designates a gathering of dwellings and outbuildings, as on a farm, with animals and/or crops. What Americans call a ranch, that is extensive lands used to raise cattle or horses, would be called an "estancia" in Spanish. Joseph Roybal's father planted 1000 apple and pear trees at Jacona Ranch during the late 1800s. During that time, there were many orchards in the valley, and we are told the spring weather was reliably clement. In the early 1900s, however, we have been told the weather changed, there were frequent late spring freezes, and orchardists found it difficult to get a crop. For a time we thought we detected a warming trend, with apricots and peaches bountiful during two out of three years. The warming has continued in February and March, but a hard freeze in April has been the rule lately. Since there were not enough boys to fill the boys' house during the orchard years, what is now the Rooster living room was used to store apples. The old pear tree between Frog and Lizard dates from the late 1800s, and it still bears good fruit. It has been tree-doctored to keep it from deteriorating and shows great vitality.