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History

Historic Lineshack building remains on the refuge/USFWSThe name Sevilleta illustrates the strong Spanish influence in the region.

When explorer Juan de Oñate swept northward through Mexico in 1598 he encountered a civilized Rio Grande with large pueblos by the river.  Here, the Piro Indians farmed, hunted, and lived in complex societies.  Oñate called the Piro Pueblo nearest what is now the refuge “Pueblo Nueva Sevilleta” in honor of the Spanish city Seville.  

Over the span of 200 years of Spanish rule, the Piros eventually fled south and at the end of the Spanish occupation, in 1819, the area became known as the Sevilleta de la Joya, a land grant that included roughly 70 men, women, and children who settled the area. 

In 1821, the land fell under Mexico’s authority but soon after, in 1848, it came under control of the United States.  When New Mexico became part of the United States, there were many changes on the landscape with towns dissolved and many of the Spanish land grants sold or changed.  New Mexico eventually gained statehood and Socorro County bought the former Spanish land grant in a public sale in 1928.  A few years later in 1936 General Thomas Campbell bought the land where he ran cattle and sheep for the next 30 years. 

Recognizing the need for change, General Campbell established the Campbell Family Foundation in 1966 before his death.  It was his wish the land be maintained in its natural state and that portions of the property be made available to educational institutions and conservation organizations for scientific research and study.  After careful consideration, the Foundation determined that the best way to preserve and enhance the integrity and the natural character of the land would be through the creation of a national wildlife refuge. 

In 1973 the Foundation donated the property to The Nature Conservancy, who in turn donated it to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and on December 28, 1973 General Campbell’s wishes were fulfilled and the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge was established.

Page Photo Credits — Historic Lineshack building remains on the refuge/USFWS, Gunnison's prairie dogs/Jeremy Stein ©, All photos courtesy of USFWS unless otherwise noted.
Last Updated: Sep 24, 2012
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