BACK IN TIME: Grant was talented, insightful writer about Carson, Taos

EDITOR’S NOTE: Information for this article came from the books “When Old Trails Were New: The Story of Taos, New Mexico” and “The Taos Indians” by Blanche Chloe Grant and “Kit Carson’s Own Story of His Life” by Kit Carson.
TAOS, N.M. It took a fair amount of time and quite a bit of digging, but I think that I now am firmly convinced that Blanche Chloe Grant is one of the best writers I’ve read who came out of Taos.
She also is the best authority that I have seen writing about the Taos Indians and Kit Carson. Her first book was “Taos Indians,” published in 1925. But one of her other books that you won’t want to overlook is “When Old Trails Were New: The Story of Taos, New Mexico.”
I first delved into Grant’s writing when on a trip to Taos with my wife, Kim, I bought a copy of “The Taos Indians” which was a 1976 reprint by the Rio Grande Press of the 1925 classic “Taos Indians.” We had visited the Taos Pueblo and wanting to know more about the Indians that have called the pueblo home for more than a thousand years, I turned to Grant’s book about them. I was not disappointed.
In his publisher’s preface to “The Taos Indians” Robert B. McCoy wrote, “Blanchie (a much-loved nickname) came to Taos for the first time in 1919, and like us many years later, she decided New Mexico was the only place in the United States worth living in.” Grant got to know the Taos Indians and obviously had gained their respect and trust. A native of Leavenworth, Kan., who was born in 1874, Grant was a graduate of Vasser College. She had studied at the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts, the Pennsylvania Academy and the Art League in New York City. She became known for her landscape paintings and as a magazine illustrator.
She also edited “Kit Carson’s Own Story of His Life” which was entirely understandable since she had gotten to know intimately the community that he lived in for years and loved. In fact, in the foreword that Muth wrote to Grant’s “When Old Trails Were New: The Story of Taos, New Mexico,” Marcia Muth stated:
“A move to Taos, New Mexico in 1920 brought about dramatic changes in Grant’s life. She developed an intense interest in the rich and varied history of the area. She took on the job of editor of the Taos Valley News and began her years of research into the history of Taos and the Southwest. This then led to a series of books, many of which were about Taos and the people who lived there.
“Her art also changed and she painted Native American and Western subjects. Although an active participant in the Taos art scene, she continued to show paintings in New York. Gradually her main interests turned to her writing. Her books included Dona Lona, When Old Trails Were New, Taos Indians and she edited a biography of Kit Carson based on his notes, all available from Sunstone Press.
“When Grant moved to Taos it was a small village but she soon found that its history was ‘large.’ Through extensive research, she put together the facts of the past. These were augmented and confirmed by residents who had knowledge of first-hand accounts,” she wrote.
Grant’s “When Old Trails Were New” is a fascinating collection of stories including Ranchos de Taos Church, Governor Charles Bent, Ceran St. Vrain, the ruins of Turley’s Mill in the Hondo Canyon, the Mission at Taos Pueblo and several more.
She also writes about Kit Carson’s house which is still standing in Taos, is open to tourists and which for several years was used as Carson’s office while he was serving as Indian agent for Northern New Mexico.
In one article in the book, Grant wrote, “Among the men who outfitted in Taos, we already know the names of Wolfskill, St. Vrain, Young, Bill Williams and Kit Carson. Then there were Milton Sublette and probably his three brothers, Peg-leg Smith, Jim Baker and many others.”
Later in the article Grant wrote, “Kit Carson, ‘a credit to the diggin’s that gave him birth,’ was born in 1809 in Kentucky. When but a boy in his teens and an apprentice to a saddler, Carson heard tales of the West which led him to run away and join a caravan bound for Santa Fe. In 1826 he came into Taos to make his home.”
He learned his trade as a scout and frontiersman from the best including Jim Bridger and, wrote Grant, “His experience in trapping led him far afield and gave him a knowledge of the West which eventually brought him into the company of Colonel John C. Fremont, the explorer, and won for him the title of America’s greatest scout.”
Grant’s fascination with Taos and some of its best known residents, like Kit Carson, gave readers books that shed light on an extraordinary community nestled in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.