Don Miguel Antonio Otero 1829 - 1882

by M.F. Hockemeyer

Don Miguel Antonio Otero M.A. Otero was a merchant in Leavenworth, Kansas when he and his head bookkeeper started the commission firm of Otero, Sellars and Company in Hayes, Kansas. Otero started the practice of moving his business to the railroad terminus as the rails continued to be built westward. The Kansas Pacific and the Santa Fe Railroads had a race to the Arkansas Valley.

His first Colorado business was in Kit Carson. When the KP eventually lost out to the Santa Fe, Otero switched his freight business from the KP to the A.T. & S.F. and moved his business to Granada, Colorado. When the railroad reached La Junta in 1875, Otero again moved his business to the new terminus by loading his buildings on a flat car. That train also carried a depot 12 * 14 feet, a water tank and two old warehouses of Manzanares & Co., a wool commission firm.

As agents for a number of eastern firms, Otero shipped in merchandise and reloaded it on wagons that took it across the mountains and plains to New Mexico and as far as Tucson, Arizona. The town was a busy place. Sometimes, there were as many as 15 wagon trains at one time with 20 to 25 wagons in each outfit.

Although many history books report that the town on the Arkansas was first named Otero, this appears to be a mistake on the part of the first newspaperman, J.C. Denny. When he arrived in La Junta, he saw the name Otero and assumed that the small collection of buildings had all been called that. The Las Animas Leader on December 17, 1875 stated that the new town will officially be known and hailed as La Junta. In the spring of 1878, the A.T. & S.F. schedule did list La Junta as Otero, but changed the name back to La Junta six weeks later.

When a new county was split off from Bent County, it was named in honor of one of its first businessmen.

In 1876, when the Denver and Rio Grande railroad, building south from Pueblo reached El Moro, six miles north of Trinidad, the Otero-Sellars Company built their main office there and used La Junta as a branch until they sold their buildings to the A.T. & S.F. The Otero-Sellars Commission House was located north of the railroad tracks.

As the railroad snaked south, Otero followed and for a brief time a settlement south of Raton was named after him. Three months later, when Las Vegas was reached, the town of Otero disappeared.

Otero was born in Valencia, N.M. June 21, 1829, the youngest child of Don Vincente Otero and Dona Gertrudesa Chaves y Aragon. He attended a private school taught by a Catholic priest until age eleven. In 1841, he went to the St. Louis University in St. Louis, Mo. When the Mexican war broke out in 1846, he was called home. Then in the spring of 1847 he attended the Pingree College at Fishkill on the Hudson where he became an assistant professor of Latin and Greek. On the advice of the Principal of the Pingree College, he took up the study of law. After studying with a New York lawyer, he joined the law office of Trusten Polk in St. Louis where he was admitted to the bar in 1852.

Later that year he returned to New Mexico where he was elected to the Territorial Legislature. Being under the required age of 24, the House waived that rule in his case. In 1855, he was elected a delegate to the U.S. Congress and served until 1861. He was appointed Secretary of the Territory and acting Governor, but because of his warm sympathies to the South, was not confirmed and served only six months. He then went to Leavenworth, Kansas and became a merchant.