Thomas B. Catron

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Thomas B. Catron
Thomas Benton Catron.jpg
United States Senator
from New Mexico
In office
March 27, 1912 – March 4, 1917
Preceded by (none)
Succeeded by Andrieus A. Jones
Personal details
Born (1840-10-06)October 6, 1840
near Lexington, Missouri
Died May 15, 1921(1921-05-15) (aged 80)
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Political party Republican
Residence Las Cruces
Profession Attorney

Thomas Benton Catron (October 6, 1840 – May 15, 1921) was an American politician and lawyer who was influential in the establishment of the U.S. state of New Mexico. He later represented the state in the United States Senate.

Early life[edit]

Catron was born near Lexington, Missouri, and was named after Missouri senator Thomas Hart Benton. He was educated in Lexington's public schools, and at the Masonic College in Lexington. He graduated with a degree in law from the University of Missouri in 1860 .

During the American Civil War, Catron served four years in the Confederate Army. With his home in Missouri destroyed, he sought to move west after the end of the war. Following other Confederate veterans, he arrived in the Territory of New Mexico in 1866, and settled in Las Cruces.

Move to New Mexico[edit]

Catron decided to pursue his original career choice, law, and was admitted to the bar in 1867 . Due to the area's lack of lawyers, he quickly became District Attorney for the territory's third judicial district (1867–1868), and was appointed New Mexico's Attorney General in 1869 . He resigned the post to take the position of United States attorney, to which he had been appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant.

Early political career[edit]

After getting involved in territorial politics in the 1870s, he impressed the Republican Party. He was a member of every New Mexico Territorial council from 1884 to 1909, and was an unsuccessful candidate for election as New Mexico's Congressional Delegate in 1892 . He was elected to the office in 1894, but was defeated for re-election in 1896 .

Land acquisitions[edit]

Catron was a lawyer familiar with Mexican land grants and through a variety of measures he gained an interest or clear title in 34 grants totalling 3,000,000 acres (12,000 km2).[1] He became an influential member of a group of land speculators known as 'The Santa Fe Ring' and was the largest single land owner in New Mexico[2] and one of the largest land owners in the United States.

Advocate for statehood[edit]

Catron was an early advocate for New Mexico's statehood. Many credit him as the single driving force within the territorial Republican Party which brought together all the necessary people and resources to call for the national Republican Party to push for the admission of New Mexico as a state. Though he was not actively involved in politics from 1897 to 1910, he was the go-to for Republicans in the territory on almost every issue, and even moved his law practice to the territorial capital of Santa Fe to be closer to his friends in the legislature.

Upon New Mexico's 1912 entry to the union as the 47th state, Catron was elected the state's first senator by a wide margin on the merit of his efforts to admit the state. He was sworn in on March 27, 1912.

Election to Senate[edit]

Perhaps more than any other person, Catron was responsible for the Republican Party's dominance during New Mexico's first decade of statehood. When New Mexico joined the Union, Catron made a personal alliance with Albert B. Fall (later to be involved in the Teapot Dome scandal) to ensure that each of them would be elected to the Senate, antagonizing New Mexicans of Spanish heritage, who had hoped that one of their own would become a Senator.[3]

In 1916 Fall was a candidate for reelection, but lost the Republican nomination to Frank A. Hubbell.[4] Hubbell went on to lose the general election to Andrieus A. Jones.[5]

Catron was mentioned as a candidate in 1918 if Fall did not run for reelection, but Fall decided to run, received the Republican nomination, and won another term.[6][7]

Monuments and memorials[edit]

Catron County, New Mexico is named in his honor.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Old Santa Fe: A Brief Review of HIstory 1536-1912, James B Raciti
  2. ^ Melzer, Richard, Buried Treasures re
  3. ^ New York Times, New Mexico Natives Bitter Over Defeat, April 7, 1912
  4. ^ Texas History Online, El Paso Herald, Catron After Fall's Job, September 30, 1916
  5. ^ Chicago Daily News, Almanac and Year Book for 1918, 1918, page 302
  6. ^, Deming Headlight, August 23, 1918
  7. ^ Calvin Alexander Roberts, Susan A. Roberts, New Mexico, 2006, page 162
  • Westphall, Victor (1973) Thomas Benton Catron and His Era. University of Arizona Press, Tucson, ISBN 0-8165-0341-9
  • Duran, Tobias (1984) "Francisco Chavez, Thomas B. Catron, and Organized Political Violence in Santa Fe in the 1890s." New Mexico Historical Review 59: pp. 291–310;
  • Westphall, Victor (1988) "Thomas Benton Catron: A Historical Defense." New Mexico Historical Review 63: pp. 43–57
  • Jacobsen, Joel K (1993) "An Excess of Law in Lincoln County: Thomas Catron, Samuel Axtell, and the Lincoln County War." New Mexico Historical Review 68: pp. 133–51
  • Garraty, John A. and Carnes, Mark C. (eds.) (1999) American National Biography. Oxford University Press, New York, ISBN 0-19-520635-5
  • Lamar, Howard R. (ed.) (1998) The New Encyclopedia of the American West. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, ISBN 0-300-07088-8

External links[edit]

United States Senate
Preceded by
Senator from New Mexico
Succeeded by
Andrieus A. Jones