The Casads
A Pioneer Family of the Mesilla Valley

by Rick Hendricks
218 pages; 6 x 9 pb 20 illustrations
ISBN 978-1-936744-02-2 $17.95



This book is a history of the Casad family that traces its movement from Ohio to New Mexico by way of Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, and California. The principal family members are Thomas Casad and his second wife, Sarah Van Winkle Casad, along with their numerous children. The book relates one family’s experience with agriculture, coal mining, and milling on the Illinois prairie, where Thomas founded the town of Summerfield in St. Clair County, and its migration west as far as Kansas. There, Thomas Casad killed a man and became a fugitive from justice fleeing with his family to southern California by way of the Isthmus of Panama. This rash act also cost him a considerable fortune. After settling near Santa Ana, Casad built the first two-story home in Orange County. As he had been everywhere he lived, Thomas Casad was a very active Mason in California. Trouble with a neighbor led to a precipitous flight to the southwest where a snowstorm halted the family in New Mexico. His hasty departure also resulted in the loss of another substantial fortune.

The Casads settled in Mesilla and, in short order, Thomas Casad was recognized as one of the leading agriculturalists in southern New Mexico. Casad is credited with the introduction of large-scale production of alfalfa in the region and improving local livestock. He was a newspaper editor and columnist specializing in spreading innovative agricultural techniques. He also was a noted miller in Doña Ana and Chamberino. His purchase of almost 10,000 acres of the Brazito made him one of the largest landowners in the Mesilla Valley. Because he died intestate, his estate became embroiled in a twenty-year struggle to settle title to this Spanish land grant.

Rick Hendricks received a B.A. in Latin American History from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and a Ph.D. in Ibero American History from the University of New Mexico where he was an editor on the Vargas Project, a long-term, historical editing project dedicated to the transcription, translation, annotation, and publication of the papers of Governor Diego de Vargas. Hendricks then worked in the Archives and Special Collections Department at New Mexico State University and taught classes in Latin American history in the History Department. He is currently the New Mexico State Historian in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The author or co-author of numerous books, articles, and book chapters, Hendricks’ most recent published projects include New Mexico in 1801: The Priests Report (Rio Grande Books, 2008) and The Witches of Abiquiú: The Governor, the Priest, the Genízaro Indians, and the Devil (University of New Mexico Press, 2006) with Malcolm Ebright. He is currently at work on two projects related to Church history: a biography of Antonio Severo Borrajo, a Spanish priest from Galicia who accompanied Bishop Jean Baptiste Lamy to New Mexico and later settled in the El Paso del Norte area, and a study of the ecclesiastical visitation of Juan Bautista Ladrón del Niño de Guevara to New Mexico in the second decade of the nineteenth century.