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 Henry Connelly

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Henry Connelly

  • Birth 1800 Spencer County, Kentucky, USA
  • Death 12 Aug 1866 Santa Fe, Santa Fe County, New Mexico, USA
  • Burial Santa Fe, Santa Fe County, New Mexico, USA
  • Memorial ID 6405681

Civil War New Mexico Territorial Governor. Served as a Member of the New Mexico Territorial Council in 1851 and as Governor of New Mexico Territory from 1861 until his death in 1866.

Dr. Henry C. Connelly

Henry Connelly was among the younger of nine children born in Kentucky to John Donaldson Connelly and his wife Frances Brent. He enrolled in and was a student at the medical department of Transylvania University at Lexington, Kentucky (now Kentucky University) and may have been among the first to graduate from there with a medical degree. After leaving school, he moved to Clay County, Missouri, in 1828, but, being an adventurous soul, he left the same year for Chihuahua, Mexico, where he became employed as a store clerk. He later bought the store and, in order to stock the needed merchandise, led or sponsored many expeditions back to the United States and its territories.

He married a Spanish lady (possibly of the name Zelinza) in 1838 in Jesus Maria, Chihuahua, Mexico, where his business was located. Together they had three children: Joseph (b. 1838), Peter (b. 1841), and Thomas (b. & d. 1842). Not long after Joseph's birth, he led an expedition that came to be known as the Chihuahua Expedition (1839-40), which blazed a trail through previously uncharted regions in Texas and Indian Territory. Unfortunately, the expedition suffered a number of setbacks, and the trail was not used again. About four years after the birth and death of his third son, when war with Mexico seemed imminent, he arranged for his remaining two sons to live with an American family, Adam and Ann Hill of Blue Township, Jackson County, Missouri, and then returned to Chihuahua.

His wife died not long after his return, and shortly thereafter the war began. He was arrested by Mexican authorities and imprisoned at Chihuahua for a time but was eventually released. After the war ended, he moved to the New Mexico territory, leaving behind much of his property which had been confiscated. Once in New Mexico, he rebuilt his business, establishing trading posts (and homes) in Peralta, Albuquerque, Santa Fé, and Las Vegas (NM), and he became the owner of the largest business in the territory. In addition to his mercantile business, he acted as a liaison between local leaders and the U.S. military in laying the groundwork for the annexation of the New Mexico territory into the United States.

In about 1848, Henry married Maria Dolores Lauvinia Perea, who was the widow of José Chavez and who by birth belonged to one of the old, wealthy and influential families of New Mexico. With Dolores, already the mother of two sons by her first husband, Henry fathered three more children: Maria Victoriana (b. abt 1849), Henry (b. abt 1850), and Julian P (b. 1855). He appeared with Dolores and daughter Victoriana on the 1850 Census in Bernalillo County (Pg 87-A) and on the 1860 Census (Pg 160) at Los Pinos, Bernalillo County, with his wife and all three of their children. His son Peter, from his first marriage, may have spent the war years in New Mexico with his father as he appears on local government records in 1868, after his father's death, and perhaps as early as 1864. It is unknown whether Henry's son Joseph maintained a close relationship with his father; although Joseph did apparently name his third son, Joseph Henry, after his father.

Economic and political/business situations prior to the Civil War took their toll on Henry's business; nevertheless, despite much governmental sympathy for the Southern Confederacy, Henry was loyal to the union and was instrumental in getting repealed the Slave Act of 1859, which had protected slavery in New Mexico. His powerful influence in the territory led President Lincoln to appoint him as Territorial Governor on September 4, 1861. As Governor, he secured the territory for the Union, but in addition to political support, he enlisted as a sergeant in the territorial militia (Perea's Infantry Regiment being one of the units to which he was attached) and assisted in repulsing the Confederate forces that invaded New Mexico in 1862.

He was reappointed as Governor in 1864, but his health had been failing for some years. From the fall of 1862 until May 1863, Henry had attempted to recover his health in the United States; however, his health remained difficult. He retired from his position as Governor on July 16, 1866, and died of an accidental overdose of medicine less than one month later, on August 12, 1866, in Santa Fé.

War with Mexico, 1846-1847: Doniphan's Expedition and the Conquest of New Mexico and California by William Elsey Connelley (copyright 1907; facsimile reprint c 2008) online at Google Books

The Founding of Harman's Station … by William Elsey Connelley (copyright 1910) online at Google Books

The History of the Military Occupation of the Territory of New Mexico from 1846 to 1851 by Ralph Emerson Twitchell

"The Civil War in New Mexico, 1861 – 1862" online article at

Handbook of Texas Online:
Articles entitled "Henry C. Connelly"; "Chihuahua Expedition"; "Castle Gap"

Turmoil in New Mexico (footnote re Henry Connelly) by William Aloysius Keleher (1982)

Bio by: TexasLass

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 9 May 2002
  • Find A Grave Memorial 6405681
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Henry Connelly (1800–12 Aug 1866), Find A Grave Memorial no. 6405681, citing Rosario Cemetery, Santa Fe, Santa Fe County, New Mexico, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .