Henry Springer: The naming of a town

Mike Grace
Special to the Independent

   SPRINGERVILLE --- He was only a visitor to the area.  But he left behind such an impression, a town was honored to carry his name. Henry Springer ---Springerville.

   By the time that he died at age 51, Henry Springer had crossed an ocean and a continent, built a burgeoning business empire and had a town named after him.

   Then he lost everything and ended up running a bar and what was possibly a bordello, a virtually broken man.

   Born in Wurttemberg, Bavaria, Springer emigrated to the United States in the 1850s and moved on eventually into Santa Fe, where he ran a hotel, then to Albuquerque, where he opened a mercantile store around 1870.  

   Backed by the influential editor of The Albuquerque Review who characterized him as "among our most enterprising merchants," he eventually owned three stores, a manufacturing business in blankets, and a part ownership in a freight hauling venture.

   It was the blanket production that first brought him to the Round Valley area to sell his wares to the Army at Fort Apache in 1873.

   Fort Apache, variously, known as Camp Ord, Camp Mogollon, Camp Thomas and Camp Apache prior to receiving the designation of a Fort, was founded May 16, 1870.

   The fort quickly became a consumer of numerous products that spurred the settlement of this area.  Its demand for grain, cattle, charcoal, wood and other consumables was the major economic catalyst of the period.

   Round Valley, variously known as the Colorado Chiquito, Valle Redondo, Socorro Crossing and Tierra Incognita, soon became a magnet for enterprising settlers and businessmen, including Springer.

   The Republican Review described Springer as a "live man" and "sly coon" who was always "going ahead".  It reported in its May 13, 1876, edition that he had established a large mercantile house, several "substantial houses" were under construction, and that a town site was officially being called Springerville.

   He was so enthusiastically received that Orin W. McCullough donated the land for him to build his store and a house upon.

   The same edition also reported J. O'Neil had sent to California for 200 brood mares and another stockman was in the process of importing 1,200 head of cattle from Texas.

   In the May 20 paper, it was announced Springer had opened a third branch store on the Rio Puerco at San Ignacio and expanded his store in Albuquerque.

   He placed there as his manager, Don Antonio Jose Herrera.  It reported, "His business is increasing at such a rate the old quarters have become too small to accommodate the large amount of goods he is obliged to store."

   On July 1, 1876, it exulted, "Mr. Springer is justly celebrated as being one of the most go-a-head men in New Mexico, from being a man of comparative means, he has risen in a few years, by force of untiring energy and keen business tact, to be one of the leading merchants of this territory.

   During this time period, Springer also was quite involved in territorial politics, having been nominated as a delegate to the Democrat Convention that year.

   In the glow of his burgeoning successes, Springer was unwittingly sowing the seeds of his own destruction.

   He had heavily over-extended himself, banking on barley crops to meet contracts on capital investments he had negotiated the preceding spring.

   The Republican Review reported in its September 23 edition that Springer had returned to Round Valley to check on his barley interests.  He anticipated harvesting "four hundred and fifty thousand pounds" since he had "induced the farmers to raise by furnishing them with supplies and means to cultivate their crops."

   His capital contributions to the effort included a saw mill and grist mill for Milligan and a threshing machine for McCullough.

   It is known Springer overextended himself on credit, but records are not clear as to why he was unable to sell his crop or why his creditors picked that particular moment to strike.

   When the roof caved in, it landed all at once.

   Creditors such as L and H Huning and Spiegelburg began calling in his debts.   Springer was unable to cover them.   From 1877 on there are numerous commentaries in The Review lamenting his "financial difficulties" and "malignity of one of his creditors."

   His bookkeeper, James Roberts, died under mysterious circumstances, apparently a suicide involving an overdose of chloral hydrate, morphine and wine.

   In an interesting editorial in the Weekly Arizona Miner of Prescott on April 13, 1877, it was noted, "We believe Mr. Springer's present embarrassment is caused by having several thousand dollars tied up in barley...which he has been unable to dispose of.   We hope he will come out all right."

   His wife Placida Savedra de Springer, died Jan 23, 1879, leaving behind 10 children.   He went to work for his former competitor Franz Huning in his store as a salesman.

   By late May he had managed to work his way out from under the decree of the "Insolvency Court in Santa Fe.  He undertook a new business venture as owner and operator of The Mint Saloon.

   For a man who had once been quoted by the Arizona Citizen as saying, "I talk business, mean business, do business and if anyone has business to come up and do their business, then go about their business, and give someone else a show to talk business and to do business also," it had been quite a journey.

   Springer, who remarried, died April 7, 1882, in Albuquerque of a strangulated hernia at 51 years of age.

   He left eight children behind and a confused state of affairs in his property and estate due to not having executed a will.

   As one of Albuquerque's favorite sons, it is ironic a town in Arizona was named after a man whom claimed he never left New Mexico's confines except to visit the sister territory.  Documented information researched by Jack A. Becker.

Copied from the Valle Redondo Days - '92 section of the Friday September 4, 1992, edition of the White Mountain Independent.

From the files of Jack A. Becker, local historian.
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