U.S. Consulate History in Chihuahua
The U.S. has had a long history of consular representation in the State of Chihuahua beginning in 1825. This has included Consulates in both Ciudad Chihuahua and Ciudad Juarez, a commercial agent in Presidio del Norte (present-day Ojinaga) through the 1880s, and a consular agent in Hidalgo del Parral until approximately 1920. In December 1913, U.S. President Wilson also created a temporary appointment of State Department Special Agent to Pancho Villa, when he became provisionary governor of Chihuahua.
The Consulate in Chihuahua
The first U.S. Consulate in Chihuahua opened in the state capital of Ciudad Chihuahua in 1825. Our first Consul, Joshua Pilcher, was a successful Louisiana fur trader and served from March 1825 to March 1827.
Two early and well-connected Consuls were Ruben Creel (May 1864 – Oct 1866) and William Wallace Mills (Dec 1897 – March 1907). Mr. Creel had served in Chihuahua as an interpreter during the Mexican-American war in 1847. He returned to Washington and was later appointed Consul by Abraham Lincoln. His son Enrique Creel served as a member of the Mexican National Congress, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and as Mexican Ambassador to the U.S. A more recent Creel descendent, Santiago Creel, is a sitting member of the Mexican Senate and was Secretary of the Interior under Mexican President Vicente Fox from 2000 to 2005.
William Wallace (W.W.) Mills was a prominent citizen of El Paso. His memoir, Forty Years in El Paso, published in 1901, continues to serve as a historical standard of early El Paso life. His brother Anson Mills platted and named the city of El Paso, rose to Brigadier General in the U.S. Army, and served as the U.S. Commissioner on the original Chamizal arbitration committee in 1911.
U.S. Consulate Ciudad Chihuahua permanently closed in July 1954. It was also temporarily closed between March 1845 and January 1849 during the Mexican-American war.
The Consulate in Ciudad Juarez
The U.S. Consulate Ciudad Juarez opened in early 1849. There was a period of closure between 1874 and 1880 with only commercial agents representing U.S. interests in the city. This closure may have been a result of the West Texas Indian Wars (1871 – 1875), which made travel by stagecoach and living on the frontier more difficult and dangerous. The Consulate re-opened in March 1880 as surveyors for the Southern Pacific Railroad Company arrived in El Paso; the railroad line reached El Paso in May 1881.
At the conclusion of the Mexican-American War with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in February 1848, the United States decided to open a Consulate in Paso del Norte (re-named Ciudad Juarez in 1888), across the Rio Grande from Franklin, Texas (renamed El Paso in 1855). The creation of a border in the area necessitated the establishment of Consulates on either side. John S. Lucas of Missouri was appointed the first Consul to Paso del Norte in February 1849. For a fee of twenty-five cents each, U.S. citizens could receive a letter of introduction from Consul Lucas to present to Mexican authorities, providing safe passage through the Republic.
Ciudad Juarez and El Paso played an important part in the Mexican Revolution (1910 – 1920). Many revolutionaries based themselves in El Paso, which also became a staging area for incursions into Mexico. Detailed and measured reporting from Consuls Thomas D. Edwards (Ciudad Juarez), and Marion Letcher and James B. Stewart (Chihuahua City), kept officials in Washington updated as events unfolded.
Our Consuls in Ciudad Juarez also have another connection with El Paso through the prominent multicultural Magoffin family. Joseph Magoffin, born in Chihuahua, came to Magoffinsville (part of modern-day El Paso) to work on his father’s business in 1856. Joseph was a local landowner, businessman, county commissioner, county judge, and four-time El Paso mayor. Charles Richardson, Consul from March 1880 to January 1884, was both cousin and brother-in-law of Joseph Magoffin. Louis M. Buford, Consul from March 1895 to August 1897, is also connected to the Magoffin family. His daughter, Anne Buford, married Joseph Magoffin’s son James in 1897.
The Consulate has been housed in numerous buildings throughout the years. In a November 2008 speech Antonio Garza, former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, noted “At the beginning of the 20th century, the consulate [in Juarez] was located in a six-room building leased for $600 a year. The U.S. government got a $100 discount for letting the owner continue to stable his horse behind that building.”
The Consulate was raised to the status of a Consulate General in 1975.