The Apache effectively thwarted two initial attempts to settle in the Tularosa area. Initially, a small group of men from the Las Cruces, Doña Ana, La Mesilla, and Isleta areas attempted to establish a farming community in 1858. The Apache dispatched them within a month. However, the lure of fertile farmland, and repeated flooding on the Rio Grande, prompted a second group to try in 1861. Again, the Apache evicted the second round of settlers quickly.

A group of men from La Mesilla decided to try again in 1862, formally establishing the village of Tularosa in 1863. The name “Tularosa” is based on the abundance of red cattail and roses on the riverbank. They mapped the original village with 49 blocks. Water rights were distributed and recorded. The original acequia (ditch irrigation system) remains virtually unchanged, providing water for the trees lining the streets, private gardens, and the verdant landscaping that gives Tularosa its unique and charming character. The Tularosa Townsite District, consisting of the original 49 blocks on 1400 acres, including 182 buildings, was declared a historic district and recorded in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

Saint Francis de Paula church TularosaBattle of Round Hill

With the first successful harvest in 1862, the men started bringing their wives and families to the area. That move towards permanence provoked the Mescalero Apache, who responded aggressively to the intrusion on their land.

The inevitable showdown between the two groups began on April 16, 1868, a confrontation known as the Battle of Round Hill. It was a two-day conflict about ten miles east of Tularosa. 26 settlers from Tularosa, supported by a contingent of U.S. soldiers, prevailed against Apache warriors. The rest of the village stayed behind, praying around a picture of St. Francis de Paula, a talisman brought to Tularosa from La Mesilla in 1862. The residents of Tularosa credited their unlikely victory over the Apaches to God, believing divine intervention shielded their community. The battle is commemorated annually during the San Francis de Paula Fiesta. A peace treaty was signed at Ft. Leavenworth on May 29, 1868.

Saint Francis de Paula Church

The battle of Round Hill marked a turning point, with Tularosa coalescing into a vibrant community. The first child, Maciniano Carillo, son of Santos and Paula Chaves Carillo, was born the year after the battle, in 1869.

The villagers fulfilled a promise made to St. Francis de Paula during the battle by building a church in his honor. Construction began in 1868. Rev. Francis Boucard celebrated the first mass in the Church of St. Francis de Paula in May of 1869. They also established peace with the neighboring Mescalero Apaches.

Villagers built the church with over 50,000 adobe bricks. The original design was based on the Spanish colonial influence brought from Mesilla. The current church is not the original structure. It is about twice as big as the original.

The church has played a central role in Tularosa since that first mass. For example, they expanded their facilities in the 20th century to include an orphanage and a school to support children in the community.

Saint Francis de Paula church TularosaSt Francis De Paula Parish
704 St Francis Dr
Tularosa, NM 88352
(575) 585-2793


Tuesdays & Thursdays Communion Service – 8 AM
Saturday – 5:30 PM
First Saturday of every month Mass – 8 AM
Sunday – 11 AM

Directions: Tularosa is located at the base of the Sacramento Mountains. Located at the junction of New Mexico highways 54 and 70, it is the gateway to Ruidoso and the Mescalero Indian reservation, home of the Inn of the Mountain Gods. Additionally, the village is northeast of White Sands Monument, north of Alamogordo, east of White Sands Missile Range, and west of the Lincoln National Forest. The St. Francis de Paula church is on Highway 54, the main road as you are driving through town.

Saint Francis de Paula church Tularosa

Leave a Reply