The area now known as Colfax County was originally part of Taos County, one of the first nine counties created in 1952, when New Mexico became a territory of the United States. In 1859, Mora County was established out of the eastern section of Taos County and then ten years later in 1869, Colfax County was subdivided from Mora.
Following a trend of naming counties for national figures including presidents and others, the new county was named for Schulyer Colfax, Jr. who was then serving as Vice President of the United States under President Ulysees S. Grant. Colfax had been born in New York City in 1823 and was the son of Schuyler Colfax, Sr. and Hannah Stryker Colfax. Shuyler, Sr. was a bank teller and both were of Dutch ancestry. Colfax, Jr.’s grandfather, William Colfax, had served directly under General George Washington in the Revolutionary War.
Schuyler Colfax, Sr. died of tuberculosis a few months before Schuyler, Jr. was born. His mother later married again and the family moved to Indiana. Schuyler began to work in the newspaper business and later acquired a newspaper in South Bend. Colfax became active in politics, first in the Whig party, later in the Know Nothing Party and finally in the Republican Party. He was opposed to slavery. Colfax served in the Union Army during the Civil War. He served as a United States Representative for several terms and also was elected Speaker of the House in three sessions of Congress. He was inaugurated as Vice President under Grant in January, 1869.
During the 1872 presidential campaign, Colfax was implicated in the so called Crédit Mobilier scandal which involved suspected illegal acts on the part of certain elected officials in exchange for votes in support of a railroad company. Crédit Mobiier was described as a sham construction company created to profit favored individuals during the construction of the railroad system. A resolution was introduced to impeach Colfax from office and he resigned as Vice President, never to run again for elected office. Two representatives, James Blaine and James Brooks, were censured by the House for using their office for personal gain. There is no record of Colfax being censured or otherwise being charged with any improprieties. He returned to private business and was also a public speaker for the rest of his life. Colfax died in 1885 and is buried in South Bend, Indiana.
Counties in ten states are named for him. Colfax County, New Mexico includes a total area of 3,768 square miles. Its county seat is Raton. In addition to Raton, its towns and villages include Springer, Angel Fire, Cimarron (a former county seat), Eagle Nest and Maxwell along with about a dozen unincorporated communities.
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