This is kind of a continuation of another thread on place names where St. Johns came up. St. Johns actually has some great stories--as well as a rather sordid history that is akin to what Hollywood likes to portray the west. But first--let me qualify myself. My dads side of the family has been in St. Johns since 1874--I was born and raised there, as were the four generations before me. Unfortunetely, i'm currently studying in Virginia and only have access to my memory--which fails me sometimes, so please forgive any wrong dates or names.
Now...on to St. Johns. The first known person in the area was Jose Saavadra, who was there around the 1850's. He built the diversion dam and a grist mill (which i'm trying to prove is still standing). He built the original El Vadito for Luna (who Luna New Mexico is named after, and who also drowned in a sheep dipping vat on his ranch outside Concho after he'd had a little too much to drink), so he could get his sheep across the Little Colorado river. It was later set up at a toll bridge (and yes, you can still see part of it coming out of the bank around Apodaca street). There were a couple of Hispanic families that lived along the river during this time--the last names being Lucero, Saavadra, Candaleria, Baca, and Chavez.
Around 1870, Soloman Barth arrived in the area with his wife and pretty much the whole town of Cubero New Mexico. They settled along the river with the other families and the town kept its name of El Vadito. (The family names that came with Barth were Pena, Jarmillo, Perez, and many others I can't recall at the moment)
In 1871 Mormon families moved into the area. There was originally one settlement, called The Meadows. The families that lived there were Barry, Farr, Isaacson and Tenney, to name a few. A couple years later the town of Salem sprung up a little ways down. Salem got a post office before St. Johns for some strange reason, but the land was really bad and marshy. In 1874 the town of El Vadito tried to get a post office, and it was decided the name of the town would be changed to San Juan, in recognition of the towns 'first lady' Maria San Juan de Baca. The government changed the name to St. Johns (the "s" at the end is still pondered over)
Around 1880 the Mormon Church bought land down by the river (where most of present day St. Johns is) from Soloman Barth for 500 head of American cattle. Now, how Barth thought he had the right to sell this land is still a mystery to me. There never was a land grant, and the people who were living there would/should have had squatters rights. However, Barth did sell the land and the Mormons from Salem and the Meadows, as well as some fresh from Utah moved onto it. And THAT'S when it really started to get interesting (and bloody and hateful) but that's a story for next time. (i'm tired of typing, but I will take it up after I rest)