Who was Josefa Jaramillo?
Josefa Jaramillo was the third and last wife of the famous frontiersman and scout Kit Carson. She was born in 1828 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to a wealthy and influential family. She met Carson in 1842 in Taos, where he was a frequent visitor and friend of her sister’s husband, Charles Bent. Carson was impressed by her beauty and grace, and she was attracted by his courage and reputation. They married in 1843, after Carson converted to Catholicism to please her father. She was 15 years old and he was 33.
Josefa Jaramillo accompanied Carson on many of his travels and adventures across the West. She witnessed the Mexican-American War, the California Gold Rush, the Civil War, and the Indian Wars. She also bore him eight children, six of whom survived to adulthood. She was a devoted wife and mother, who supported Carson in his various roles as a guide, a soldier, an Indian agent, and a rancher. She was also a respected and influential member of the Hispanic community in New Mexico, who maintained her culture and traditions.
How did Josefa Jaramillo die?
Josefa Jaramillo died on April 23, 1868, at the age of 40, in Boggsville, Colorado. The exact cause of her death is unknown, as there are no official records or eyewitness accounts. However, there are several theories and speculations, based on historical sources and oral traditions.
One theory is that she died of complications from childbirth, as she had given birth to her eighth child, Josefita, a month before. According to some sources, she suffered from a hemorrhage or an infection after the delivery, and could not recover. This theory is supported by the fact that childbirth was a common and dangerous cause of death for women in the 19th century, especially in remote and rural areas.
Another theory is that she died of a heart attack, as she had a history of rheumatic fever that damaged her heart. According to some sources, she had a sudden and severe chest pain, and collapsed in her husband’s arms. This theory is supported by the fact that heart disease was also a common and fatal condition for women in the 19th century, especially for those who had endured physical and emotional stress.
A third theory is that she died of poisoning, as she had ingested a toxic substance, either accidentally or intentionally. According to some sources, she had eaten some wild mushrooms that were poisonous, or some arsenic that was meant for rats. This theory is supported by the fact that poisoning was also a frequent and mysterious cause of death for women in the 19th century, especially for those who had enemies or rivals.
How did Kit Carson react to Josefa Jaramillo’s death?
Kit Carson was devastated by Josefa Jaramillo’s death, as he loved her deeply and depended on her. He had been suffering from poor health and depression for several years, and her death was the final blow. He said that he had lost the only thing that made him happy, and that he wished to die too. He buried her in a simple grave near their home, and wrote a brief epitaph that read: “Mrs. Josefa Carson, died April 23, 1868. Aged 40 years. A good and true woman. May God bless her.”
Kit Carson did not live long after Josefa Jaramillo’s death. He died of a ruptured abdominal aneurysm on May 23, 1868, exactly a month later, at Fort Lyon, Colorado. He was 58 years old. He was buried next to her, and his epitaph read: “Kit Carson, died May 23, 1868. Aged 58 years. A famous scout and Indian fighter. May God have mercy on him.”
What is Josefa Jaramillo’s legacy?
Josefa Jaramillo’s legacy is that of a remarkable woman who lived and died in a turbulent and transformative era of American history. She was a witness and a participant of the events that shaped the West, and the cultures that clashed and mingled there. She was a partner and a companion of one of the most legendary and controversial figures of the frontier, and the mother of his children. She was a bridge and a mediator between the Hispanic and the Anglo worlds, and the defender of her heritage and identity.
Josefa Jaramillo’s story has been told and retold in various media, books, and films. However, there are no authentic photographs of her, only two different portraits that were donated to the Kit Carson Museum in Taos in 1970, and that have been disputed and debated ever since.
Josefa Jaramillo remains a mysterious and elusive figure, who challenges and intrigues us with her life and death. She was a woman who loved and was loved, who suffered and endured, who lived and died, in her own way.