Ghosts Towns

Ho!
For The Gold and Silver Mines of New Mexico
Fortune hunters,capitalists, poor men, sickly folks,
all whose hearts are bowed down and ye who would
live long, be rich, healthy, and happy;
come to our sunny clime and see for yourselves!


1880s notice posted at Nutt Railroad Station
to incoming miners and merchants

 

 

A Step Back in Time…

The Bridal Chamber, the Solitare, the Silver Monument, the Ready Pay, the Opportunity and other mines produced millions in silver and gold in Lake Valley, Kingston, Chloride and Hillsboro in the 1870s, 80s and 90s.

Long before then, the area that is now Sierra County was home to Apaches and other Native Americans; and to Hispanic ranchers and farmers and their historic churches and cemeteries.

Then came the Buffalo Soldiers and army forts, the miners, the railroads and stagecoaches, the merchants, the outlaws, the ladies of the evening and the lawmen who became a part of the lore and history of the Old West.

Sites to Look For…

Monticello: Historic Plaza, San Ignacio Catholic Church, Cemetery

Placita: San Lorenzo Catholic Church

Cuchillo: Circa 1850s Bar & Store, Stables, San Jose Catholic Church

Winston: Old School House, St.Jude Chapel, Old Post Office

Chloride: Pioneer Store Museum,
“Hanging Tree”, Monte Cristo Co-op Art Gallery, Cemeteries

Engle: Old Schoolhouse, Jornada del Muerto Historic Marker

Hillsboro: Black Range Museum, Old Courthouse, Churches, Cemetery

Kingston: Percha Bank Museum (open by appointment only), cemetery

Lake Valley: Walking Tour of Old Townsite, Old Schoolhouse, Cemetery

PLEASE NOTE: Please respect private property rights. Please do not remove artifacts from any site. It is a crime to steal or destroy cultural resources on federal or state lands.

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Monticello:( 25 miles north of T or C on NM142 ) was founded by ranchers and farmers in 1856 and as Canada Alamosa (cottonwood canyon). The town was renamed by its first postmaster, Ariside Borguet, in 1881. Once the headquarters for the Southern Apache Agency, Monticello was home to 500 Apaches in 1870. It was built in a square to protect residents from attack. You can still see remains of the old adobe town walls when you visit the historic plaza. The cemetery has graves dating back to the 1700s. Mass is said at historic San Ignacio Catholic Church, first built in 1867.

Placita: ( 2 miles south of Monticello on NM 142 ) was founded by the Sedillo family in the 1840s. San Lorenzo Catholic Church was built in 1916. The schoolhouse, a dance hall and some old homes still stand. Placita means “little Plaza.”

Cuchillo: ( 15 miles NW of T or C on NM 52) was named for nearby Cuchillo Negro (Black Knife) Creek, which took its name from a local Apache chief. The town was established by ranchers and farmers in the 1850s and fourished as a stage stop and trade center from the 1880s to the 1930s because it was mid-way between the mines at Chloride and Winston and the railroad at Engle. A few original buildings still stand, including Cuchillo Bar and Store. San Jose Catholic Church was built in 1907.

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Winston: ( 38 miles NW of T or C on NM 52 ) was called Fairview when it was settled by miners from nearby Chloride in 1881. By 1884, it had 3,100 people, a school, bars, a newspaper, horse races, and featured plays and songfests at Cloudman Hall (named for the local butcher). Miner, businessman and future state legislator Frank H. Winston came to town in 1882. He eventually owned several businesses and gave credit to customers in bad times. When he died in 1929, the town was renamed in his honor. Winston declined as silver prices dropped. Today, only a few families remain. Frank Winston’s home and carriage house still stand, along with the 1890 schoolhouse and other old buildings. Winston store, Winston Bed &amp Breakfast and Cafe (in the old post office) and the Diamond Bar are open to the public.

Chloride: (about 2 miles SW of Winston on Forest Road 226) was founded in 1881 after Englishman Harry Pye discovered silver ore nearby. Despite Indian attacks (Pye was killed by Apaches a few months after filing his claim), the town grew to 2,000 people. It had 8 saloons, 3 general stores, restaurants, butcher shops, a candy store, a lawyer, a doctor, a Chineslaundry and 2 hotels. There were 12 producing mines and nearly 500 prospector holes in and around Chloride, including the Silver Monument, the U.S. Treasury and the St. Cloud, which is still in operation. The silver panic of 1893 wiped out the town, but many original structures still stand, along with the town’s two cemeteries. The old Pioneer Store is now a museum. The “Hanging Tree” on Wall Street is 200 or more years old. About 20 people now live
in Chloride.

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Engle: (17 miles E of T or C on NM 51) was founded in 1879 as a station on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. It became a thriving cattle town and shipping point for ore from nearby mines. Construction of nearby Elephant Butte Dam from 1911-16 raised the population, but it declined after the dam was completed. Today, only a few people remain. The headquarters of Ted Turner’s Armendaris ranch and an old schoolhouse are in Engle. Trains still pass through town, although the train station has been torn down.

Hillsboro: ( 32 miles SW of T or C on NM 152 ) was born in 1877 when gold was found at the nearby Opportunity and Ready Pay mines. Despite fierce Indian attacks, the town grew. It became the county seat in 1884 and had 1,200 people by 1907. Area mines produced more than $6 million in gold and silver. A slowdown occurred, however, and Truth or Consequences became the county seat in 1938. About 225 people live in Hillsboro today. There are gift shops, restaurants, a bed and breakfast, galleries, the 120 year old general store, the remains of the old county courthouse where three men were tried in 1899 for the murders of Judge Albert J. Fountain and his nine-year-old son, the Black Range Museum, Union Church and Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church.

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Kingston: ( 9 miles W of Hillsboro on NM 152 ) was founded when Jack Sheddon discovered a rich lode of silver ore at the Solitaire Mine in 1882. It grew rapidly to more than 7,000 people and was the largest town in the territory, and one of the wildest in the Wild West. Kingston produced $10 million in silver in the 1880s-90s. It had 22 saloons, 14 groceries, gambling halls, a brewery, three newspapers, and a British Madam (Sadie Orchard), who had a brothel on Virtue Avenue. Today, about 30 people live in Kingston. One floor of the old Victoria Hotel remains. The Black Range Lodge is built on the ruins of Pretty Sam’s Casino and the Old Percha Bank is a museum opened by appointment only. Jane’s Wind-Socks, the world’s only officially licensed manufacturer of wind-socks and flags for the Grateful Dead Corp., is located on North Street. The Spit and Whittle Club, the nation’s oldest social club, dates to 1888 and is still active.

Lake Valley: ( 17 miles S of Hillsboro on NM 27 ) was named for ancient lake beds nearby. It was founded with the discovery of silver in the area in 1878. The town moved twice before settling at its present site in 1882, when the Bridal Chamber Mine was discovered. The subterranean mine produced 2.5 million ounces of silver ore so pure it was shipped unsmelted to the mint. A stage stop and railhead, Lake Valley grew to 4,000 people, with 12 saloons, 3 churches, 2 newspapers, a school, stores and hotels. The 1893 silver panic wiped out the town and a fire destroyed Main Street in 1895. Lake Valley is today a true ghost town, as the last permanent residents left in 1994. You can take a walking tour of the town. The schoolhouse, built in 1904, is open to the public. A chapel and several old homes still stand. The cemetery is across the highway from town.

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Courtesy Rural Economic Development Through Tourism (REDTT) Project
New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service 575 646-5994

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