The Land of Enchantment still echos with voices from its colorful past. These voices speak especially clearly from the ghost towns, mining camps, and little-known places that populate New Mexico’s landscape.
New Mexico’s story is rich with history, from the Ancient Puebloan Indians, to Spanish explorers, pioneers traveling along the Santa Fe Trail, and prospectors in the 19th century. These many folks left their “footprints,” not only along the many old trails in the “Land of Enchantment,” but also on the many ruins and ghost towns that remain.
Travel Guide NEW MEXICO visits New Mexico’s ghost towns; below are descriptions of the ghost towns we visit in this episode.
Cuchillo, established by ranchers and farmers in the 1850s, was named for a nearby creek and a local Apache chief, Cuchillo Negro (Black Knife). Midway between the mines at Chloride and Winston and the railroad at Engle, it flourished as a stage stop and trade center from the 1880s to the 1930s. Charming original buildings still stand, including the Cuchillo Bar and Store, and San Jose Catholic Church, built in 1907.
Chloride was founded in 1880. Englishman Harry Pye had discovered silver ore there in the late 1870s, and soon after Pye was killed by Apaches, word of the silver find got out. Despite the threat of Indian attacks Chloride grew to over 3,000 people. In its heyday it had nine saloons, a general store, a dry goods store, a millinery shop, a restaurant, a butcher shop, a candy store, a pharmacy, a Chinese laundry, a photography studio, a school, and two hotels. The Black Range newspaper was printed in Chloride from 1882 to 1896. Of the nearly 500 surveyed mines and prospect holes in the Apache Mining District, a dozen or so made big mines, including the Silver Monument, the U.S. Treasury, and the St. Cloud, which is still in operation, though not mining silver. The demise of Chloride began with the Silver Panic of 1893 and was hastened by the presidential election of 1896, which resulted in a drastic decline in silver prices.
Many of Chloride’s original structures still stand. The old Pioneer Store is now a museum; next door the former Monte Cristo Saloon and Dance Hall houses a gift shop and gallery featuring work by local artists. Both are open seven days a week from 10am-4pm. Harry Pye’s cabin is available as a vacation rental. Other landmarks in this tiny town (population 11) include the 200-year-old Hanging Tree and Doodle Dum, the workshop of longtime resident Cassie Hobbs (1904-1989).
Hillsboro was born in 1877 when gold was found at the nearby Opportunity and Ready Pay mines. Despite fierce Indian attacks, the town grew, becoming the county seat in 1884. Area mines produced more than $6 million in gold and silver, and by 1907 the town had a population of 1,200.
Today, this charming, peaceful village of a hundred souls, which boasts flower-filled yards and old cottonwoods lining the main street, offers many enticements, including gift shops; restaurants; artist studios and galleries; the remains of the old county courthouse; the Black Range Museum; Union Church; and Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. Hillsboro’s Heritage Day is held annually on the day before Mother’s Day.
Kingston was founded when a rich lode of silver ore was discovered at the Solitaire in 1882. It grew rapidly and was the largest town in the territory—and one of the wildest in the Wild West. The town soon offered all of the trappings of civilization and culture. Numerous hotels played host to the likes of Mark Twain, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Black Jack Ketchum. Stage lines served all major routes, and the town supported twenty-three saloons,some of which advertised fresh oysters 24 hours a day! The town also had 14 grocery and general stores; a brewery; three newspapers; and an Opera House where the Lillian Russell Troupe once performed. Albert Bacon Fall and Ed Doheny of the Teapot Dome Scandal got their start in Kingston.
From those glory days, the old Assay Office and the remains of the Victorio Hotel have been renovated as private residences. The Black Range Lodge, a bed and breakfast, offers accommodations in a setting of massive stonewalls and log-beamed ceilings constructed from the ruins of what once was Pretty Sam’s Casino. Some Kingston residents offer straw-bale and natural building workshops.