A New Mexico Ghost Town


| January/February 1989



An old head rig

An old head rig stands waiting to once again raise men and ore from the workings hundreds of feet below.

35 Pueblitos Road Belen, New Mexico 87002

My little half-ton pickup leaves the Rio Grande Valley behind and climbs the long hill to the Upper Plateau. The Upper Plateau reaches out long and wide toward the Continental Divide, but my little truck turns up a canyon and follows a centuries-old wagon road. The road takes us further up into the mountains, high above the now dwarfed plateau, then past the ruins of an ore smelter built by the Spanish Conquistadors. Another bend or two in the road, then we pause, unlock another gate, then climb even higher into the clear mountain air.

The road becomes steeper now, the transmission groans in low gear and the rusted wheel atop a mine head rig becomes visible over the top of the scrub pine forest. Then winding around the ore hoppers my little truck stops amid mine buildings and equipment.

Once a prosperous community of several thousand the town's only souls are now those who reside forever in the Boot Hill Cemetary across the creek.

There were a dozen or so separate mines here of varying size and wealth. At the upper end of the canyon at one mine is a hole several yards across and several yards deep, with no visible way showing how the rock was removed. 'Oh, that,' explains an old timer, 'was a cave in. More than twenty men were working in that stope. They quit for lunch. They were all out, then exactly at 12:00 o'clock noon the ceiling gave way and the mountain filled the stope completely up leaving the hole. Nobody was hurt. You see,' he continued, 'caveins happen at noon when the sun is overhead and the gravitational pull of the sun loosens the rock and WHAMO!' Myself, I think it was more pure bad luck than pure pull.

Scattered about the area is the litter of generations past; rusted cans that once held the carbide for the miner's lamps, bearings that made the wheels roll under the ore tubs, bits of separator screens, pipe fittings here, pieces of lubricators there, sintered firebox brick proclaiming to have been patented in December of '98, and everywhere the clear mountain air is fouled by the sulfur dioxide coming off the pyrites glistening in the sun.