Scattered across the enchanting New Mexican landscape are ghost towns that once catered to the likes of Billy The Kid, Geronimo, and everyone in between. New Mexico has a history as wild as the West itself. Recently some of us at Compas adventured into the remote corners of New Mexico to explore some of the ghost towns and experience this living part of history ourselves. In a time when gold was the law of the land and disagreements were settled with shoot outs, the abandoned buildings and crumbling walls of yesteryear tell us a story as fantastic as the Old West itself.
1. WHITE OAKS
White Oaks, New Mexico is the epitome of the Old West. Long ago, White Oaks was considered the liveliest town in New Mexico and was second in size only to Santa Fe. When gold was discovered in Baxter Mountain the population of White Oaks quickly grew and peaked around 4,000 residents in 1882. The “liveliest town” attracted an even livelier crowd, Billy The Kid and his gang made White Oaks their regular stomping grounds. After the gold ran out and the new railroad bypassed the town the population quickly dwindled to barely anything. We were able to explore a few historical buildings and an old cemetery. Unfortunately due to a posted vacation, the only business still standing was closed for the season, but if you're ever in town grab a drink at the famous No Scum Allowed Saloon. The brick building of the saloon itself was a law office in the hay day and then a newspaper office before the townsfolk abandoned White Oaks for the near by Carrizozo.
2. LOMA PARDA
Once referred to as Sodom on the Mora, Loma Parda was known for its whiskey and its women. Where there are now crumbling walls and vacant space once were brothels, saloons, and dance halls. When Fort Union was built nearby in 1851 the quiet farming village of 500 exploded practically overnight to become one of the largest towns in New Mexico.
Following the soldiers to their new post, women of ill repute quickly took up residence and the rest is, as they say, history. Loma Parda, being on the Santa Fe Trail, attracted not only soldiers but also cowboys and desperados. Crime and thievery ran rampant throughout the community until Fort Union closed in 1889 and by 1900 Loma Parda was wiped off the map.
Access to the ruins of this fascinating ghost town is via footbridge over the Mora River. This enchanting ghost town is now made up of a mostly standing adobe church and several ruins that are best enjoyed between the Spring and Autumn seasons.
Situated along the Turquoise Trail, Golden is a ghost town not quite like the others. At the north point of Golden there is a beautifully restored adobe style church. The San Francisco de Asis Catholic Church was erected around 1830 and still has masses held there. There are beautiful ruins of both wood and stone buildings along with mines that are scattered to the south and west. While exploring these sites you can feel the weight of days past around you. Standing near the southern border of Golden is Henderson’s, a store that has been operating since 1918. Today Henderson’s mostly deals in authentic Native souvenirs and collectables.
After silver was found near by, creating one of the largest mining rushes in the state, Chloride boomed. Boasting many businesses, along with around 3,000 residents by 1881, Chloride thrived even though it suffered many native attacks from the Apache until about 1887. As a result of the Silver Panic of 1893, the United States switching over to Gold Standard in 1896, and the petering out of the silver ore in the mines the town was essentially abandoned.
Chloride is a unique ghost town to experience because many of the structures are still standing. The main street of the town is lined with false fronts and the traditional adobe style buildings that is popular in the region. There is a museum, gift shop, and restaurant all in original buildings and well worth the visit.
Gamblers and gunmen kept Mogollon on its toes while Butch Cassidy made it his headquarters. At its peak the population grew to about 2,000 and mined millions in gold, silver, and copper from the Mogollon mines. The town sported many businesses along with two famous red light districts. As the mines emptied of their riches, so did the people of Mogollon. Situated within the Gila National Forest, Mogollon has many abandoned and well-preserved structures to explore along with a few businesses running today. The Purple Onion is a great spot to grab a bite after exploring this ghost town.
Check out our latest collection Abandoned Enchantment inspired by these very ghost towns and the many other enchanting characteristics of the New Mexican landscape.
Written by: Alexandra Gilroy