Monte Cristo: The Monte Cristo building in Chloride, New Mexico stands tall but not as a saloon or a dance hall but as a gallery and gift shop for visitors to shop in when visiting Chloride today. The building has been completely restored and upgraded to meet current standards. The structure also served as a school for a short time and possibly other had uses over its 143 year life span. Photo by Gary Warren/ladailypost.com
Doodle Dum: The Doodle Dum Cobblestone house in Chloride is a newer addition to Wall Street, the main street in Chloride, as it was not constructed until about 1920. The house was last home to Cassie Hobbs, a longtime resident of Chloride who made furniture . Hobbs lived in the house until her death in 1989. Photo by Gary Warren/ladailypost.com
Bank Cafe: The bank building was constructed on a prominent corner on Wall Street in Chloride, NM. However, it never opened as a bank as locals did not have enough funds to support a bank. It did open as a saloon and did quite well. The Bank Cafe opened a few years ago but was not open when we visited Chloride. Photo by Gary Warren/ladailypost.com
By GARY WARREN
Formerly of Los Alamos
Chloride, New Mexico. The name of this town, about 40 miles west of Truth or Consequences in Sierra County, is intriguing in itself. Chloride was named after a high grade silver mined in the area during the boom days of 1879 to 1893.
Silver was discovered by prospector Harry Pye in 1879 when he was transporting supplies through Apache territory in New Mexico for the US Army. After his contract with the government ended, he returned to the area in the Black Mountains to stake claim on the property, which is now Chloride, NM.
Unfortunately, Pye did not live to see the fortunes of the silver mining as he was killed by Apaches shortly after staking claim to the area. However, by that time the word was out and prospectors fled to what became one of New Mexico’s richest silver mining spots.
The town of Chloride sprang to life quickly, first as a tent city, and then an established town. In the 1880s, there were 100 homes and 2,000-3,000 residents in Chloride. The town had all of the businesses that were seen in mining towns throughout the west at that time.
Chloride, NM was a thriving town until the 1890s when the monetary basis was changed from silver to gold, silver prices fell dramatically and spelled the end to many silver mining towns including Chloride. The mining of copper, zinc and lead did continue until 1931. The Chloride Post Office closed in 1956 and Chloride became a ghost town.
Chloride did not fall to ruins as some ghost towns of the west have done and 27 of the original structures still stood in the town. The main street in town, named Wall Street, still has several of the original structures and several have been restored and are in use today as houses or businesses.
One feature in Chloride that cannot be overlooked is “The Hanging Tree”. You cannot miss the tree as it is located in the center of Wall Street, the town’s main street. No one was ever hung from the tree but when miners became drunk they were chained to the tree until sober. Other than confrontations with Apaches, Chloride was free of much of the rowdy, wild west behavior experienced in other mining towns. Perhaps the threat of The Hanging Tree was successful.
Today, Chloride is home to about a dozen people but the town has become a popular tourist area. The museum in Chloride is the Pioneer Store Museum and will be featured in a future Posts From The Road. Pye’s cabin still stands and can be rented for an overnight stay by anyone.
This area of New Mexico is rich with history and should not be over looked when traveling in the southern part of the state.
Editor’s note: Longtime Los Alamos photographer Gary Warren and his wife Marilyn are traveling around the country, and he shares his photographs, which appear in the “Posts from the Road” series published in the Sunday edition of the Los Alamos Daily Post.
Grafton House: The Grafton house has been around, literally. It was the only surviving structure in nearby Grafton, NM and residents of the area wanted to save the house. It was moved to Las Cruces, NM in 2006 and restored. However, the city later needed the property where it was located for a roadway and the house had to be moved again. The residents of Chloride managed to collect funds to have the house moved back near its original location. The house sits near the museum in Chloride and is used as a teaching tool to show what life was like in the 19th century in the area. It is open and furnished with period clothing, furniture and other artifacts for visitors to learn more about the area during the mining days. Photo by Gary Warren/ladailypost.com
The Hanging Tree: A hanging tree sits in the middle of Wall Street in the center of Chloride, NM. While there was never anyone hung from the tree, it was used to chain drunken miners until they could sober up and then be released! I don’t know what the tree looked like in the 1880s, but it appears it has been trimmed way back today, possibly to allow traffic to pass by without hitting branches. Photo by Gary Warren/ladailypost.com
Harry Pye Cabin: Harry Pye was the prospector who discovered silver in the area that is now Chloride, NM. Pye and helpers built the cabin as the first permanent structure in Chloride in 1879. Pye did not get to live in the house long as he was killed by Apaches shortly after finishing the house. Pye also never saw the extent of the silver that was mined in the area which he first discovered. Photo by Gary Warren/ladailypost.com
Pioneer Store Museum: The Pioneer Store Museum is a very special structure, which has been restored and is now the town museum. The story behind this museum will be the subject of another post from the road next week. Photo by Gary Warren/ladailypost.com