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David Fisk (Lens of
Elizabethtown - Gone But
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May, 2004, photo by Dave Alexander.
This image available for photographic
Elizabethtown, New Mexico once
boasted over 7,000 residents and was often visited by notorious gunmen
Black Jack Ketchum
Lucien Bonaparte Maxwell (1818-1875)
owned the Maxwell Land Grant, the largest in US History.
Maxwell paid about 2 cents per acre for 1,714,765 acres for a total of
$35,245 for the land.
Rich in history and once full of life with
over 7,000 residents, it is hard to imagine Elizabethtown
as it once was. Now, the sparse remains of the once
bustling boom camp look silently upon the Moreno Valley and the face
of the imposing Baldy Mountain.
It all began in 1866, just one year after the
Civil War ended, when
Indians arrived at Fort Union (north of
wanting to trade "pretty rocks" for supplies. Stationed at
Fort Union, Captain William H. Moore was acquainted with one of the
Indians. He had once found the
Indian badly wounded and on the verge of death, given him water
and taken him back to the fort, where he was nursed back to health. Ever grateful to Captain Moore, the
Indian gave him several of the "pretty rocks" which Moore quickly
recognized as being rich in copper. The ore had been found on
the upper slope of Baldy Mountain (12,441 feet) on the Western edge of
Maxwell Land Grant. The
Indian agreed to lead Captain Moore and several other soldiers to
a spot high on the majestic mountain, where enough copper was found to
stake the first of many claims in the area.
continuing to explore the area, three of the men made camp on the
banks of Willow Creek. Passing the time, one of the men took a
gold pan from his saddle bag and began sifting the creek gravel. When his loud, excited shout pierced the quiet evening his companions
came running to his side. All thought of copper vanished from
their minds as the three stared at the sparkling gold flakes lying in
the base of the pan. They wasted no time, immediately exploring the
area, spending the next several days panning the creek and chipping at
rock. But it was already October and winter comes early to the
high slopes of Baldy Mountain. Vowing to keep their findings
secret, the three carved the words "DISCOVERY TREE" on a Ponderosa Fir
next to their camp, made their way down the mountain, and began the
long trek back to Fort Union.
But, the secret was just too big and during the long idle
months of winter, their pledge was broken. Word got out and when the
snow melted in the spring of 1867, they were just the first of many men
flooding to the area to find their fortunes.
Lucien B. Maxwell, long-time
resident of the area and sole owner of the
Grant, owned the Moreno Valley as well as Baldy Peak. The
already wealthy land baron and entrepreneur watched the storm of gold
seekers with great interest and realized that he couldn't fight the
inevitable. Taking full advantage of the situation,
welcomed the squatters by charging them for the use of his land, fees for
placer and quartz claims, and toll charges for the use of good road that
Miners paid $1 a month for a 500
square-foot parcel, $12 dollars a year in advance for a placer or gulch
claim, and half the proceeds of a lode claim. Some of the miners
paid, but many did not, a situation that would plague
the investors who later bought the grant. By July of 1867, 17
companies had set up with 400 hundred claims within an eight-mile radius
of old Baldy.
Maxwell's real estate
interests, he quickly got involved with the mining activities, placing
several placer claims himself. He joined Captain Moore and
several entrepreneurs to form the Copper Mining Company in 1867, which
soon found the first lode of gold.
Meanwhile, back in
June, 1867, Captain William Moore and his brother, John Moore, opened a
general store southwest of the peak to supply the many miners who were
streaming into the territory. Many of the settlers quickly moved their
tents to the area around the store, and it wasn't long before cabins began
to sprout up. Before the month was out it was clear that the general
store would become the center of a town, and Moore began construction on
the first house in the rapidly growing settlement.
very next year, Moore and other businessmen platted a town site,
incorporated the village (the first in
and began selling lots at prices ranging between $800 and $1200.
town was named after the captain's daughter, Elizabeth Catherine Moore,
who had just turned four years of age but it was quickly nicknamed E-Town
by most of the locals. Elizabeth Moore was the first school teacher
and lived her entire life in Elizabethtown.
By the end of July, 1868 there were about
400 people living in Elizabethtown. A sawmill and several other stores followed Moore's, as did the
saloons and gambling houses. Like most
West towns, dancing, dining and drinking were popular, as well as
a burgeoning red-light district, comprised of several cabins. Other women of the "profession" worked their trade in second floor
rooms connected to the
where dumb waiters carried drinks to their guests.
Elizabeth Moore Lowrey's last home still
stands across the valley from
Elizabethtown, by Reletta Clumsky, September,
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