Mogollon - Surviving All Odds
About 12 miles northeast of Glenwood,
New Mexico is
one of the Land of Enchantment’s premier
ghost towns –
Mogollon (pronounced "muggy-YOHN"
by locals). Today, a
ghost towner's dream, filled with
historic buildings of the once rich mining camp that made millions during
its hey days, survived numerous floods and fires, but still hangs on today
despite its isolated location.
It all began when a soldier named James Cooney from
Fort Bayard, some 80 miles to the
southeast, was scouting for the 8th U.S. Cavalry in nearby Mineral Creek
Canyon 1870. North of where the mining camp of
Mogollon would later be
established, Cooney discovered rich gold and silver deposits, but unlike
many miners of the times, he kept his find a secret. Unable to work his
find as his "hitch” in the Army was not yet complete, Cooney returned to
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years later, when Cooney was mustered out of the service in 1876, he
returned to the area, filing several claims. Not long after, Cooney,
along with his partner, Harry McAllister, were chased out of the
region by hostile
Determined though, they returned two years later and began to work the
rich veins in earnest. Word spread and soon the area was crawling with
numerous prospectors looking for their own fortunes.
the miners remained at risk from the angry
Chiricahua Apaches, led by
Chief Victorio, once again raided the area, including Cooney’s claim.
Three of the prospectors, including retired Sergeant James C. Cooney, were
killed. Also killed in what is called the "Alma Massacre," were 35 area
raids continued, it didn’t stop the flood of prospectors. James
Cooney’s brother, Michael, having inherited the claim, soon arrived
from New Orleans to continue his brother’s mining operations. Soon
afterwards, he built a vault from a large boulder as a permanent
resting place for his fallen brother. The vault, which was sealed with
silver-bearing ore taken from Cooney’s Mine, still stands at the
Cooney Cemetery, located about 7 miles east of Alma,
In the meantime,
several other miners had made discoveries and soon the mining camp of
Mogollon sprang up in Silver Creek Canyon, which included a
sawmill and several businesses. In 1890, a post office and jail were
established and two years later, the first school was built. The
Silver City and
Mogollon Stage provided transportation and freight services to the
camp, moving its "cargo” some eighty miles between the two points, a
distance that took about 15 hours.
A number of mines were developed in the
area including the Maud S., Deep Down, Last Chance, and the biggest
and most profitable – the Little Fannie. Though it would employ the
most people and drew out the most ore, it was also an extremely dusty
mine, resulting in numerous cases of "Miner’s Consumption” or "Black
Lung” disease. This created quick turnover at the mine as the town’s
transient population surged and fell from between 3,000 and 6,000
residents during the 1890s.
During these days,
Mogollon also earned a reputation as being one of the
wildest mining towns in the West, as gamblers, stage-coach robbers, claim
jumpers, and gunmen all called the mining camp home.
From its earliest days,
Mogollon was plagued with fire and flood. The
first big fire occurred in 1894, wiping out most of the town buildings.
Mogollon's citizens persevered, rebuilding, this time, with brick
and adobe. That same year, the mining camp also suffered from a
devastating flood from the melting snows and heavy spring rains. Other
floods would follow in 1896, 1899 and 1914, all taking with them homes,
mining operations, and some of the town residents as the swift waters
overflowed from Silver Creek. More fires would also occur in 1904, 1910,
1915, and 1942, each resulting in yet more devastation to the town.
Mogollon had a
population of about 2,000 people who supported five saloons, two
restaurants, four merchandise stores, two hotels and several brothels
located in two infamous red light districts. It also boasted the Midway
Theatre, a bakery, a photographer, a couple of doctors, and various other
Though its population was
slowly dropping as technologies were advanced and the ore began to
diminish, the year 1913 saw about 1 ½ million dollars in minerals taken
from the area mines.
In the meantime, Michael
Cooney who had taken over the original claims after his brother’s death,
was also destined to tragedy. In 1914, he was still combing the mountains
for yet more gold. However in October, he failed to return home. Search
parties were sent out to look for him, but at the high elevation and
winter's arrival, they were forced to abandon their search. Four
months later, Michael Cooney’s body was discovered in a nearby canyon. He
had frozen to death.
population stood at about 1,500 residents, who enjoyed new utilities such
as electricity, water and telephones.
World War I caused the
first devastating blow that would lead to
Mogollon's demise. During this
time, the demand for gold and silver dropped, and many of
shut down. By 1930, the town supported only about two hundred people.
recovered some in the late 1930s when gold prices went up again, but its
renewed life was short lived. World War II again slashed gold values and a
devastating fire in 1942 nearly reduced it immediately to a complete
However, once again its
few remaining residents persevered as the Little Fanny Mine continued to
produce until the early 1950s, when finally, it too, would stand forever
silent. Over the years,
Mogollon Mines produced nearly 20 million dollars
in gold and silver.
With its mines silent,
Mogollon officially became a ghost town,
but some of its owners remained. Today, it is a
ghost towner's dream as nearly 100
historic buildings remain, along with about 15 residents. The entire town
was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. The
numerous buildings, in various stages of repair, are used primarily as residences, summer homes, and a
few remaining open businesses, generally open on summer weekends.
One of the most
impressive buildings is the Silver Creek Inn, which continues to serve
customers today in an 1885 two-story adobe structure was known as the Mogollon House. Built by Frank Lauderbaugh and operated by Henry Johnson,
the Mogollon House rented upstairs rooms and sold food and merchandise on
its first floor.
1914, the building was sold to a Philadelphia barber named James Holland
who opened a barbershop and general store on the first floor and continued
to rent rooms on the upper level. Holland continued to operate his
businesses for more than three decades, until in 1948, with very few
customers, he left the area and headed for California. A family then
utilized the building as a home for many years.
1980, it was purchased by Stan King, who renovated it into a bed and
breakfast called the Silver Creek Inn. The historic building continues to
cater to customers today, providing rooms with character and great food.
However, it is only open very seasonally.
Across the street stands
a row of three historic stone buildings. The Mogollon Museum, is housed in
one of them, which once served as a general merchandise store for decades.
Also open seasonally, the museum displays local history and numerous mining
artifacts. The museum is open weekends from May through October. Next to
the museum stands the old Holland’s Furniture and Notions store, as well as another
historic two story building.
Further down the road is the old Silver
Creek Stage Stop; the old Kelly Store, which continues to house antiques
and curios, the Mogollon Theatre, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, which is
undergoing renovation, as well as a number of old homes and
cabins. A saloon and general store also stand; however, these are not
original buildings, rather were part of a 1973 movie set, for a western
called My Name is Nobody and starring Henry Fonda.
Beyond the church and up a very steep hill, the road winds some two miles
Mogollon's 1891 cemetery. In 1918,
like places all over the world, suffered from the deadly influenza
pandemic that erupted during the final stages of World War I. Legend tells
us that there is a mass grave of flu victims at the cemetery due to people
dying faster than they could bury them. However, there is no marked site.
A high-clearance four-wheel-drive vehicle is required to drive up the
Mogollon is about 12
miles northeast of Glenwood,
To get there from Glenwood, take NM 180 about 3 miles northwest to NM-159
(Bursum Road) and turn right (east.) Bursom Road travels through the San
Francisco River Valley, at first slowly climbing through fertile
ranchlands for about two miles before quickly ascending the west flank of
the Mogollon Mountains.
Along the more than 2,000 foot ascent, the road
becomes steep and narrow in many places before reaching
seven miles later. Along the way, there are a number of
spectacular views and the terrain is dotted with mining remains. Also
watch for abundant wildlife including small herds of Javelina (wild pigs)
and glimpses of the White-Nosed Coati, a curious ring-tailed cat which
inhabits parts of the southwest.
updated March 2014.
For More Information:
New Mexico Ghost Towns
Mogollon, New Mexico Slideshow:
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