Ancho, New Mexico – Returning to Nature

The Ancho Depot closed in 1959

The Ancho Depot closed in 1959. Photo by Kathy Alexander.

About 23 miles north of Carrizozo, New Mexico, is the ghost town of Ancho, a former railroad and ranching community. The settlement was established at the turn of the 20th century when families settled the fertile valley, followed by several homesteaders who became the area’s first sheep and cattle ranchers. Miners also roamed the area of gypsum hills in search of precious metals.

In 1902, a gypsum deposit was discovered, and the Gypsum Product Company plaster mill was established. That same year, Ancho got a post office with Frank J. Bush as the first postmaster. When a settler by the name of Bosque came to the area from Iowa, he saw an opportunity in the fire clay of the region and established the Ancho Brick Plant in 1905.  That same year, the railroad pushed through town, and the depot was built.

In 1906, after the devastating earthquake and fire in San Francisco, Ancho was busy shipping plaster and brick to the ravaged city.

An old building in Ancho, New Mexico by Kathy Alexander.

An old building in Ancho, New Mexico, by Kathy Alexander.

In 1917, the brick plant was sold to the Arizona-based Phelps Dodge Corporation, which built a new 16-kiln plant for $150,000. However, this move proved to be unprofitable, as the plant went bankrupt in 1921. Though this was a devastating blow to the small community, and several people moved out, the town survived, supported primarily by the railroad and ranching industries.

During the Depression years, Ancho’s population increased as several destitute families moved to make a living mining for gold in the nearby Jicarilla Mountains. However, once the economy improved, people moved out once again.

In 1930, Ancho’s one-room schoolhouse burned down and was replaced by the brick school that continues to stand today. At its peak, the school had five teachers and 140 students. The town also supported two stores. However, Ancho’s life was on a downhill trend. In 1937, though the brick plant had long been closed, the property was sold to Abilene Salvage Company, which dismantled it.

Log cabins in Ancho, New Mexico by Kathy Alexander.

Log Cabins in Ancho, New Mexico by Kathy Alexander.

When the new U.S. Highway 54 was paved in 1954 between Carrizozo and Corona, it spelled a death knell for Ancho, as the small community was bypassed by 2 ½ miles.  The following year, the school was closed.

The final blow for Ancho was when the railroad discontinued the depot in 1959. The building was sold and, in 1963, became a museum called “My House of Old Things.” That same year, the town’s combination store and gas station closed. The post office also closed five years later, and the town was left with only a few people.

Today, it appears that the town has been abandoned entirely, except for a small sign on the side of the school that indicates it may still be utilized as a church. Further indication that the building is still being utilized is its good condition, including replacement windows. There are several abandoned buildings that continue to stand in various stages of disrepair, including the depot and several homes. A cemetery is located about ½ northeast of town.

Ancho is located 21 miles north of Carrizozo on U.S. 54, then east on NM 482, 2 ½ miles. A forest road runs southeast of Ancho that continues to the ghost towns of Jicarilla and White Oaks before rejoining U.S. 54.

Old Ancho, New Mexico School

Old Ancho, New Mexico School

© Kathy Weiser-Alexander/Legends of America, updated November 2021.

Also See:

Jicarilla – Still Gold in Them Thar Hills

White Oaks – Liveliest Town in the Territory

Ghost Towns of New Mexico

New Mexico Main Page

Ghost Town Photo Galleries