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 began to settle the fertile valley, followed by a number of 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.
In 1917, the brick plant was sold to the Arizona based Phelps Dodge Corporation, which built a new 16-kiln plant at a cost of $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 a number of destitute families moved in trying 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, who dismantled it.
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. Five years later, the post office also closed and the town was left with only a few people.
Today, it appears that the town has been abandoned entirely, with the exception of 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 a number of 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 US 54, then east on NM 482, 2 ½ miles. A forest road runs loops southeast of Ancho that continues to the ghost towns of Jicarilla and White Oaks, before rejoining US 54.