Chloride – Center of the Apache
About 40 miles northwest of
Truth or Consequences,
New Mexico is
the former mining boom town of Chloride. When mule skinner, freighter
and veteran prospector, Harry Pye discovered silver float in the Black
Range Mountains in 1879, it would spawn one of New Mexico's
biggest mining rushes.
was when Pye was delivering freight for the Army from Hillsboro to Camp
Ojo Caliente that he discovered the silver in the canyon where Chloride
would be born. When he had the sample assayed, he was thrilled to learn
that it was high-grade "chloride of silver," a term for which the town
would later take its name. After completing his freight contract, he
returned to the canyon with a few other prospectors and found the "Mother
Lode,” which was called the "Pye Lode.”
Immediately a tent
city was born with the first log building completed in 1879. But for
Harry Pye, he would not live to enjoy his new found fortune. The area
was rife with
were unhappy with prospectors and settlers invading their lands. Just
a few months after Pye found the mother lode, he was confronted by the
and when his pistol jammed as he tried to fend them off, he was
Though this false front building probably
served various purposes in its lifetime, at one time it also held the post office, February, 2008, Kathy Weiser. This image available for
photographic prints and downloads
By the following
year a tent city filled the entire canyon. The camp boasted seven
businesses, including the Pioneer Store, and over 20 substantial
houses. The mining camp was first called Pyetown, then Bromide before
it took on its permanent name of Chloride.
More prospectors came
to the area in January, 1881, setting up camp at the mouth of Chloride
Gulch. These 18 prospectors; however, would soon also discover the
wrath of the Apache when
their camp was attacked, two of the men were killed and their horses
and mules run off. The remaining 16 men fled for their lives, but
would returned a few months later in March, this time armed to the
Soon, the men
gathered, laid out an "official” town, and lots were distributed in a
"lottery" by pulling tickets out of a hat. So starved were the men for
the sight of women, they offered an enticement for a free lot to the
first woman in the camp.
Though the camp was
under constant threat of Indian
attacks, which continued until as late as 1887, the new settlement
thrived. By June, 1881, Chloride had 8 saloons, 3 general
stores, 3 restaurants, a lumberyard, 2 butcher shops, a boarding
house, livery stable, post office, a Justice of the Peace, and the
Pioneer Stage Line ran through town.
Chloride became the center of mining
operations in the Apache Mining
District and by 1883 was called home to some 3,000 people. The
flourishing mining camp expanded to include a school, a newspaper
called the Black Range, lawyers, doctors, a hotel, numerous saloons
and at least one brothel over the next several years.
A number of mines were started including
the Silver Monument, the largest and most productive mine, as well as
the U. S. Treasury, the New Era, the White Mountain, the Wall Street,
and several others.
Unlike many mining camps of the
Chloride never took on the violent and lawless reputation they had. For the most part, its citizens were quiet and peaceful, its worst
threat being that of the fierce Apache. Chloride did; however, have a
large tree they called the "Hangin’ Tree,” which continues to stand in the
middle of Wall Street. Perhaps it was this "threat” that helped to keep
people in line. No one was ever known to have been actually hanged from
the tree, but it was often utilized when rowdy or drunken cowboys or
miners got out of hand. In those cases, the disorderly man would be dunked
in the stock tank and chained to the tree until he came to his senses.
One notable incident during Chloride’s
heydays was when a number of town citizens began to
receive letters maligning the reputations of several residents in 1886.
Soon, a committee was formed to investigate the scandalous letters, which
pointed to a 65 year-old physician by the name of James Reekie, who
had been practicing in Chloride since 1881. Determined to be rid of the
offender, a group of some 30 citizens soon dragged Dr. Reekie to the edge
of town, where they tarred and feathered him and ordered him out of the
Like other mining booms throughout the West,
Chloride’s life would be a short one. By 1893, the ore deposits were
starting to play out and when, in 1896, the monetary standard was changed
to gold, it spelled a death knell for the town. Silver prices plummeted,
mines shut down and people left town. By the turn of the century, the city
boasted only about 125 residents.
the years, the mining district produced about $500,000 in silver and other
ores. Mining continues in the area for Zeolite, a mineral utilized in
agricultural products, water and air filtration, and numerous other
Today, Chloride is a ghost towner’s dream with about 27 of its original
buildings still standing, including the Pioneer Store, which now serves as
an excellent museum.
Its historic main street is lined with false front structures, as well
as adobe buildings, some restored and some suffering the effects of time.
There are two cemeteries in Chloride which can be viewed. The 200 year-old oak "Hangin'
Tree" tree still stands in the middle of Wall Street.
Though officially a "ghost town,” the town is occupied by about 20
residents, many of whom are decedents of the original founders.
Though all of the buildings in this historic
town our quite interesting the Pioneer Store Museum is the highlight of
the visit. The museum, situated in the original 1880 log building,
features original store fixtures, pre-1900 merchandise, photographs, town
documents and numerous artifacts from early mining activities. The Pioneer
Store was built by a Canadian by the name of James Dalglish, who operated
the store until 1897. Afterward he leased it to individuals who continued
store operations until 1908. At that time, it was sold to the U.S.
Treasury Mining Company, who utilized it as a commissary for their
In 1923, the owners closed the store, boarding
up the windows and doors, and left all the furnishings and merchandise
inside. For almost seven decades the store remained untouched, as bats and
rats made their home of it. Finally, the building was sold in 1989, but it
would take many years before it was fully refurbished to the state it is
today. The Pioneer Store as well as the adjacent Monte Cristo Saloon are
listed on the
State Register of Cultural Properties.
also provides Walking Tour brochures, a rest area, and RV Park for
To get to Chloride from
Truth or Consequences, travel north
on I-25 to Exit 83, then left on NM-181, left again on NM-52 and follow
signs to Winston. Turn left in Winston at Chloride Road and travel
southwest to Chloride.
of America, updated July, 2017.
Chloride and the Pioneer Store Museum
HC 30, Box 134
This structure was built by Austin Crawford in
1921. An original inhabitant of Chloride
since 1880, this was actually the second stone house that Crawford
built, this one to protect its inhabitants from large hailstones which
Crawford believed would one day rain down in a display of God's wrath.
David Alexander, February, 2008. This image available for
photographic prints and downloads
The Grafton Cabin, a two-story log building, and was originally built in a
mining camp called Grafton, situated about ten miles northwest of
Winston. Kathy Weiser, February, 2008. This image available for
photographic prints and downloads
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