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Golden - Has Seen Better Days

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Golden, New Mexico was inhabited by Native Americans and Spaniards long before American settlers came to the area. However, it began to boom when gold was discovered in 1825.


Years before the California and Colorado gold rushes, the site of Golden became the first gold rush west of the Mississippi River. Placer gold was first discovered on Tuerto Creek on the southwest side of the Ortiz Mountains and in the late 1820s two small mining camps developed as a result of the mineral finds -- El Real de San Francisco and Placer del Tuerto.


The area remained quiet for decades until several large companies began to put money into the mines, bringing in numerous workers, and followed by many individual prospectors. It was shortly after these mining camps were formed that the San Francisco Catholic Church was built around 1830.


Just south of Tuerto, a new town called Golden was being formed, which soon absorbed both El Real de San Francisco and Placer del Tuerto. Officially formed in 1879, Golden was selected as the center of the new gold-mining district and soon grew to support several saloons, businesses, a school, and even a stock exchange. In 1880, the post office was opened.


San Francisco Church in Golden, New Mexico

The 1830's San Francisco Church in Golden is one of the most photographed sites along the Turquoise Trail. Kathy Weiser, June, 2006.

This image available for photographic prints HERE!




However, the expectations of Golden's miners were soon deflated, as by 1884 the gold was already beginning to dwindle and people began to leave the area. But, mining continued on a small scale until about 1892, and ranching continued to be a mainstay of the economy. In 1918 the Golden General Merchandise Store was opened by Ernest Ricon. In the 1960's a man named Henderson married Ricon's daughter and they took over the store. It is the only business in town that continues to operate today (or at least upon our last visit in 2006) and is referred to by the locals as the Henderson General Store.


By 1928, the population was so reduced that the post office closed and Golden officially became a ghost town. For years afterwards, its many abandoned buildings remained, tumbling down between its few remaining occupied structures. During this time, vandalism also took its toll on the town and its remaining structures, but a few crumbling ruins still provide excellent photo opportunities. Golden's most photographed building is the San Francisco Catholic Church, which was restored by historian and author, Fray Angelico Chavez, in 1960 while he was the padre of the St. Joseph Church in Los Cerrillos. Across the highway, west of the church are the ruins of another large structure, as well as mining remnants.


Golden has seen a small rebirth as new residents have moved into the area, building new homes and restoring others, but still it remains a sleepy village with vivid reminders of its more robust past.


Nearby Golden, are the traceable ruins of a pueblo called Paa-Ko that dates back to about 1300 A.D. Abandoned around 1670, there is little to be seen today. The site was commissioned as a New Mexico State Monument in 1938 but was decommissioned in 1959. Located just north of the Crest turnoff, little remains can be seen at the site that is now utilized for archeology digs by universities and researchers.


Golden is located along the Turquoise Trail Scenic Byway, Golden is about ten miles north of the Sandia Park Junction on NM 14.



Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated July, 2017.


Golden New Mexico General Store

Golden's General Merchandise store dates back to 1918 and is still open today. Kathy Weiser, June, 2006. This image available for photographic prints HERE!




Also See:

The Turquoise Trail Scenic Byway

Madrid, New Mexico - A Ghost Town Reborn

Los Cerrillos, New Mexico - Two Thousand Years of History


Turquoise Trail Slide Show:



All images available for photo prints & downloads HERE.


From Legends' General Store

Ghost Towns: America's Lost World DVDKathy Weiser-AlexanderGhost Towns (America's Lost World) 2 Disc DVD


Unearth America's Lost World! This 5-Part series ventures into the roots of our nations high hopes and hard labors to discover the towns that boomed fast and went bust even faster. Through original footage, interviews with experts and archival materials, this fascinating documentary takes viewers on an amazing journey through our abandoned history. From the deserts of California and mountains of Colorado to the forts, trails and battle sites of war, witness the precious remains of the past that only exist today as shadows of former glories and empty promises.

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