Found in the Little Hatchet Mountains of New Mexico, at the entrance to the bootheel of southwestern New Mexico, the original town of Hachita was settled around 1875 as a mining camp. The mountains supplied the camp with more than just silver and copper, it would also supply its name, which is Spanish for “little hatchet”.
Becoming part of the Eureka mining district, in addition to silver and copper they also mined turquoise and lead here. Later, gold was also found in the district.
Early on, miners at Hachita found a number of pre-historic workings in and around the camp, including fragments of ancient pottery, crude stone hammers and other implements in old dumps and pits. Elated at their discovery, they named the mining district “Eureka”. The ancient workings found were made in previous mining of turquoise by ancient Native Americans.
During these early years, life at the settlement was harsh. Not only were residents dealing with the heat of the desert, but also the constant threat of attacks by Apache. However, it didn’t prevent them from creating several productive operations, including the Hornet, the King, and American mines.
A post office was established in 1882 and the town officially registered its name as Hachita. By 1884 Hachita had 300 residents, boasted steam smelting works, several mining company operations, a couple of general stores and three saloons. However its success would be short-lived as the ore played out, and by 1890 the population dropped to around 25. The post office held on a few more years before being shuttered in 1898.
In 1902, when tracks were laid for the El Paso and Southwestern Railroad nine miles east of Hachita, another competing settlement sprang up, drawing away from the original town and dividing residents between “Old Hachita” and the new Hachita. A post office was established that same year and quickly the new community grew with the addition of saloons, stores, and a hotel. The El Paso and Southwestern Rail line was one of two that met in Hachita, the other being the Lordsburg & Hachita Railroad. Old Hachita would continue to have mining operations until the 1920’s but became a complete ghost town after silver prices dropped.
During the Mexican Revolution in the early 1900’s, Mexico President Francisco Madero put pressure on Mormon communities in Northern Mexico, and in August of 1912, about 800 residents of Colonia Diaz, some 80 miles south, fled the country and wound up in Hachita. Although most of the refugees relocated with the help of the U.S. Government, and handful stayed becoming permanent residents.
The new Hachita served as a base for forces during the “Punitive Expedition”, organized in retaliation of Pancho Villa’s raid on Columbus, New Mexico in 1916. General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing led two columns that included infantry, cavalry, field artillery and signal detachments from both Columbus and Hachita, in their hunt in northern Mexico for Pancho Villa and his men. The U.S. established Camp Shannon at Hashita that housed over 400 troops. The town benefited from the additional revenue from the military until the camp was closed in 1922.
In 1917 Hachita gained an outlaw when William E. Walters, also known as Bill Anderson, Billy Brown and Bronco Bill, moved here after getting an early release from prison. Walters, a cowboy, and later bandit, at one time riding with the Black Jack Ketchum Gang, had been convicted of train robbery and sentenced to life, but for some reason was let out early. After moving to Hachita, Walters worked as a wrangler for the Diamond A Cattle Company. He died after falling from a windmill tower he was working on.
At its peak in 1920, Hachita had over 750 residents. In 1934, the Lordsburg and Hachita Railroad stopped service, dealing a blow to the community. Although there was a slight resurgence during World War II as precious metal prices rose, improvements to highways after the war drastically reduced rail freight and passenger service. The El Paso and Southwestern Railroad continued, though smaller in operation until the last train passed through town in 1961. By 1970 Hachita only had around 30 residents.
Today Hachita is still home to less than 50 residents. At the original settlement of ‘Old Hachita’ you can still find an old head frame, crumbling adobe buildings and more. Though the new Hachita shows some life, it too has begun to crumble in the New Mexico desert.
Primarily a ranching community, Hachita is located on New Mexico Highway 9, about 44 miles west of Columbus. Old Hachita ruins can be found 9 miles further west, south on an unpaved, unnamed road off highway 9. The website Ghosts of the Southline has a Google Map for reference.
© Dave Alexander, Legends of America. March 2018.
Historical Marker at Hachita
New Mexico (main page)
Southwest New Mexico Photo Gallery (includes more images of Hachita)