Lake Valley – Silver Mining Heydays

Though the “original” Sierra Grande Company was out of business, other mines continued to be worked in the area and in 1884, the Santa Fe Railroad built a spur line to Lake Valley. The Sierra Grande Company was taken over my new management and their mines were also reopened. However, the rich heydays for Lake Valley were over. Although mining operations continued until 1893 when the gold standard was implemented, silver prices plummeted, and the mines closed again. The region had produced more than five million dollars in silver over the years, but none of the mines were wildly profitable due to the high equipment and labor expenses required. The mining companies then leased the claims to individuals who continued to work them on a small scale over the next several years. To make matters worse, most of Lake Valley’s Main Street burned down in 1895 and was never rebuilt.

Lake Valley, 2007

Lake Valley, New Mexico 2007, courtesy Patsy King.

By 1900, the population of Lake Valley had declined to less than 200 people, but remained as a supply center for local ranchers and the few remaining miners. That same year, a man named Lucius Fisher won the vast majority of the mining property in a poker game in Denver, Colorado. Fisher tried to start large scale mining operations again, but gave up the effort within a few years. The depression caused a further decline of the town and when the railroad spur was closed in the 1930s, it was reduced once again. During World War II, some mines were reopened to produce manganese, but this was also short-lived and by the 1950s there were only about 20 people left in the dying settlement. The post office closed its doors forever in 1955. The last resident of the town moved out in 1994, leaving Lake Valley a true ghost town.

Today, most of the property is owned by the Bureau of Land Management and is situated along the Lake Valley Scenic Byway. Preservation has been made to the old site, which continues to display a number of buildings. The site is maintained by local caretakers and is open Thursdays through Mondays. Self-guided tours are available starting at the old schoolhouse. A few properties, located beyond a fence, are private and cannot be visited. There is also the nearby Lake Valley Cemetery which can also be toured.

Lake Valley is located situated on New Mexico State Highway 27, about 15 miles south of Hillsboro, New Mexico.

 

Lake Valley - Bella Hotel - Martinez house

The last residents of Lake Valley were Pedro and Savina Martinez who resided in what was once the old Bella Hotel. Mr. Martinez lived in Lake Valley for 90 years before he finally moved to Deming, New Mexico in 1994. Photo courtesy courtesy Kathy and Bruce Salsbury, site caretakers in 2008.

Contact Information:

Bureau of Land Management
Las Cruces District Office
1800 Marquess Street
Las Cruces, New Mexico 88005
575-525-5400

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

 

Also See:

Mining in the American West

New Mexico (main page)

Ghost Towns of New Mexico

Albert Jennings Fountain – Missing in the Desert

New Mexico Photo Print Galleries

Lake Valley Judge Keils Office

This building was once occupied by Lake Valley Justice of the Peace, Judge Keil, who provided over the coroner’s jury for yet another Old West Feud known as the Lake Valley War. The “war” occurred in 1921 over a water well, culminating in a shoot out that took the lives of several cowboys. Photo courtesy courtesy Kathy and Bruce Salsbury, site caretakers in 2008.

Lake Valley Kinny house

The Kinny home in Lake Valley, New Mexico. Photo courtesy courtesy Kathy and Bruce Salsbury, site caretakers in 2008.