Las Vegas, New Mexico – As Wicked as Dodge City

The Las Vegas Optic reported about the incident:

“It [his finger] is well-preserved in alcohol and has been viewed by many in our office today. If the rush continues we shall purchase a small tent and open a side show to which complimentary tickets will be issued to our personal friends.”

Lawlessness continued in Las Vegas, though it was just not so apparent to the town’s citizens. Distracted by the earlier times of shoot-outs in the streets, they didn’t notice a marked increase in cattle rustling.  By the late 1880’s entire herds were disappearing.  Secretly led by a man named by Vicente Silva, a respected saloon owner of the Imperial Saloon, the group was called the Silva’s White Caps, or Forty Bandits; or sometimes, the Society of Bandits. Often meeting in Silva’s saloon, the gang held the area in a virtual stranglehold until October, 1892. At this time the Las Vegas citizens hanged a fellow gang member named Pat Maes. Soon thereafter the bandit group gradually disintegrated. Silva was eventually murdered by former members of his gang and was buried at Camp de lost Cadillos on May 19, 1895.

Las Vegas Plaza

Las Vegas Plaza

Finally, the town began to settle down and in 1898, Las Vegas provided 21 Rough Riders to Teddy Roosevelt, most of whom were at his side during the famed charge up San Juan Hill. The town hosted the first Rough Riders reunion–attended by the soon-to-be-president himself.

Today, this historic town of some 15,000 souls is one of New Mexico’s lesser-known tourist destinations that provides an extremely rich history with much to see and do. Over 900 buildings in Las Vegas are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. With the old Spanish colonists and the European immigrants, the city provides a myriad of architectural treasures that give Las Vegas its special charm.

While in Las Vegas, be sure to visit the Las Vegas City Museum and Rough Riders Memorial, as well as several picturesque historic districts including the Bridge Street and Plaza areas, where there is a designated Santa Fe Trail site. The La Castenada Hotel is a “must see” landmark of Las Vegas’ post-Santa Fe Trail era.  The 1898 building, once housing one of the famous Harvey House Hotels, faces the railroad tracks in the 500 block of Railroad Avenue.  Continuing to display its graceful facade and arched walkways, the old hotel was the site of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders Reunion in 1899. After sitting vacant and abandoned for years, the hotel was purchased in 2014 by Allan Affeldt with plans to renovate the historic property. Affeldt and his wife helped restore the La Posada hotel in Winslow, Arizona back in the 1990’s.

Across the street looms the Rawlins building, which was once the residence for the Harvey Girls who staffed the hotel’s dining room.   Interested travelers should first stop at the Chamber of Commerce to pick up free maps and pamphlets that detail six separate walking tours. Modern Las Vegas also offers traditional arts and crafts in shops and galleries featuring everything from antiques to unique original furniture, paintings and art objects, clothing, weavings and jewelry. Surrounded by recreation and wilderness experiences, all within easy driving distance of Las Vegas, are the Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge and MacAlister Lake.

Fort Union National Monument is about 20 miles north of Las Vegas, providing a peek at the past through its historic fort buildings that attract thousands of people each year. Pecos National Monument, about 30 miles southwest of Las Vegas, is a monument museum that pays tribute to Native Americans who lived in the area in the 1500s.


They are as tough a bunch of bad men as ever gathered outside a penal institution.

– Miguel Otero, Territorial Governor, speaking about the men of Las Vegas, New Mexico


Las Vegas, New Mexico today, Kathy Weiser

Las Vegas, New Mexico today, Kathy Weiser

© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated April 2018

Also See:

Las Vegas/Pecos Photo Gallery

The Notorious Dodge City Gang

Santa Fe Trail

Outlaws, Gunfighters, Lawmen & More

New Mexico


5 thoughts on “Las Vegas, New Mexico – As Wicked as Dodge City”

  1. I love Las Vegas, NM and lived there 25 years but had to move because it is so shockingly corrupt. Otherwise, it’s darling, beautiful, quaint, quiet and just darling. People see this and move there, buy a house, realize in aprox. three years how corrupt it is and move away as fast as they can. I stayed a long time but no story has been told, no movie made, nothing could every describe the corruption except that it’s kind like on steroids or LSD or something but very underhanded, very quiet and sly and dangerous. I stayed so long because I thought I was imagining things. I never dreamed it could possibly be as bad a cute little town as it was. It just didn’t sink in until it did. Then I realized I was at a dead end, packed and drove sadly away because it loved it so much. It was like leaving someone with a horrible addiction who had become unsafe to be around but still loving them. Heartbreaking place.

    1. Thanks for your comment . New Mexico certainly has some beatifully scenic landscapes . I’m hopelessly in love with them too . But the political foundation resting on many of these beautiful nature sites is corrupt , sly , underhanded and powered by groupthink . It takes a little while to comprehend the truth about the local politics . But eventually you do and begin think of your stay there as just an interesting vacation.
      Stay New Mexico true .

  2. “Last Spanish colony in North America” ???

    The Las Vegas land grant was a Mexican land grant not “Spanish”. 431,653 acres were approved by the provincial deputation in Durango, Mexico in 1835 and doesn’t have anything to do with Spain. New Mexico had already been a part of the Republic of Mexico for 14 years when Las Vegas was founded by Mexican Settlers.

    There were several Spanish land grants in New Mexico during the colonial period and many towns were founded by Spain but this is not one of them. Many people are so quick to claim “Spanish” this and “Spanish” that, that they overlook the short but dynamic Mexican period in Nuevo México.

  3. Great NM history lesson I’m from northern NM, went to college there [ New Mexico Highlands], never knew of the rich history Las Vegas, NM has to offer ❤❤❤

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