Looking down on Albuquerque (Middle Rio Grande Valley)
Located on the western side of the Sandia Mountains and nestled in the Middle Rio Grande Valley, Albuquerque, New Mexico was settled by the Spaniards in 1632. After the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, this valley remained under the control of the Pueblo Indians until 1693 when the Spanish crown reconquered it.
The resettlement of new farms and ranches and the founding of the Villa de San Francisco de Alburquerque (note the first "r" - later dropped) in 1706 led to numerous inquiries by Spain as to the official designation of Alburquerque as a "villa". It was agreed and this villa became the administrative center in the Rio Abajo.
El Real de San Francisco and Tuerto were two towns that developed in the 1840s as a result of placer gold deposits discovered in the San Pedro Mountains.
By the 1880s the individual prospectors and small-time operators had given way to larger companies with financial and political clout.
By this time Tuerto had been outdistanced by its southern neighbor, which had been renamed Golden. The gold boom was over by the mid-1880s, but ranching continued in the area. The post office closed in 1928.
Golden's most photographed building is the San Francisco Catholic Church, an attractive adobe building dating from about 1830. Historian and author Fray Angelico Chavez restored it in 1960. West of the church, across the highway and down in a draw, is the ruin of the stone schoolhouse.
Catholic Church in Madrid (now a private residence)
Coal, almost thirty square miles of it, first brought people to the Madrid area as early as 1835. Now it is the ghostly remains of Madrid that draw the people - rows of wooden company houses, the miners' amusement hall, the old Catholic church, and the coal mining museum. But Madrid today seems to be a town divided against itself.
One faction advertises rock concerts seeks tourists through brochures about the Turquoise Trail, and touts businesses with addresses on Ghost Town Plaza. The other element resents tourists drawn to the area, displaying a sign proclaiming "This is not a ghost town!". As a result, a visit to one of New Mexico's very best ghost towns is frustrating because residents seem alternately welcoming and surly. The most devastating destruction in recent years was not carried out by tourists but rather by the commercial interests that tore down, in the spring of 1980, the magnificent old breaker building that used to rise like a rickety hulk above the town's other structures.
Madrid (local pronunciation accents it on the first syllable) was founded about 1869, but it wasn't until the Santa Fe railroad brought a spur to the town in the 1880s that coal mining began on a large scale. Bituminous and anthracite coal were found in adjoining seams in the mines; in one case soft coal was extracted from one side of a tunnel while hard coal was taken from the other. One shaft went to a depth of almost three thousand feet.
The Albuquerque and Cerrillos Coal Company provided for the four thousand people who once lived in Madrid by offering housing at two dollars per. The company also brought in 120,000 to 160,000 gallons of water per day from Waldo in tank cars, offered complete medical care for three dollars per month. Perhaps the ultimate service the company provided was during Prohibition when it furnished premises for distilling illegal liquor.
At first, electricity was a luxury limited to a single bulb per house, but by the 1920s, unlimited electricity was available. The peak year of coal production was 1928, when over 180,000 tons were shipped. But as natural gas began to heat homes and diesel fuel powered locomotives, the demand for coal fell. In 1954 the town was put up for sale for a quarter of a million dollars, but there were no takers. Small craft shops opened along the highway, and many of the company houses were renovated. But water still remained a problem since none is brought in from Waldo by rail as it was in the past. A small well pumps a mere five gallons per minute to help serve the needs of the families.
Tourists will continue to come to Madrid despite the warning that "it is not a ghost town. The mines are closed, many large buildings are empty, and the population is a mere whisper of what it once was. Most people do not come to these towns with a macabre curiosity to watch the dead; they come with a genuine appreciation for what is left and an honest desire to connect with what once was.
Los Cerrillos (the Little Hills) has been blessed with abundant minerals.
It is near the site of what may have been the first mining done by western man, an open-pit turquoise effort dating from at least A.D. 500.
Spaniards in the area later forced Indians to work the Mina del Tiro (Mine of the Shaft) for silver prior to the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.
The first gold mining west of the Mississippi began in the nearby Ortiz Mountains in the 1820s at El Real de Dolores, also called Old Placers.
So the area around Los Cerrillos, shortened by Anglos to Cerrillos, has had deposits of turquoise, silver, gold, and coal (at nearby Madrid) in abundance. The only element lacking has been water, a commodity essential for mining on any kind of scale. The modem era of Cerrillos began in 1879, when two miners from Leadville, Colorado, found deposits of gold in the area. Shortly afterwards, the Santa Fe Railroad came through, and a post office opened in 1880.
The gold fever led to discoveries of silver, copper, lead, and zinc, as well as about a million dollars' worth of turquoise. The peak of mining activity of the precious metals was over by about 1880, but by then coal was taking over as the mainstay of the economy in the area.
Cerrillos contains several attractive false-front structures, a delightful church, and many adobe buildings on back streets. It also features some of the friendliest, most community-minded people in New Mexico. Cerrillos seems to have several centers for congregating - including the Catholic church, a bar, and the Turquoise Trail Volunteer Fire Department. But the genuine center seems to be the Simoni Store, housed in the large hotel building that is the showplace of the town.
A visual tour of the Turquoise trail ... from north (Cerrillos) to south (Golden).
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