Area History

Miners and Outlaws

It took the fever caused by shiny metal to wrest this land from the Apaches in the 1800’s. Gold, silver and copper were discovered, and plenty, in these hills, creating many a millionaire before the best ore was finally played out. Ghost towns like Kingston, Hillsboro, Lake Valley, Tyrone, Pinos Altos, Shakespeare, Mogollon, Winston and Chloride all knew the glory days of the rich strikes. The recession of 1893, followed by the demonetization of silver, caused most boom towns to bust by the turn of the century. Artifacts from pioneer days can be seen in museums in Kingston, Hillsboro, and Silver City.

Along with miners came merchants, madames, gamblers and gangs. Billy the Kid grew up in Silver City. As a wild young man he rode far and wide over this country. Later, as an outlaw, he escaped and hid in his old forest haunts.

The Apaches

The Apache were peaceful hunter/gatherers when encountered in 1541 by Coronado’s first expedition. Their territory included southern New Mexico, western Arizona and northern Mexico.

Acquiring horses from the Spanish, they used them to defend their home against encroaching settlements.

Taught to blend into the landscape and endure hardship, small bands of braves outfought and outfoxed the regimented cavalry. Finally outnumbered, they retreated to their strongholds in the Black Range.

Broken promises, uneasy truces, and bloody battles describe the ultimate defeat of the proud Apaches who would not tolerate reservation life. When Geronimo and Naiche finally surrendered in 1886, the last of their tribe was imprisoned and relocated to Florida.

The Geronimo Springs Museum in Truth or Consequences contains Apache artifacts, plus a collection of Mogollon (Mimbres) Indian pottery.

The Mogollon Indians

A prehistoric culture, the Mogollon lived in small pueblos throughout the Gila region, and east to the Rio Grande. Contemporaries of the Anasazi of northern New Mexico, they flourished from before the time of Christ for over 1000 years.

The Gila Cliff Dwellings is the best preserved of the hundreds of these town sites across the region. South-facing caves were enhanced by stone walls, quarried locally, housing generations of Indians. Diligent farmers of corn, beans and squash, they were excellent weavers and skilled potters. The Mogollon Indians left the area about 1300 AD, with contemporary theories of drought or inter-tribal warring suggested as possible reasons.

The Mimbres people were a subset of the broader Mogollon culture. Existing primarily between 825AD and 1150AD, the Mimbres Classic period is well know for its black-on-white pottery with geometric and photographic designs, which surpasses other prehistoric pottery in beauty and vitality. A Mimbres settlement was discovered about an hours drive from Kingston and visitors to the area are welcome to learn more about these fascinating people at the Mimbres Cultural Heritage Site, which is open daily from 11AM – 4PM. You can also learn more about Mimbres pottery through the Smithsonian.

You can also see fine collections of their pottery at museums in Silver City and Truth or Consequences.

 

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