On the Road in New Mexico

The Ghost Town of Hillsboro, New Mexico

Today we are going to explore a New Mexico Ghost Town. Hillsboro was a prominent part of the mining boom that occured along the Black Range Mountains. Today the Black Range is part of the Gila National Forest which encompasses over 3 million acres of public lands. The Black Range is also called the Devil’s Mountains or Sierra Diablo.

This crumbling old adobe home is located in the ghost town of Hillsboro, New Mexico. This was from the “Spanish” section of town. The Anglos preferred to be in their own part of town. These old ruins still show the adobe bricks and mud. Close up you can see the straw poking out of the brick. 

I was informed by a neighbor across the street, Hillsboro isn’t completely abandoned, that the above picture is a trough for separating gold. I thought it was a watering trough for livestock, but he explained to me that the bar sticking up in the middle was a guide for a large mill stone that would roll around the trough crushing the ore to powder. The Hispanics would then separate the gold from the crushed ore. This milling method was something that was specific to the Spanish culture. 

This picture is a close-up of a vent. This vent would have run under the floor to keep the house dry. The long nails run through it was to keep varmints out which this desert region is full of. Old time solution to a timeless problem.

The ghost town of Hillsboro is technically still occupied with about 80 residents still living there. It was founded in 1877. A gold strike produced two profitable mines called the Opportunity and Ready Pay mines. It was the first county seat of Sierra County and had about 1200 people at its peak. The mines were said to have produced over $6 million in gold and silver. When the mines petered out the county seat was moved to Hot Springs eventually named Truth or Consequences.

Remnants of days gone by can be seen down every street in Hillsboro. There are still a few remaining businesses such as a small cafe, a bed and breakfast, a winery and a local museum.

Our Lady of Guadalupe church is still an active church with a congregation of current residents as well as ranchers from the countryside..

This is one of the other fascinating ruins at Hillsboro. It is the old jail house. It was fairly large for back then. Some of those miners were apparently out of hand frequently. In 1899 the jail held three men that were tried for the murder of Territorial Judge Albert J. Fountain and his son. Fountain once defended Billy the Kid for murder and lost the case. The Fountain murder is shrouded in mystery as the bodies of he and his son were never found and suspected of hiring the murderers was Oliver Lee and Albert Fall two of the largest ranchers in New Mexico at the time. The famous Pat Garrett was even suspected of being involved. Fountain was on his way to testify against the two ranchers when he and his son was murdered. The suspects got off with lack of evidence.

This is a B&W I did of one of the ruins that sets next to the jail in Hillsboro, NM. I’m not even sure what this was but I thought it looked cool. Hillsboro can be found on New Mexico 152 southwest of Truth or Consequences approximately 32 miles.

All Writing and Photography by Mikel B. Classen. Copyright 2020 by Mikel B. Classen

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