Chloride – Ghost Town – Sierra County – New Mexico

Those of you that know me, know I love a good ghost town. This is one of the best I’ve seen. In 1880, Silver was discovered in the north of the Black Range Mountains. The ore was discovered by a Brit by the name of Henry Pye. A few months after he filed his claim, he was killed by Apaches. but Pye’s discovery had gotten out. The town of Chloride was born and eventually swelled to nearly 3000 people.

Heny Pye’s cabin is pictured above. There were 12 producing mines and nearly 500 holes that had been dug by prospectors throughout the surrounding hills.

Chloride had 9 saloons, 3 general stores, restaurants, butcher shops, candy store, lawyers, doctors, Chinese laundry, 2 hotels, livery stable, smelter and sawmills.

Chloride began as a tent city. Hard Rock miners came from all around to try their hand at finding a motherlode in the mountains and canyons to the west of the town. The town grew as fast as it could be built.

Much of the town still remains and the words “Ghost Town can be applied loosely here. There are still a few hardy souls living here. They take care of the town and recognize it for the historical treasure that it is. A few locals keep it open for those of us that like to visit these kinds of places. There is no shortage of visitors to Chloride.

Main street in Chloride goes through the one tree that makes up the Chloride National Forest. It’s a 200 year old oak that was there when the town began. I believe this tree was Chloride’s “Hangin’ Tree.” Though I haven’t found out how many men met their end here. For it to be named as it is, there had to be a few.

There is a museum at Chloride which is kept open most of the time. It is run by volunteers and is inside one of the old General Stores. The Pioneer Museum is housed in one of the original 1880 buildings and the interior is full of era correct artifacts. The building was originally built by a James Dagliesh who had the old timbers logged out of the nearby mountains. Eventually it became the local post office, pharmacy, and the local newspaper, The Black Range, was printed in the top floor beginning in 1882. Eventually, when the town becan to die, so did the store.

When the store finally closed up for the last time, the owners boarded it up and covered it with metal roofing leaving the inside just as it was in 1923. They left everything including all of the stock, newspaper equipment, postal records, town records, original records of some of the early businesses, and even some of old copies of “The Black Range” newspaper. The building was sold in 1989 and after 4 years of restoration and cleaning, bats and rats had been living quite happily inside, the old store was turned into the Pioneer Museum. The items inside were a treasure trove. The end result is a great step back into time. I was also able to pick up a great map of New Mexico ghost towns for 10 bucks.

One of the things I really like about Chloride, is that the look and feel of the old silver mining town is still here. When the silver panic struck in 1893, Chloride began to die. The miners and settlers basically packed up and left everything as it was. A few stayed for a few years hoping that silver would recover but it never did enough to make it as profitible as it once was. An entire town was left behind. The dozen people that still live here, keep the town going for ghost town buffs and visitors. There is a small picnic and rest area in the heart of town next to the museum, visitation is encouraged. I recommend it.

The drive to Chloride is well worth it. Located between Socorro and Truth or Consequences just off New Mexico 52. The road goes through Cuchillo and Winston which are both ghost towns as well and worth checking out. A sign at Winston points left and Chloride is two miles down the road.

I don’t know why ghost towns hold such a fascination for me, but when I go to places like Chloride where people are working hard to preserve a quickly vanishing past, I always get a sense of wonderment and my imagination shifts into overtime. I can picture the town of old, people filling the streets in their search for riches and prosperity. I can almost hear the racket from the saloons and smell the manure and mud that made up the streets. I have to admit the horses in a nearby corral didn’t hurt that effect. It was a different world then, though seemingly romantic, it was also hardship and often, death. The Apaches didn’t want settlers digging up their land and they retaliated. The mud and the manure created typhiod and scarlet fever. Tuberculosis was rampant. It was a harsh life. Only the hardy made it. Looking around Chloride, it is easy to see.

Writing and photography by Mikel B. Classen. Copyright by Mikel B. Classen 2020.

For more information on Mikel B. Classen, his writing or his photography, visit his website at www.mikelclassen.com

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