Chloride, New Mexico

When you are in Elephant Butte or Truth or Consequences  New Mexico

you have to visit Chloride, a small piece of New Mexico history.

by
Don Edmond

 

Chloride, New Mexico, is located on the east slope of the Black Range Mountains, in the western part of Sierra County, and in the western part of New Mexico. We are located about 40 miles due west of the city of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. You would take NM Highway 52 west from Interstate I 25 to Winston. Then 2 and one half miles further west on an all weather dirt road. (recently paved)

Chloride got it's start in 1880, when rich silver 'chlorides' (ore) was discovered in the mountains and canyons of the Black Range Mountains immediately to the west of Chloride. The first silver find was within
the area claimed by Victorio, the Apache Indian Chief, and his band of Warm Springs Apaches, as their hunting grounds. Several of the early miners, including Harry Pye, the original discoverer of the silver, paid
with their lives for intruding on the Indian lands. As word of the rich silver find leaked out, prospectors and miners swarmed in, and by mid 1880, a tent city filled the entire canyon. By early 1881, several
substantial buildings had been constructed, including seven businesses and about twenty houses. The occupants petitioned the Territory of New Mexico Government for permission to start a city. Permission was granted, and Chloride City was born. Chloride was a typical 'boom' town, with eight saloons, but no churches. It grew to a population of about 3000 people. In 1896, Chloride died as fast as it had started,
when the price of silver dropped and the quantity, and quality, of the ores also dropped.

Chloride has been known for many years as a Ghost Town, however, it was never completely deserted. I have been told that the population dropped to four hardy souls in the 1940s. When we found this city in 1977, there were 13 people living here and the population has changed very little since then. Seven of the people here in 1977 were sons and daughters of the original builders of the town, and we were privileged to have some of them as neighbors and friends for almost 20 years. The last of those wonderful people died in 1996 at 99 years old! We listened to their stories about life in a raucous boom town, catching wild horses in the mountains, and rounding up cattle in open range country with no fences. They personally knew the man who killed a grizzly bear with just a knife when the bear attacked him. We heard the stories that their parents had told them of losing family members, and good friends, in the Indian fights, and of death in
the mines. They also told us about the buildings that are still standing, about who built them, what they were used for, and some of the incidents' that occurred in the saloons or dance halls.

Of the several hundred buildings that once stood here, there are about 30 still standing. Some of them are the typical old 'false fronts' that line the main street. My wife and I have been fortunate enough to be
able to purchase a number of them, and we are restoring as many as we can. We have placed several on the State of New Mexico list of Cultural Properties. One of the buildings we have is the old Pioneer Store
building. It was built in 1880, of huge ponderosa pine logs, which were harvested from the forest up on the  Continental Divide, west of Chloride. The builder, Mr. James Dalglish was a Canadian who came here
for health reasons. He operated the store until 1897. He leased it to others for several years, and in 1908, he sold it to the U.S. Treasury Mining Company. That Company used it as a commissary for their mining,
ranching,  and timber harvesting crews. In 1923, the owners closed the store, and boarded up the windows and doors, leaving all the furnishings and merchandise still inside. Perhaps they intended to reopen the store when the mines reopened. They never did, and we were able to purchase the building and contents in 1989. We have spent several years restoring the building and the furnishings, and cleaning almost 70 years of bat and rat droppings, and have opened it as the PIONEER STORE MUSEUM. On display, in addition to all the 1880s furnishings and merchandise, are many of the town records from 1880 until 1923 which had been stored in the building. Also on display are the tools used in prospecting, mining
and assaying the ore.

 We have a small RV Park adjacent to the Pioneer Store Museum, and we are in process of
restoring some of the old Miner's cabins into overnight cabins, but they are not ready for occupancy yet. The closest overnight facilities are 40 miles away in Truth or Consequences (TorC)

  Clubhouse | Chloride

 

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