Chloride, NM has all the main parts of a western novel: silver strike, population boom, Apache raids, salvation by the militia, cattle versus sheep, tar and feathering, even bear attacks.
In 1879, an Englishman named Harry Pye was delivering freight for the U.S. Army from Hillsboro to Camp Ojo Caliente when he came upon silver in the canyon now home to Chloride. He came back in 1881 with two others to stake a claim and started a tent city in the area.
People flooded the area during the 1880s: 100 homes, a couple thousand people, nine saloons, three general stores, restaurants, butcher shops, a candy store, a lawyer's office, a doctor, boarding houses, a Chinese laundry, a red-light district and a hotel. While the silver rush – and the city itself – boomed for a few years, things started to slow down in 1893 when the country shifted from silver to gold. Local mines continued producing ore (mainly copper, lead and zinc) until the early 1930s, and the post office remained open until 1956.
Today, Chloride is home to just a handful of residents (10-20, reports say). The Pioneer Store, built in 1880, was closed in 1923 with all the furnishings and merchandise left intact. It has been refurbished and is open to the public as the Pioneer Store Museum. The museum and other restored buildings are open daily. Recently found records show that the ‘good folk’ did not like the rowdy elements in Chloride, so they settled a new town, Winston, about two and a half miles away.
Winston, NM was settled in 1881 by miners who found the nearby town of Chloride too rowdy. Originally called Fairview, the town had a school, bars, a newspaper, horse races, and featured plays and songfests at Cloudman Hall. Within three years, the town’s population grew to around 3,100.
In 1882, a miner, businessman and future state legislator named Frank H. Winston moved to the town. He owned several businesses (including the Frank Winston Carriage House) and generously gave credit to customers in hard times. Upon his death in 1929, the town was renamed in his honor.
Winston thrived until the silver panic of 1893. Today, only a few families remain. Frank Winston’s home and the Carriage House still stand, along with the 1890 schoolhouse, the old post office and other historic buildings. The Winston General Store is open daily and sells fuel, basic groceries and more.
Hillsboro was founded in April 1877, when two prospectors discovered gold deposits on the east side of the Black Range Mountains. The prospectors staked out two local mines, and a tent city quickly boomed with over 300 miners, storeowners, women and children. Hillsboro and two other booms towns, Kingston and Lake Valley, make up the Black Range Mining District.
From 1877 to about 1939, Hillsboro was the center of an area straight out of a Hollywood western – with everything from gold strikes to Apache wars.
Today, Hillsboro is known for its apples, not its gold. The now-quiet town is home to a mix of old families, writers, artists and retirees. Some stops still remain for tourists, like quaint gift shops, restaurants, the Black Range Museum and the remains of the Sierra County Courthouse.
Also part of the Black Range Mining District, Kingston first started as a silver mining camp called Percha City in August 1882. By the end of that year, the town had a population of nearly 2,000 – made up mostly of miners and prospectors.
Within a year or two of settling, the railroad came to the area – and with a reputation of lawlessness. By 1883, Kingston was a hot spot for robbers and organized cattle thief gangs. The town also boasted 22 saloons, 14 grocery and general stores, gambling halls, a brewery, three newspapers, restaurants, hotels, a brothel and a theater.
As the town grew, it settled into a more peaceful existence despite several unsuccessful Indian raids. Kingston declined when silver prices dropped and deposits ran out; the post office closed in 1957.
Today, Kington has about 30 residents, many of them part of the strong ranching community. A historic hotel, bank, fire station and other old buildings still stand in the area, and the town offers a bed & breakfast, gallery, shops and more.
Lake Valley (also part of the Black Range Mining District) was founded in August 1878 with a discovery of silver. The town moved twice before settling at its present site in 1882.
In its prime, Lake Valley grew to about 4,000 residents, with 12 saloons, three churches, two newspapers, a school, stores, hotels, stamp mills and smelters. The popularity was short-lived, however: The silver panic of 1893 caused the town to lose nearly all its population, then a fire destroyed the main street in 1895. The post office closed in 1954 and the last residents left in 1994.
Today, the town has a dedicated caretaker and a walking tour – but no residents. A chapel and some old homes and railroad buildings still stand; some reports claim the 1904 schoolhouse is open to the public, while others say no buildings are available for public tours.