All the locals at the Caballo (CAH-BY-OH) Lake Airstream Rally told us we had to go to Hatch, NM, the Chile Pepper Capital of The World. So one day the Warrens piled into Michael’s and Denise’s Volvo and we all drove away to investigate this “must see” attraction. We took a circuitous route from Caballo driving west on 152 to Hillsboro then south on route 27 towards Hatch. By the way, Hillsboro was the site of the Oliver Lee trial in 1896. Lee was accused of killing Judge Albert Jennings Fountain and his 8-year-old son Henry.
Ok, now back to our road trip to Hatch. Along Route 27 Michael, our chauffeur, saw a sign for Lake Valley and turned onto the dirt road. I’m glad he did!
I don’t know why I’m so fascinated with ghost towns. I picked up a book written in 1968 called Haunted Highways: The Ghost Towns of New Mexico by Ralph Looney. The ghost towns in the book have, of course, deteriorated in the last 50 years since the book was written but the individual town histories are still accurate. The book is hard to put down. Some of the history I’m writing about here came from that book.
Lake Valley was named for a long ago dried up lake and is now run by the Bureau Of Land Management. Lake Valley sprang up in the late 1800’s when silver was discovered in the area by a native Mainer, George Lufkin. A silver mine called the Bridal Chamber was eventually started. It’s a long story but Lufkin, who is buried in the cemetery at Lake Valley, missed the mother load by 10 feet!
The original mine collapsed. The one you can see today was dug during WWI and WWII for magnesium.
I have read that the silver discovered in the Bridal Chamber mine was so pure that a candle would melt the silver chloride off of the ceiling. Amazing!!
Peak population was around 1000 residents in 1883. Blanche Nowlin was the last resident. She died in 1983. The picture above is the remains of her house. Her name is still on the screen door.
Here are some random photo’s taken by Sue and me.
About the picture above with the eight locks on the gate to the abandoned mine, the locks were arranged so that any one of them would unlocked the gate. I can only imagine that this allowed eight different keys to gain access. Interesting.
Apparently Lake Valley was a vicious place to live. In 1882 the town hired Marshall Jim McIntire at a rate of $300 per month. That’s pretty good pay for 1882! He probably earned it though.
For further reading on Lake Valley Ghost Town one should peruse the City Of Dust Blog. Very well written and an interesting story.
We had other adventures while we were camped in the area. Those deserve blog posts all to themselves!
Click on the picture below for more pictures of Lake Valley Ghost Town.