Grant County, New Mexico
Grant is the extreme southwestern county of New Mexico, and has Socorro to the north, and Sierra and Luna counties to the east. In size it is only exceeded by Socorro and Chaves, having an area of 9,327 square miles, or 22 square miles larger than New Hampshire. It has a population of 12,883, i ts principal center being Silver City, with 3,000 people.
Creation of the County. The county of Grant was created by legislative enactment January 30, 1868, and Central City was named as the seat of government; but Pinos Altos was then the leading town, with a population of about six hundred people, was a busy silver mining center, had a number of good hotels and stores, substantial bridges gave access to the place, and it was in every way better adapted for the county seat. By an act approved January 8 of the following year Pinos Altos therefore became the official custodian of the county records, and provided such accommodations as it could for the sittings of the territorial courts.
Pinos Altos' Gay and Only Term of Court
S. M. Ashenfelter tells of this remarkable historic event, in the Silver City Independent of August 19, 1902: "In those days the Federal judges for the Territories were selected almost without exception from the decayed, or decaying, politicians of the east, and more than one of such appointees, after venturing into the country as far as the Mesilla valley and hearing of our Indian troubles in Grant County, took early return coach for home. The consequence was that for the years 1869 and 1870 this Third Judicial District was without courts, except for two brief terms held at Mesilla.
"But in 1871 a term of court was held at Pinos Altos, and that term was probably one of the 'loudest' ever held in the Rocky Mountain region. The incumbent on the bench was D. B. Johnson, then recently appointed from the east, and it was his first and only term. Partly to distinguish him from Old Blue Johnson, who presided in the Second district, and partly because of his character and the suggestive arrangement of his initials, our man was called 'Dead Beat Johnson.' Bill Reid and his Canuta were the moving spirits of that term and a Mexican band furnished the music. With one exception, bar and court were highly hilarious throughout the entire sitting.
"Judge Johnson evidently thought these Romans did things that way, and he must do likewise, if he would be popular, and equip himself to grasp the senatorial plum still so tempting to Federal judges who came from the states to administer the law in New Mexico. By day it was loud, and by night it was louder: and the vision of the court shorn of its judicial ermine and robed out in the scantiest of night attire, dancing the can-can to the twanging of the festive guitar, the wild shrieking of an un-tuned violin and the discordant gutturals of a base viol, while about him circled in the dance a crew of half drunken, shouting attorneys, gamblers and midnight sportsmen-that vision was one which will never fade from memory. And there live in Grant County a number of sedate citizens who participated in those revels, and in other equally striking incidents which marked the first and only term of court held in Pinas Altos. Judge Johnson left the country never to return, and the next legislature changed the county seat to Silver City."
Silver City has been the county seat of Grant County continuously since 1874, the first official records being dated from Pinos Altos June 5, 1868. As shown by them, the list of county officials has been as below:
1868: Probate Judge. John K. Houston; clerk, Alexander
Brand; treasurer, John A. Miller (appointed by Judge Houston, Aug. 10, 1868 to
succeed Hugh McBride, resigned: Sept. 9 appointment rescinded, as found to be
made in error).
Ralston and Shakespeare
The genesis of some of the earliest settlements in Grant county is traced to the Ralston mining camp of 1870, which comprised the present site of the town of Shakespeare and which was founded on the collapse of one of the greatest speculations in the history of the Southwest. In the late '60s a party of government surveyors were running their lines through southern Mexico, being engaged in laying out the proposed overland route, which was to follow the thirty-second parallel of latitude. W. D. Brown and a companion, who seemed to have held some irresponsible positions with the party, deserted the expedition and struck across country toward the old Santa Fe Trail. Brown secured some fine specimens of silver, and at or near the present town of Shakespeare discovered bold and extensive outcroppings of ore rocks. But as the Apaches were then on the warpath, he made all possible haste for San Francisco, loaded with specimens and accurate information as to the locality of the most promising surface indications.
Brown had his specimens assayed and the finest of these indicated 12.000 ounces of silver to the ton. He then attempted to interest capital and organize an expedition to develop his discovery, but as "a promoter" he seems to have been a failure, and left San Francisco in disgust. In the summer of 1869 the mining firm of Harpending & Company, of that city, of which President Ralston, of the Bank of California, was the leading spirit, decided to extend the scope of their investigations from Arizona into the district boomed by Brown. After extensively advertising for him. Brown was finally rediscovered and engaged as a guide, a man by the name of Arnold being the leader of the entire expedition.
The party reached the district in September, 1870, and, understanding from Ralston (who was in desperate financial straits) that a big mining company must be organized, Arnold and Brown gathered many choice silver specimens, made an accurate outline and descriptive plat of the principal ledges and spurs, together with a fair map of the country from the Burros to the Lower Gila, posted up a general claim to the entire district, and hastily returned to San Francisco, leaving behind a few of the expedition to protect the property. The press, the telegraphs and the mails of the country were soon flooded with advertisements and astounding stories of the riches of the new silver district, and Ralston's agents were sent to London, Paris and other European centers to interest foreign capital.
Harpending & Company at once organized and dispatched a second expedition, but before it reached Tucson (in February, 1870) the New Mexico Mining Company had been organized in London with a capital of £6,000,000 (£1,000,000 working capital), and £500,000 of stock had actually been sold at par in the world's metropolis. The prospectus of the new company set forth the building of a railroad to the Gila River (said to be twenty miles distant), and upon its completion the prompt erection of 300 stamps for the treatment of the ores.
Upon their arrival at Tucson, Harpending's second party learned that the men of the first expedition who had been left as a guard, with perhaps new arrivals, were rapidly taking the best claims in the district. The further history, the complications with the territorial laws, which had been ignored by the great New Mexico Mining Company, and the final collapse of what was little more substantial than a bubble, are included in the following graphic account from the pen of S. M. Ashenfelter, published in the Silver City Enterprise:
Although old Mexican residents claim that before the Mexican war their people had washed gold in Santa Domingo gulch, the practical mining results and the continuous history of Pinos Altos dates from the spring of 1860, when Messrs. Birch, Snively and Hicks discovered the precious metal at this point. The camp which sprung up around their claims was first called Birchville, and the name was afterward changed to Pino Alto and Pinos Altos.
By the fall of 1860 there were some seven hundred men in the settlement, but only a few remained during the Civil war period on account of the almost constant attacks of the Apaches and because the manhood of the country was needed in die east. In 1861 the Pinos Altos Hotel was conducted by Buhl & Gross, who advertised in the Mesilla Times that they would supply "bread and meals." Samuel G. and Roy Bean, on Main Street, were dealers in merchandise, liquors, and had "a fine billiard table." Colonel Thomas J. Mastin was "pushing ahead his work of grinding quartz and doing well, although constantly annoyed by Indians." It seems that two hundred quartz miners were wanted at Pinos Altos at from $1 to $2 per day with board.
The first murder in which white men were engaged occurred in the winter of 1860-61, William Dike shooting Dan Taylor in a dance hall and making good his escape; but, in view of the constant killing of white settlers by Apaches, it created comparatively little excitement. In the fall of the latter year the Indians made one of their fiercest onslaughts upon the camp, but were driven off with a loss of fifteen warriors and three miners killed and seven wounded. Colonel Thomas J. Mastin, the commander of the whites, was wounded and died of blood poisoning the seventh day after the fight. A party of twenty-five men went to Mesilla for a doctor, but before their return in five days the trouble had advanced too far to be checked. The deceased was very popular and a leader among the American miners in every way. The result was that at his death many deserted the camp and left a small minority to deal with the hated Mexicans. During the later years of the Civil war various detachments of cavalry and infantry, attached to the California Volunteers, were engaged in constant warfare with marauding bands of Apaches, not a few of the attacks of the Indians being made at Pinos Altos. Among the members of Captain Whitlock's company of the Fifth California Infantry, which did such good work in 1864, were Lieutenant John Lambert, Sergeant R. V. Newsham, Corporal James L. Crittenden (afterward sheriff of Grant County), Richard Mawson and David Stitsel.
After the war the Navajos joined the Apaches in their war against the whites, and by the summer of 1867 they had become so destructive to human life and were creating such havoc to the livestock interests of the district that the settlers determined upon a retaliation which would be long remembered. At the time mentioned. Governor Mitchell and General Carleton, the latter in command of the military district embracing southern New Mexico, visited the camp at Pinos Altos and found the citizens greatly excited over recent outrages.
As both the civil executive and military commander encouraged the settlers in their plan to organize a retaliatory expedition, the men of Pinos Altos, some of whom had served among the California Volunteers, organized a company of forty or fifty and elected Richard Hudson captain. General Carleton gave an order on the Fort Bayard quartermaster for five government pack mules; Captain Hudson contributed five more from his freighting outfit, and Governor Mitchell issued a formal commission to the latter. Supplies were furnished promptly and in abundance, and the command started, reinforced by half a dozen cavalrymen of the regular army, furnished by General Carleton. About half the volunteers were Mexicans. Among the soldiers were Henry Barton, Lanklain Butin, E. C. Hartford, Tom Graves, Dan Dimond, Juan Garcia, Juan Arroyas (a well-known government guide) and one Riley, who was afterward murdered at Pinos Altos. Dan Dimond was hung the same year by a band of vigilantes for the murder of a Pinos Altos butcher, whom he shot in a jealous rage over a Mexican woman.
About one hundred miles from Pinos Altos, in the deep canyons of the Mogollons, the little determined band of whites came upon Jose Largo's band of Navajos. In the short, sharp fight which ensued thirteen Indians were killed and seven captured, the latter being promptly sent to their hunting grounds of the beyond. Although this expedition had a salutary effect, it did not entirely check the Indian outrages; as will be seen hereafter, their cessation was caused by entirely different means.
In 1867 a regular survey of the town was made, it being laid out and platted by the Pinos Altos Town Company, of which Samuel J. Jones was the leader. The town site covered 320 acres. During the following year four bridges were built over Bear creek and several wells were sunk close to the bed of the creek to insure a good supply of water for drinking purposes. The principal merchants then were Raynolds & Griggs, Vigil Mastin, John A. Miller, Carlos Norero and W. Lee Thompson.
Mastin had one of the largest stores in Pinos Altos, was extensively interested in mining and was altogether one of the big men of the place. He was killed by Navajo Indians on the road south of Pinos Altos in 1868. A fortnight later Richard Hudson was shot through both arms at the foot of the hill near the camp. In fact, single individuals or small parties venturing half a mile beyond the outskirts ran serious risks, and the stories of narrow escapes would fill volumes.
Finally the settlers determined to enter into a compact with the Indians for the cessation of hostilities. It was agreed that a large cross should be placed on the summit of the hill just north of the town, and that as long as it was left there no killing should be done. "This compact was strictly adhered to," says the Pinos Altos Enterprise of November 23, 1882, "and from 1868 to the present time no resident of Pinos Altos has been killed by an Indian."
Notwithstanding this assurance of security, Pinos Altos appears to have reached the flood tide of its prosperity at about 1868, and when it lost the county seat in 1874 it was overshadowed by the growth of its younger and more vigorous rival, Silver City.
Founded upon a favorite camping ground and watering place of both the Navajos and Apaches, it is little wonder that Silver City was the focus of their hostilities. During the first few years of its settlement both miner and ranchman lived a life of constant anxiety. The roads were unsafe in all directions, and stock left to graze even at the very edge of town, was ran off into the foothills or mountains, and either killed or permanently appropriated. Even between Silver City and the neighboring post of Fort Bayard the road was unsafe.
In spite of this insecurity Silver City grew from half a dozen permanent settlers in 1870 to a place of some eighty buildings in February of the following year. Among the founders of the place may be mentioned L. B. Maxwell, who started the first ore mill (operated later by Messrs. E. E. Burlingame, James Shelby and Charles Thayer); Harvey H. Whitehill, William Chamberlain, James Corbin, S. M. Ashenfelter; Col. Richard Hudson, formerly of Pinos Altos; Col. J. F. Bennett, who was in business in Las Cruces for some time, but operated a stamp mill here; Judge Hackney, who in early times owned a newspaper at Globe, Ariz., where he died, and Brad Dailey, who teamed into Silver City from Las Cruces.
No man of those days, however, was more generally honored than John Bullard, who bravely met his death at the hands of a treacherous Apache while leading a Silver City expedition against the Indians of that tribe, near the San Francisco river, about twenty miles above the present site of Clifton, Arizona. It was in February, 1871, and Captain Bullard, who had brought his command of thirty citizen-soldiers to this point, had sighted a band of Apaches. He divided his command, and, after detailing a guard for his pack train, gave the command to move forward and strike the enemy both from the north and the south. The sad tragedy which followed is "best told in the words of S. M. Ashenfelter, his friend: "Captain Bullard and a companion suddenly ran upon an outlying Apache, who was running in evident effort to reach and give the alarm to his people. The companion fired, wounding the Apache in the thigh. Then Bullard fired, his bullet piercing the body of his foe, who sank slowly to the ground. The two rushed forward, when the dying Indian, in his last agony, slowly raised a revolver with both hands, aiming at Bullard, whom he evidently recognized as a leader. The latter saw and fully realized his danger. He had failed to throw a fresh charge into his own rifle, and he called to his companion to fire. The latter pulled rifle to shoulder, and two shots rang out almost simultaneously. The Indian fell back with the entire top of his head blown away, while Captain Bullard reeled and fell into a half recumbent posture. He tore open his shirt, gazed a moment at his bleeding wound, and, without a word or a groan, fell back dead. The ball had pierced his heart. Speedy vengeance followed. Within a few minutes fourteen Apaches lay dead upon the ground, while the rest of the band was scattered among the huge boulders close at hand, many being badly wounded, as was afterwards learned from the Camp Grant reservation, where they took refuge. The attacking party suffered no further loss, and an Apache boy was captured and brought to Silver City. He was taken in charge by "General" Wardwell, who afterwards surrendered him to his tribe. The remains of Captain Bullard were brought back to Silver City, and the interment took place in the cemetery which then occupied the slope to the south and west of Professor Light's present residence. Major Kelly brought over a company of troops from Fort Bayard, and military honors were accorded the dead. The remains were afterwards removed to the cemetery east of town and to the southward of the Fort Bayard road, where they now rest. The loss of John Bullard was deeply felt. He had been a recognized leader; one of the principal streets of the town bore his name, and to this day a shade of regret colors the old timer's mention of the man's name. A public meeting was held, and resolutions were adopted expressive of the general grief. It was by a remarkable coincidence that Major Kelly and his command had just returned to Fort Bayard from a raid among the hostiles, in which they also had succeeded in killing fourteen braves. The effect of the two blows was most salutary. For years afterwards Silver City enjoyed comparative peace, in so far as the immediate surroundings of the town were concerned. Almost coincident with these tragic events, others of the Warm Spring Apaches made their presence felt near the Mexican border to the south of us. Kearl & Miller's train was moving northward laden with freight for Fort Bayard. Charles Kearl and his wife, accompanied by six men, had ridden out several miles in advance of the train. They were attacked and but two escaped, one of these badly wounded and dying a day or two later. The bodies were horribly mutilated, especially that of Mrs. Kearl, then but recently a bride. Besides the Kearls, the dead were Gus. Hepner, Charles DeLard and three men named Sutherland, Bellhouse and Burnliam."
But money was plenty, the new discoveries were "panning out" into substantial profits, the community was buoyant with hope and confidence, and a constant stream of new settlers added to the population, notwithstanding the hovering bands of hostile Indians. Substantial buildings were also being erected on all sides, and M. W. Bremen's saw-mill, in the heavy timber some five miles above town, could scarcely keep pace with the demand for lumber. In the spring of 1871, although there were three stores in town, the main points for supplies, including mining tools, were Las Cruces and Mesilla. The freight was $1.25 per hundred pounds; bull teams did the hauling and about a week was consumed in the trip. The stage fare from Las Cruces was $25, from Santa Fe $100. In addition to the three stores mentioned. Silver City had, in 1871, one livery stable, one boarding house, two blacksmith shops, one shoe shop, one paint shop and a large lumber yard.
A Shot at Congress
The early settlers of Silver City never forgave the Apaches for the untimely death of John Bullard, and shortly after the tragedy a measure was introduced in congress providing for an appropriation of $30,000 to defray the expenses of gathering their enemies upon permanent reservations. The people of Silver City thereupon held a mass meeting, at which Richard Yeomans presided and William H. Eckles acted as secretary. With I. J. Stevens, James Bullard and E. M. Pearce, they formed a committee of resolutions, who, after calling the attention of congress to the fact that the proposed action was a misappropriation of public moneys, concluded with the following, which was unanimously and enthusiastically adopted: "Resolved: That by the expenditure of $30,000 among volunteers, the Indians can be gathered upon reservations where they will stay forever."
Incorporation of the City
Silver City is the first incorporated town in New Mexico that has continued its government under the charter granted by the legislature. It was incorporated by special act, February 15, 1878, and its limits were described as "an area of two square miles conforming to the points of the compass, north, east, south and west, measuring from the point intersecting at right angles Broadway and Main streets, which point shall be the center of the corporate limits." This charter was amended by act of the legislature March 19, 1884, and again February 8, 1889, providing that a city councilman must be an owner of real estate in town.
Residents of 1882
In this year the professional and business men of Silver City were as follows:
It is also learned that at this time Kennedy & Thobro were dealers in drugs at Georgetown, C. H. Dane was a forwarding and commission merchant at Deming, and Richard Hudson was proprietor of Hot Springs, twenty-rive miles southeast of Silver City.
As stated, Silver City was incorporated in February, 1878. Its first officers assumed their positions on May 1st of that year.
Following is the list:
1878: Mayor, Robert Black; clerk. J. Porter; councilmen,
John Morril, C. P. Crawford, William Chamberlain, Robert V. Newsham.
Mowry City, formerly quite a brisk place in Grant County, is thus described by S. M. Ashenfelter in one of his reminiscences contributed to the Silver City Independent, the picture being drawn for 1871:
"At Mowry City, on the Mimbres (now Whitehill s ranch),
there was a considerable population.
The main mail line west from Mesilla to Tucson passed through Mowry City. It was run by J. F. Bennett & Co., the company being Henry Lesinsky and Con Cosgrove. It was the old Southern Overland route, coming up by the way of Rough and Ready, Slocum's ranch. Fort Cummins and Cook's Canyon; and it crossed the Mimbres at Mowry City. In the spring of 1871 the branch line to Fort Bayard, Silver City and Pinos Altos was run by W. H. Wiley & Company. Slocum's was as famous in its day as Fort Cummins, and John D. Slocum was a man of recognized eminence on this frontier."
Mines throughout the County
The mines at Lone Mountain were discovered in February, 1871, and quite a number of Silver City pioneers moved over to the new camp. Much work was done there, and some very rich ore was taken out, but it was never found in sufficient quantities to make mining operations profitable in a permanent way.
Santa Rita was one of the oldest mining camps in the Territory. It was worked by the Mexicans centuries ago, who dug out the rich copper ore, smelted it and carried it to their country on burros. In 1882 the Santa Rita Copper & Iron Company (capital $5,000,000) owned this ancient mine, which was managed by T. E. Swarz.
San Jose, a mining camp revived in the early eighties, was also operated in the olden times by the natives of Mexico. It was at first under the management of B. S. Loney.
The town of Paschal, sixteen miles southwest of Silver City, was named in honor of Paschal R. Smith, manager of the Valverde Mining and Smelting Company. It was the first camp in the Burro Mountains, and for years was one of the leading copper mines in New Mexico. Especially rich discoveries were made in 1881, at which time the St. Louis mine was the most developed. The Clara Clarita mines, five miles southeast of Paschal, were then in the possession of P. R. Smith, Asa Kilbourne and Hosiah Bailey.
In 1870 mineral was first discovered at Pyramid, or Leitendorf, nine miles southwest of Lordsburg. Col. Amos Green, a prominent developer of early railroad properties, was president of the company which worked the Viola and Penelope mines and erected the first large mill in the region. In the early eighties perhaps the best developed mine in the Leitendorf district was the Last Chance, owned by an Evansville company and in charge of W. J. Crosby. There were also the Ormus Company, of Hamburg, Germany, and New Orleans, Louisiana; Silver Belle, Messrs. Enoch Warrington and F. Gilchrist being its proprietors; and such mine owners as Frank Reno, Sherrer & Butnuh, George Martin, J. E. Long, John Farrell, J. T. Ustick and A. J. Hughes.
In the Victoria mining district the following owners were operating in 1882: William Kent, William Hyters and Joseph L. Dougherty, who located their camp in 1880: Higgin, Head & Hearst; Grodhaus, Fuller & Cusack; and the Victoria Mining & Smelting Company, Joseph W. Branc being president.
In the group known as the Hanover mines at this time were:
Copper Pan, owned by Captain Eakridge;
In 1866 the camp of Georgetown was first struck by Messrs. Butine and Streeter, George Duncan, Andy Johnson and others. No work was done for two years later, when operations were commenced by E. Weeks and J. Fresh, on what is known as the McNulty. In 1872 the wealth of the camp became apparent, and the district is still productive. Central City is nine miles from Silver City, and is situated on a table leading down from the mountain, in which are located the Hanover and Santa Rita copper mines. The entire table is checked with gold and silver bearing leads, and the numerous ravines cutting through the flat furnish an unfailing supply of the purest mountain water.
Lordsburg, in the western part of the county, on the Southern Pacific line, is also the center of a flourishing gold and silver district, in which are Pyramid and Shakespeare, already mentioned.
Physical Geography and Natural Wealth
The general appearance and contour of Grant County is anomalous. The great divide comes down near its western line, trending southwest. It divides the county into two very unequal portions, the larger of which, or Mimbres basin, has no ocean drainage, but its waters flow toward Palomas lake, the sink of this great region. The Gila drains the northwest of the county into the Gulf of California.
The country abounds in mountain ranges, in which mines are being developed, or, more correctly speaking, in mountain clusters, rising to altitudes not exceeding 1,000 feet above the level of the plains, and elevated from the undulating plains, representing the former islands, when, during the cretaceous period, the waters of the sea still covered the country. A multitude of evidences in the shape of ruins, ancient pottery and remnants of implements conclusively prove that this country, in prehistoric ages, has been inhabited by a human race or races who, comparatively, occupied a high scale of civilization.
The Mimbres rises in the mountains of the same name, taking its head waters within a mile or so of some of the principal feeders of the Gila, but on the gulf side of the mountains. During its upper course it takes up the waters of many large springs and small water courses, and supplies water for over one hundred farms ranging from two hundred to about ten acres in extent. The apples and hardy fruits, together with fine vegetables raised in the upper valley of the Mimbres, are of a very superior quality.
Below the mountains the Mimbres takes the form of what is usually termed a "lost river." About thirty miles north of Deming it debouches upon a plateau of the Sierra Madre, a large plain of deep alluvial soil. Little or no water is in sight except in the flood seasons; but it may always be had at moderate depths below the surface. For sixty miles south of the Mexican line, and for a similar distance east and west, the same condition prevails. The rivers rise in the mountains, drain a considerable water-shed and then disappear into the earth. The importance of this underflow may be judged by the numerous lakes which appear in old Mexico, just south of the line. Palomas Lake is the principal. It is five or six miles long, three-quarters to two miles wide and fed by hundreds of springs. Some of these are so strong that their disturbance of the water can be plainly seen on the surface of the lake.
Grant County Biographies
Source: History of New Mexico, Its Resources and People, Volume II, Pacific States Publishing Co., 1907.
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