Hidalgo County Local History
Towns and Places
By C. W. Barnum, New Mexico genealogist
Return to Main Page
Quick Historical Facts based on NM Place Names by Robert Julyan, 1996 edition. Hidalgo County was created in 1919, and is said to have been named for the patriot priest, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, who in 1810 led the revolt that resulted in Mexico's independence. He has been called Mexico's George Washington. When the county was created, some local citizens proposed that it be called Pyramid, for the Pyramid Mountains.
Animas is at the junction of NM 9 and NM 338, 11 miles south of Cotton City. It has had a post office since 1909. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Animas is in an area of many landmarks are called Animas. Which was the first named Animas is unknown. Animas means souls of the dead in Spanish. Animas perdidas means lost souls that are in hell. This area has seen many "lost" lives from war with the Apache Indians going back before 1843 when the Hispanic settlers arrived. In 1901 Phelps Dodge Corporation put in a RR line to the community but pulled it out in 1962. Many towns would have folded but Animas remains today.

Antelope Wells is on NM 81, just north of the Mexican border. It was settled in 1847 and named for the many antelope that roamed the area. It had a natural water hole where much wildlife gathered to drink. It is now a small US Port of Entry.

Cloverdale is in southwest Hidalgo County. It had a post office 1912 to 1943, and then the mail went to Animas. In the 1880's the Cloverdale Ranch was established about one mile from the present locality. In 1889 the Victor Land and Cattle Company acquired the land, and other ranches were established and the number of residents in the general area grew. They took the name of Cloverdale. In the early 1900's Cloverdale was the site of a popular annual picnic to which cattlemen and their families traveled from many parts of the country. Only the empty store remains today.

Cotton City is on NM 338, 13 miles south of I-10. Relatively modern community centered around a cotton gin there, supported by local cotton farmers. If you have more history about your town of Cotton City, please email us a copy. Dog Springs is of a mile from the border with Mexico in the extreme southeast of Hidalgo County. This is part of a ranch. It has on its property a small cemetery containing five or six graves.

Gold Hill is 13 miles northeast of Lordsburg on the county line with Grant County. This little town was established about 1886 and died about 1900. It was formed because in 1884, Robert Black found gold.

Hachita is actually in Grant County but is so close to Hidalgo County and so far away from any settlement in Grant County that it seems more connected to Hidalgo County. It is on NM 9 and NM 81 (NM 146). In 1875 a mining camp developed in the Hachita Mountains. It produced lead, cooper, turquoise, and silver. By 1884 the settlement had over 300 citizens. According to Robert Julyan, in 1900 the EP&SW RR laid tracks 9 miles east of Hachita and the community drifted between two settlements until there were two Hachita's, Old Hachita and New Hachita. The RR pulled up its tracks but the new Hachita remains, the one and only Hachita, that is.

Lordsburg is the county seat. It has had a post office in 1881 to the present time. It was created on October 18, 1880 when the SP RR Reached here from the west, and the fledging camp soon had a population of railroad workers, freighters, cowboys, gamblers, and merchants. One version is that the town took the surname of a man who had a chain of eating places along the railroad line. Another version is that it was the name of the engineer in charge of the construction crew. But the version most widely accepted is that it recalls Dr. Charles H. Loyd, NY native, who came west during the Civil War and stayed to become one of Tucson's leading citizens. He and a partner started a banking and wholesale distributing business, Lord and Williams. when the railroad freight handlers at the new southern NM Camp, still unnamed, came to a piece of the company's merchandise, they simply called out "Lords", a code name everyone knew, and in time the camp took the name of Lordsburg. Lordsburg Mesa is about ten miles NM of Lordsburg.

Playas is located 4 miles south of NM 9 east of the Playas Valley. It had its first post office in 1912. In 1917 the mail went to Animas. The original Playas has vanished into time. It was an SP RR settlement and track crew headquarters, but the RR has long since pulled up their tracks. Phelps Dodge Corporation currently owns the town called Playas where workers live.

Pratt is located on NM 9 west of Animas. It once (1905 to 1913) was a railroad water station and siding. A small school existed here as well as a general store.

Pyramid Mountains were named for pyramid-shaped Pyramid Peak, 6008 feet, the range's highest summit; the second highest is South Pyramid Peak at 5,997 feet.

Rodeo: Is it Row'day'o or Row'de'o? Either way, it is a pleasant place located on US 80 about 33 miles south of I-10, just east of the Arizona border. A post office was established in 1903 until today. In 1902, the EP&SW RR extended its line from Douglas , Arizona to Antelope Pass in the Peloncillo Mountains, and this locality soon became the most important shipping point for livestock. Rodeo in Spanish actually mean roundup, so it was well-named.

Shakespeare is at the north end of the Pyramid Mountains and two miles south of Lordsburg. It had a post office 1887 to 1895. John Evenson and Jack Frost worked for the National Mail and Transportation Company and searched the area for a station site. Mexican Springs became the mail stop which he named Pyramid Station. Later, John later named it Grant for President Grant. In 1870 William Ralston, banker, engaged in mining in the area. A town site was laid out and the village's name was changed to Ralston. The mining project failed and some swindlers tried a diamond scheme. Such scams were common in the early mining days. At that time, the area got a bad reputation because of the diamond scam, and the town faded. The citizens renamed it Shakespeare in 1879, for the Shakespeare Mining Company. The silver soon ran out which drove in the final nail.

Steins is at Steins Pass, depending on where one says the pass starts and ends. It is about 21 miles SW of Lordsburg. The settlement was actually called Steins Pass form 1888 to 1905 and called Steins from 1905 to 1944 when the post office closed. Steins was founded about 1880 by the RR that had a water station at Steins Siding east of the crest of the pass. This pass was a burden to the RR then and now with train often stalling out or breaking into. Recently, the RR installed additional tracks to help move trains over the pass going in and out of Lordsburg.

It is easy to confuse today's Steins Pass with Steins, which are two different places, or three! Steins Pass, another place, is said to be about 19 miles west of Lordsburg and 9 miles north or I-10. This was the original "pass" for wagon trains to travel to California. It was called Doubtful Canyon by the Wagoner's because they feared and doubted they could make it through over the mountain. In 1856 Major Enoch Steen of the US Dragoons camped here with his troops en route to the new Gadsden Purchase and the pass became known as Steins, apparently perfect spelling was not a high priority at that time. In 1858 the Butterfield Overland Mail route came through this same area and named a station Steins Peak Station, for Steins Peak, a 5,867 foot rocky peak to the Southwest. Later, the east Garrison Relay Station on the mail route at the east end of Doubtful Canyon was a garrison of soldiers who protected the westward travelers. By 1870 the site was a stopping point for wagon freight haulers. The area slowly lost settlers as other routes opened up. If someone says to meet at Steins, ask which one!

The Middle Animas Cemetery is located 11 miles south and 1 mile east of Animas, NM traveling on state road 338. It is so-called because of the name of the road that traverses this part of the county, Middle Animas Road.  It is said that a small school once existed in the area. Valedon is three miles southwest of Lordsburg. This was a mining camp from 1917 to 1932. The mines date to 1885. The Southern Pacific Railroad built a line through Valedon in 1913. The town grew to over 2,000 people, a very sizable population for this part of New Mexico.  In 1931 Phelps Dodge bought the property and ordered everyone to leave. The town was then burned to the ground.  It is rumored that a cemetery was established at Valedon, (Valedon Cemetery), but it was bulldozed. Nothing remains of the settlement.

Virden is at NM 92 and the Gila River, 30 miles NW of Lordsburg. When the NM Mining Co. in 1870 created the town of Ralston (See Shakespeare) the promoters needed more water for their ambitions, so they located a site on the Gila River; they called the area the Virginia Mining District and named the resulting town Richmond, for Virginia's capital. Richmond became an Hispanic settlement and trading center for area ranchers, with the Gila Ranch Co. a large landowner. In 1912, when Mormons immigrating from Mexico arrived seeking new homes, they negotiated with the Gila Ranch Co. for local land, and earnest W. Virden, the company's president, sold them the valley for $50,000, with $5,000 down and $500 a year; in 1916 the community name was changed to honor him. About 200 persons, most of them descendants of person, most of them descendents of the Mormon immigrants live here.

Walnut Wells is a settlement in the Animas Mountains. It had a post office 1913 to 1919. It dates to 1858. Within reason, there may be several burials in this area. A search of the area is required to determine the facts.

C. W. Barnum

Site created and developed by C. W. Barnum 1996-2012