Archive for Northern Leg

Holiday Events on the Geronimo Trail

Love to rejoice in the season? So do our Byway destinations! We celebrate with several events that take us back to a time when gifts were handmade and we spent our holidays with our friends in neighbors at small town festivities.

luminarias at Elephant Butte Lake State Park

Why buy gifts for your loved ones that are mass produced when you can give them unique, locally made hand-crafted clothing, artwork, jewelry and food items? Our Byway is lucky to be home to a wide range of artisans and their products are available at these events:

Elephant Butte Fine Arts & Crafts Show
November 30
Elephant Butte Lake RV Resort, 402 Butte Boulevard, Elephant Butte

This show features special variety of items for your holiday shopping. Many unique gifts including silver, jewelry, sculptures, fine art, candy, ceramics, pecans, mosaics, and much more. There will be raffle items from each vendor; proceeds go to the Sierra County Cancer Assistance Center.

Yuletide In Chloride
Saturday November 30 – Sunday December 8
10am-4pm daily
Monte Cristo Gift Shop & Gallery, Wall Street, Chloride

Enjoy the scenic drive to Chloride, the holiday charm of a ghost town, great deals on works by local artisans. The Monte Cristo Gift Shop & Gallery features the work of more than two dozen local artists, providing a great selection for everyone on your gifting list as well as for yourself. Choose from paintings, photography, quilts, uniquely embroidered or hand stamped clothing, jewelry, hand crafted cards and soaps and so much more! During Yuletide in Chloride most items will be on sale up to 50% off! As a way to say “Thank you”, purchases of $25 will receive a free gift. What a great way to start the holiday season!

Christmas in the Foothills
Saturday December 7
Hillsboro Community Center, 316 Elenore Street, Hillsboro

Hillsboro’s annual holiday festival features the famous $49.99 art sale, raffles, food and vendors selling handmade holiday wares.

Monticello Holiday Store
December 7 & 8, December 14 & 15
388 Calle del Norte, Monticello

You’ll find all sorts of wonderful handmade holiday gifts at the holiday store! Numerous local artisan crafters offer unique and beautiful gifts such as candy, baked goods, artwork, health and beauty products, hand forged knives, handmade wool clothing, jewelry, scarves, mittens, lavender and herbal products, natural salves and soaps, holiday decorations, organic foods and so much more… all in very limited supply! It is impossible to adequately describe the wonderful selection of gifts we have in store for you this year.

Old-Fashioned Christmas
Truth or Consequences
Friday, December 13
Downtown Truth or Consequences

The evening begins with the annual Christmas Tree lighting in Evelyn Renfro park, after which all can enjoy bonfires, carolers and other performers, and holiday refreshments in downtown T or C. A Live Nativity is at the Baptist Church; businesses are open for holiday shopping; and – ho ho ho – Santa Claus takes requests from the kiddies!

Elephant Butte Luminaria Beachwalk
Saturday, December 14
Elephant Butte Lake State Park, Highway 195, Elephant Butte

The Luminaria Walk, sponsored by Elephant Butte Lake State Park and Friends of Elephant Butte Lake, features 3000 thousand luminarias lining paths on the beach leading to community‐sponsored campsites with posole, chile, cocoa, cookies, s’mores, and more! Join the carolers, visit Santa or stop by the The Steel Soldiers’ campsite to make a donation to Make‐A‐Wish.

Dada: An Evening of Masquerade & Mayhem
Saturday, December 28
Truth or Consequences Civic Center, 400 W 4th Street, Truth or Consequences

Dress up for a spectacular night featuring live music, aerial, full stage show, DJ, and dancing.Patrons are invited to wear black-tie, formal attire, or masquerade ball fashion to the Civic Center, making you, the patron, an integral part of the show. Full bar serving your favorite beer, wine, and cocktails available for purchase

First Day Hike Over Elephant Butte Dam
Wednesday, January 1st
Elephant Butte Dam, Lakeshore Road, Elephant Butte

This is your chance to take a walk across the Dam! Elephant Butte Dam is normally closed to all traffic but for the past few years has been opened for special events including First Day Hikes.

Chloride for a Day

When was the last time you took a drive to Chloride?

Chloride sign

See the roadrunner? Also known as Chaparral Bird.

If you’ve never been, just the ride alone is scenic enough to make it worth your while. All weather roads that wind their way through breathtaking mountain vistas, vast high desert spaces stretching on for miles, and puffy-cloud-studded blue skies galore. You’ll pass through Cuchillo with the old white church and Winston with its well-known General Store. You may even run into some ranch cattle crossing the road here and there, and if you look closely, a roadrunner may catch your eye (as in the above photo).

So, what’s the draw of making that turn toward Chloride? Aside from being a somewhat under the radar “gateway to the Gila” (yes, the roads are rough but it’s true!), it seems like there’s always something new underway in this historic gem of a ghost town that’s been visited, documented, and featured in several publications and documentary-style shorts through the years.

I’ve lived in Sierra County for a little over a year now, and this was my first time exploring this well-preserved slice of New Mexico’s history and meeting its devoted caretakers and stewards, Don and Dona Edmund and their daughter, Linda Turner. I spent a full day seeing the sights and soaking it all in. With only 11 current residents making their homes in Chloride as of my visit, it was quite a trip just to imagine how it must have looked, sounded, and felt to be amidst the town’s silver mining madness over 100 years ago.

At one time hustling and bustling with around 3,000 folks who came from all over to try and strike it rich—or just live simply—out west in the late 1880s, Linda (our very friendly and knowledgeable tour guide) says we would’ve seen saloons, dance halls, eateries, boarding houses, miners, tradesmen, blacksmiths, businessmen, and a community of folks who may have appeared gruff on the outside but were known to look after one another when it came to basic needs and dealing with out of town cowboys and miners who got a little too rowdy (a.k.a. they tied ‘em to the “Hanging Tree,” pictured below, and let them cool down overnight and wake up in the morning chained—not hung—to said tree, smack in the center of town). And yes, like most mining towns in the west, this one is believed to have had its backwoods “cribs” where the ladies of the night did what they had to do to survive.

the Hanging Tree in Chloride

The Hanging Tree 

What you’ve most likely heard of already is the most prominent feature of present-day Chloride: the Pioneer Store Museum. Built in 1880 by a man named James Dalglish as a one-stop shop for all your food, self-care, household good, U.S. postal service, and work-related needs, the store remained under his ownership until 1897, when he moved his family to Hillsboro (another historic town on the Geronimo Trail Scenic Byway).

In 1908, after leasing the store for several years from afar, Dalglish sold it to the U.S. Treasury Mining Company, which was owned and operated by the James family. The new owners kept it stocked and serving the people of Chloride for a number of years, but with their business dwindling and the town rapidly losing its residents, the James family closed up shop in 1923. Lumber and tin were used to board up the doors and windows, and all the merchandise was left sitting on the shelves.

Pioneer Store Museum exterior

Pioneer Store Museum: chock-full of history.

Amazingly, when the Edmunds purchased the property from the youngest son of the James family in 1989 and stepped inside the store for the first time in almost 70 years, they discovered bottles, boxes, trinkets, and treasures galore—most of them perfectly in tact. Yes, they had to shoo away rats and bats and do a complete restoration and cleaning of the property to get it ready for public appreciation.

But ultimately, the building had remained standing for several decades following its closure, “sealed like a giant time capsule,” as Linda described it. And once the sorting, scouring, and repair work was done, there remained a significant assortment of artifacts that makes an old west history lover like myself feel like a kid in a candy store.

Pioneer Store Museum exhibits - kid in a candy store

Kid in a candy store

As you wander around the museum, you can marvel at the fact that much of the original building—floors included—is what you are seeing when you walk through the Pioneer Store today and ogle the fascinating assortment of odds and ends that have stood the test of time. There are the basics, like clothing, shoes, boxes of underwear, hair-care products, large cell batteries, stamps, cookware, household tools, liquor, and foodstuffs.

And then there’s the giant vintage radio that belonged to one of the women in town who liked to broadcast local news to the neighbors, as well as my personal favorite: typesetting tools and printing blocks from back when the upstairs of the building housed the Black Range Newspaper from 1882 to 1896. The presses were relocated to Hillsboro when Chloride’s silver boom died out, but a few of the original Black Range printings are preserved and on display in the museum’s document gallery (sweet!).

printing blocks at the Pioneer Store Museum

Printing blocks

I also really loved the antique fireproof credit machine and cash register in one, which was not only beautifully designed and constructed, but also kept a detailed and highly organized paper trail of all customer accounts and general store business affairs. (People owed some pretty big debts to the store back in the day!)

antique credit card machine

Fun fact: The antique credit tracker and cash register runs on large cell batteries and when Mr. Edmund hooked it up to see if it still works, he found that it did. Talk about built to last!

detail of the antique credit card machine

Inner workings of the antique credit machine & cash register

Another mildly entertaining observation was to take note of the food and beverage companies that were alive and kicking at the turn of the century: We saw Folgers and Maxwell House coffee cans, boxes of Quaker Oats, and a quarter-full bottle of Jim Beam Whiskey, just to name a few.

shelves at the Pioneer Store Museum

Dry goods of yore

One lesser-known tidbit Linda shared involved a man by the name of Thomas Edison (yep, that one). Apparently, Edison embarked on an exploratory research assignment that took him through several mining towns out west, including Chloride. While in town, he met and hit it off with a local resident by the name of Henry Schmidt. Schmidt, who was one of the original town surveyors and settlers in 1880, was a tinkerer and inventor in his own right, though far in body from the bright lights and big investors of the cities back east.

He and Edison had a great deal in common, and they became good friends through the years, with Edison making several return trips to Chloride to compare notes and spend time with Schmidt. On one of those trips, he left one of his latest inventions with Schmidt. It remains in the Pioneer Store Museum today, dubbed the Edison Magic Lamp.

Edison Magic Lamp

An interesting aside to the Edison story is that Henry Schmidt, who lived in Chloride until his dying day, now has one of his self-made X-ray machines, the construction of which was influenced by Thomas Edison, on display in the University of Texas School of Medicine in Galveston. And according to Linda, when Henry’s son Raymond passed away not too long ago, four hand-wound electric motors were found in the home—two labeled Thomas A. Edison, Menlo Park, New Jersey, and two labeled Schmidt & Edison, Chloride, New Mexico.

Appropriately, these were sent to Henry’s great grandchildren as family heirlooms and keepsakes. However, Linda would love to one day see them show up in Chloride again. “Hopefully, if they ever decide they don’t have a place for them, they’ll think about me, and bring them back to the museum here in Chloride,” she added with a smile.

Beyond the Pioneer Store Museum, a Chloride attraction that has yet to become a reality but is in the works is the Cassie Hobbs house. As an avid reader of pioneer women’s stories, I was instantly intrigued by Cassie, one of 12 children who was born and grew up in a covered wagon until age 14, and then married a cowboy named Earl at 16 and traveled with him from camp to camp for many years. She spent much of her life in tents and wagons, and along the way learned how to build custom-made furniture and make all of their clothing from scratch every time they set up camp.

She eventually settled with her faithful rambling man in Chloride, where she continued to craft fine furniture, intricately woven shoes, and colorful outfits for herself and her neighbors from the comfort of her home, all while growing a vegetable garden full of food and regaling locals with tales of tougher times. As Linda said, “She epitomizes the pioneer spirit.” And since her passing, the Edmunds have been working toward turning Cassie’s home into a museum that preserves and portrays her countless creations and pioneer woman ways.

handmade items by Cassie Hobbs, former resident of Chloride

Handmade by Cassie Hobbs

I could go on—about the stories Linda shared, the handful of additional historic buildings that are currently in restoration and will eventually be added to the Chloride collection, and the countless hours the Edmund family has spent rescuing and restoring these ancient relics.

But one important point must be made: Did you know this entire operation is run by donation only? I sure didn’t. I was actually quite shocked to learn that the New Mexico Historical Society does not help in any way to fund their work, and so Don, Dona, and Linda have relied entirely on patron offerings and fundraisers since they first opened the museum doors over 20 years ago.

Consider helping the history of New Mexico’s boomtowns live on by supporting their cause, be it via an in-person visit and donation or a check in the mail. Or, perhaps a more indulgent way to contribute to the preservation of Chloride is to plan on staying in one of the cozy cabins* available by the night to weary travelers. I got a peek inside, and I can definitely see planning a getaway down the road. Soaking in the rich history of a restored rustic cabin from the late 1800s combined with the comfort of a modern mattress? Plus star-filled night skies free of light pollution and an opening to the Gila Wilderness within walking distance?

Count me in. Oh, and I’ll take another taco plate and a slice of homemade pie from the Chloride Bank Café, to stay.

Chloride Bank Cafe

Delicious food within!

Gila loveliness

*More information is available at the Pioneer Store Museum website regarding current hours and buildings open to the public, rental cabins, and a thorough history of the town and its residents.