Ghost Towns in New Mexico and Texas
Copyright 2006 by Ronald B. Standler
It is difficult today to imagine a time in the late 1800s and early 1900s when
were not available. In addition, many people lived on small ranches or
farms, where the nearest neighbor might be more than a mile distant.
In other situations, people lived in towns with a population of less than a few dozen
people, far from a big city. Either way, people were hours away
from the nearest hospital, law enforcement, fire department, water mains,
sewer, library, and other resources that city dwellers take for granted.
This isolation meant that people needed to be self-reliant for most of their needs,
as well as for their recreation and entertainment.
- automobiles and paved roads,
- radio, and
During 1959-1962, my father often took me hiking in the desert or mountains around
El Paso, Texas, where we lived. These hiking expeditions frequently included visits
to old mines, long-abandoned towns (so-called "ghost towns"), and old military forts.
The dry, desert climate in southern New Mexico and western Texas is ideal for preserving old
buildings. Unfortunately, vandals had already pilfered or defaced many of these old sites when
I visited them in the early 1960s.
This webpage collects some links to other websites on these old mines and ghost towns,
as well as my recollections. The subject of old mines and ghost towns is an example
of where there is more information in books in libraries than on the Internet.
One needs to be careful in visiting old mines. I recall once, sometime around 1960, hiking
on Sugarloaf Mountain in El Paso, Texas and finding a thin piece of rusted sheet metal
covering a deep, vertical mining shaft into the mountain.
In 2000, a high school student fell 200 feet to his death in an abandoned mine shaft
near Orogrande, NM, which motivated the government to fill in some of these mines.
(List of people who died
in abandoned mines since 1999.)
Furthermore, most of these historic sites are in very isolated terrain. There are many
unobvious hazards in old mines.
GhostTowns.com is a commercial website, which has
lists of ghost towns, arranged by state.
Art Pike's personal website,
with photographs and notes of ghost towns in New Mexico.
David Pike's personal website,
with photographs and notes of ghost towns in New Mexico.
Dan Gulino, a professor of
chemical engineering at Ohio University, has a collection of photographs of ghost towns in the Western USA,
including New Mexico and Texas.
Daniel Ter-Nedden and Carola Schibli in Switzerland established a
on ghost towns in the Western USA, including New Mexico.
They have very beautiful photographs.
Robert C. Jones, wrote a book,
Ghost Towns (and Historic Towns) of New Mexico, and some of his photographs and
text are reproduced at his website.
Ghost Towns in
Southern New Mexico
Orogrande & Brice
I recall visiting Orogrande many times. The present Orogrande is a collection of a few buildings
located on US highway 54, mostly selling gasoline and food to travelers between
Alamogordo and El Paso.
The historic Orogrande is located in the desert west of the present Orogrande,
and was built during 1905-1920 for gold mines in the Jarilla mountains.
The ghost town of Brice is a few miles north of historic Orogrande.
The Bureau of Land Management webpage
says there are more than 350 abandoned mines in this area.
Webpages about these old mines:
- The Ragingmain website has text about and many photographs of
- photographs of Brice
ghost town, plus many photos inside three old mines: Garnet Mine,
Iron Queen Mine, and Iron Annie Mine.
- Mineralogy Database
has a list of minerals found, and locations of mines, in the Orogrande area.
- topographical map,
showing mines west of Orogrande and bed of old railroad.
Lanark was a small collection of buildings, water tank, and fuel depot built for trains
on the Southern Pacific Railroad track from El Paso, Texas to Los Angeles.
Lanark was about 30 miles northwest of El Paso.
Lanark had a U.S. Post Office from 1905 until 1923.
The name "Lanark" continues today as the name of a U.S. Geological Survey 7.5 minute topological map,
for which Lanark is the principal "town" in this desert area.
Lanark is near Kilbourne Hole, a large, volcanic, steam blow-out hole (technically a "maar") that
resembles a meteor crater. Kilbourne Hole is a famous site for collecting rocks
containing olivine, also called peridotite. ("Kilbourne" is sometimes spelt without the u.)
The Phelps-Dodge copper mining company established a large town at Tyrone during 1912-1921,
to service their copper mine, which was about 5 miles southwest of Silver City.
Unlike other old towns, the company town at Tyrone was designed by an architect, and
included a magnificent railroad station, hospital, and other buildings constructed of stone.
Historic Tyrone disappeared when Phelps-Dodge began a new open-pit copper mine in 1969 and
the old buildings were either demolished or buried by the mine.
Articles on Tyrone can be found at:
Wikipedia and the
RootsWeb genealogy site.
Not all of New Mexico is a desert. There are natural springs in some canyons that support lush
vegetation. One such place is Dripping Springs, in a canyon in the Organ Mountains,
approximately 17 miles east of Las Cruces.
Col. Eugene Van Patten built a small (approximately 15 rooms) resort hotel there in the 1870s.
Van Patten added another 18 rooms in 1906.
In 1910, a tuberculosis sanitarium was built further up the canyon by a Dr. Boyd.
Boyd purchased Van Patten's hotel in 1917.
The sanitarium was apparently last used sometime in the late 1930s.
The buildings were vandalized during the 1940s, and thereafter remained unoccupied.
In 1988, Dripping Springs became a nature preserve.
There are several webpages about Dripping Springs:
- Edward RagingMain text and photographs,
- LostDestinations text and photographs,
- Mary Charlotte
Ghost Towns in
List of Texas ghost towns,
with links to their webpages containing facts and photographs.
(list by region)
The Handbook of Texas, searchable online Texas history.
During the 1920s and 1930s, the U.S. Government established what were known as "intermediate airfields"
emergency landing strips for civilian airplanes that encountered mechanical problems while flying between
municipal airports. These airfields had a rotating beacon for use in guiding pilots at night.
Other historic airfields include those built for training during Word War II.
Each of the big military training airfields were commonly surrounded by "satellite airfields",
to which student pilots and student navigators could fly and return in a few hours.
The military airfields near a town sometimes became a municipal airport after the military closed
- Paul Freeman's Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields
is a first-rate resource, including old photographs.
- David W Brooks's list of
both active and inactive airfields in the USA.
- Scott D. Murdock's list of
intermediate airfields used by the military in the 1940s.
- NOAA collection
of historical aeronautical charts (i.e., maps).
An example of an abandoned military airfield is at Pyote, Texas. Pyote is located on I-20,
approximately 25 miles east of Pecos and 15 miles west of Monahans.
An Army Airfield was built in 1942 at Pyote to train B-17, and later B-29, flight crews.
After World War II, the Pyote Army Airfield was used as an airplane storage facility,
because of the dry climate.
In the 2000 census, Pyote had a population of 131 people, a far cry from the peak population of more than
6500 people at the Army Airfield during World War II.
In 1967, the state of Texas established a facility for
at the former Army Airfield, and many of the old military buildings were demolished in the mid-1970s.
Links to Pyote:
Biggs Air Force Base (El Paso, Texas)
During WWII, Biggs Army Airfield trained bomber crews
for B-17, B-24, and B-29 airplanes.
From 1948 until 1966, Biggs Air Force Base was part of the Strategic Air Command,
which operated heavy bombers (e.g., B-36, B-47, B-52).
Although my parents' house was located about 3.5 miles from the Biggs runway,
I still remember hearing the loud roar of the large jet engines as bombers took off on training missions.
From 1939 until 1966, aircraft from Biggs also towed targets for
anti-aircraft gunners on the range north of Ft. Bliss, which was
the U.S. Army school for anti-aircraft artillery and missiles.
In 1966, the Air Force departed and Biggs again became an Army Airfield.
With one of the longest runways in the USA (the 30 degree north (3/21) concrete runway
has a length of 13,572 feet, with an additional 1000 feet of asphalt surface at one end),
Biggs is a reminder of the large bombers used during the Cold War in the 1950s.
Biggs Air Force Base would probably have become an abandoned airfield,
except for the fact that Ft. Bliss surrounded Biggs, making
it easy for Ft. Bliss to absorb Biggs.
Links to Biggs Army Airfield or Biggs Air Force Base:
Links to the B-36 bomber, which was famous for the loud drone of its six piston engines (plus four jet engines):
This document is at
created 28 May 2006, revised 28 June 2006
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