Elizabethtown NM Ghost town
Photos courtesy of Mike Sinnwell October 2014
Not much left here but this town has history written all over it and the cowboys are still herding cattle here.
Thanks to a UTE Indian that wanted to trade his copper ore for winter supplies this town got a rough start. Part of that trade, ore for supplies, also included a trip to the location of where the ore was found. After a brief inspection it was discovered that many of the streams had gold dust in them. Everyone soon forgot about the copper. Unfortunately winter set in and halted further activity. When spring thaw hit 300 men left Fort Union and headed for the west side of Baldy Mountain. In 1867 the owner of the Maxwell Land grant signed leases with the miners and then promptly built his own mining operation. Maxwell and Dick Wootton even got together to built toll roads to Trinidad so the gold could be deposited there.
Elizabethtown was the first county seat for Colfax County and in 1870 it became the first incorporated town in New Mexico. Apparently this was a pretty nasty town as some claim that in one 24-hour period, there were 8 isolated confrontations that left men dead. As western towns often did they formed a vigilante committee and Clay Allison was one of the members. He was a squatter on the Maxwell Land Grant at the time. Allison had a ranch over towards Cimarron but every now and then he just had to go to town somewhere. He is thought to have frequented Trinidad to treat a nasty social disease. He claimed Trinidad had the best doctors. One of the other local folks was Tom "Black Jack" Ketchum, a notorious train robber with his Hole-In-The-Wall Gang. They hung out in Elizabethtown a lot, spending hundred-dollar bills that no one could account for in all night poker games. Black Jack was finally shot during a botched train robbery and was caught, tried and hanged in Clayton in 1901.
When the County Seat was moved to Cimarron in the early 1870’s Elizabethtown started a rapid decline. A fire broke out in 1903 that destroyed most of the town. The remains of the Mutz hotel that was rebuilt with stone after the fire are still visible. When Charles and Frank Springer decided to build a dam near the entrance to Cimarron Canyon most of the towns folks packed up and moved to the new town of Therma that later became Eagles Nest.
A viewer writes – Wednesday November 11, 2014 -- Good Afternoon Mike, Thank you for the recent pictures of Elizabethtown, New Mexico and history. My father spoke all the time of Black Jack Ketchum from Cimarron to Tucumcari . This is a part of his history I need to research more of.
Dad was born in Sofia, New Mexico and lived in Clayton. My grandmother Nellie DePue worked in the local café after leaving the homestead somewhere around Grenville. Nellie was born in IT Cloud Chief, Oklahoma. The family is buried at Grenville.
After seeing the gravesite of the child with old toys around it left me with how all these sites seem to endure time while the families drift away or pass on. Somewhere out there is a distant genealogy relative of this child. A lot of people don't believe our history is important but until we see where our families came from we cannot appreciate the hardships they went through for us to be here today.
I need to make the rounds in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado. We have traced our families all the way from England to Salem, Massachusetts including a witch trial all the way from the east to the west. I have learned many interesting facts.
Thank you for the pictures and history once again. Keep traveling. Betty Gutierrez