The Middle Mimbres

 
 

DESCRIPTION OF ROAD


This road tour starts at the intersection of San Francisco Street (San Lorenzo) and NM-35, travels west up Acklin Hill road to NM-152.  Turning left (east) it follows NM-152 to Galaz Road (crossing the Rio Mimbres along the way).  Turning left on to Galaz the tour goes through San Lorenzo and turns left on to San Francisco Street.  Rejoining NM-35 the tour completes a loop and turns north (right) on to NM-35.   At MP 15.1 the tour terminates at the intersection with North Star Road (which continues to follow the Rio Mimbres northward while NM-35 turns northwest to Lake Roberts and eventually the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. 


The description of this tour is supported by video (see right column), photographs, and narrative. 


This section of NM-35 is part of The Trail of the Mountain Spirits National Scenic Byway.  At various times in the past this section of road was referred to as the Sapillo Loop (Silver City Enterprise - 12/8/1933) and the Inner Loop Drive by the US Forest Service.  The road between Mimbres and NM-152 was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the first part of the 1940’s and paved in the middle 1970’s.  This section of NM-35 is routinely included in the Tour of the Gila, part of the “America Tour” of the Union Cycliste Internationale.


Starting at NM-152, NM-35 passes through grasslands, yucca, piñon, and juniper.  By the time NM-35 reaches the North Starr Road it is surrounded by Ponderosa Pine.


A BRIEF HISTORY OF HUMAN HABITATION


The earliest documented human inhabitants is thought to date from 10,000 BCE and clear evidence exists of human habitation from 5,000 BCE.  The Mimbres people are considered by many to be a subculture of the Mogollon culture.  The Mogollon were relying on corn based agriculture by 400 AD.  The Mimbres were defined as a distinct group by at least 700 AD, they left the area in about 1150 AD (Mimbres Reorganization Period).  In the 1300’s the Salado, a pueblo building culture from Eastern Arizona inhabited the Mimbres Valley for about 100 years.  The Apaches entered the area sometime shortly before 1600 AD (but see our blog on this question). 


The Spanish were interacting with the Apaches during the 1600’s and 1700’s (sometimes peacefully).  By 1714 there was some Spanish settlement in the area, see sections below.  In 1804 the Spanish established the Santa Rita Cooper Mine, at historical Indian workings (the site was known to the Spanish as El Cobre from as early as 1780).  A Spanish population of about 800 is estimated from this time.  In 1834, the Spanish (Francisco Elguea) built a (private) fort at the mine.  During this time, several more settlements were established in the Mimbres Valley. 


By the 1820’s American Mountain Men were trapping in the area.  They typically travelled in groups called brigades and would trap ALL of the Beaver in a watershed before moving on to the next trapping ground.  In the 1840’s the U.S. Army invaded the area during the Mexican-American War.  Miners also entered the area.  This area was annexed by the United States in 1848.  In 1851 The U.S. established Fort Webster (named after Daniel Webster, Secretary of State) at the Spanish fort at Santa Rita.  In 1852 the fort was moved to near San Lorenzo (retaining its name).  The fort was abandoned in 1853 (troops transferred to Ft. Thorn in the Rio Grande Valley).  In general, formal presence in the area by Americans and Mexicans ended during this period and it was given up to the Apaches.


In 1848, Emory described the Rio Mimbres as “covered with a growth of stunted live oak...(and the) valley covered with cotton-wood, walnut, ash...(the river had many fish) without scales (Roundtail Chub).  (Report on the United States and Mexican Boundary Survey... p. 57)


An Apache reservation was proposed in the Mimbres Valley in the 1850’s but the discovery of gold at Pinos Altos in 1859 ended that idea and the Apache were forced off of (what was by this time) their traditional lands.


By the late 1860’s there were several military camps (associated with Fort Bayard, a few miles to the west).


By 1866 silver had been discovered near Georgetown and the small town grew in place in the early 1870’s.  (See more detail below.)


The end of the 1800’s saw the Mimbres Valley firmly (more-or-less) under the control of the Americans.  In 1905 the Gila National Forest was established and in 1907 Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument was created.

 

The Middle Mimbres:

From San Lorenzo to north star road

THE MIMBRES CULTURE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE & MATTOCKS RUIN




The Dr. Granville Wood House (above and below) dates from the early 1880s.








Gooch House above,

Wood house on left below - Gooch House on right below.

 

THE MIMBRES CULTURE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE

& MATTOCKS RUIN


This complex is located to the east of NM-35, turn right off of NM-35 at MP 3.8.  It consists of two homes from the late 1880’s and a field.  The “field” is the site of the Mattocks Mimbres Culture Ruins (550 to 1140 AD).  The site has been excavated and catalogued and then recovered for preservation.  Nothing associated with the Mimbres Culture is clearly visible at the site.  However, the research which has been conducted here was ground breaking.  The visitor center  is located in the Gooch House (see below) and is staffed by volunteers and administered by the Grant County Archaeological Society. 


Hours and Contact Information:


  1. BulletPhysical address (visitor center) is 12 Sage Drive, Mimbres.

  2. BulletMailing address: PO Box 307, Mimbres, NM  88049

  3. BulletTelephone number is 575.536.3333 (Information or to schedule a tour). 

  4. BulletHours:

  5. April to October - 7 days a week, 11 am to 3 pm;

  6. November 11 to March - Friday, Saturday, and Sunday,      11 a.m. - 3 p.m.


The Dr. Granville Wood House (see photographs in right column) is on the National Register of Historic Places.  It was built in the early 1880s during a period of Anglo-Apache warfare, gun ports were built into the structure.  Wood established an orchard of apple, peach, cherry, apricot, plum, and pear during his occupancy. 


The Gooch House (photograph to the right and in the right column) was built in the 1890’s. The history of this property is long and convoluted, visit the Mimbres Culture Heritage Site for more about its history.  In 1922 the Mattocks family purchased the property.  It is after them that the Mimbres Culture Site located adjacent to these buildings was named.  See our Mimbres Culture Page and Mimbres Pottery Photo Gallery for an extensive discussion of the Mimbres cultural heritage.

 

SAN LORENZO


San Lorenzo was founded as part of the general Hispano expansion southwest from the Rio Grande Valley.  During this expansion: Cañada Alamosa (Monticello) was founded in 1864; Cuchillo Negro (Cuchillo) was founded in 1871; and Mimbres, San Lorenzo (1869), and San Juan were founded along the Mimbres River.
Earlier, in 1714, Governor Juan Ignacio de Flores Mogollón established a settlement here.  By 1853 the place had been given up to the Apaches.  Nothing remains from that period.


In 1886 (est. 26 January) a U.S. Post Office was located in the store owned by Gorgonio Galaz.  The San Lorenzo Catholic Mission was built in 1899.


A Smallpox epidemic affected the area in 1877 and floods, as always, occurred throughout this period.


Near the south end of the town is an adobe building built in 1895.  This is the Galaz Barn, in the 1890’s the local share croppers traded their produce for commercial goods at this place.


It is an idyllic farming community, services are along NM-35 (at the intersection of San Francisco and NM-35 and a few hundred yards south of that point on NM-35) and may include gas, grocery, and restaurant (or maybe not - services in the Black Range, in general, operate on what appears to be a shoe string and are often fleeting when they do exist).


The farms and ranches in this area receive water from an acequia is an old Spanish water distribution system which uses community-operated watercourse to distribute water to various farm and ranch steads.  In New Mexico, acequias have priority water rights because they are the oldest water right holders.  Each acequia is governed by a community association which elects commissioners and a majordomo (acequias, like many water distribution systems in New Mexico, are political subdivisions of the state).


Although farming still occurs in the area, it is giving way, increasingly, to second homes and retirees who come to enjoy the solitude, the beauty, and the Gila Cliff Dwellings just up the road.


Silver City is about 15 miles to the west and offers a full range of services.

 

GEORGETOWN

(Site of Present Day Mimbres)


Silver was discovered in this area in 1866 and by the early 1870’s a community had been established here (population 54 in 1880).  A U. S. Post Office was established in Georgetown on May 21, 1875 and by 1888 the population was estimated at 1200.  Mines included; Satisfaction, McGregor, Naiad Queen, Uncle Sam.....


The “Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, and Arizona Gazetteer and Business Directory 1884-1885” described Georgetown as (p. 319):




The newspaper in town, “Silver Brick”, was renamed to the Georgetown Courier in August 1881.  A fire in the commercial district which destroyed the company store (which was not replaced), a smallpox epidemic in 1892,  and the collapse of silver in 1893 effectively ended the heyday of Georgetown.  In 1897 the population was listed as 200 and by 1903 half again.


The Mimbres Post Office is at MP 4.9 on NM-35.  Georgetown Road joins NM-35 from the west at Mimbres.

 

This page is supported by videos on Vimeo.  Visit our video portfolios:


The Roads of the Black Range


or visit the individual segments referenced on this page:


NM-35

McKnight Road

Powder Horn Ridge Road

Powder Horn Canyon Road

An image from “The Poison of Serpents” by S. Weir Mitchell in the August 1889 issue of The Century Magazine.



 

SAN LORENZO




San Lorenzo Church




San Lorenzo




Gorgonio Galaz Structure

Built in 1913

 

MIMBRES VALLEY

HARVEST FESTIVAL


Held in the fall since 2005.









 

NORTH STAR ROAD



 

NORTH STAR ROAD


The junction of NM-35 and North Star Road forms the boundary for the northern end of the Middle Mimbres Section of this website.

CAMP THUNDERBIRD


In the 1930’s the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) established Camp Sully at this site (one of 43 such camps established in New Mexico).  In 1947 the Congregational Churches of New Mexico and El Paso decided to establish a retreat known as Camp Thunderbird at this site.  The following year they leased the site from the U. S. Forest Service and on June 18,1950 the facility was dedicated.  The Lodge and Alden building were constructed on site.  The Peper Cottage (manager’s residence) was constructed by moving a house from Santa Rita (#53) and the old Manhattan Bar, also from Santa Rita, to the Camp Thunderbird site and combining them.  Over time other buildings were constructed on the site.  In the 1980’s the Camp made a trade with the Forest Service, trading nearby land for the tract where the camp is located.

BEAR CANYON LAKE


Bear Canyon Reservoir, which provides much of the water for the acequia mentioned above, is to the west of NM-35 at MP 7.6.


WILDERNESS RANGER DISTRICT OFFICE


The Wilderness Ranger District Office is on the west side of NM-35, about 11 miles from the turn-off from NM-152 (MP 11).


McKNIGHT ACCESS POINTS


At MP 12.2, McKnight Road exits NM-35 to the east.  Within yards the road splits into four wilderness roads.  McKnight Road continues to the right, once you start up the ridge stay left at each opportunity and the road will take you to McKnight Cabin and various US Forest Service trailheads.  A video of this 17.6 mile route shows how difficult this road can be at times.  At the end of the road lies McKnight Cabin and SpringMcKnight Mountain is accessible via US Forest Service Trail 79 (Black Range Crest Trail) from the cabin or a trailhead at about 17.5 miles from NM-35.


There are three other road options at the turnoff from NM-35.  The Powder Horn Ridge Road Video records the road from the NM-35 turnoff to the South Fork Mimbres & McKnight Mountain trailheads, a distance of just over ten miles.     


The Powder Horn Canyon road follows the river bed of the Mimbres River and is subject to lots of washouts.  A video of this road is included in our Roads of the Black Range Video Portfolio.

McKNIGHT CABIN


McKnight Cabin and McKnight Mountain (the highest “peak” in the Black Range and in Sierra and Grant Counties) are reached from this section of NM-35 (see discussion to the left).




McKnight Cabin is not all that impressive.  But it has been a way-station for many a traveller in the high mountains for a long time and is, thus, of significance.  A number of the tales (tall and otherwise) in Black Range Tales by James McKenna reference the cabin.  The area around the cabin is knock-down beautiful.



 

GILA CLIFF DWELLINGS NATIONAL MONUMENT


They are not in the Black Range and they are not on this section of road.  But this section of road is passed through by most travelers to the Cliff Dwellings.  Knowing that you might want to see what you are missing by taking the North Starr Road, which is our next section north of here, we thought a few photos of the Cliff Dwellings would be appropriate.