Black Range - The NE


In 1879, Harry Pye was hauling freight from Hillsboro to the Army camp at Ojo Caliente (video at the link or you may watch an embedded copy above) he picked up some float in the stream where he camped (float is loose rock and sand in a stream bed).  He had the sample assayed.  It turned out to have a high concentration of chloride of silver.  Pye finished his government contract before returning to the site later that year.  When he and others found the “Pye Lode” a new rush was on.  See the auto tour video (video at the link or you may watch an embedded copy below) for an idea of the country side in this area.  Other road videos from the Black Range can be viewed in the Roads of the Black Range Video Portfolio.

It was not, however, a rush that Pye would participate in.  Pye had been able to recruit two (newly minted) prospectors for his venture into the Black Range when he was visiting Georgetown (the mining center along the Mimbres River, on the other side of the Black Range - almost due west from what would be Chloride).  The three of them built a small cabin near where Pye had picked up his float and began a shaft at a likely spot.  Unfortunately for Pye, the Apaches were not yet willing to hand over their land to the Anglo invaders.  Pye was killed in a fight shortly after the digging had begun.  The other two escaped to Hillsboro where they spread the word.

The initial rush happened when 18 prospectors made camp at the mouth of Chloride Gulch.  Shortly after making their claim two were killed by Apaches and the others left.  Soon, however, others were back, a store was erected and the land the Apaches had thought was theirs shifted hands.

Within a year, the mining town of Pyetown had sprung up on the site.  As is typical of towns of this type and this era, it was a tent city, but even at this early date there were 20 or so houses and seven businesses, including the Pioneer Store (see the Pioneer Store Museum website and our photo gallery).

One of the more interesting aspects of Chloride’s history is that Judge Donahue (located in Socorro) had land removed from the public domain and designated as the townsite (120 acres), a stamp mill (20 acres) and a smelter (20 acres).  The townsite was even platted.  The survey was conducted by a young German immigrant named Henry Schmidt who may have used the original Pye cabin as the point of reference for the plat.  Clearly, Chloride was not going to be a shot in the dark.  The lots were 50 by 100 feet and ownership was determined by a lottery (members of the community pulling a number from a hat which corresponded to a lot number).

Buildings of adobe, log, and rock sprung up - a number are still standing.

1881 was a good year for Chloride, a U. S. Post Office had opened in town, a stage route of the Pioneer Stage Line began to run between Chloride and a rail station at Engle (on the other side of the Rio Grande River), and it had filed for Town Site status.  By this time, business included a confectionery store along with the other standard western businesses (assay Office, livery stable, lumber yard, saloons (8), places to eat (3), and mercantiles).  The following year, The Black Range, a newspaper, was established in town (published from 1882 to 1896) - many of the issues are archived on this website (see link).  Chloride was an established community, with families and everything - not just a mining camp.

But this is New Mexico.  When the town had not heard anything about its request for Town Site status they were told that the proper paperwork had not been established (1882).  The request was refiled in 1883.  When there was still no response contact was again made with the Las Cruces office.  This time they were told that the filing fee had not been paid.  The necessary ten dollars was again collected from townspeople and paid once again.  At the time this was going on, efforts were underway to establish the new county of Sierra.  Both Chloride and Hillsboro were vying to be the County Seat of the new County.  Hillsboro had already received its Town Site status.  In 1884, Sierra County was established and Hillsboro was named its County Seat.  Shortly thereafter Chloride received it’s Town Site status.  


U. S. Treasury Headframe - photograph by Henry A. Schmidt

By 1883, Pyetown had changed its name to Bromide and finally to Chloride.  In that year it was the major mining center in the Apache Mining District and had a population of 3,000.  The Black Range Newspaper edition of February 29, 1884, notes that “There are now thirty-one ladies resident in Chloride which is more than has ever lived here before, at the same time.” (Hard to reconcile a claimed population of 3,000 with this fact.)  A number of mines were operating at Chloride, with typical western mine names like - U. S. Treasury, Wall Street, and New Era.  All in all, there were roughly 480 prospects and 42 mines in the valley.  From 10 to 12 of the mines were producing significant amounts of ore.  During this period the Barnes family lived in this area, The Spell of the Black Range, is their story.

The Apaches, being there first, still thought the land belonged to them and there was constant conflict between the miners and members of the mining community and the Indians.  In 1884 Chloride was authorized to establish a militia which stood guard when appropriate and escorted freight wagons.

Chloride 1890's by Henry A. Schmidt-filtered

Chloride - September 13, 1907 - Photograph by Henry A. Schmidt

Henry A. Schmidt, who did the original plat of Chloride, took this photograph of the community (looking east) on September 13, 1907.  (Photograph 13780 from the Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe)  The photograph below was taken in 1908 - 1910.

Chloride 1908 or 1910 by Henry A. Schmidt

Chloride - Between 1908 and 1910 - Photograph by Henry A. Schmidt

ChlorideUS_Treasury_Mill_after_1908 Henry A. Schmidt

The “Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, and Arizona Gazetteer and Business Directory 1884-1885” described Chloride as (p. 313):

Mining being what it is, there is always a bust.  By the mid-1890’s the silver had run out, the United States monetary policy had changed, and Chloride’s heydays were over and its days as a ghost town were about to begin. During its heyday Chloride was mostly Anglo, the town lay out seen in the photograph above is Anglo rather than Hispanic in nature.  By 1910 about one-third of the (decreased) population was Hispanic in heritage.  The Pioneer Store closed in 1923 - to reopen as a museum years later. 

The efforts of Donald and Dona Edmund to “save” Chloride by restoring its buildings is found here.

One of the more notable citizens of the Black Range in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s was the photographer, Henry A. Schmidt.  Schmidt was a German immigrant (b. 1861) who lived first in Lake Valley and later in Chloride.  Not being a madam, pimp, cattle rustler, murderer, or mine swindler he is not as famous as some of his cohorts.  His contributions to society were greater, however, and it is because of his work that we have some understanding of the early (non-native) history of the area.

In about 1905 he took the photograph of Lake Valley (included in the Lake Valley Photo Gallery) and two years later (September 13, 1907) he took the photograph of Chloride (looking east), above.

Schmidt photographed the people, the towns, the businesses, and the daily life of this area and provides us with some of the most authenticate documentation of this era.  The photograph above of the U.S. Treasury Mine headframe is dated to sometime in the early 1900’s.  The  photograph to the right is of the same mine “after 1908”.  Unfortunately, the exact dates that his photographs were taken has been lost.

During the period 1908 - 1910 he took the photograph of Chloride shown above.  Most of the photographs discussed here are from the New Mexico Digital Collection of the University of New Mexico.  The 1200+ glass negatives in that collection date from 1890 to 1924 and are a virtual history of the area during that time.  

New Mexico Magazine, August 1957, pp. 18-19, noted that Schmidt worked primarily as an assayer in Chloride where he settled when the survey crew he was working with finished their work (Schmidt performed the original survey of Chloride and may have used the original Pye Cabin as the point of reference for the plat.)   He started his photography as an avocation but soon became the “official” photographer of the area.  He focused primarily on Lake Valley, Tyrone, Chloride, and Winston.  He died at the end of August 1944.

For more on Henry A. Schmidt please review some of our original source material which includes The Black Range newspaper of November 16, 1883 and ads from other editions of the paper. 


Before the taking of the road through the Monticello Box this was a beautiful public road.  See the embedded videos below or visit The Roads of the Black Range Video Portfolio.

Monticello 1

There are four auto tour videos of the area close to Monticello.  They are: Ojo Caliente (see embedded video at the top of this page); Monticello Box (embedded directly above); Monticello Box to Monticello (of the two embedded videos above it is the first); and Springtime Campground Road (embedded below).  The road through the Box was one of the most dramatic and beautiful in this part of the state, a significant tourist attraction (and a revenue generator for the counties it touched) but all of that ended when it was taken from the public domain by a local rancher.  These are poor counties, a condition created in large part by continued poor decisions of elected officials (and the people who elected them) and the greed of specific individuals who have the ability to influence those elected officials in a variety of ways.

The “Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, and Arizona Gazetteer and Business Directory 1884-1885” described Monticello as (p. 338-339):



This auto tour video starts east of Winston and goes through the town on the way to the Continental Divide to the west, at the crest of the Black Range:  Video: Winston to the Continental Divide or view the embedded video below.

Winston, or Fairview as it was then called, was established in 1881.  Originally it was an adjunct to the mining town of Chloride which is just a few miles farther up the road.  By June of 1881 building were being constructed (reportedly 21) and a well was planned.  Various businesses (including a hotel) had been or were in the process of being established.

The “Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, and Arizona Gazetteer and Business Directory 1884-1885” described Fairview as (p. 317):

A school was constructed and started its first session in September of 1886 with 32 students.  This was the same year that Frank H. Winston moved to town.  On February 22, 1884, the Black Range Newspaper reported that F. H. Winston had been appointed the postmaster at Grafton.”

A stage line ran through Winston to Engle, a railroad station of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fed Railroad, fifty miles to the east.  

The population of the town varied with the price of minerals, in 1884 the population was reported as 100 and in 1889 it was reported as 125.  In 1897 it was reported to have dropped to 30 but was back up to 100 in 1905.  Or if you prefer, the population was 3,100 in 1884.  The reported populations of the mining towns in the Black Range are suspect, regardless of the source.  The population was reported as 400 in 1940 and 250 in 1946 by the source which gives the population as 3,100 in 1884.

Grafton 1

During this time Frank H. Winston was postmaster, owner of the mercantile store, and President of the Fairview Cattle Company.  Later on, Frank Winston added a garage to his list of holdings (1915).  He died in 1929 and the name of the town was changed to Winston in his honor.


The “Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, and Arizona Gazetteer and Business Directory 1884-1885” described Fairview as (p. 320):


© Robert Barnes 2018-2024