By F. Stanley
Indirectly, General James H. Carleton was responsible for Elizabethtown. The soldiers at Fort Craig, Pinos Altos, Fort Stanton and Fort Union were dissatisfied with their lot as Indian fighters and voiced a desire to join the Union Army where the fighting was thickest. The California Column had volunteered to fight Confederates, not Indians. Carleton had reason to believe that the Confederates from Texas would make another attempt on New Mexico under Baird, Jackson (former territorial official, not Stonewall), Magoffin, Hart and others whose sympathies were for the South. He made every effort to keep his Volunteers in New Mexico for the duration. The magic word that worked for the Conquistadors, adventurers, Santa Fe Traders, Forty-Niners, Missourians, Coloradoans, should work for the Californians. Carleton talked gold until they could see themselves riding in gold carriages, and eating with sold [sic] gold forks and spoons. Fort Union soldiers spent most of their free time prospecting in the near‑by mountains, hoping to stake claims that would occupy them fully after their discharge from the service. W. H. Moore, the post sutler, Wm. Kroenig, John Buck and other settlers in the area also explored the possibilities. Jicarillas and Utes came in from the Baldy and Vermejo areas with nuggets explaining to Moore that they would offer these in trade for some goods at the sutler’s store. Moore agreed and said they could have ample supplies if they showed him where they picked up the precious mineral. Thus it was that Moore, Kroenig and Buck banded into a mining company to work what was later called the Copper Mine. It was more recently called the Mystic Lode Mine. Although the war gave them precious little time to prospect, they did work it some. If they were aware that they violated the rights of L. B. Maxwell by digging on his famous Grant, they said little to him or anybody else. If gold was to be had they wanted it. All of it.
Kroenig, more than the others, had implicit faith in the possibilities of mineral deposits in and about the whole region included in the Maxwell Land Grant. By 1866 he was sure of himself and sent Bronson, Kelly and Kinsinger from Fort Union to see what they could find along the Cimarron. They headed for Willow Creek. One of the three, while waiting for supper to cook, picked up a pan and decided to wash some of the gravel along the edge of the creek. He immediately called to his companions. That night they had gold for supper. They forgot Kroenig and his request for copper. They promised to keep the secret among themselves and returned to Fort Union. No sooner there than they showed the find to other men at the post and soon the Willow creek area swarmed with prospectors. Bronson, Arthur, Brown, Robinson and Hamilton made the first location on the creek. They measured their claim in a westward direction from the big pine tree that ever since became known as Discovery Tree.
Below their claim Thomas Reese, Bill Huron and Herman Heller marked theirs. Then came Harrison and Dougherty. Matthew Lynch and Timothy Foley worked the south side of the gulch after an unsuccessful start on the east side of the Baldy range. Above Discovery Tree, the territory along the creek bed was taken up by various parties to the very head of the stream. Others from Fort Union went further on to the west and north of Willow creek and made the first discovery on the site of Elizabethtown. J. E. Codin, Pat Lyons, Fred Pheffer and “Big Mitch” of Fort Union, who located this claim, banded as The Michigan Company. The camp grew. Lowthain, Turpin, Schumann, Porter, Lynch, Greeley, Regan, Garry, Sullivan, Cosgrove and others become restive of the lawless element infiltrating the sporting houses and saloons. John Moore, George Buck, Herburger and Duber decided that the camp should be a town, and they asked T. G. Rowe to make a plat and survey. Next they insisted on calling the town Elizabethtown after Elizabeth, the oldest girl in the Moore family. She later married Joseph Lowrey. A complete staff of city officials was elected, and Elizabethtown became the first town in the territory to be incorporated. At one time the population of Elizabethtown reached 5,000. Shortly afterwards part of Mora county went to Colfax county, and Elizabethtown had a brief moment of glory as a county seat. Colfax county possibly had more county seats than any other in New Mexico ‑ Cimarron, Springer and Raton, the better known ones. The town of Colfax was considered for a time but it never materialized. The new mining community attracted the attention of all the Territorial papers as well as others in California and New York. “Elizabethtown was founded in June last,” wrote the editor of the SANTA FE GAZETTE for March 31, 1868, “and the first house was built by John Moore, who furnished the miners with provisions on credit, thereby enabling them to open the country. Elizabethtown now has about 100 buildings.”
“The new city of Elizabethtown still continues on its course. The weather is cold; the cool winds from the snowcapped peaks cause us to huddle around the blazing pitchpine fires of our fellow townsmen Messrs. Sears, Pollock, Draper, C. F. Pease, and Harburger. Occasionally we find our way to the Mayflower saloon, where we warm the inner as well as the outer man. So pass the long winter evenings. Prices are very reasonable for a mining town. New arrivals are almost of every day occurrence. Denver and vicinity are well represented among the new arrivals. I perceive Doc Howe of prospecting celebrity, whose manly form and gentlemanly address is truly an honor to the place he has left. There is very little mining property for sale. Claim owners generally think they have a good enough thing to warrant them to suffer a New Mexican winter in order to be on the ground when the water comes . . . A stage line has been established between Elizabethtown and Maxwell’s by V. S. Dhelby & Co. who intend to commence running a tri‑weekly line in a few days . . .” (o. c. January 6, 1868)
“Elizabethtown is situated in a canon of the mountains, on a steep pitch on the west, and but a few steps from Moreno creek. This place has a decided start on Virginia City (six miles away and named for Virginia Maxwell, the daughter of L. B. Maxwell) and contains some fifty or sixty houses, some of which are like the Arkansas Traveler’s house ‑ roofless, for the weather is too severe to complete them. There is considerable bustle and business in the air to be seen and especially should you go into Abor’s Saloon, you will be convinced that it is a stirring place. There are several stores, two restaurants, and many saloons, as also a drug store, a billiard table, barber shop and gambling houses where the miner can deposit all his hard earned earnings of weeks in a few hours. That house across the street in which you see two smiling faces, you will do well to give it a wide berth, as you will be richer in pocket, better in health, and wiser in mind . . .” (Ibib. April 18, 1868)
It was at Elizabethtown also that the first newspaper for Colfax county, known as THE LANTERN, was published. The editors were Scanten & Aken, who sold out to Will D. Dawson. He called the paper THE RAILWAY EXPRESS AND TELEGRAPH. Later he sold the paper to Morley and the Maxwell Land Grant & Railway Company but seems to have remained, for a time at least, as editor until Morley and Springer took over as the CIMARRON RING to combat the SANTA FE RING. To forestall the work of Dawson andhis sympathy for squatters on the Grant the Maxwell Land Grant Company founded a newspaper in Cimarron, Elizabethtown’s rival, calling it the CIMARRON NEWS and placed J. T. Wightman in charge as editor. The paper was later taken over by Whigham & Henderson and the name changed to THE NEWS AND PRESS. It was this paper that incorporated Dawson’s and opposed the big political bosses in Santa Fe. It was through this paper that letters reached the editor of a New York paper whose sympathies were with Morley and his group. The lid blew off with the murder of Parson Tolby, and the Colfax County War was on. Clay Allison dumped the press and type into the Cimarron river, but much of it was salvaged and the paper continued under the management of E. L. Sheldon. O. P. McMains took it to Raton as THE COMET. The old press finally became the RATON RANGE. Although long abandoned, much of the type dates back to the days of THE LANTERN and THE CIMARRON PRESS AND NEWS, and may be found in the RATON RANGE printing room. Later on at the turn of the century when Elizabethtown had a brief moment of revival, D. F. Morse published a paper there which he called THE NEW MEXICO MINER. In the June 15, 1900, issue he had this to say:
“The first information relative to the mineralization of this vicinity was given early in 1866 by a young Indian who visited Fort Union and told the soldiers there was copper on Baldy mountain, referring to the present site of the Mystic. Upon this information the soldiers resolved to prospect there. A few men, two of them named Brownson and Kelly, left the fort, and pitched their tent under a large tree in Willow gulch, near this city. While in camp they panned some of the earth and to their surprise found it filled with particles of gold. The tree was called the Discovery Tree, and was a landmark from which claims were staked and numbered consecutively. In 1867, rich placers were found in the Moreno valley, first located at a point of rock in Michigan gulch, now the present home of James Lynch. From the date of these discoveries came the influx of prospectors by whom gold was then found in so many other places. The presence of gold, and in large paying quantities, was now fully demonstrated. The old hand rocker, the ground sluice, with little water, and other similar devices were of little use to handle the vast amount of ground containing the precious metal, so other ways must be devised. Now only sufficient water was needed to transform this district, unknown except to the red man, into a thriving community. To accomplish this end a stock companywas incorporated with the capital of $150,000 but before the work was completed they had expended $300,000. Prominent among the stock holders were Lucien B. Maxwell, Wm. Kroenig and Wm. Moore. They sought to utilize the water of Red river in Taos county and to conduct it to this place. They constructed what is known as the Big Ditch, with numerous reservoirs, all completed in 1868. It was a colossal undertaking; a work which stands even today (i. e. 1900) as a marvelous piece of engineering. The ditch forms three‑fourths of a circle in its length of forty‑two miles, skirting along the edge of the mountains, briding (sic) ravines and gulches with more than twenty flumes. In places the water bed was made in perpendicular walls of solid rock with drill and powder. Later on the supply of water was increased by a ditch seven miles long, from Moreno creek and out of the Ponil river from the east side of the Baldy mountain. It will be seen this undertaking was no small one when all the supplies and materials were to be freighted from the Missouri river the nearest railroad then. It was this water supply that caused the village of Elizabethtown to reach the number of 5,000 during 1868 and bear the distinction of being the first incorporated city in this Territory. Today may be seen from our city, a dozen or more spray, which look like so many fountains playing on the placer banks, and you hear the roar of the hydraulic giant which reminds one of the buzzing spindle of the eastern factories or of the threshing machine of the western prairies. Four hundred ounces have been taken out in one cleanup and as high as $25,000 has been made at one single shipment. Although over $2,000,000 of placer gold has been removed from the banks of the Moreno creek, only a small portion has as yet been worked, an area of 6,000 acres yet remains intact with the average depth of ten to 140 feet to bedrock. It has been demonstrated that the Moreno creek bed, with is numerous bars and gulches, from Elizabethtown to the mouth of the Cimarron canon, a distance of six miles, is rich with both fine and coarse gold . . .”
Whatever the editor’s optimism, he was forced to write several months later: “The Lynch Ditch, which carries the water from the Red River to the Moreno placer mines at Elizabethtown is to be sold next month at a sheriff’s sale to satisfy a judgment and cost aggregating $7000. The ditch built by New York capital, crossing forty‑miles of rough mountains, was built thirty years ago at an expense of $200,000, and by use of the water conveyed by it about $2,000,000 worth of gold has been mined. One of the pioneers of Elizabethtown was Colonel Edward Bergmann, who had served as commander of Fort Bascom during the Civil War. He was a man of diversified interests. Manager of a mine in the Ute Park area, he did some prospecting for L. B. Maxwell as well as for himself. He built a hotel and married Augusta Sever at Elizabethtown on December 13, 1870. Thomas Coglin and Anna Wiril were witnesses to the ceremony performed by Rev. Peter Hart. Augusta was the daughter of A. Sever, the Justice of the Peace, who united in marriage John W. Allison and Betty McCullough. This couple was married at Elizabethtown on September 19, 1879. The witnesses were William Honey and J. R. Cundiff. John was the brother of Clay Allison, who married Dora McCullough, Betty’s sister. Since the marriage records of Elizabethtown and Cimarron fail to reveal the date of the marriage of Clay and Dora, it is probable they were united in wedlock either at Trinidad, a favorite resort of the Allisons, or El Moro. Bergmann and Clay Allison were close friends. The colonel kept a notebook in the hopes of writing a history of the area but lost all when his hotel burned down. In fact, he and Augusta barely escaped with their lives. Bergmann was Justice of the Peace at Elizabethtown during the Colfax County War. He continued as a prospector for the balance of his life. He died in Colorado. One daughter survives. She makes her home in California. One nephew lives in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Bergmann is best known for his good work as warden of the Territorial Penitentiary in Santa Fe.
One of the interesting facts about Elizabethtown is that although it was never an “end of track” town nor a cattle town, its Boothill was comparable to that of Dodge, Tombstone or other such frontier mavericks of the wild and woolly West. “Wall” Henderson was the first of the town’s Badmen. He got into an argument with some claim jumpers and killed one. Acquitted on the plea of self defense, he returned to Elizabethtown from Mora and soon learned that friends of the man he had slain were prepared to make life miserable for him. Ned O’Hara, who became involved in an argument with him, left the saloon and returned with a rock in his hand. He brought it down on Henderson’s noggin and received a bullet over the left eye in return. It did not kill O’Hara but it gave Henderson a persecution complex. He joined a band of outlaws at Ute creek. He became involved in an argument with Joe Stinson, a saloon proprietor, and Joe had no choice but to send Henderson to Boothill. Which he did.
Joseph Antonio Herberger belonged to the Elizabethtown Vigilantes. He captured “Pony” O’Neil, an outlaw wanted for murder. The Vigilantes strung O’Neil to the nearest tree and riddled the body with bullets. Captain Keefer came to Herberger’s saloon one day and became abusive over the bill. Herberger finished him off with a stout log intended for the stove.
Charles Kennedy maintained a lodging house on the road to Taos. He murdered guests as they slept, the motive being robbery. When he threatened the life of his native New Mexican wife she contacted the Vigilantes at Elizabethtown. He was lodged in the jail in the mining city but others thought he should be strung up. Some say he choked to death on the way; others maintain he dangled from a tree. Whichever way it was the Vigilantes made short work of him.
John C. Codlin built the first house in Elizabethtown. Whether for himself or for John Moore is not clear. Moore definitely had the first store. Lambert put up a hotel and prospered between times, but his luck ran out and he moved over to Cimarron where he erected the famous San Diego or St. James. Frank Dericks had the Montezuma; Gottlief & lufelder owned the marvel of Elizabethtown ‑ a brick store known as the Great Western Supply Store; The E’Town Hotel was owned by Col. Edward Bergmann. Other well frequented places were the Miner’s Inn; Pearson & Gillen’s Mercantile Company; J. W. Williams saloon known as the Popular Resort. It was also called the Senate because it had a brass rail and brass spitoons. Both the Senate and the Montezuma had gambling tables. Chase, in his EDITOR’S RUN, has these remarks about his visit to Elizabethtown:
“In 1871 houses began to disappear from E’Town, and in a year or two the village of 2,000 people or more, dwindled to as many hundred. An Irishman named Lynch managed to secure the possession of the water ditch for twelve thousand dollars and has continued mining ever since. His wealth is variously estimated from $50,000 to $1,500,000. We visited his works, saw the operation of gulch mining, and the Irishman who owns the mine, who talks, looks and acts like any other Irishman. Our hotel accommodations at E’Town were first rate. The ground floor of the building contained two rooms, a kitchen at the rear, a combination dining room, barroom and a post office in front. But the beds were good, and the landlord, Stone, an American, had a German wife who knew how to cook. It makes one lonesome to walk the streets of Elizabethtown. Although not an old place, it is deserted and, instead of the crowded streets, or crowded houses, rum shops, gambling saloons, and hourly knock‑downs of a few years ago, a sort of graveyard stillness, deserted buildings, and general tumbledown appearance is everywhere observed. There is one store, part of another hotel, the tail end of a barber shop, the outside of a Catholic church, a barn, a good deal of glass, and other fragments of former prosperity left, but the pith, the vitality of village life has departed, no more to return, unless more water is brought from the Red river, or some large companies are formed to begin pounding up the quartz rocks by stream.”
Perhaps the most important single event remembered in Elizabethtown was the murder of Parson Tolby. Whatever its eventual ramifications, its roots were bedded in politics. The Santa Fe Ring vs. The Cimarron Ring; the Maxwell Land Grant vs. The Squatter. The result was the Colfax County War, every bit as exciting as the Lincoln County War.
Parson Franklin J. Tolby was born in White county, Indiana, in 1842. He served for a time in the Civil War and volunteered for the Methodist Missions in New Mexico. He was assigned the Elizabethtown‑Cimarron route. He performed his work well and was accepted by Elizabethtown as well as Cimarron. Clay Allison held him in high esteem. Records show that he united in marriage William G. Temple to Ezilda Brannon; George Wallace Thompson to Annie Gerlinde Irwin; Robert Allen to Margaret Murphy; Sylvester Lowell to Margaret Barney; James M. Dace to Ella V. Barnes and John Walters to Isabella Wightman. This latter couple was married on June 20, 1875. It was his last recorded marriage. His wife’s name was Mary E. Tolby and his two children at the time of his death were Rachel, five years of age; Grace, two years old. He died intestate. It is suspected that Parson Tolby was responsible for the letters to the NEW YORK SUN condemning the Santa Fe Ring and the political situation as found in New Mexico in general. In any event his body was found on the Elizabethtown‑Cimarron road. The date of his death is given as September 14, 1875. Clay Allison was furious when he learned of Tolby’s violent death. He collected about two hundred cowboys and Elizabethtown as well as Cimarron suffered the violence that history calls the Colfax County War. Many families left, never to return. O. P. McMains changed it from a war of vengeance to a war against the Maxwell Land Grant. He continued the fight long after Clay Allison left for the Texas Panhandle. From the death of Cruz Vega, a Civil War veteran blamed for the death of Parson Tolby, to the death of Captain Russell in Stonewall, Colorado, it has been said that over two hundred people gave their lives pro‑and‑con the O. P. McMains cause. McMains is also buried in Stonewall. Some have disputed that he was a preacher. The fact that he was a preacher is vouched for by none other than the Rev. T. Harwood, founder of the Methodist Missions in New Mexico, in his HISTORY OF NEW MEXICO, Vol. 11:
“Mr. McMains came to New Mexico and made his home in Cimarron, N. M., early in 1875. He was a member of the Colorado Conference. He was appointed as a supply at Cimarron and Elizabethtown. He was a fine preacher, a better preacher than pastor. He was often rash, often impudent, not safe as a leader, and too strong to be led, but in the main he meant well. He had the faculty of getting himself and others into trouble much easier than he could get us out. I would not broach this question again only for the fact that I have lately found out that there are a few who still think I was too stern with Brother McMains. I am sure I never intended to be on the question of ferreting out the murderers of Mr. Tolby and Brother McMain’s agitation of the Maxwell Land Grant question. I would not be led by him and he would not be advised by me. And because I would not be led by him he construed it to mean that I was against him and against the efforts to ferret out the mysterious murder of Mr. Tolby. He so represented it, and some time after that held me up before a public congregation as a ‘weakling’, and as having no ‘backbone.’ Two things I could never stand to be called, a ‘coward’ or ‘lazy.’ I had surely shown my courage in circulating a subscription all over the country collecting money to pay a debt of $200 for Mr. Tolby and to send the family, the wife and two little girls, to their home in Indiana. It was wonderful how high the excitement ran those days and how often our motives were misconstrued. I made a hard and costly trip to Santa Fe to plead with Judge Waldo and Attorney General William Breeden to admit Brother McMains to bail and succeeded, but soon after that I was returning from Elizabethtown from one of my appointments when a bigfisted, pugilistic‑looking fellow stopped me and came up to the buggy and said: ‘Harwood, I want to know why you went to Santa Fe to inform on McMains.’ ‘If it’s a fight you want, pitch in.’ ‘Mr. Harwood, I want to fight no one.’ . . . But last and best of all Brother McMains found himself a good wife and I had the honor of performing the marriage ceremony.”
Tolby was not the first Methodist preacher at Elizabethtown. Rev. N. S. Buckner and his wife had come in from Denver and he preached his first sermon at Elizabethtown on August 6, 1871. The Catholic priest came in from Mora for a time, then Taos, Cimarron, Springer, back again to Taos and Cimarron. Rev. Accorsini, a native of Brooklyn; Rev. Antonio Forchegu, a native of France, were the two best loved padres to care for the spiritual wants of the Catholics of Elizabethtown. Rev. J. Krayer came over from Springer in 1900 and gave Mass once a month at Elizabethtown.
No one really realized how poverty stricken Rev. Tolby really was until they sought his will. Allen H. Carey of Cimarron was appointed to look into the matter. Since Tolby left no will, Carey made an inventory of his estate. He found that Tolby left a cook stove valued at $15.00; a brass kettle $1.50; one meat dish worth seventy‑five cents; fourteen dinner plates totaling $1.50; eight cups and saucers. Total value of the estate: $48.65. An auction was held and someone bought the stove and furniture for $25.00; saddle and halter for ten dollars; crockery for $6.90; wood hatchet for two dollars; mirror for three dollars; washstand and cupboard for $6.50; bedstead for $7.00; knives and forks for two dollars; brass kettle for $1.00; two candle sticks for thirty cents each; a picket pin and rope for fifty cents; pepper box for ten cents; coal oil can and other things for $4.60. A. H. Carey, as administrator, was allowed $6.30. He paid off Tolby’s debts which amounted to $26.50. Court costs including executor amounted to $37.35. The balance for the widow came to zero. No wonder Rev. Harwood started a collection to send back mother and children to Indiana. Clay Allison was very helpful. The story of the Colfax County War is really part of the history of Cimarron although its beginning is traced to the death of Tolby. The Territory of New Mexico offered a substantial reward for the killer but to this day it remains a mystery. Many were accused, and many implicated, but no one knew for certain who killed Rev. Franklin J. Tolby. No one ever claimed the reward.
The St. Louis and Rocky Mountain railroad, in building into the new mining town of Dawson, offered Elizabethtown another chance for survival. The boom came at the turn of the century even before Dawson and the railroad saw light of day. D. F. Morse brought in a press and published the NEW MEXICO MINER; Harry Brainard opened the Mining Exchange Saloon; John H. Williams set up Uncle John’s Saloon; Pearser & Gillen opened a general merchandise store; W. E. Whitescarver welcomed visitors to his Red Front Livery Stable. This was also the year that the Elizabethtown School Board was organized and Mrs. E. J. Day, who had taught during the “deserted village” days, continued as the school marm. Elizabethtown had a fine school house used by Rev. Terrell on Sundays for the members of his flock. The school honor‑roll for January 1900 is interesting for it gives an insight to the families occupying the town at this time. Listed on the honor‑roll were Theresa Froelick, Allen Perry, Mary Moore, Carl Brainard, Louise Dold, Bessie Lowrey, Lloyd Richey, Joseph Knowland, Frank Carrington, Bessie Whitescarver, Amy Brown, Bert Richey, Harry Brainard, Gusta Mutz, Carl Dold, Mabel Richey, Lucretia Downey, John Moore, George Ashbaugh, John Ashbaugh and Perry Lou Kelley. Another newspaper published in Elizabethtown at the time was Baker & Brown’s MINING BULLETIN. Jim McIntyre opened the Enterprise Laundary. Jim was known for his gambling propensities. He had been associated for a time with Jim Courtright and had been a bad man of sorts in Colorado City, Texas, Wichita Falls, Texas, and the Texas Panhandle. Actually, he was a nomad at heart, never quite making up his mind about where he wanted to live. He later moved to Panhandle, Texas, where he built a home, then Woodward, Oklahoma, where Temple Houston is buried, and finally to Canadian. He wrote a book about himself that makes him out to be a real bad hombre. The date of his death is after 1906. The Canadian courthouse does not list it, nor is his grave marked ‑ if he is buried at Canadian. There are nineteen unmarked graves at the old cemetery there and it is possible his remains fill one of them. Some of his fans think he is buried in Panhandle, the town near White Deer. He definitely is not buried at Woodward. Others have come up with the possibility of Kansas City. This could very well be since he and the Berry family were quite friendly. His stay in E’Town was short possibly because there wasn’t enough gambling to suit him. The MINING BULLETIN for January 11, 1900, carried this interesting item:
“H. H. Hankins, manager of the stage line between Springer, New Mexico, and Elizabethtown, is in the city (Denver) negotiating for larger ore wagons and a road construction machine. The development of the mining interests has been such that the stage line now requires over sixty horses, whereas formerly fifteen were abue (sic) to convey the traffic. ‘The Outlook is brighter than ever before,’ said Mr. Hankins at the Santa Fe office. “The sale of the Great Bandana properties by Jimmie Lynch to the Kansas City syndicate is one of the best movements the camp has ever known. The Kansas City company is composed entirely of whiskey and saloonmen, and they have already put $40,000 into mining investments in the region of Elizabethtown. The manager of the company, C. J. Dodd, was for years an active manager of Leadville in the early days, and he is showing rare ability in his new enterprise. Placer men are preparing for active work, and mines in all directions from Elizabethtown will be re‑opened and explored this spring. Large bodies of low grade ores capable of concentration to $400 a ton, are found in different parts of the district. With proper energy and capital the district will become one of the big producers of copper and gold.”
In 1897, Thomas Earl Richey, fourteen years of age, toyed with a gun and shot himself to death. The accident startled Mrs. Day, the teacher, and all the pupils in the school. They all attended the funeral. This is the year that saw the rise of the Kremis Drug Store; C. M. Woodhouse set up business as jeweler and watchmaker; William Edling open his business as carpenter, contractor and undertaker; Henry Prichard start his dry goods store; the Charles Dodd Lumber Yard; the Jones Hotel; the V. L. Romero dry goods store; the Meadows & Young Meat Market; Arthur Cooper, Builder & Contractor; Herm A. Funke’s Pioneer Barber Shop; A. Martini’s Eating House; L. P. Preston, Civil Engineer & Surveyor; The Saloon & Billiard Room was operated by N. Harms and H. Kaiser; the Billiard Parlor & Saloon was operated by George E. Bybee. Elizabethtown also boasted a baseball club, a Coronet Band and a Dramatic Society. It was the ambition of every baseball player to beat Red River Ball Club. Outings were planned and a tent set up for a dance after the game. A. Martini was caterer and dancing instructor, Tooley, was usually master of ceremonies. Those were the days. Mrs. L. V. Jones eventually called her hotel the Moreno and the other hotel in town was known as Miner’s Inn. The Marwell House operated by W. H. H. French offered rooms for a dollar a day. Baths were thirty‑five cents extra. George Moore sold his City Meat Market to Frank Huntington. Pedro Vigil managed the Elizabethtown‑Taos Stage Line. The stage left E’Town for Taos three times a week ‑ Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 7 am.; the stage left Taos for E’Town on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 7 a.m., arriving at E’Town at 5 p.m. The fare was $2.00, and a penny a pound charged for baggage. The stage for Springer left Elizabethtown at 7 a.m. and arrived at Springer at 6 p.m. daily.
Over in Raton the Remsberg Mercantile Company sent Peter J. Perry to open and maintain a branch store at Elizabethtown. A corporation of capitalists under the direction of Henry Koehier made a permanent survey for the Elizabethtown & Raton Railroad. E’Town was well on the way to prosperity until a defective flue in the hall used for entertainment started a holocaust. The hall was located above the Remsberg store. The RATON RANGE for September 3, 1903, carried this story of the fire:
“A Colfax county gold mining town was almost wiped out by fire Tuesday. Only one business institution is left standing. Remsberg & Co. are the heavy losers. The fire originated from an unknown source possibly from a defective flue. The fire started on Tuesday afternoon about 2:15 p.m. in the hall used for entertainment on the second floor of the Remsberg store building and thirty minutes after the discovery of the fire the building and all it contained except about $700 or $800 worth of dry goods were totally destroyed. H. B. Phelps, the manager of the store, and William Walker, a clerk, with great difficulty and considerable risk to their lives, got the company’s books and money from the safe, and with the assistance of willing hands, were able to salvage dry goods to the amount of several hundreds of dollars. The building was a two‑story structure on the corner of the main business street of the town. The flames spread to the Mutz Hotel, a two‑story building adjoining. From there the fire spread to Harry Brainard’s place, then to Remsberg’s, Gottlieb & Iufelder’s general store. Across the street in the next block the Moreno Hotel caught fire from flying embers and in one hour and fifteen minutes from the time of the discovery of the fire all the buildings mentioned were reduced to ashes. The only mercantile establishment left in town is the store of Herman Froelick.”
H. H. Argue, of Buffalo, New York, who owned many of the placer sites about Elizabethtown also had valuable property in the town itself, as did M. Forrester of Denver, who owned the Ajax Mine. Charles J. Dodd sold his interests in E’town and moved to Socorro; W. C. Whitecarver held on as long as he could before abandoning hope; John A. Gysin eventually recognized that the old mining town was fast be coming a ghost town and moved to Trinidad, Colorado. John E. Codlin, who had fought under Sherman in the Civil War, also agreed that the fire proved E’Town’s undoing. One by one families moved to other towns as did Joe Knowland, E‑Town’s favorite vegetable wagon man. Even M. Bass, the schoolteacher in E’Town at the time of the fire, finally had to leave for lack of sufficient pupils. It was a sad day for the remnant to see the school close. S. B. Booth, Notary Public of E’Town (some of whose stationery I fortunately possess) also eventually closed shop. Henry Schuman, Henry Pritchard, Henry Hart, Peter Doerfer, J. A. Valentine, John T. Towner, John C. Taylor, Scholly and the other residents of E’Town, where are they now?
Although Bass was discouraged he seems to have been in no hurry to leave dying E’Town for in 1907 he is still teaching there, the school having fifty pupils that year. The remodeled Mutz Hotel, once the Story Hotel, was the showplace of E’Town. The photo of E’Town taken in 1868 by Brown & Son of Santa Fe shows it to be a thriving community. At one time, in the heighth of its glory, Elizabethtown boasted three public schools. Elizabeth Moore, for whom the town was named, became a school teacher and taught for a short time in Willow Creek Canyon. She married Joseph Lowery, a mining man from Michigan. Her oldest child married Dr. Clarence Bass, a doctor. He practiced medicine at E’Town for a time before moving to Cimarron, where he died. Whether he was related to the school teacher has not been established. May Lowrey, the second child, was in E’Town’s first High School Graduating Class. Little is known of Elizabeth’s six other children. May married Charles Gallagher. Their son became a State Senator. Bessie Lowrey and Laura Lowrey died very young; Maude Lowrey married T. D. Neal, and liver (sic) near Eagle Nest at the time of her death. Annie Lowrey married John Haddow. She later became postmaster of Eagle Nest. William Lowrey settled at Eagle Nest where he worked for his brother‑in‑law, Neal, as a clerk in his store. Joseph Lowrey, last of Elizabeth’s children, settled in Albuquerque. A few mines kept in operation until World War II when shortage of supplies and lack of manpower closed them down completely. More of the old ghost town would have remained for tourists to see had not some campers burned down the Mutz Hotel as well as the Catholic church. The old school building was sold for salvage in 1956. Not all who came to E’Town were squatters. Court records show that Lucien B. Maxwell and his wife sold property in Elizabethtown to Haas, Reynolds, Marshall, Dickenson, Pease, Sutton, Eubanks, Burnett and others. Many attained their lots by “squatters possession.” Much of the latter were eventually bought up by Herman Froelick.
McKenna, in his BLACK RANGE TALES, mentions his experiences in E’Town:
“Myself and three other men who were foot‑loose and without families pitched together and hired a bull team. Loading up what we needed in the way of blankets and food, we pulled out for Elizabeth Town, a gold diggings in the main rockies, a hundred miles west from Trinidad. It took us about fifteen days to get there, the bullwacker being in no hurry, for the bulls were poor and the grass was good … When we got to Elizabeth Town I took up with a man named Allen, who had a piece of ground on Ute Creek not far distant, that panned out fairly well. As he wanted a partner who would do the mucking, or shovelling, I agreed to take an interest in his diffings (sic), promising to pay him twenty‑five dollars from the dust we took out. Placer mining was new to me, and I spent several days looking around before I went to work. A placer is a gravelly sandbank, generally located in an ancient river bed, where loose gold is found. A diggings, as the word shows, is one of these spots where gravel has been dug and sifted in search for yellow treasure . . . I took note of hundreds of sluice‑boxes in the vicinity of Elizabeth Town, ranging all the way from three or four hundred feet to less than fifty feet in length. When Allen took me out to his claim I saw he had a fair outfit ‑ long torn, sluice‑box, and flume. The long torn made me think of a coffin. It was set up on a threstle four feet high and was tipped just a little towards the sluice‑box. One end was closed, but the one that put into the sluice‑box was covered by a wire screen to let in the sand and water and keep out the rocks and gravel. The sluice‑box was built of plain rough lumber like a trough with both ends left open. Slats, or riffles, which were blocks of wood, rails, poles, iron bars, and often sacking, matting, or hides with their hair up, were laid crosswise on the bottom of the sluice box, being farther apart at the end of the box than at the beginning. The riffles caught the free gold. Mercury was sometimes put in the grooves to help catch the gold, especially if it was light in weight, as gold has an affinity for quicksilver. Allen’s sluicebox was fitted with wooden riffles, and he had no need for quicksilver to catch the free gold . . . Many placers in the vicinity of Elizabeth Town were worked without the long tom and sluice‑box—the miner’s pan, his horn, and his pick and shovel being all the tools he needed. The prospector’s pan was made of shiny black Russian iron and averaged about eighteen inches across the top with a steep incline to the bottom, which was close to fifteen inches in diameter. The pan was about three and one‑half inches deep. Miners became expert at picking out the colors in the pan, knowing just how to shift the gravel to show them up … Elizabeth Town had been the center of a big excitement in ‘67, and I came across some oldtimers who could talk by the hour of the years in this section when even a tenderfoot stood a fair chance of picking up a hundred dollars a day in coarse gold. I knocked up against some pretty tough customers while I was in the Cimarron country, but I was told that Elizabeth Town was tame then, compared to the days of the big rush ‑ that in those days shootings were as common as meetings in the streets and saloons. I did not stay long around Elizabeth Town but I still have a warm spot in my heart for that section. It was there that I panned my first gold, came to know what was meant by a diggings, and then stored away bits of mining lore that I picked up here and there among veteran prospectors. It was there that I sat for the first time before a golden camp‑fire and listened to blood‑curdling tales of raiding Indians, of heartless cutthroats, or daring outlaws, of dashing cowboys, of painted women, of dead shots, and of regular old sourdoughs and desert rats, some good and some bad . . . (o. c. pp 14).
For further research and study you may find material in the following:
James A. McKenna BLACK RANGE TALES. N. Y. 1936
NEW MEXICO, A GUIDE TO A COLORFUL STATE. N. Y. 1940
R. Twitchell LEADING FACTS OF NEW MEXICO HISTORY
J. Reid ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF NEW MEXICO
H. H. Bancroft HISTORY OF ARIZONA AND NEW MEXICO
H. O. Ladd THE STORY OF NEW MEXICO
H. C. Upshaw GOLD RUSH TOWN. New Mexico Magazine. April 1958
S. J. Brasher CRADLE OF VENGEANCE True West Magazine, May‑June 19
F. Stanley THE GRANT THAT MAXWELL BOUGHT
THE RATON RANGE (Scattered Issues)
THE SPRINGER STOCKMAN (Scattered Issues)
THE SANTA FE NEW MEXICAN (Scattered Issues)
Elizabethtown, founded in 1867, was originally set up for mining purposes.
Reproducing prohibited without express permission from the State Records Center and Archives.
Courtesy of the State Records Center and Archives.