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  • Ashley Wagner

Mogollon, NM


Mogollon is my favorite ghost town so far, partly because it is so well-preserved, and partly because it is a hidden oasis buried among the mountains. I find it hard to imagine it as being a booming mine town, but it was. I asked two residents who were fixing a truck in their yard how to get to the cemetery, they said they had not been up that rocky treacherous road in over 10 years, but pointed me in the direction. About halfway up the climb, I put on the emergency brakes to my vehicle and scoped out the remainder of the journey. It would have been easy to get stuck on a large boulder, or even roll down if I did not accelerate hard enough. I decided to muster on and made it to the top. I've always been fascinated by old cemeteries, and this was worth the effort. 


The road to Mogollon was carved out of the mountain by convict labor in 1897, and the Mogollon Mountains were named for New Mexico's governor appointed by the Spanish crown in 1712-1715, Juan Ignacio Flores Mogollon. This was and is Apache territory.  In 1870, James C. Cooney was on a mapping expedition from Fort Bayard. When he reported back to his superiors, he failed to mention the rich gold-bearing ore he found, and kept this secret for 6 years until he was able to gather close friends and return. The group was chased out by Apaches, but successfully settled in 1878. The first shipment of gold from Mogollon went to Silver City in 1879. James boasted in a local newspaper, "I have not seen a hostile Indian in this camp for three years." Merely two months later, Apaches killed and scalped him. In memoriam, James's friends hacked a hole in a boulder and sealed him in with ore from his mine.  In 1909, Mogollon was home to over 2000 people and had two red light districts. The eastern one was Spanish, and the western one was "Little Italy." Nearly $20 million dollars in silver and gold were taken from the mine and shipped to Silver City. The first jail consisted of a tree where the guilty were tied. The man who later built a proper jail, Harry Hermann, got a little too boisterous during an alcohol-fueled party to celebrate the grand opening, and was the first prisoner. Mogollon's decline came during World War I when the demand for gold and silver plummeted. The pictured wooden and tin general store is actually a somewhat recent installment by Hollywood to film Spaghetti Westerns with stars like Henry Fonda.  All historical information pulled from this book