Why you Should Visit Elizabethtown in New Mexico


There are a lot of fascinating historical periods in the whole existence of the United States. Some of the best stories that created present America could be read in the remnants of its old towns and settlements.Elizabethtown in New Mexico is now considered as a ghost town at present, but it had its time in the limelight during the years when America’s Civil War reached its conclusion. Tourists who love stories of outlaws, mining towns, and the search for gold would definitely need to visit Elizabethtown.

The Beginnings of Elizabethtown

The story of Elizabethtown began in 1866, a year after the American Civil War ended, with Captain William H. Moore and his men. A group of Ute Indians came to their encampment in Fort Union to return a favor to Captain Moore who cared for one of the wounded Indians. They gave him a gift of “shiny rocks,” which the Captain quickly identified as rich in copper. Seeing the opportunity, Captain Moore and his men asked the Indians to lead them to the source of the rocks to the base of Willow Creek on the slopes of Baldy Peak.

More than copper, the men also discovered golden flakes in the river’s basin. Even if they swore to keep their find a secret, the word still got out about the economic prospects of the area, and by the spring of 1867, whole crowds of people came flooding in. The mountain and the surrounding areas were then already owned by Lucien Maxwell, a wealthy landowner. Seeing that he could do nothing to stop the flooding of the new settlers, he decided just to charge the people for the usage of his land and to build better roads. The area began to flourish, starting with a general store founded by Captain Moore and his brother. They were followed by sawmills, cabins, restaurants, and saloons. The locals eventually christened the prospering town as Elizabethtown after Captain Moore’s niece.

Notorious Outlaws and the Town’s Twilight Years

Elizabethtown was alive and thriving because of its primary industry of mining. Even so, the booming town also had horror stories of its own like the legend of Charles Kennedy, a resthouse owner, and notorious serial killer. He was eventually believed to be taken down by a local rancher Clay Allison. Another notorious personage who resided in the town was the leader of an outlaw gang, “Coal Oil Jimmy” Buckley. Buckley and his band frequented the town’s road going to Cimarron where they held up many stagecoaches.

As mining operations diminished, Elizabethtown also dwindled and eventually became a ghost town even though efforts at reviving it were made such as the construction of railways in 1875. The loss of the town’s main livelihood discouraged investors and forced the citizens to make their living elsewhere. At present, some remains of once significant buildings remained such as that of the Old Mutz Hotel which once dominated the view of nearby roads. The remains of Froelick store, old scattered buildings, the rebuilt early church, and a small museum detailing the history of the town could be found and explored.