Exhibits: History: Lake Valley
Rise and Fall of Lake Valley
In 1884 the Santa Fe railroad built a spur line to Lake Valley and the town continued to grow as a commercial center for the other mining camps in the mountains. The Lake Valley mines up to 1893 produced about five million dollars in silver, but over four million was spent on equipment and labor.
The mining company struggled to survive, but the decline in silver prices in 1893 caused them to close the mines, never to reopen them. The company leased the mines to individuals and groups of local miners who continued to work the mines on a small scale. Most of these miners were lucky if they covered expenses. In 1900 Lucius Fisher won all the property of the mining company in a poker game in Denver. Fisher hired miners and tried to start large scale mining again, but gave up this effort after World War I. After the depression most Lake Valley residents left for better paying jobs.
By 1900 the population of Lake Valley had declined to less than 200 people. It remained the shopping center for area ranchers as well as the supply center for the mining towns 20 to 30 miles north of Lake Valley until the railroad closed in the 1930s. By the 1950s the population was down to a few dozen people only a few of which eked out a living by working in the mines.
There was a brief revival in the 1950s when a company mined manganese at Lake Valley. The manganese mining stopped in 1956, and even the school closed as ranch children were bussed to Hillsboro. The last resident of Lake Valley was a retired miner, Pedro Martinez, who came from the same silver mining town in Mexico as New Mexico’s first governor. Pedro Martinez came from Zacatecas with his parents in 1906. Pedro and his wife Sabina moved to Deming in 1994, making Lake Valley a true ghost town.
Lake Valley Today
The Bureau of Land Management, which owns most of the town made it part of the Lake Valley Scenic Byway and has worked to preserve the town, maintaining a museum in the old school house. The BLM caretaker welcomes visitors and protects the surviving buildings and old mine head frames. [TOWN PHOTO?] [HEADFRAME PHOTO]
Lake Valley, like many a western mining camp, has gone full circle from wilderness to boom town to ghost town in the middle of wide open ranch country. Only the memories and buildings survive from 120 years ago when it was a wild frontier town with miners loosing their lives to Apaches and vigilantes as well as to the hazards of mining.
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