Mogollon, New Mexico: A Journey Back in Time to a Wild West Ghost Town
Nestled in the Gila Wilderness Area in Western New Mexico, Mogollon, New Mexico, is a fascinating ghost town that once thrived during the gold and silver mining boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Today, visitors can explore the remnants of this once-bustling town, learn about its fascinating history, and enjoy the stunning natural beauty that surrounds it. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you on a journey back in time to explore the rich history, notable landmarks, and unique attractions of Mogollon, New Mexico Ghost Town.
The History of Mogollon, New Mexico
The Discovery of Gold and Silver
The story of Mogollon, New Mexico, begins in the 1870s when Sergeant James C. Cooney of Fort Bayard discovered rich deposits of gold and silver in the nearby Gila Mountains. Cooney kept his discovery a secret until he was discharged from the military in 1876.
He then returned to the area, staking several mining claims and attracting the attention of other prospectors.
The Birth of a Mining Town
In the 1880s, Mogollon was founded at the bottom of Silver Creek Canyon to support the growing mining operations in the surrounding mountains. The town was named after Juan Ignacio Flores Mogollon, a former governor of New Mexico from 1712-1715.
As word spread about the area’s mineral wealth, the town’s population grew rapidly, reaching 3,000 and 6,000 residents during the 1890s.
A Wild and Lawless Place
Mogollon’s remote location and the rough-and-tumble nature of its inhabitants gave it a reputation as one of the wildest mining towns in the West. The town was home to numerous saloons, brothels, gambling dens, and several violent and lawless characters.
Stagecoach robberies were common, and the town’s jail was often filled with criminals.
Fires, Floods, and Tragedy
Throughout its history, Mogollon was plagued by devastating fires and floods. The town’s wooden buildings were particularly vulnerable to fire, and major fires occurred in 1904, 1910, 1915, and 1942.
Similarly, the town’s location at the bottom of a canyon made it susceptible to flash flooding, with major floods occurring in 1894, 1896, 1899, and 1914.
Exploring Mogollon, New Mexico Ghost Town Today
The Drive to Mogollon
Getting to Mogollon requires a bit of a journey, as the town is deep within the Gila National Forest. The drive up the mountain to Mogollon is not for the faint of heart, as the narrow road lacks guardrails.
However, those who brave the winding route will be rewarded with stunning views of the surrounding wilderness and a glimpse into the town’s fascinating past.
A Walk Through Time
Strolling along the main street of Mogollon is like stepping back in time. Visitors will find many original buildings still standing, including the Old Kelly Store, the Mogollon Theatre, and the former homes and businesses of the town’s residents.
The town is now listed as Fannie Hill Mill and Company Town Historic District in the National Register of Historic Places.
The Mogollon Museum
One of the must-see attractions in Mogollon is the town’s museum, which offers a fascinating glimpse into the town’s mining history and the lives of its inhabitants.
The museum features a variety of artifacts and exhibits, including mining equipment, photographs, and personal items belonging to the town’s residents.
The Purple Onion Cafe
For a taste of Mogollon’s past, visit the historic Purple Onion Cafe, which serves up delicious food and drinks in a charming setting. The cafe is housed in an old boarding lodge called the Mogollon House, built by Frank Lauderbaugh in 1885.
The establishment is reportedly filled with ghosts from the mining era and offers a unique dining experience.
Dispersed Camping Near Mogollon
For those seeking a more immersive experience, dispersed camping is allowed in the Gila National Forest near Mogollon. This offers visitors the opportunity to spend the night under the stars, surrounded by the rugged beauty of the Gila Wilderness.
Be sure to check with the local ranger station for updates on fire restrictions and other regulations.
Stargazing in the Gila Wilderness Area
The clear night skies of the Gila Wilderness Area make it a fantastic destination for stargazing. On a clear night, visitors can enjoy breathtaking Milky Way views and occasional sightings of the International Space Station.
Just up the road from Mogollon, the Cosmic Campground is an International Dark Sky Sanctuary and offers a truly unforgettable stargazing experience.
Hiking and Exploring the Surrounding Wilderness
Mogollon is an excellent base for exploring the Gila National Forest and the Gila Wilderness, which offer miles of hiking trails, stunning vistas, and abundant wildlife. Popular nearby destinations include the Catwalk Recreation Area, the Gila Cliff Dwellings, and the scenic Mogollon Rim.
The Mogollon Cemetery
A visit to the Mogollon Cemetery offers a poignant reminder of the town’s history and the hardships faced by its residents.
The cemetery contains the graves of miners who succumbed to accidents and disease and the victims of the town’s many fires and floods. The cemetery is accessible via a short, steep hike up Graveyard Gulch.
Seasonal Events and Activities
While Mogollon is a fascinating destination year-round, the town truly comes to life during the summer when local businesses open their doors to visitors. Check the town’s Facebook page for updates on seasonal events and activities, including art shows, live music, and more.
Mogollon, New Mexico Ghost Town is a fascinating destination for history buffs, outdoor enthusiasts, and anyone seeking a window into the wild and untamed past of the American West. With its rich history, well-preserved buildings, and stunning natural surroundings, visiting Mogollon is a truly unforgettable experience.
Explore the town’s streets, hike the surrounding wilderness, and immerse yourself in the captivating story of this remarkable ghost town.