Sunday, February 24, 2013
Here and Gone
Elizabeth Town, New Mexico has long been a favorite of mine. There’s not much left of the thriving but lawless mining town. There is a pay for play western town that’s seldom if ever open. There’s the shell of the Mutz Hotel and there are hulks of automobiles strewn throughout the town’s hillside site. At the top of the hill Elizabeth Town Cemetery looks down on the whole shebang and is worth the trip all by itself.
It’s hard to imagine that this was once the home of 7,000 residents, substantially larger than the town of Taos today. Elizabeth Town was, among other things, the first incorporated town in New Mexico, the county seat of Colfax County and the home of serial killer Charles Kennedy who lured at least 14 victims to his boarding house before killing them and incinerating them piece by piece. A lynch mob led by the notorious Clay Allison put an end to the festivities. Then they let Kennedy hang for several days to make some kind of statement. This macabre display may be the genesis of the phrase “left swinging in the wind.”
The Elizabeth Town story began in the fall of 1866 when three prospectors looking for copper found gold instead. Though they swore themselves to secrecy the vow held for a nano-second and their loose tongues led to an all out gold rush. It turns out that the site of the town was owned Lucien Bonaparte Maxwell whose Maxwell Land Grant, the nation’s largest, included all of the Moreno Valley and everything east to past Cimarron. The wealthy Maxwell was quite enterprising. Since he knew he couldn’t fight the surge of treasure seekers he leased them small parcels, charged claim fees as well as tolls for the road he constructed for their use. That was 1867. But by 1872 the mines had stopped producing and just 100 residents remained. That's a record setting fall from grace for sure. Then the fire of 1903 virtually erased the town and its faint residue is what you’ll find today.
And who in the devil decorated those rusting cars with plastic flowers? Roses and Rust, now there's a theme that's right up my alley.