I guess ghost towns ain’t what they used to be. Nothing is, actually, but you would think that a ghost town would, you know, be a spooky old abandoned town. I’ve been to a few. South Pass City came close way back in 1975 when I was there but it is not the same now. Before you know it somebody shows up with a bucket of paint and soon they are selling ice cream to the tourists. Next comes the gallery or else somebody runs around and collects abandoned stuff and opens a museum. I visited one old mining town way up in the Colorado Rockies that went too far the other way. There was nothing left but rusted tin roof scraps, a few crude foundations and some broken glass.
New Mexico has a bunch of old mining towns that qualify as ghost towns or at least the modern version with a museum or gift shop. I stopped off at three of them this past weekend. Gold and silver brought miners up into the dry hills and some of these places grew to 3,000 people before the eventual bust and abandonment.
Winston has a small General store and a few occupied homes. There is one gas pump at the store, which also had a self service food bar and a couple tables. There are a few abandoned buildings and a park with a small playground for local families. A saloon resides in a ramshackle building at the other end of town.
Winston was the new town folks moved too when they decided the mining town of Chloride was too remote. Chloride is really only a couple miles up the road but it must have seemed a lot farther back in the 1880s. Chloride has a museum and a gift shop and a couple refurbished cabins that are rented out to visitors. The place has a resident caretaker who seems to own the town and is full of stories. He refurbished a falling down bank building into a cafe and installed a good commercial kitchen but can’t keep a cook because the place is too far from civilization and there’s too few customers.
Monticello is an old settlement built around a central plaza. The rectangular arrangement of buildings served as a defensive feature since there were occasional Indian attacks. This was apache country and Geronimo roamed the area. Monticello is mostly an adobe town and there are a number of occupied homes. One is being renovated and looks like it will be very nice when finished. Monticello had a relatively large schoolhouse built by the WPA back in the 1930s but it is now in ruins.
The mines are closed and mostly sealed up to keep people out. This is now mostly an area of farms or ranches and these old ghost towns serve as social or commercial crossroads and have a few full time residents. The area is very pretty — mostly desert and dry mountains and canyons. There has been more rain than usual this year so it seems greener than I expected.