The following made major contributions to this effort: Joan
Mathien of the National Park Service, Robert Eveleth of the New Mexico Bureau of
Mines and Mineral Resources, and Cordelia T. Snow who shared information and gave
helpful comments. I would like to acknowledge the assistance of state librarians
and archivists: Margaret Cordovano, Laura Holt, Al Ragensberg, and Orlando Romero.
Elise McLaughlin is also recognized for editorial assistance. However, the errors
of this history are solely the author's responsibility.
Native Americans extensively mined turquoise in the Southwest before the coming
of the Europeans for at least 700 years. Turquoise was probably prehistoric New
Mexico's major export to other areas. The Spanish conquest disrupted the Pueblo
culture and its economic patterns. During the Spanish Period the pueblos continued
to mine turquoise for their own use and trade with the unconquered tribes around
New Mexico. The Spanish considered turquoise worthless and laughed at the Indians
for mining it. Consequently, Spanish documents other than Salmeron ignore the
continued mining of turquoise by the Indians. Only a few Spanish documents even
mention the continued use of turquoise by the pueblos. At the time of Oñate's
1598 founding of New Mexico, Nahuatl-speaking colonists may have outnumbered
Spanish-speaking colonists, thus their word,
the word used for turquoise in New Mexico until the late 1800s.
Historical documents of the Mexican and early U.S. Period are as silent on the
subject of turquoise as Spanish documents, as those writers also considered
turquoise to be a worthless rock. It was ethnographic interest in the Navajos'
turquoise jewelry that lead to the first U.S. Period mention of turquoise
in 1858 by Blake. The fact
that the Navajos had turquoise ornaments but did not mine turquoise led Blake to
trace turquoise mining to the Pueblo Indians. They directed him to
Mount Chalchihuitl in the Cerrillos Hills
as the source of the turquoise. This is all Blake said about the turquoise trade.
He was very impressed by the large pit at Mount Chalchihuitl, and his paper made
the pit famous. He observed or was told that Pueblos obtained their turquoise from
the old mine waste dumps and made it into jewelry which they traded with other
tribes. This led later authors such as
Pogue (1915) to assume that at some point
between the 1600s and 1850 the pueblos stopped mining turquoise and started just
collecting it from the old mine dumps. However, it seems unlikely that the dumps
could have supplied the demand for turquoise for more than a short time.
Contrary to an 1800s myth that Pueblo Indians were afraid of going into the mines,
there are late 1800s references to Santo Domingo and Cochiti Pueblo Indians going
to the Cerrillos Hills to mine (Andrews, 1936 [citation pending]) as well as collect
turquoise from the surface. In addition, Bandelier noted in his journal in 1881
that he saw two Indians mining turquoise with hatchets
(Lang & Riley, 1966).
With the coming of the railroad in 1881 and the development of tourism, a small
new market developed for Pueblo turquoise jewelry. This market has had its ups
and downs but is still a Pueblo industry today. By the late 1800s Pueblo Indians
were getting most and eventually all their turquoise from traders who purchased
it from the many new turquoise mines, or from the copper mining industry. Today
the major sources of turquoise are natural turquoise mined in China, the synthetic
material manufactured in Europe, and byproducts of some copper mines.
In the late 1880s Europeans began to value New Mexico turquoise for the first time
in 300 years. This change in attitude resulted from an increase in turquoise prices
as the ancient turquoise mines of Persia ran out of ore. In the 1880s, Cerrillos
turquoise and other southwestern turquoise was promoted as the equivalent in
quality to that of Persian turquoise. The acceptance of Cerrillos turquoise as a
gemstone in 1889 raised its price to a level where its mining became profitable.
The "Old Castillian" Mining Claim of 1879 is the earliest European-American
turquoise mining claim in the United States. (The name of this mine was eventually
shortened to "Castillian" by 1890.) In 1880 a highly publicized effort was made
to develop Mount Chalchihuitl as a gold and silver mine, but the mining company
closed quickly after the stock was sold. The 1880-1881 mining on Mount Chalchihuitl,
though in a turquoise deposit, was not for turquoise. Though turquoise mining was
reported between 1880 and 1883 at the Castillian Mine
(Lakes, 1901), the total yearly production
for the country during these years estimated by the U.S. Geological Service (USGS)
was only $2,000 (MRUS, 1882, 1883).
Three-quarters of the production was for mineral specimen collections, and only
$500 yearly was for gem manufacturing. Major turquoise mining did not start until
the late 1880s. From 1889 until around 1893, turquoise prices rose until turquoise
was more valuable than gold. Prices then declined as many new deposits in the
southwest came into production. The American Turquoise Company associated with the
big New York jeweler, Tiffany and Company, bought up the best mines on Turquoise
Hill. Efforts to control production and marketing through monopoly agreements
existed but have not been studied.
The price of turquoise declined in the late 1890s and collapsed between 1909 and
1912. (See table.) The American Turquoise Company developed
another turquoise mine near Hatchita in southwest New Mexico but it was closed
prior to 1909. By 1912 an oversupply caused a crash in turquoise mining. The
turquoise mine production reported to the USGS decreased by 50 percent every year
from 1909 ($179,273) to 1910 ($85,900), to 1911 ($44,751), and in 1912 it
decreased by 75 percent to only $8,075. By 1911 most of the turquoise mines in
the U.S. were closed, and only four locations continued in operation (MRUS, 1911,
p. 1066). After about 1909 McNulty was only doing assessment work at the Tiffany
Mine [(MRUS, 1911, p. 1070). Even the annual assessment work stopped with the
patenting of the claims, and thus a reasonable ending date for turquoise mining
on the hills is 1912. Fine European-style turquoise jewelry went out of fashion
with the collapse of turquoise prices and even the dramatic rise in demand in the
second half of the 20th Century for Native American turquoise jewelry has not raised
prices to the level of 1890. The mines of Turquoise Hill were worked occasionally
by McNulty and a few other individuals but on a very sporadic and small scale
after 1915. McNulty, who managed the mines on Turquoise Hill for the American
Turquoise Company, continued to live there and did occassional mining at the
Tiffany for a later owner until the early 1920s. Some locals
did part-time mining as late as 1939 for the local Indian market. The mines have
never been reopened though various people have worked the old waste rock piles
for small pieces of turquoise in recent years.
The price of turquoise has never risen to what it was a century ago due to the
large supply from other countries and due to copper mining. Native Americans
operated turquoise mines in the southwest for almost a thousand years, but European
operation of mines specifically for turquoise was confined mainly to a couple of
decades when its price was high.
Native Americans worked the Cerrillos Hills turquoise centuries before the Europeans
came to the area and they continue to value turquoise to this day. Europeans in
New Mexico were not interested in the stone, considering it worthless. In the
second half of the 19th Century, when Europeans first did become interested in
turquoise, a large number of myths about turquoise mining gradually developed.
Fenderson's lead paragraph to his article, "Turquoise Mining in New Mexico", is
as appropriate today as it was a century ago.
The early mining of turquoise in New Mexico is enveloped in a
base of myth, tradition and superstition difficult to penetrate. The searcher for
authentic history concerning this fascinating subject is confronted on the very
threshold of his endeavors with fact and fiction so skillfully interwoven by the
hand of Time and so generously amplified by myths long antedating the discovery
of America that he is apt to view the segregation as a well-nigh hopeless task
The myths Fenderson refers to however, seem to be a creation of the second half
of the 1800s. Most of the numerous articles written on turquoise before and since
Fenderson are listed in Rex Arrowsmith's 1972 Rio Grande Press reprint of Pogue's
1915 classic book, Turquois. Good bibliographies are also found in
Warren and Mathien (1985) and
Levine and Goodman (1990).
Readers are referred to these if they are interested in the traditions and myths
that surround the use and mining of turquoise.
English names for the two major turquoise deposits in the Cerrillos Mining
District in the 1800s and today are "Turquoise Hill", the hills covered in this
report, and "Mount Chalchihuitl", a deposit three miles [4.8 km] south and a mile
[1.6 km] west of Turquoise Hill. Mount Chalchihuitl's large open pit attracted
all of the early comments on turquoise mining in the Cerrillos District by American
observers starting with Blake in 1858. In 1879-1880 Eastern stock promoters created
a company to mine gold and silver at Mount Chalchihuitl. They promoted it as the most
important "Old Spanish" mine in New Mexico based on the old turquoise pit there
and the legends associated with the pit. This company was successful at selling
stock but failed at mining because as company officials surely knew, there was no
gold or silver and very little turquoise there. However, it did establish Mount
Chalchihuitl as the most famous or infamous turquoise mine in the United States.
Turquoise Hill did not come into prominence until later when turquoise prices rose
and it became the site of all the important turquoise mines of the Cerrillos
District, with the possible exception of O'Neil's Blue Bell Mine.
The Spanish word for turquoise, turquesa, has the same
origin as the English word, "turkish stone", but the word turquesa was generally
not used in New Mexico. The word Chalchihuite or
Chalchihuitl, from the Nahuatl Indian language of Central
Mexico was used in New Mexico by the Navajos and other groups for turquoise into
the late 1800s.
The importance of turquoise in the trading economy of the Southwest in prehistoric
times has been researched by many authors. Researchers for several decades have
been trying to develop a technique that would make it possible to identify the
place of origin of a turquoise artifact. Until a reliable technique is found to
identify the mine, district or region that a turquoise object came from, theories
on prehistoric turquoise trade patterns cannot be verified.
Authors in the 1800s claimed that Cerrillos turquoise was identified from sites
as far west as the Hopi Pueblos and that the Aztecs obtained their turquoise from
Cerrillos. The basic reason for these statements in the 1800s was the fame of the
Cerrillos deposits and the absence of other known pre-historic turquoise mines.
The theoretical importance of Cerrillos turquoise mines in overall pre-historic
trade declined with the discovery of other prehistoric turquoise mines in the
Western U.S. and Northern Mexico at the end of the 19th Century.
The matrix (non-turquoise elements or impurities) and other characteristics of
turquoise allow identification of the probable area of origin of many large stones
with matrix used in late 19th and 20th Century jewelry. However, the origin of
small stones without matrix used in prehistoric beads and inlay cannot be visually
identified. In recent decades extensive trade contact has come back into fashion
Weigand & Harbottle, 1993).
A number of researchers have been looking for a definitive chemical means of
identifying the site of origin of turquoise. A variety of techniques have been
tried and a new lead isotope technique shows promise
(Young, Phillips, & Mathien, 1994).
Turquoise research has concentrated on trace element analysis, based on the
assumption that the various sources of turquoise probably would show different
trace elements. Called the "provenience postulate", it was described as an attempt
to develop a technique that will "fingerprint" the specific source area of turquoise
artifacts found at prehistoric sites
(Weigand, Harbottle, & Sayre, 1977). The
following table of "fingerprinting" research was provided by
Joan Mathien (1994).
Chemically identifying the sources of turquoise would scientifically confirm
pre-Columbian trade patterns and support or reject many broader theories.
Harbottle and Weigand in their 1992 article claimed that their chemical analysis
by neutron-activation allowed definitive source identification of turquoise.
There is not enough data published to date to evaluate this technique. Their
chapter in The American Southwest and Mesoamerica (1993),
published later but perhaps written earlier than their 1992 article, recognizes
that Cerrillos turquoise is extremely variable in composition. Their data
published in 1993 indicates that the neutron-activation technique will probably
not be able to "fingerprint" the source of turquoise and contradicts some of their
The data published shows extensive sampling of only a few turquoise deposits.
More extensive testing of the chemical composition of deposits or mines is needed.
The variability found in most deposits will probably expand with increased numbers
of samples which may show as much variability within as between deposits.
Harbottle and Weigand (1992) seem convinced
that the chemical fingerprints found in their studies by neutron-activation clearly
identify the source of turquoise. During the past two decades they have analyzed
2,000 pieces of turquoise from 28 Pre-Columbian archaeological sites in Mesoamerica
and the Southwest. They also state that they have collected turquoise from more
than 40 mining areas in the Southwest but do not report how many they have analyzed
(1992, p. 84). In their 1993 report they give extensive analytic results for only
a few turquoise deposits. A computer search for all published items by these two
authors since 1992 yielded only the two items discussed related to this topic.
The data published by Weigand and Harbottle (1993) is not adequate for making more
than a hypothesis because the technique is unproven at this time. Their chemical
analysis does not allow identification of turquoise sources by a chemical
fingerprint. They state "...in practice the source 'fingerprint' characterization
does not work in quite such an idealized way" 1993, p. 165). Through computerized
manipulation using "Mean Euclidean Distance" and "Mahalanobis Distance" they feel
they can differentiate between some turquoise sources by mathematical values
derived from the chemical composition of the turquoise (1993, p. 167).
There are a number of questions about the neutron-activation technique and
uncertainty about how the mines were sampled. Until the number of specimens per
deposit and location of sampling in each deposit is known judgement must be
reserved. Published data shows extensive sampling of only about a half dozen deposits
(Weigand & Harbottle, 1993;
Mathien & Olinger, 1992;
Young, et al., 1994).
Harbottle and Weigand (1992) believe their results support or even confirm a number
of broad historical hypotheses. One of these hypotheses is that as early as 700
A.D., raw turquoise was traded to the Central Valley of Mexico from the Southwest.
A number of researchers have hypothesized that the classical development of Chaco
Canyon (about 1150-1280 A.D.), or what is called the "Chaco Phenomena", resulted
from the development of local finishing and manufacture of turquoise products
rather than just shipping of the raw product to Mesoamerica. A century-old concept
is that the architecture of Chaco reflects the adoption of Mesoamerican building
designs acquired through commerce with Mesoamerica
(Duran & Kirkpatrick, 1992). Harbottle and
Weigand (1992) believe that most turquoise during the Classic Chaco Period came
from Cerrillos and that the Chaco Culture had control of that supply. They believe
that after the Classic Chaco Period, turquoise came from many sources. The
development of turquoise mines in areas not under Chaco control coincided with
the rapid decline and abandonment of Chaco Canyon.
These combined hypotheses tie together and explain a great deal of New Mexico's
pre-Columbian history. The "Turquoise Monopoly Chaco Phenomena" theory states that
Chacoans developed a monopoly of turquoise production at Cerrillos and that this,
combined with the manufacture of the finished religious and jewelry product,
produced the wealth that caused the "Chaco Phenomena". When they lost the monopoly
of supplying finished turquoise to Mesoamerica, their economy and society collapsed
as quickly as it had developed. The only way to prove or disprove this theory is
through a technique that allows conclusive identification of the deposit of origin
of pre-Colombian turquoise artifacts.
If the "Turquoise Monopoly Chaco Phenomena" theory is correct, then the Cerrillos
turquoise mines have paramount importance to the history of New Mexico and the
Southwest. The wealth created from the Cerrillos turquoise mines becomes the basis
of the Classic Chaco Culture and its accomplishments to the same degree that the
wealth created by the Laurium silver mines of Athens produced the resources to
build its classic culture and buildings, and to defeat the Persians. A high level
of commercial and cultural interchange with the Cultures of Central Mexico is
supported by a variety of research, but the commodity exported out of the Southwest
is yet to be proven to be Cerrillos turquoise.
The closest large late Prehistoric and Historic period pueblos to Turquoise Hills
were San Marcos, about three miles southeast, and La Cienega, about three miles
[4.8 km] west of Turquoise Hill. (map) Five small
11th and 12th century Puebloan room blocks whose residents apparently devoted
full time to turquoise mining and refining were described by
Wisemann and Darling (1986). Pottery from
these turquoise mining camps located between San Marcos and the Cerrillos Hills
indicate that perhaps Mount Taylor Puebloans set up residence in the area to mine
turquoise during the Chaco Phenomena Period.
The Cerrillos turquoise mines may have been open to all Pueblos, but if any
individual pueblo dominated turquoise mining it seems reasonable to assume that
La Cienega or San Marcos, due to their proximity, would have been predominant.
Both of these pueblos were probably mainly Tano and both were abandoned during
the Pueblo Revolt of 1680-1693. After the revolt the closest pueblos were Santo
Domingo and Cochiti. Nineteenth Century writers discussing the identity of Pueblos
collecting turquoise in the Cerrillos Hills generally reported they were Santo
Domingo or Cochiti puebloans.
Prehistoric Turquoise Mining in the
Turquoise Hill is separated by over two miles [3.2 km] from the nearest other reported
turquoise mining site (Warren and Mathien, 1985).
Turquoise Hill was not included in the original 1879 Cerrillos
Mining District boundaries, and had a separate place name, Turquesa, during
the U.S. Period mining boom. Thus, it could be considered a sub-district of the
Cerrillos District. However, it is more illuminating to consider it together with
the rest of the Cerrillos District for a general understanding of its and the area's
turquoise mining history, especially considering the relative lack of past
documentation of prehistoric mining on Turquoise Hill.
The two major prehistoric turquoise pits or mining sites in the Cerrillos Mining
District based on the volume of rock moved prior to U.S. Period mining are the
Castillian and Mount Chalchihuitl. Two smaller but still major prehistoric mine
areas, based on early comments about size, number of pits or artifacts, and
territorial success and development, are the Tiffany Mine (Muniz Claim) and O'Neil's
Blue Bell. According to Warren, the O'Neil Turquoise Mine site, due to the number
of features and amount of prehistoric ceramics, is a fifth major prehistoric
turquoise mine area. Other than these five major sites, only seven other much
smaller sites have been documented. Three of the five major prehistoric sites
became the major turquoise producers of the U.S. Period: the Castillian, the
Tiffany, and the Blue Bell. These three sites, or mines within 100 feet [30.5 m]
of them, were the only major U.S. Period turquoise mines in the district. U.S. Period
activity occurred at some of the other prehistoric sites but was short-lived and
consisted of prospecting more than mining. The 1880-1881 mining at Mount
Chalchihuitl, the most famous prehistoric site, was a scam that did not produce
significant turquoise. No record of the territorial activity in Warren's O'Neil
Mine area was located.
The only study of prehistoric turquoise mining in the Cerrillos District which
provides coverage of all mines and their period of use is that of Warren and
Mathien (1985). A. Helene Warren's survey of the southeastern part of the Cerrillos
Mining District for Occidental Minerals
(Warren, 1974) was oriented toward the
eastern part of the Cerrillos District, and thus she probably did not survey the
western portion of the district for prehistoric turquoise mining. Warren's report
(1974), and Warren and Mathien (1985) do not mention if the western area was
evaluated. All the sites described by Warren and Mathien (1985) are in a
north-south belt along the eastern side of the district. They cover only
turquoise mines east of a north-south line bounded on the west by Grand Central
Mountain. Copper mineralization of the turquoise type is present at some locations
west of this line but that area has probably not been checked for evidence of
prehistoric turquoise mining. Gregory Fitch (1995)
reported that the side arroyos draining into San Marcos Arroyo reveal small
outcrops of turquoise bearing rock about three to four miles east of San Marcos
Pueblo, which is another area deserving investigation.
Warren and Mathien (1985) described ten prehistoric turquoise mining sites or
areas in the Cerrillos District. Because they were denied access to Turquoise
Hill by someone they thought was the owner at that time (1974-1985), they combined
all of the Turquoise Hill sites under one entry. Turquoise Hill contains two
separate sites. Thus there are a total of eleven known prehistoric mining sites
in the Cerrillos District. Since they were not allowed on Turquoise Hill, they
did not examine or map it, and obtained only four sherds from that area.
Turquoise Hill is actually a small group of interconnected hills. The two areas
of known prehistoric turquoise mining are on the extreme southwestern hill (the
Castillian Mine area) and extreme southeastern edge of the southeastern hill (the
Tiffany Mine, the unofficial name for the Muniz Lode). The only other area of
prominent turquoise mineralization is on the extreme north edge of the largest
hill on the Blue Gem Lode. The pit of the "Old Castillian" is on the top of the
lower western hill and is the largest of the known prehistoric workings. This pit
was reported as being about one-third the size of the pit at Mount Chalchihuitl
prior to extensive U.S. mining in 1880
(Lakes, 1901). The pit was deepened by U.S.
mining, but probably not extended laterally as its lateral dimensions are less
than reported by Lakes. Its remaining waste mounds are the most likely source of
ceramic documentation of the prehistory of mining on Turquoise Hill. A large
amount of waste rock piles on Turquoise Hill, including all of those below the
Tiffany Mine, were hauled off by highway employees in 1983, and later returned to
different locations. The dumps on the lower eastern slope of the Castillian hill
are believed to be of this returned material. The returned materials would have
lost their historical stratigraphy but would still contain ceramic information.
A recent trench in that area, dug by an employee of the current owners, between
the Council shafts and Elisa shafts, had four axe heads laying along it, indicating
considerable artifact content in the waste material.
The 1879 "Old Castillian" Claim ran northeast by southwest, according to
Hayward's map (1880), and was probably
centered on the Castillian pit. Between 1880 and the mineral survey (MS) for the
patent of the Castillian Claim in 1900, three shafts and a large open stope were
developed south of the pit by Territorial Period miners. The MS done in 1900 does
not mention the pit. The reason it was not mentioned was undoubtedly because it
was not considered part of the work done by U.S. miners on the property. Therefore,
it was not eligible for inclusion in the improvements on the claim to meet the minimum
expenditure of funds needed for a patent. This indicates that the American
Turquoise Company did not claim that the pit was dug by Territorial Period miners
(in other words, it was present before U.S. mining and had not been enlarged).
This interpretation is confirmed by Lakes' (1901) article which describes the pit
as 75 by 30 feet and 16 feet deep in 1880. Lakes probably obtained that information
during his field work in 1900 at essentially the same time that the MS was being
performed; we therefore can be certain the pit was there in 1900.
The other area of known prehistoric mining on Turquoise Hill is the extreme
southeastern edge of the hills. The best documentary evidence of prehistoric
mining in that area is the 1879 name given to the mining claim "Old Indian Prospect".
The smooth walls, with a differing patina in the two largest open pits (stopes)
of the Tiffany Mine are strong indications of prehistoric turquoise mining pits.
Mathien reported in 1987 that an effort to date the patina was in progress, but
she later reported that it was not successful
The other mine features on that southeast hill appear to be from the Territorial
Period and show few if any signs of turquoise mineralization. Most of these other
features were probably dug by Territorial Period miners in their search for gold
and silver deposits (Hayward, 1880), which explains the lack of turquoise
mineralization at these locations. There may be some prehistoric workings under
the waste piles around the western Tiffany open stope, but no surface signs of
such workings are visible.
The closest large late Prehistoric and Historic period pueblos to Turquoise Hills
were San Marcos, about three miles [4.8 km] southeast, and La Cienega, about
three miles [4.8 km] west of Turquoise Hill. Five small 11th and 12th century
Puebloan room blocks whose residents apparently devoted full time to turquoise
mining and refining were described by
Wisemann and Darling (1986).
Pottery from these turquoise mining camps located between San Marcos and the
Cerrillos Hills indicate that perhaps Mount Taylor Puebloans set up residence in
the area to mine turquoise during the Chaco Phenomena Period.
The Cerrillos turquoise mines may have been open to all Pueblos, but if any
individual pueblo dominated turquoise mining it seems reasonable to assume that
La Cienega or San Marcos, due to their proximity, would have been predominant.
Both of these pueblos were probably mainly Tano and both were abandoned during the
Pueblo Revolt of 1680-1693. After the revolt the closest pueblos were Santo
Domingo and Cochiti. Nineteenth Century writers discussing the identity of Pueblos
collecting turquoise in the Cerrillos Hills generally reported they were Santo
Domingo or Cochiti puebloans.
Evidence of Prehistoric and Colonial Period
Ten turquoise mine sites were described by Warren and Mathien (1985) in the
Cerrillos District. Their Figure 1 (p. 95) shows the approximate locations of
these sites with the exception of Fire Fly. The locations of these sites were
redrawn using Warren (1974, p. 15) and Warren and Mathien's map (1985, p. 95).
The map, Locations of Cerrillos District Turquoise Mines, Figure 8 in this report,
shows the location of known turquoise mines of the district by the numbers used
in this report. Warren and Mathien (1985) discuss numerous dating questions of
the pottery types collected at the mines. The following summary of probable
mining dates compiled from their data is subject to question. Warren and Mathien's
Table 10 (1985, p. 119) summarizes the ceramics from the Cerrillos Turquoise
Mining District by mine feature. The totals for the district were: pre-Pueblo III
1.4 percent, Pueblo III (1100 to 1300 A.D.) 20.9 percent, Glazewares [Pueblo IV
(1300-1600), and (1600-1700 period of Pueblo V)] 71.2 percent, and unknown and
Historic Period 6.5 percent. "Based on the identifications of ceramic types and
percentages assigned (Table 10), the greatest use of the Cerrillos District
occurred during Pueblo IV" (Warren & Mathien, 1985, p. 124). Different turquoise
sites had different ceramic assemblages and the following is an approximate dating
of each site's turquoise mining activity. The name of the mine or site used by
Warren and Mathien (1985) is followed by the probable periods of Prehistoric and
Spanish Historic mining based on pottery types identified by Warren and Mathien
(1985). Warren (deceased) and Mathien might not agree with this simplification of
the results of their study.
Mount Chalchihuitl, from 1000-1150 to 1700.
Mina del Tiro Group, from 1050 to 1500, no historic mining.
Warren's O'Neil, from 1050 to 1500-1550, and historic mining 1650-1680.
Franklin Pits, from 1000 to 1150 and 1350 to 1450, historic mining unknown.
Bonito Mines, from 1350 to 1700s.
Blue Jay Mines, 1200?-1700?, and two post-1700 sherds.
Firefly Mine, 1000 to 1450?, no historic mining.
Grand Central Mines, 1350-1500?, and historic mining 1650-1700?.
Mount McKenzie, 1325?-1400, and 1650-1700-or-later Spanish ceramics.
Turquoise Hill, 1350? to 1600?, and the only turquoise mine site with a
Spanish documentary record (1763-64) of metallic mining claims.
Turquoise jewelry was manufactured in New Mexico as early as 800 A.D., but the
earliest ceramic evidence at the Cerrillos turquoise mines dates to around 1000
A.D. There were apparently two periods of major prehistoric turquoise mining
activity separated by one-and-a-half to two centuries of reduced activity. The
first major phase was from the early 1000s to about 1200, and the second from the
late 1300s to European colonization in 1598. About 20 percent of the first period
sherds (circa 1025 to 1150-1200) indicate outside commercial relations mainly to
pueblos of the Mount Taylor area. There was a decline in turquoise mining from
about 1200 to around 1350. In the second major mining phase from the late 1300s
to 1600, ceramic types are almost exclusively of Rio Grande Pueblo types,
indicating little commercial contact by the miners outside of the Rio Grande
drainage of North Central New Mexico.
A sharp decrease in post-1600 sherd types indicates a decline in mining following
European colonization. However, the ceramic record shows that turquoise mining did
not stop. There are a small number of Historic Period ceramic types of the 17th,
18th, and 19th centuries which show that turquoise mining continued during all
of the Spanish Colonial Period into the 1800s on a reduced scale. Written records
from the U.S. Period show that Pueblo Indians continued to work the deposits on a
sporadic basis throughout the 1800s, and may have continued to do so into the
first two decades of the 1900s. By the end of the 19th Century, it was more
economical to purchase turquoise from traders than to mine it at Los Cerrillos.
U.S. Period Mining in the Cerrillos District
U.S. Period Mining in the Cerrillos
The following is a discussion of U.S. Territorial and later mining at the ten
turquoise mine sites in the Cerrillos District identified by Warren and Mathien
1. Mount Chalchihuitl
The documentary record as well as current and past descriptions of Mount
Chalchihuitl strongly indicate that the only U.S. Period mining of any significance
was that done in 1880-1881 under the direction of D.C. Hyde. The shafts (which
have collapsed) and probably all of the adits in and on Mount Chalchihuitl were
dug in 1880-81. Contrary to what many authors have assumed, the adits are historic.
The room or chamber just inside of the east adit is probably Hyde's "Wonder Caves"
shown on Silliman's drawing, which in 1880 had a drift going only ten feet beyond
it. Thus it may be prehistoric or Hyde may have dug it out for his museum. It is
the only possibility of a prehistoric adit.
Hyde (1880) claims he found skeletons in the
shaft he dug in solid rock in the great pit.
Gustafson (1965) developed a detailed surface
geologic map of the area showing the size of the pit and location of the adits.
Gustafson's internal geologic map (1965, his Figure 3) of the adits and their
drifts on Mount Chalchihuitl shows that the miners did not follow the turquoise
zone in their drifting. The southern adit's dimensions and rectangular shape appear
to be from the Territorial Period. There was no effort to exploit the turquoise
zone 40 feet [12.2 m] in from the southern adit. The drifts appear to have been an
exploratory system from which no material was mined. This indicates miners were
not looking for turquoise. The only area with turquoise-bearing material on the
surface and indicating exploitation of the turquoise zone is the eastern adit-drift.
Thus this is the only area with the probability of prehistoric origin. Gustafson's
study provides additional evidence that the miners who dug the adits and drifts
were not interested in turquoise. The lateral tunneling inside the east entrance
is the only extraction in a turquoise-bearing zone. This room or rooms are located
in what Hyde called his "Wonder Caves" and may be partially prehistoric. He probably
modified or expanded them in 1879-1880 as part of his promotional effort.
It has been commonplace for authors to refer to the 1880-81 mining at Mount
Chalchihuitl as turquoise mining. The 1880-81 digging, though done in a deposit
that contains nothing but turquoise, was done to locate gold and silver, not
turquoise. Thus it was not a turquoise mining effort in a strict sense as they
were neither looking for turquoise nor did they find any of significance. D.C.
Hyde's only interest in turquoise was the claim that gold was found with it, which
explained why the Spanish mined the great pit. Hyde's company was a gold and
silver mining company and was only using the fame of the turquoise pit to help
promote the sale of its stock. American turquoise in 1880-81 had no commercial
value, and stock could not have been sold in such a mine.
Hyde's mining company assets consisted of Mt. Chalchihuitl and its famous pit,
but he lacked evidence that anything of value to mine existed there. Hayward gave
no gold or silver assay results for Hyde's mine (1880, p. 86) even though he gave
false assays for many other mines. The legend of Spanish mining at the pit appears
to have been started about twenty years earlier, and the articles Silliman wrote
and had published increased the fame of that legend. One of Hyde's promotional
efforts was a museum of Indian artifacts for visitors (potential stock purchasers)
to see at the mine. The mine was promoted as one that could not be appreciated
unless you visited it. Hayward writing in July 1880, gave what was apparently Hyde's
stock marketing strategy.
No idea of this wonderful mine can be conveyed by a written
description. A visit to the mine is the only way to understand its wonders, and
thousands have been there and gone away well paid for time and expense
(Hayward, 1880, p. 86).
In 1880 and 1881 New Mexico turquoise was almost worthless and could only be sold
as trinkets or curiosities. Hyde took some turquoise to New York, but it may have
come from other sources (possibly the Castillian which he later operated). No one
other than Hyde is known to have claimed to find commercial grade turquoise at
Mount Chachihuitl in the 1800s. The only turquoise found there in modern times
were veins too thin to have any commercial value.
The company D.C. Hyde organized or worked for was referred to as "New York
capitalists" by Hayward (1880, p.4). But later under the mines ownership, Hayward
reported "This mine is now owned by D.C. Hyde of New York, who commenced development
on Jan. 1, 1880" (Hayward, 1880, p. 86). The early name selected
by Hyde or his associates for the company was "Grand Reserve Consolidated Gold and
Silver Mining Company" (Hyde, 1880). The company name was changed probably following
Silliman's articles in 1881 or 1882 to "The Turquoise Gold and Silver Mining
Company", and Hyde wrote an undated brochure promoting the company under that name
(Hyde, n.d.). Neither the 1880 company
prospectus (Hyde, 1880) nor Hyde's later company promotional brochure (Hyde, n.d.)
were located by the Abandoned Mine Land Bureau but both have been referenced in
this century. Townley (1967) provides several
quotes from Hyde (1880). Northrop (1959)
lists Hyde (n.d.) in his bibliography, as does Arrowsmith in the reprint of
Since New Mexico turquoise was only of trinket value in 1880, Hyde needed something
else of economic value to mine at Mount Chalchihuitl. The apparent solution to this
problem was the creation of the concept that gold was found in Cerrillos turquoise.
No record of how this concept developed was located. The company's prospectus
(Hyde, 1880) or promotional brochure (Hyde, n.d.) may shed light on this question
when a copy is located. Specimens reported to be "Cerrillos turquoise with gold"
appeared in the collections of a number of eastern institutions about this time.
The company apparently was successful in selling stock and thus it appears that
they sold the idea that the Spanish probably mined on the mountain to extract gold.
Mount Chalchihuitl rock has neither gold nor silver in anything approaching
economic quantities. Thus the company must have used false assays to promote the
gold and silver mining potential of its property. No record of the company existing
after 1882 was located, and it was not until almost two decades after the company's
collapse that an article appeared showing that the idea of "gold in Cerrillos
turquoise" was a hoax (Genth, 1890).
Benjamin Silliman, Jr. was a professor of geology at Yale University. Early on he
turned to "experting" to augment his income. He was one of the great early mining e
xperts, and a true "professor". By the 1870s he commanded probably the highest fees
in the "experting" business
(Spence, 1993, p. 133). By 1871
he was charging clients according to the "value of his services" in promoting their
mines. Congress investigated the Emma Mine scandal in Utah, which produced very
little in comparison to the millions of dollars in stock sold in the Emma Mine.
Silliman had written a glowing report on the Emma Mine's potential which was used
to help sell stock. He testified to Congress that he was paid a $5,000 advance for
the report on the Emma and was to receive an additional $10,000 to $20,000 when
the report was completed, "...depending on the estimate I might form of the value
of the service" (Silliman, 1876;
Spence, 1993, p. 133).
In 1880 Silliman was employed by New York stock promoters to go to New Mexico and
make reports on Mount Chalchihuitl and the gold placer potential of some other
properties in Northern New Mexico (Silliman, 1882). What Silliman wrote about the
potential of the Taos and Rio Arriba counties' gold properties is evidence of his
propensity to overstate things in the best interest of his clients.
Nothing, I am persuaded, since the discovery of California and
Australia, is comparable for its measurable reserves of gold, available by hydraulic
process, in these deep placers of the Rio Grande
(Silliman, 1882, p. 7).
These deposits along the Rio Grande in Northern New Mexico were marginal at best
and the only real money made from them was in the selling of company stock, not
in mining gold.
Authors such as Pogue (1915) and
Jones (1904) were unaware of, or chose not to
point out Professor Silliman's conflict of interest in his employment to help
promote Mount Chalchihuitl. Thus Silliman's four articles
1881b) published in two years, which stressed
the historical importance and magnitude of past mining on Mount Chalchihuitl, are
very suspect. It is not known if Silliman wrote a report on Mount Chalchihuitl's
gold and silver prospects. However, if he did it probably was not positive. The
company prospectus may contain elements of Silliman's report (Hyde, 1880), and
though referenced by Townley (1967) it was not located. The intended effect of
Silliman's journal articles was probably to help promote stock sales, or he would
not have gotten it published in four different journals in two years. He made it
appear to be a major Spanish mining site through his promotion of the myth of a
"Great Mine Collapse" there which caused the Pueblo Revolt in 1680 in New Mexico.
Silliman may have refused to say that there was gold or silver at Mount Chalchihuitl,
and thus the best he could do for his clients may have been to promote Mount
Chalchihuitl as a major Spanish mining site. Silliman's reputation as a mining
expert was not significantly tarnished by his overly favorable reports for mines,
and his services remained in great demand (Spence, 1993). It is probably Hyde's
failure to find gold and silver at Mount Chalchihuitl that led later authors to
make the false assumption that he was looking for turquoise.
Raunheim's article in 1891 contains the only contemporary comment located which
supports the idea of some authors that some mining occurred after 1881 at Mount
Chalchihuitl. After discussing the great pit he went on to say "These deposits
are now being systematically worked, and in 1889 stones valued at $23,657 after
cutting were taken from them"
(Raunheim, 1891, p. 655). The
value given by Raunheim of $23,657 is the exact value for the total U.S.
production of 1889 (MRUS, 1890). Thus
Raunheim must have copied the value from MRUS (1890) and is referring to the
general Cerrillos area. His comment thus applies to Turquoise Hill mining rather
than Mount Chalchihuitl. Silliman exaggerated the size of the pre-1880 waste piles
ten-fold so that there is no 1880 baseline on which to judge later mining .
Pogue's comment supports the idea that any work after 1881 was of a minor or
superficial nature: "Since then  no systematic mining has been done at this
`point [Mount Chalchihuitl]" (1915, p. 53).
2. Mina del Tiro Group
"No historic turquoise mining has been reported in the literature, but the
conditions of the workings when originally surveyed in 1974 indicated turquoise
mining in the early 1900s"
(Warren & Mathien, 1985, p. 101).
"...a 20th Century pit had a depth of 3 to 4 meters" (p. 101). Warren and Mathien
(1985) did not identify this early 1900s pit on their Figure 3. There is a pit of
very square dimensions that is probably a Territorial Period starting of a shaft
(near the location of #4 on their Figure 3) that is now open to a depth of one to
two meters. Between 1974 and 1994 the area south of this shaft was bulldozed.
3. Warren's O'Neil (aka O'Neil Turquoise
...O'Neil held the patent on the land in the entire north half
of Sec. 8, T14N, R8E, and may have also mined turquoise in the quarries east of
the workings described herein. These included the Bonito and Blue Jay turquoise
pits (see below). O'Neil worked the turquoise mines during the first two decades
of the 20th Century. (Warren & Mathien, 1985, p. 101).
The only reference given by Warren and Mathien (1985) for the conclusion that
O'Neil worked the three sites is Douglas Sterrett's report
(1912, part II, pp. 1068-1069). O'Neil may
have worked the three sites which are close together in Sections 8 and 9 of T14N,
R8E, referred to by them as (3) O'Neil, (5) Bonito, and (6) Blue Jay turquoise mines.
However, the description that Sterrett (1911) wrote refers only to one site, their
Blue Jay mine which is O'Neil's Blue Bell, MS 1228 patented Mining Claim. The
confusion on the name of this site and two other duplications of names of turquoise
mines in the district is discussed in Appendices 1 and 3.
Michael O'Neil lived at the Cash Entry Mine prior to 1905 until after 1912. During
this time he worked metal and turquoise mines. His major turquoise mine was the mine
referenced in this report as O'Neil's Blue Bell mine (see appendix
3 for the basis of new mine names)and it was the largest mine in the district
other than those on Turquoise Hill.
4. Franklin Pits
No written historic record of turquoise mining exists at this site. "Recently,
heavy equipment has disturbed the area to the north; this appears to be related
to activities at the Cash Entry lead mine..." (Warren & Mathien, 1985, p. 107).
5. Bonito Mines
Warren and Mathien reported some evidence of circa 1900 mining. Post-1975
bulldozing may not be related to turquoise mining (Warren & Mathien, 1985, p 109).
"O'Neil worked the mines in the early decades of the century; one shaft could be
attributed to this period (Sterrett, 1912)" (Warren & Mathien, 1985, p. 109).
6. O'Neil's Blue Bell, (aka Blue Jay
Two post-1700 sherds were found at this site, as well as sherds that could be as
recent as the 1880s and 1890s.
...the Blue Jay location were worked under a claim registered to
Henry Andrews. Extensive bulldozing of the southern part of the location in the
1970s apparently did not produce any important new turquoise deposits (Warren &
Mathien, 1985, p. 111).
A circa 1900 camp site may be associated with turquoise mining and "micaceous
pottery was found with metal and glass debris dating to the 1880s and 1890s."
Warren and Mathien's (1985) Blue Jay Mine is the site worked by Michael O'Neil
from 1892 to 1905 and to some degree after that, and patented as the Blue Bell
Lode, MS 1288. See appendix 3 for a discussion of the names of
these mines. It is just east of Section 8 in Section 9. Sterrett's description of
the location of O'Neil's turquoise mine is "about three-fourths of a mile [1.2 km]
southeast of Mount Chalchihuitl" (Sterrett, 1911, p. 1066). This could be interpreted as
referring to any or all three of the sites, which is what Warren and Mathien (1985)
had done. However, when Sterrett's description of O'Neil's mine is compared to the
1905 MS description of the Blue Bell, MS 1228, it is clear that he was referring
only to the workings on the Blue Bell as O'Neil's turquoise mine.
O'Neil's Blue Bell was very extensively worked prior to 1905 with a dozen shafts,
three of them 50 feet [15.2 m] deep with drifts, and five trenches. The Blue Bell
Mine was mentioned by several authors as an important turquoise mine of the
Cerrillos District (Lakes, 1901;
Jones, 1904). It is often confused with
McNulty's mine of the same name on Turquoise Hill. It is the only turquoise mine,
other than those on Turquoise Hill, that was patented in the Cerrillos District
and probably the most important producer other than the Tiffany and Castillian.
The Blue Bell and a claim on the northeast side of it were worked from before 1892,
and they were extensively worked during the 1890s until about 1909. Michael O'Neil
purchased the Blue Bell from Adam Herlick on July 26, 1892 (Mining Deed recorded,
book J-Min., p. 39, August 9, 1892). How extensively Herlick or others had worked
the area is unknown. O'Neil sold an undivided half interest in the claim to H.H.
Topakyan of New York, New York for a recorded amount of $100.00 on July 13, 1894
(recorded Book J-Min., p. 188, July 14, 1894). O'Neil foreclosed on Topakyn's half
interest for his failure to pay his half of the annual assessment work for 1895
and 1896 (recorded Book K-Min., p. 90, August 27, 1897). Either the Blue Bell was
not producing any profit during these years or O'Neil just saw an opportunity to
get ownership back.
At the same time that O'Neil took over Topakyn's interest he deeded a quarter
interest in the claim to L. Bradford Prince on August 25, 1897 (recorded November
17, 1897), the Blue Bell Claim for $25,000, if the sale was completed in 60 days
(recorded Book K-Min., p. 328). S.G. Burn wrote a grossly inflated geological
report on the gold placer potential of the Ortiz Mine Grant about this time for
its owners. He was a mine promoter type and apparently had a scheme for the Blue
Bell, but he did not exercise the option. On January 1, 1902 O'Neil sold L.B.
Prince an undivided three-fourths interest in the Blue Bell (recorded January 14,
1902, Book F-1, Quite Claim Deeds, p. 89). Prince either lost in court action or
deeded the other quarter back to O'Neil between 1897 and 1902. O'Neil accompanied
the mineral surveyor to the claim in 1905 and told him that he had made the claim
in 1892 which was incorrect as he had purchased it from Herlick. The Claim was
patented in Prince's name, but apparently very little work occurred on the claim
after 1905. L.B. Prince and his wife Mary C. Prince sold O'Neil a three-fourths
interest in the Blue Bell on June 1, 1909 (recorded Book U-Misc., p. 1, September
15, 1909). This apparently again gave O'Neil total ownership of the Blue Bell.
Sterrett who visited the Blue Bell in 1911, and referred to it simply as O'Neil's
turquoise mine said "turquoise worked intermittently at this mine during the last
few years, but little was done in 1911" (MRUS, 1912, p. 1069).
Sterrett's description indicates deterioration of the mine since the 1905 mineral
survey. Thus it appears O'Neil did not work the mine much during the 1905-1911
period, and as turquoise prices declined even further after that he probably did
not work it to any significant degree after that. O'Neil kept the mine and it
passed through his estate to his grandson Verne Byrne. Verne Byrne left it to his
widow who kept the mine until 1995. Verne Byrne made an unpatented claim on the
northeast side of the Blue Bell which he left to his daughter who maintained it
until 1994. See appendix 2 for further discussion of O'Neil's
and Byrne's lives and these claims. The name confusion on this and two other
turquoise mines in the Cerrillos District is discussed in appendix
7. Firefly Mine
There is no evidence of or record of historic period mining at this site.
8. Grand Central mines
"A.B. Renehan (claim), about half a mile [0.8 km] west of north of Mount Chalchihuitl"
(Sterrett, 1911, part 2, p. 1066).
At A.B. Renehan's claim several pits, shafts, and open cuts had
been made. Some of these were in part ancient workings. The latest work consists
of an open cut about 75 feet [22.9 m] long, 3 feet to 25 feet [7.6 m] deep, and
6 feet [1.8 m] wide.... The claim was worked in a small way in 1911, but no
turquoise was sold (Sterrett, 1911, part 2, p. 1069).
9. Mount McKenzie
"The easternmost pits were prospected during the 1970s with heavy equipment....
(Artifacts) indicate an early 20th Century mining period" (Warren & Mathien,
10. Turquoise Hill
This mine was worked from 1879 to about 1909 with major assessment work continuing
to 1912. Only sporadic minor activity has occurred since then. Sterrett's
description and comments on Turquoise Hill are as follows:
The principal turquoise deposits have been found in the three
lower hills [he apparently considered the Castillian hill as two hills], but a
little turquoise has been found on the northeast side of the main hill near the
bottom [McNulty's Blue Gem shaft and trench]. There were rather extensive ancient
workings over the best deposits and in some places the greater part of the turquoise
had been removed. The famous... "Tiffany mine"... is located on the southeast hill.
Other claims have been located around this mine, but the quantity of turquoise
found [in them] has been limited. The Old Castillian Mine is located on the
westernmost hill, and around it numerous claims have been located, accompanied by
rather extensive prospecting. The opening on the third hill, lying north of east
of this, are small and may be considered a part of those surrounding the Castillian
Mine....Litigation due to claims dating back to a Spanish land grant of 1728 has
tied up the development of many of these turquoise deposits, especially the Tiffany
Mine....Active operations have been suspended at the Tiffany Mine for several years,
but assessment work has been kept up by James P. McNulty....Little pure blue turquoise
[the valuable type] has been removed since the last regular mining a number of years
ago....Of the many excavations at and around the Old Castillian Mine, those of the
ancients were probably more extensive than the recent ones. The extent and nature
of much of the ancient work has been concealed by caving and other agencies of time
and by modern work in the same place. Some good turquoise (blue) has been found
in the Castillian Mine, but a larger proportion is reported to have a greenish-blue
shade [of relatively little value compared to blue] than at the Tiffany Mine"
(Sterrett, 1912, part 2, pp. 1069-1071).
Sterrett went on to say that the claims around the Tiffany and McNulty's on the
north side of the main hill (Blue Gem, MS 1499), were reported to "carry also
copper and gold". He also mentioned that "A little greenish-blue (low grade)
turquoise has been found in seams and nuggets or nodules in a few of these claims."
Thus Sterrett was told when he visited the site in 1911 that claims other than the
Muñiz on the eastern hills had not produced any quality stones.
[The map (figure 7) titled "Turquoise Hill Mining Claim Map" shows the
approximate location of each of these claims.]
Old Castillian or Castillian Claim
his was the first turquoise mining claim made in the United States. It was
reported to be the major turquoise producer of the 1880s, and was worked on and
off from 1880 until about 1892 when purchased by the American Turquoise Company.
It was patented by that company in 1900. Apparently it was not worked much after
1892 by the American Turquoise Company as McNulty reported he allowed the Pueblo
Indians to work it whenever they wished.
Blue Bell Claim
This was an unpatented claim on the west boundary of Castillian Claim. "Michael
O'Neil worked 1900 to 1925"
(Warren & Mathien, 1985, p. 118).
This appears to be the location of the 1880 "La Mina Chiquita" Claim
(Hayward, 1880 map) immediately west and a
little south of the Castillian Claim. Prince and O'Neil owned this claim prior to
1900 and three shafts were developed on the claim. Prior to 1905 O'Neil moved to
the Cash Entry Mine and it is unlikely he worked this claim extensively after that.
This was known as the Council or Consul Mahoney Claim. Mahoney was the ex-U.S.
consul to Turkey and an early 1880s promoter of Cerrillos turquoise. Lakes (1901)
claimed he owned the Castillian in the mid-1880s. This claim passed through a
number of hands but was never patented. The claim was owned by John Andrews and
E.F. Bennett in 1893 when L. Bradford Prince tried to sell it for them. Prince
said it had an 84-foot-deep [25.6 m] shaft with a 55-foot [16.8 m] drift at the
50-foot [15.2 level and mentions a shipment of several pounds [1 pound = 0.5 kg]
of quality blue stone in 1886 to the previous owner in New York
(Prince Papers, Letter of 2/10/1893).
The Persian...is another turquoise claim recently taken up by
ex-Governor Bradford L. Prince, of New Mexico. It is contemplated to work the
claim under the name of the New Mexico Turquoise Company, but since October 6
, no developments have been made (USMR, 1894, pp. 693-694).
This claim was on the extreme southeastern corner of the Castillian claim and was
never patented. It was probably not more than about 20 feet [6.1 m] deep.
Elisa was the post-1909 name for the middle area east of the Castillian Claim.
The MS was done in 1912 and then the claim was patented. It may have included
part of the earlier Council Mahoney Claim on the east side of the Castillian.
Tiffany Mine on the Muñiz Claim
Of all the claims made on the southeast corner of Turquoise Hill this is the only
one that appears to have been productive. It appears to be the location of the 1879
"Old Indian Prospect" which was claimed as a gold mine. All of the other contiguous
and patented claims made later by the American Turquoise Company and by its manager,
J.P. McNulty for himself, appear to have very little if any mineralization
indicating turquoise, except for the shaft and trench (AML Numbers 7 and 7b) on
McNulty's Blue Gem Lode (MS 1499) on the north slope, near the base of the largest
central hill. The other features may have been dug in 1879-80 as gold or silver
prospects, as reported by Hayward (1880). They were probably not worked very much
after the 1880s mining rush. McNulty testified in 1905
(Sena vs. American Turquoise Company) that
only assessment work ($100/year) was done on the claims other than Muņiz by the
American Turquoise Company. Thus none of the other three mining claims owned by
the company on the eastern hill nor the two owned by McNulty produced significant
turquoise. The claims around the Muņiz were made and kept by the American Turquoise
Company to prevent encroachment on the Muņiz claim, and McNulty probably made and
kept his two claims as speculations. McNulty kept in his papers an undated clipping
from a newspaper (probably post-1912) offering his two claims for sale as promising
gold and copper prospects. The workings on the claims other than the Muņiz are
largely the work of precious metal prospectors of the 1880s. None of the dumps
show signs of turquoise mineralization, except for some signs at AML Numbers 7
McNulty's Blue Gem, MS 1499
The shaft and trench to the east of the shaft are the only features McNulty
claimed and patented that appear to have extensive turquoise mineralization. The
other features on his claims probably date from metal claims and explorations of
The price of a "gem" is determined by marketing as much as it is by scarcity of
supply. Diamonds and other gem prices vary over time depending on their promotion
and price control. As long as excess production does not depress prices it does
not threaten a gem's marketing and status as a gem. The jewelry industry formally
or informally sets the characteristics that are sought from a gem, such as the
colors, hardness, and flaws that add or detract from the basic chemical and
physical characteristics of the compound. The characteristics of the chemical
compound of turquoise that were desirable in the 1800s were those associated with
the stones mined in Persia and traded to the Ottoman Empire. Europeans
thought that it came from the Ottoman Empire (Turkey), because the merchants selling
it in Europe said that they obtained it in an annual auction held by the Sultan
in Istanbul, Turkey. This is why most European countries named it "Turkish stone"
(turquoise) in their respective languages.
What was desirable was a hard stone, of sky-blue color with no hint of green
coloration, and without impurities (matrix). There were stones of appropriate
color that faded or changed color over time due to moisture loss or exposure to
soap and perfume. Stones that faded or changed color were considered of little
value, but were on the market. George Frederick Kunz
(MRUS, 1883, p. 493) dismissed Cerrillos
turquoise as valueless in 1882 because of false reports he had received that it
changed from blue to green over time. The Azure Turquoise Company, organized in
New York in 1891, started developing the Azure Mine in the Burro Mountains ten
miles south of Silver City, New Mexico. The Azure Mine was a major and long-term
producer of turquoise, but the deposit's turquoise was robin's egg-blue (blue with
a slight hint of green). To successfully market its stones, the company guaranteed
that its stones would not get greener and thus become valueless. To back up this
guarantee, around 1892, it started marking the back of its stones with an engraved
small circle. This practice of marking the back of the finished stone with a
company trademark was copied by all the major companies within a few years, which
solved the marketing problem of fading and color change.
Until 1889, New Mexico or American turquoise had only trinket value. The USGS
estimated that only about $500 a year of turquoise actually was produced for the
gemstone market annually until 1889. Three times that amount, $1,500 a year worth
of turquoise, was sold as specimens of the mineral to collectors and tourists.
The value of anthracite (hard coal) used to make jewelry was considered equal to
that of turquoise in 1884, 1885, and 1886, demonstrating the sub-gem status of
American turquoise during most of the 1880s. Though articles appeared in the Santa
Fe New Mexican as early as 1883, promoting Cerrillos turquoise as the equivalent
of the "Persian gems", it was not until the end of the 1880s that individuals
associated with New York jewelers acquired control of turquoise mines and
successfully marketed New Mexico turquoise. This vertical integration in the
jewelry industry from mining through manufacture and marketing of the finished
jewelry, resulted in a rapid and dramatic change in the value of New Mexico
turquoise. The value of New Mexico turquoise went from trinket status to gem status
within three years and was priced higher than gold by weight. The Gemologist,
Kunz, who in 1882 wrote, "All the American turquoise is sold to either tourists
or collectors, or to the jewelry trade only as oddities" (MRUS, 1883 for 1882,
p. 495), in 1893 wrote,
During 1890 and 1891 turquoise of fine quality and of gem value
has been found in the United States. The main locality is the one near Los
Cerrillos, New Mexico; the others known are in Grant County, New Mexico (MRUS,
1894, p. 544).
The rapid rise in price led to an equally rapid growth in turquoise mining, and
the entrance of a number of companies into the turquoise mining business. Though
many prehistorically-worked turquoise deposits were discovered and reported in
the MRUS and journals during the 1880s in New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California,
and Colorado, almost no mining occurred until after 1889 due to the low price of
turquoise outside of the Cerrillos District. Kunz, who prepared all of these MRUS
reports, was associated with Tiffany's as a gemologist. Being aware of the Turquoise
Hill deposit, he may have been responsible for early company's interest in the area.
The above data extracted from the USGS annual MRUS reports give values much lower
than those reported in the press of the time. However, they reflect the best
estimates done each year of the value of turquoise as it came from the mine. The
majority of stones produced by the major mines, such as the Tiffany and Azure,
were sold to a related jewelry company at prices probably below regular wholesale.
Thus there is reason to believe that the actual value of production was much higher
than the data show. However, these values are the only basis for comparing one
year's production with another year's production. In addition, they were
consistently produced by Kunz (who was associated with Tiffany's) from 1883 to
1906, and Sterrett calculated the data of the following decade. Kunz may have even
considered the values he reported to be low. In the report for 1900 Kunz (MRUS, 1901)
repeated the comments of Governor Otero's 1899 (p. 153,
Northrop, 1959, p.527) report to the
Department of Interior giving so called official New Mexico reports of higher
production almost as if they were his own comments.
The output since 1890 is estimated, according to official
reports, at a total value of $2,000,000 but the former owner [possibly Allen or
Story] claims that this is much below the reality, and that since 1893 the annual
output has approached $1,500,000. This on the other hand, may be overestimated
(MRUS, 1901, p. 767).
The total value of $2,000,000 for 1890 to 1900 to which Kunz refers is from Governor
Otero's reports and is an average of $200,000 per year for the decade for the
Tiffany Mine. This suggests that the actual value of Tiffany production during
the decade may have been higher than what Kunz reported for the whole United States.
Northrop (1959, p. 527) prepared the following table comparing what Mexico
Territorial Governor Otero reported to the Secretary of Interior as New Mexico's
official figures and those prepared by Kuntz for the U.S. Geological Service for
all of the United States for 1891-1896.
Turquoise Production Estimates
Year Total for All U.S.
Total for New Mexico
Governor Otero's figures may be closer to the true value of turquoise production
than previously believed. The question may never be answered but Kunz's repeating
of Otero's values (MRUS, 1901) indicates he did not consider them ridiculous in
spite of their confilct with what he had reported in earlier years.
The disparity between the two sets of estimates begins in 1893, about the time
many new turquoise mines came into production outside of the Cerrillos area, and
prices started to decline. Turquoise prices then, as diamond prices are today,
could only be kept high by controlling supply by some type of cartel or monopoly
arrangement. Efforts to revive a "turquoise monopoly" in the early 1900s failed
to raise prices. One of these syndicates was the North American Turquoise
Syndicate, of which L. Bradford Prince (Territorial Governor, 1889-1893, and
partner of O'Neil in three Cerrillos turquoise mines) was a stockholder. The North
American Turquoise Syndicate was incorporated in New Jersey, certificate No. 3,
dated May 5, 1900 for 1,000 shares at $10 per share
(Prince Papers, 1893).
George Kunz, who compiled all the turquoise production records from 1883 to 1906,
was associated with Tiffany and Company, a major stockholder of the American
Turquoise Company and he helped the company promote Cerrillos turquoise. No
listing of the stockholders of the American Turquoise Company has been located.
However, Kunz is known to have been a stockholder in the company that owned the
mines after the American Turquoise Company (letter to McNulty, McGraw, 1994). An
article possibly from the Cerrillos newspaper says,
... Mr.George Kunz, the noted expert of Tiffany's, New York, and
the highest American authority on gems, says to a New York newspaper: 'Look at
that. Is not that an exquisite blue? It is the blue of a sky upon a perfect June
day. That is a turquoise, far and away the finest in America, and it came from
these new mines in New Mexico. It is worth $4,000....it is probable that gems to
the value of $200,000 a year may be obtained from this mine' ("Santa Fe Turquoise",
clipping from unknown newspaper in Prince Papers dated in pen 12/03/1892).
In 1897 Fenderson accused the turquoise companies of trying to convince the public
that they were losing money mining turquoise. This may have been an indirect
accusation at Kunz, who worked for Tiffany's, for reporting in the MRUS reports
a decline in the value of production from 1894 to 1896.
Most New Mexico turquoise goes to New York, very little being
cut in the territory. The average Mexican turquoise miner gets $1.50 a day;
Americans get $2.50. The larger mines work only seven to ten men each, and in good
rock this force can take out from $8,000 to $10,000 daily. This was the record of
one of the mines near Cerrillos for a month and a half last year, then the pay
streak petered out and there was three months of dead work. There is undoubtedly
a great future for turquoise mining in New Mexico, but those engaged in this
industry, knowing they have a good thing, try to create the impression that the
mines now operation are being conducted at a loss.
Following its acceptance as a gem in 1889, there was a dramatic rise in production
as dozens of mines came into operation in the West. The value of production peaked
in a few years, probably due to a leveling off or decline in prices. The value of
production dropped during the late 1890s but rose again around 1900 to a second
peak between 1901 and 1904. From 1904 to 1909 there was a decline in the value of
production probably due both to a price decline caused by previous oversupply,
and an actual decline in the volume of production as a majority of the mines closed
and others restricted production. The 1908-1910 increase in the value of production
is probably related to efforts to create turquoise marketing cartels in those years,
though the data reported by Sterrett indicates a price rise only in 1911. Jones
reported in 1909 that the turquoise mines in New Mexico had not been worked much
for several years due to the large amount of turquoise that had been stockpiled
by companies mining in previous years. Cowan
(1911) reported that "The production of the Tiffany Mines is purposely kept
at a low point in order to avoid depressing the price of the gems. For this
purpose, the mines are now closed down indefinitely" (Cowan, 1911, p. 131).
The decline in the value of production in 1905-1906 probably reflects a decline
in price due to oversupply. That decline in prices probably seriously jeopardized
the status of turquoise as a "gem". The two key elements in creating public demand
for a gem are its acceptance as a status symbol to be worn in public, and its
investment potential. If the price is not stable or rising, the investment status
of the gem is jeopardized, which leads to further collapse in the price and demand
for the gem.
APPENDIX 1 - Clarification of Name Confusion
of Cerrillos Turquoise Mines
THE TWO BLUE GEM MINES
There are two "Blue Gem" turquoise claims (McNulty's MS 1499) and O'Neil's
unpatented claim on the west side of the Castillian Claim. Waste rock at both sites
shows turquoise mineralization and both were worked by the 1890s or earlier. Thus
references to the Blue Gem Mine could be to either claim unless other information
is given by the author. The adit on McNulty's Blue Gem shows very minor turquoise
mineralization and was probably a circa 1880 working. Only around the shaft and
trench east of it is there prominent turquoise mineralization in the waste rock.
The three shafts on O'Neil's Blue Gem though adjacent to the Castillian claim show
copper staining but few signs of turquoise.
THE TWO BLUE BELL MINES
There are two "Blue Bell" turquoise claims (McNulty's MS 1499 and O'Neil's MS 1228)
which he transferred to L. Bradford Prince prior to the 1905 patent application.
The waste rock piles by the shaft and adit on NcNulty's Blue Bell Claim do not
show turquoise mineralization. They may have been metal exploration mines dug in
the early 1880s. O'Neil's Blue Bell Claim, MS 1228, is located four miles south
of Turquoise Hill in the northwest quarter of Section 9 of T14N, R8E. O'Neil told
the mineral surveyor in 1905 that he filed that claim in 1892 and it was very
extensively worked prior to 1905. Professor Lake in his 1901 article considered
it a major turquoise mine of the Cerrillos area. Thus references to turquoise
production attributed to the Blue Bell Mine refer to O'Neil's in Section 9, not
to McNulty's on Turquoise Hill which probably never produced any turquoise. O'Neil's
Blue Bell was probably the only major turquoise producer in the district other
than the mines on Turquoise Hill.
WARREN'S BLUE JAY MINE IS O'NEILS BLUE BELL
Warren in her study (1974) of the north half
of Section 8 misspelled O'Neil's name "O'Neal", which she corrected in
Warren and Mathien (1985). Though Warren
did not reference Sterrett (1912) in her
1974 paper, she apparently misinterpreted the location of the O'Neil Turquoise Mine
he described and thus named her site M-4 "O'Neal". Warren's pre-1974
misinterpretation of the location described by Sterrett (1912) as the O'Neil
Turquoise Mine was repeated in Warren and Mathien (1985, pp. 102-103). O'Neil may
have done some work at Warren's (1974) "O'Neal turquoise mines, M-4," but this
site is not the major turquoise mine described by turn-of-the-century reports as
belonging to O'Neil. The major O'Neil turquoise mine, known in the 1890s and early
1900s as the Blue Bell Mine (MS 1228), is a half-mile east of Warren's (1974) M-4 site.
Warren (1974) only studied and mapped in detail the north half of Section 8, T14N,
R8E. The Blue Bell (MS 1228) is just across the section line in the adjacent
northwest quarter of Section 9. Warren's map (1974, p. 15) shows only recent
"areas disturbed by bulldozers" at O'Neil's Blue Bell, MS 1228 site. In Warren
and Mathien (1985) the Blue Bell, MS 1228, is referred to as the Blue Jay Mine.
MINE NAMES PROPOSED TO AVOID CONFUSION
In order to avoid confusion in this report and in the future, Warren's (1974) and
Warren and Mathien (1985) naming of two sites is proposed and has been used in this
report. The M-4 site (Warren, 1974), called the O'Neil Turquoise Mine in Warren
and Mathien (1985), is referred to as "Warren's O'Neil mine". Warren and Mathien
(1985) Blue Jay site which is the Blue Bell mine, MS 1228, owned and operated by
O'Neil, is referred to as the "O'Neil's Blue Bell". The location of Henry Andrews'
Blue Jay Claim was not identified for this report.
Appendix 4 discusses the reasons for these two name changes in more detail. Appendix
5 gives a detailed comparison of Sterrett's (1912) description of the "O'Neil
Turquoise Mine" and the 1905 description of the "Blue Bell", MS 1228 owned by
O'Neil which shows that they are the same mine.
APPENDIX 2- Short Biography of Michael O'Neil
(1853-1930) and His Grandson Verne Byrne (1908-1981)
To understand the history of both turquoise and metallic mining in the Cerrillos
District requires a knowledge of the life of Michael O'Neill (aka O'Neil). Most
people, and even Michael O'Neill, generally spelled his name with only one 'l'.
However, on his Masonic apron and Blue Bell patent he spelled it with two 'l's,
which apparently was the proper spelling. Since he accepted a single 'l' spelling
and that is how he is referenced in most cases, the single 'l' spelling is used
in this report. He came to the area in 1878 from Leadville, Colorado. He was at
the founding meeting of the Cerrillos District at Dimik
and Hart's camp on March 27, 1879, and worked and owned mines in the area until
his death in 1930. His mining activity spans the U.S. Period history of the area
more than any other individual. Much of this information was provided by O'Neil's
grandson's widow, La Verne Byrne, and is included in this report for its historic
O'Neill said that he was given a map of the Cerrillos area in Leadville,
Colorado, and came down to prospect and mine in 1878
(Sena vs. 1905, p. 114). O'Neill did not
mention Hart, but giving out maps of the Cerrillos area was apparently one
technique used in 1878 by Hart to get Leadville miners to come to the Cerrillos
area and support his efforts to overcome resistance to outsiders. O'Neill leased
the Old Castillian from Marshall in 1880 and worked it for 14 to 15 months (Sena
vs. American Turquoise Company). He also filed the Andrew Jackson Claim in 1880
(McCraw, 1994). O'Neill worked a number of
different claims for himself and others around the district from 1878 until his
death in 1930. O'Neill obtained the following patents: MS 1366 on nine claims,
MS 1932 on two claims, and MS 1228 (Blue Bell) in his partner's name. Thus he
patented 20 percent (12 of 59) of the patented claims in the district. At one
time or another he or his grandson operated over a dozen different mines in the
district. They also preserved the 1879-1886 Cerrillos and Galisteo Mining
Districts Record Books. At one time O'Neill worked for McNulty on the American
Turquoise Company property at Turquoise Hill, and was in partnership with L.
Bradford Prince on the development and sale of three different turquoise
properties during the 1890s and until about 1909. On Turquoise Hill he and Prince
held two unpatented claims bordering the Castillian. Further south in the district
he developed the Blue Bell, MS 1228, which he sold to Prince in 1897 but which he
reacquired in 1909. The claim names he used for two of his turquoise claims are
identical to names used by McNulty for two of his claims, the Blue Bell and the
Blue Gem. The Santa Fe County mining claim records were not researched for the
first claimant to use those names. According to McNulty's great-granddaughter,
Patricia McCraw, the two men engaged in friendly and sometimes unfriendly
competition, and one or the other probably deliberately created the turquoise
claim name duplication. This name duplication has resulted in confusion in past
writings on turquoise mining in the Cerrillos District. Verne Byrne made and
maintained an unpatented claim on the east side of MS 1228, "Blue Bell No. 2"
(recorded November 19, 1965, book 231, p. 294), which he left to his daughter,
Sharon Vernette Ethridge, who let it lapse in 1994. He left the patented Blue
Bell Claim to his widow, LaVerne, who owned the claim until February 1995, when
she sold it to Edward and Cathy Frye of Laguna Beach, California.
O'Neill's grandson, Verne Byrne, inherited the Blue Bell and acquired a number
of the metalic mining claims O'Neill had owned at one time through tax sales and
purchase. Early in the 1900s when the Cash Entry Mine was inactive, O'Neill was
the only person living there (according to a notebook kept by McNulty's daughter,
Frances). Around 1910 O'Neill married Donnie Laird who had children by a previous
marriage. In 1912, just before New Mexico became a state, Donnie's daughter, Nelle,
and her daughter, Lydia, and four-year-old son, Verne, came from Beardstown,
Illinois, where Verne was born. They lived with O'Neill and Doinnie in the great
red brick house (the mine manager's house), demolished in the 1970s, at the Cash
Entry Mine. Nelle and her children later moved to Denver, but the family returned
to the Cerrillos area in 1921, when Verne was 13. Verne's father, Joseph Byrne,
owned and operated the Wood Davis Hardware Store, as well as other businesses in
Santa Fe, and had a ranch in the Cerrillos Hills where Donnie was living at the
time of her death in 1935. Joseph Byrne died in 1945 and Nelle in 1956. Both Nelle
and her mother, Donnie, are buried in the Laird family plot in the Cerrillos
Verne attended grade school at Cerrillos, and high school at the Los Alamos Boys
Ranch where he was a member of the third graduating class. Verne attended New York
University and later graduated from the Ryan Flying School in San Diego, California.
He returned to the area and operated his own airport where the College of Santa
Fe is now located. He used his Great Lakes plane for charter flights, aerial
photography, and flying instruction. He worked for The New Mexican, as assistant
editor of the Spanish edition, El Nuevo Mejicano. Verne
also owned Byrne's Wrought Iron of Distinction, and made many of the iron works
around the plaza and La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe. After World War II, he was
associated with the early uranium mining industry in New Mexico. In the 1950s he
was a mining engineer with the Santa Fe Railroad at Haystack Mountain near Grants.
Verne continued the family mining tradition and besides the claims he inherited
from O'Neill, he pruchased and worked a number of Cerrillos claims, including the
Blue Bell, Mina del Tiro, Pennsylvania, and Marshall Bonanza mines.
In 1956 Verne Byrne, with his wife, LaVerne, and daughter, Sharon, moved from
Santa Fe to Ojo Caliente, where he owned and operated Los Compadres Gem and Mineral
Shop and he made jewelry. Verne also operated a mica mill and worked mica and
pegmatite claims in the Petaca area. The patented Globe Claim is still owned by
his widow, LaVerne, at this writing. While in Santa Fe, Verne was president of
the Santa Fe Gem and Mineral Club and was often invited by various groups to give
talks on turquoise, until his death in November, 1981. Berne Byrne considered
Michael O'Neill his grandfather. Both Verne and O'Neill are buried in the
Protestant cemetery at Cerrillos. The marker on O'Neill's grave is gone, and its
location in the cemetery has been unknown to the family for several decades. Verne
is buried in the Laird family plot.
James Patrick McNulty (1849-1933)
James P. McNulty testified in Sena vs. American Turquoise Company that he was
born in 1849, but told a member of his family that he was born in 1845. He died
January 26, 1933, and is buried in the Masonic section of the old cemetery on
Cerrillos Road in Santa Fe. McNulty said he first came to Cerrillos in 1881 but
did not stay in the area (McCraw, 1994). He worked in several other New Mexico
mining towns including Kelley, San Pedro, and Dolores. He was also a Leadville
miner and first met O'Neill around 1886, when he was probably living at Dolores,
just south of Cerrillos. In 1892, he was hired by Storey and Allen to manage their
mines at Turquoise Hill. He also managed the mines for the American Turquoise
Company and its successor from 1892 until around 1920. He lived on Turquoise Hill
and managed the mine for the new owners. In the 1920s he moved his family to
Cerrillos where he lived until his death in 1933. He had three children, Agnes,
Frances, and Eddy. Eddy was E.J. McNulty, whose name appears on two unpatented
claims on Turquoise Hill, Laura M. and Last Chance, which were held in 1911.
Frances kept the American Turquoise Company records and married James McCraw.
They had two children, James L. and Agnes. James L. McCraw married Oriole Middaugh
and their daughter is Patricia McCraw. Patricia now has the company records and
is the great-granddaughter of James P. McNulty.
APPENDIX 3 - Naming Problem of Two
Turquoise Mine Sites Described by Warren and Mathien (1985) in the NE 1/4 of
Section 8 and Adjoining NW 1/4 of Section 9 of T14N, R8E.
Warren's (1974) early work in the area was
confined to the north half of Section 8. This was the area leased by Occidental
Minerals which she was employed to survey. Thus Warren did not encounter the MS
1228 claim which is just across the section line in Section 9. Apparently she was
unaware of the MS 1228 record (it is not mentioned in her 1974 or 1985 reports).
When she read Sterrett's (1912) report, she apparently interpreted it as applying
at least partially to some of the features in her Section 8 study area.
The mine feature count of MS 1228 corresponds exactly to Sterrett's description
of the "O'Neil Turquoise Mine"
(MRUS, 1912 for 1911, part 2, pp. 1068-1069).
Appendix 5 for a detailed comparison of Sterrett's description and the 1905 MS
description. Sterrett said it had "about a dozen shafts and a large number of
prospect pits and cuts". Sterrett also described the area occupied by O'Neil's
mine features as "found over a distance of about 300 meters (1,500 feet long) in
a direction N. 30 W." Later he said the width of the worked area was "about 250
feet [76.2 m] wide"
(Sterrett, 1912, part 2, pp. 1068-1069).
This is an accurate description of the MS 1228 claim boundaries, and thus
Sterrett's comments upon his 1911 visit to the O'Neil Turquoise Mine refer only
to the MS 1228 claim. He was not implying O'Neil was working a border area or
other sites, and certainly not a site two thousand feet west of this claim.
From west to east the three turquoise mine sites were named by
Warren and Mathien (1985): (3) the O'Neil,
(5) Bonito, and (6) Blue Jay. Their Blue Jay (No. 6) is the mine patented as the
Blue Bell, MS 1228, in 1906. Warren and Mathien (1985) may have taken the name
Bonito from the name Old Spanish, which was reported by Hayward (1880). The
location of the Old Spanish Mine features described in the 1905, MS 1228 field
notes was reported to be located on the western edge of the Blue Bell Lode. This
location may be the Old Spanish workings that were considered the Bonito in 1880.
Warren's basis for the name, Blue Jay Mine, is not clear but may have come from
a mining claim record she found for a claim operated by Henry Andrews.
O'Neil's Blue Bell Mine (aka
Blue Jay of Warren and Mathien, 1985)
The mine referred to as the "Blue Jay" Mine by Warren and Mathien 1985) is the
"Blue Bell Lode" (MS 1228). The name Blue Jay was apparently taken from a source
(not referenced in Warren & Mathien, 1985) of a claim of that name registered to
Henry Andrews. In order to avoid confusion in this report the mine is designated
as "O'Neil's Blue Bell". Historically it was referred to as the "Blue Bell" by
O'Neil from the 1890s to the 1920s and by his descendants. Blue Bell was also the
name used by most writers on the district that mentioned it
Jones, 1904), except for Sterrett (1912), who
called it "O'Neil's turquoise mine". Blue Bill is the official 1905 patent claim
name in government records. Simply calling it the O'Neil turquoise mine is a poor
designation as O'Neil owned more than one turquoise mine. With his partner, L.
Bradford Prince, he owned the Blue Gem, and Persian turquoise claims and he owned
numerous other non-turquoise claims. The name "O'Neil's Blue Bell" also
differentiates this mine (Blue Bell, MS 1228) from the other turquoise claim of
the same name, McNulty's (Blue Bell, MS 1499). The shaft and adit on McNulty's Blue
Bell do not show turquoise mineralization and were probably dug by 1879-1880 gold
and silver miners.
Warren's O'Neil mine (aka O'Neil's
turquoise mine of Warren and Mathien, 1985)
Warren's "O'Neal (sic) turquoise mines", (M4 series) (1974, p. 14) and "O'Neil
turquoise mines" (Warren and Mathien, 1985) are located in the area of three
different 1879-1880 mines, the Hanna, Bright, and Iola. The Iola Claim, the
eastern-most of the three, is the 1880 mine most likely at Warren's M4-8 site
(1974, p. 15 map). It was the only one of the three described as an "Old Spanish"
(prehistoric) working by Hayward (1880).
The Iola was located April 10, 1879, by Jno. Billings and was reported as only one
10-foot shaft, but its ore was described as "malachite" (a greenish-turquoise-like
mineral). If the tradition started by Warren in the 1970s of naming Cerrillos
sites on the basis of nearby 1880 claim names given in Hayward (1880) were followed,
the proper name for her (1974) M4 site probably should be "Iola Turquoise Mine".
Though Warren (1974) did not list Sterrett (1912) in "Selected References", she
must have encountered his paper, which led her to believe this site should be named
O'Neil Turquoise Mine, as Sterrett's description of the location was "the mines of
Michael O'Neil, about three-fourths of a mile [1.2 km] southeast of Mount Chalchihuitl"
(MRUS, 1912, part 2, p. 1066). Thus, Sterrett's description of the location fitted
Warren's M4 series (1974) as well as it does the actual location. Appendix 5
gives a detailed comparison of Sterrett's description and that of the 1905 MS
description of the Blue Bell.
The Iola was the only mine in this area whose ore was described as malachite
(turquoise-like) in Hayward (1880). Warren and Mathien (1985) do not correlate
the sites in their report with Warren's (1974) designations (M4 or M4-8) except
by name. There are no volume estimates on the amount of rock excavated, but the
large number of ceramics collected indicate the site had a long period of
prehistoric turquoise mining. The mine features of late 19th or 20th century
appearance on the site found by Mathien are either a result of Billings' search
for silver or the work of later turquoise prospectors. Hayward (1880) reported
the Iola Claim had "malachite, 5 inches [12.7 cm] wide, assays 21 ounces [silver]".
[21 ounces = 0.6 kg] Cerrillos turquoise was worthless in 1880 and thus Billings
was mining for silver, not turquoise. The simplest way to designate this site
seems to be "Warren's O'Neil" turquoise mine, and it is thus designated in this
report. Warren's Bonito (1974, M61- series) remains Bonito.
APPENDIX 4 - 1905 MS Description of the
O'Neil Blue Bell Mine (aka Blue Jay) and Site Description by Sterrett (1912)
The only turquoise claim patented outside of Turquoise Hill in the Cerrillos
District is the Blue Bell Lode, MS 1228, by L. Bradford Prince in 1906. The MS
was done April 17-18, 1905. Michael O'Neil accompanied the surveyor and was his
source of information. O'Neil reported that he located the claim on January 15,
1892. The claim was for 7.654 acres and the patent was granted 5/10/1906 (the
patent number is not on the BLM file).
A claim, name unknown, that has been worked for Turquoise, adjoins
this claim on the East side; owned by J.S Candelario, et al., No others known.
Many locations were made in this locality at an earlier date but have now lapsed
(Jay Turley, U.S. Deputy Mineral Surveyor, MS 1228 field notes, p. 239).
This comment by Turley implies that the Blue Bell Claim or at least the
surrounding areas was claimed and worked by others prior to and after O'Neil's
claim was made in 1892, but that all claims other than Candelario's had lapsed
prior to 1905. Turley also reported, "Mr. O'Neil, who located this claim and who
resides about a mile north, accompanied me on this survey."
The MS recorded 23 mine features on the claim constructed during the Territorial
Period prior to 1905 (this list includes separately all drifts within the shafts).
The total number of shafts (and declines) was twelve with another five features
described as pits or trenches.
The following is a list of the mine feature descriptions and dimensions given in
the 1905 MS.
Shaft No. 1,
3x5x22 ft. [0.9 x 1.5 x 6.7 m]
deep (tunnel No. 1 in bottom of it)
Cut, No. 3,
2x2x87 ft [0.6x0.6x 26.5 m]
long next to shaft No. 1
Incline, No. 4,
ft long, [0.6x1.2x7.6 m] 10 ft [3.0 m] east of shaft No. 1
Shaft, No. 5,
6x6x16.5 ft [1.8x1.8x5.0 m] deep
Shaft, No. 6,
4x8x53 ft [1.2x2.4x16.2 m] deep, with
tunnels Nos. 8, 9, and 10 in it.
Cut, No. 7,
runs from shaft No. 6,
4x8x70 ft [[1.2x2.4x21.3 m] long to dump.
Shaft, No. 11,
9x9x11 ft. [2.7x2.7x3.4 m] deep.
Shaft, No. 12,
6x6x20 ft.[1.8x1.8x6.1 m] deep.
Shaft, No. 13,
5x8x9 ft. [1.5x2.4x2.7 m] deep.
Cut, No. 14,
3x11x17 ft [0.9x3.4x5.2 m] long with a
5x7x12 ft.[1.5x2.1x3.7 m] deep shaft in the middle of it.
Shaft, No. 15,
4x8x44 ft [1.2x2.4x13.4 m] deep, with tunnel no. 16 in it.
Incline, No. 17,
4x7x35 ft. [1.2x2.1x10.7 m] long.
Angle, No. 18,
4x6x6 ft. [1.2x1.8x1.8 m] long. (a cut with a bend?)
Shaft, No. 19,
6x7x8 ft. [1.8x2.1x2.4 m] deep.
Shaft, No. 20,
4x8x43 ft.[1.2x2.4x13.1 m] deep with tunnel No. 21 in it.
Shaft, No. 22,
4x8x43 ft. [1.2x2.4x13.1 m]deep.
Cut or stope, No. 23, 18x22x27 ft.
[5.5x6.7x8.2 m] deep on north side of shaft No.22.
The Blue Bell Lode, MS 1228 turquoise claim is the O'Neil Turquoise Mine described
by Sterrett (1912). Sterrett did not report
that he had talked to O'Neil in 1911, and since he used O'Neil's name for the mine
rather than Blue Bell, his comments on the history of production may have come
from someone else. However, O'Neil was living less than a mile away at the Cash
Entry in 1911 and Sterrett may have met him.
Shaft No. 22 was almost on the boundary line with the northeast quarter of Section
8. Section 8 is where the pre-1872 "Cash Entries, Number 09" was located which
included all mineral rights, and was reported by Warren and Mathien (1985) to be
owned by O'Neil. Shaft No. 22 was the most highly equipped shaft. In 1905, shaft
No. 22 had a "derrick (headframe) for the whim" and had 18 feet [5.5 m] of track
to ore dump and 42 feet [12.8] of track to the waste dump and a thousand square
feet [92.9 sq m] of board platform around the shaft (MS 1228 field notes, p. 240).
This corresponds to Sterrett's comments:
...track...laid through the cut to a platform over the shaft."
He described the claim as "...About a dozen shafts [ten shafts and 2 inclines =
12, plus some old Spanish shafts or pits which were reported in 1905 MS count]
and a large number of prospect pits....Some of the shafts were 40 to 50 feet
[12.2 to 15.2 m] deep [5 such in 1905] and around them were open cuts [5 in 1905].
At one of these a track for a mine car had been laid through the cut to a platform
over the shaft [shaft No. 22] (Sterrett, MRUS, 1912, p. 1069).
Thus, Sterrett's description from his visit in 1911 corresponds to the MS
description of 1905. O'Neil was probably still in charge of the mine even if he
had not yet repurchased it.
Sterrett's description of O'Neil's Blue Bell mining activity was that it had only
been worked intermittently in the last few years and though worked in 1911 "...
in a small way...no turquoise was sold" (MRUS, 1912, p. 1069). Sterrett's
description of the workings also indicates some deterioration since the 1905 MS
survey. Sterrett was told "Some good pure blue gem has been found as well as
considerable good matrix associated with brown limonite iron stains" (p. 1069).
At some point following the patent of the Blue Bell Lode, MS 1228, in 1906 to L.
Bradford Prince, O'Neil's long-time turquoise mining partner, Prince or someone
else sold the property back to O'Neil. After O'Neil's death it passed to his
grandson, Vern Bryne, and from him to his widow, La Verne Byrne, who owned the
property until February 1995. The adjacent unpatented turquoise claim (possibly
the 1905 claim of Candelario) was acquired by O'Neil or Vern Byrne who maintained
it until his death and willed it to his daughter who allowed it to lapse in the
1990s. The small amount of work reported by Sterrett in 1911 at the O'Neil Blue
Bell claim may have only been the annual assessment work required to maintain the
adjacent unpatented claim.
APPENDIX 5 - Possible Locations of Waste
Rock Returned in 1983 to Turquoise Hill.
The indented sections of text below are quoted from a four page report by Jock A.
Campbell, prepared for the owners of the American Turquoise Company, following
Campbell's site investigation of October 15 and 16, 1983. There is no title on
the top of the report, but the second paragraph is entitled, "Assessment of
Damages to the Mining Property", not dated, and from a private collection. The
waste rock was removed from Turquoise Hill by New Mexico Highway Department
employees around March 1983, and windrowed along New Mexico Highway 22 without
contacting the actual property owners. The Highway 22 of 1983 is now designated
Santa Fe County Road No. 45. The Santa Fe New Mexican
carried a number of articles on this incident, which was settled out of court.
The Highway Department returned the 'tailings' (improper use of the term, as the
material is waste rock, not tailings) prior to Campbell's site visit. The best
record of the location of the waste rock that was returned to Turquoise Hill is
found in Campbell's descriptions of three locations he identified. This appendix
with portions of Campbell's descriptions are included in this report as they may
be of assistance in a future study of the area.
Apparently the highway department tried to return material to the approximate
locations from which material had been taken earlier that year. However, the
material had been windrowed along the highway. so material from all three sites
was intermingled prior to its return. The windrows along the highway were also
apparently picked over by passers-by for turquoise and artifacts before their
return. Campbell could not detect any size or other characteristic that was
different between removed and returned waste rock and that which had not been
1. An area of backfilled and levelled tailings on or near the
Sky Blue lode.
2. An unlevelled stockpile of mine tailings located on or near the Gem lode.
3. An unlevelled stockpile located on and adjacent to the Castilian (sic) lode.
The volume of these tailings was estimated with tape-and-compass surveys. Area 1
is the least accurate of the calculated volumes, because of assumptions that had
to be made regarding the shape of the backfilled excavation.
Elsewhere in his report Campbell commented that a "major excavation on the Sky
Blue lode was filled and levelled" prior to his site visit. Due to post-1983
grading and leveling, the location of his Area 1 could not be identified with any
certainty by AML. The area surrounded by a solid line just south of the road on
the Sky Blue lode was drawn from the aerial photographs taken for the purpose of
identifying waste piles on Turquoise Hill. That area appears different from the
air even though not clearly recognizable on the ground. The color difference
probably reflects a different mineral content and appearance. It is a prime
candidate for the Area 1 of Campbell. If this is not the site, it must be in that
vicinity. The only areas of major disturbance on the Sky Blue lode are in the
southwestern corner where the road crosses to the Gem lode. Campbell's "major
excavation" (if it existed) in this area may have been a prehistoric site with
historic development by the American Turquoise Company. However, Campbell may
have just assumed that an old working was under the returned waste rock pile he
saw in 1983. There was no mine feature there when the MS was done in 1911. Three
cuts and a small shaft on the Gem Lode appear to have been under the current
parking area. It is not possible to judge the site in 1995 from the surface as
the admixture returned by the highway department has been leveled and graded with
surrounding materials since 1983.
Area 1 contains approximately 1110 cubic yards [841.0 cu m] of mine
tailings, an estimate biased on the assumed dimensions of approximately 30 feet
wide by four feet deep by 250 feet [9.1 x 1.2 x 76.2 m] long. Dimensions are based
on observations by Mr. Delmar Titus and by observations by Campbell and Clark after
backfilling and levelling. Actual dimensions may be known only after removal of
Area 2 is a stockpile, approximately 100 feet by 60 feet by 12 feet [30.5 x 18.3 x 12m],
and contains about 2700 cubic yards [2,064.3 cu m] of material. [Thought by Mr.
Ziegler, who works for the current owners to be the area under and around "TANK"
on the AML map (February 23, 1994). This is a water tank located on boundary of
the Muņiz and Gem lodes.]
Area 3 lies about two-fifths of a mile [0.6 km] west of the above contiguous properties,
where the partially leveled mine tailings have an irregular shape. The volume of
material is estimated to be on the order of 4,000 cubic yards [3,058.2 cu m].
Campbell's only descriptive terms for Area 3 are "partially leveled" and "irregular
shape". It is unclear to which area(s) he is referring. The only "irregular shape"
noted during numerous visits to the site since 1993 is a large mound just south
of AML mine feature #12 on the Castillian lode. This large mound, due to its
steep slopes, must be of recent construction. The adjacent surface to the east
of the pile is level with a few low ridges of waste rock indicating bulldozer or
other heavy machinery activitiy. Mr. Mark Ziegler, employed by the current owners,
said they have not worked this area. Slightly over half of the total volume,
4,000 cubic yards [3,058.2 cu m], was estimated by Campbell as returned to the
Castillian lode area. The probably sites that are "partially leveled" and of
"irregular shape", other than the pile south of AML #12 and the adjacent disturbed
area, are long mounds east of the hill without adjacent trenches as a source of
A one-yard-deep deposit 40 yards [36.6 m] wide would have to be 100 yards [91.4 m]
long to have a volume of 4,000 cubic yards [3,058.2 cu m]. Early in this study,
the concept expressed by Mr. Ziegler that most of the waste rock area south and
east of the Castillian boundary was returned rock was accepted without question.
However, material adjacent to the Council Mine openings (AML #11, #11a, and #11b)
has a relatively smooth surface and does not seem to have an "irregular shape".
The rows (possibly dumped by trucks in rows upon being returned) almost at the
eastern base of Castillian hill are prime condidates for returned material. There
is a strong possibility that the waste rock distributed relatively evenly over
the east slope of the hill may be relatively undisturbed old historic and prehistoric
waste rock (areas shown by solid lines on AML map of February 23, 1994).
The total estimated volume of disturbed tailings is approximately
7800 cubic yards [5,963.5 cu m]. Therefore, I conclude that the volume of mine
tailings returned to the properties, insofar as they can be estimated quickly,
is approximately the same as the 8000 cubic yards [6,116.4 cu m] calculated by
the property owners in March 1983, when the mine tailings were wind-rowed along
New Mexico Highway 22 (Campbell, 1983, p. 2).
Based on the comments of Mr. Ziegler and personal observations, Homer Milford is
of the opinion that the majority of the waste rock pile areas have not been moved,
mixed, and returned since mining, with the following exceptions:
Muņiz Claim: "Tank" area and parking lots.
Castillian Claim: The rows of waste rock without adjacent trenches that the rock
could have come from, toward the base of the eastern side of Castillian Hill. They
are on the unpatented Council and Persion claim areas. Some of the dumps below the
Elisa shaft may also be of returned material. The pile south of AML #11, and the
flat area east of it have been disturbed. But that may have been in preparation
for rock removal in 1983 rather than returned rock.
In the spring of 1995, the waste rock within about six to ten feet [1.8 to 3.0 m]
of the rim of the Castillian pit was moved by Mr. Ziegler in anticipation of the
AML project. He also intends to move the waste rock by the northern shaft of the
Elisa lode (AML #9) to screen for turquoise. In late 1994 or early 1995, Mr. Ziegler
dug a trench approximately parallel to the southern boundary of the Elisa lode from
just east of AML #11b for about a hundred feet [30.5 m] down the hill. He left
four axe heads lying along his trench. The current owners plan to eventually rework all
the waste piles of the Elisa and Consul claims, but not the Castillian. The
Castillian mineral rights are only 50 percent held by Douglas Magnus. It would
not be profitable to rework its waste piles for turquoise. Mr. Magnus owns all
of the surface rights to the Castillian and Elisa claims.
APPENDIX 6 - Concessions to Tlascalan
tribe in 1591.
Spanish allied Nahuatl-speaking Indian troops had been involved in the Mixton and
Chechemeca wars in New Galacia from the 1540s. In the 1580s several viceroys had
recommended settlement of peaceful, agricultural Indian tribes in the north as
part of the pacification of the nomadic groups (Chichimecas). In 1590-91 Viceroy
Luis de Velasco negotiated with the Tlascalan chiefs to get them to be the first
major group to emigrate to the northern frontier and settle around Zacatecas
(New Galacia) and Nueva Viscaya. As the Chichemeca wars, which had gone on for
decades, had only quieted down for a couple of years it was a very dangerous move.
The Tlascalans argued and received special privileges for themselves and their
descendants in exchange for moving to the northern frontier.
The only English translation encountered is in
which lists the privileges the Tlascalans requested. The following are the
privileges relevant to their special status in New Mexico a decade later, which
allowed them to establish their own separate community and guaranteed their land
The Tlaxcalan settlers in the Chichimeca country [northern
frontier] and their descendants shall be hidalgos in
perpetuity, free from tributes, taxes (pecho and
alcabala), and personal service for all time.
They are not to be compelled to settle with Spaniards, but will be allowed to
settle apart from them and have their own distinct district
[barrios]. No Spaniard can take or buy any
solar [building house lot] within the Tlaxcalan districts.
No grants for ganado mayor [large land grant] are to be
allowed within five leagues of the Tlaxcalan settlement.
No ganado menor [small land grant] is to be allowed
pasturage on the grain lands of the Tlaxcalans without their permission or that
of their descendants.
The lands and estancias granted the individual Tlaxcalans
and the community as a whole are never to be alienated because of nonoccupation.
The markets in the new settlements shall be free, exempt from sales tax
(alcabala), from excise taxes (sisa),
and from any other form of taxation.
The principals [chiefs and officers] of Tlaxcala who go to the new settlements,
and their descendants, shall be permitted to carry arms and ride saddled horses
The Tlaxcalans shall be given a charter of written guarantees
(carta) and a royal provision commanding that these
capitulations be observed.
(Tlascalan requests, translated by Powell,
1952, pp. 195-196)
Viceroy Luis de Velasco approved their request for special privilege
(capitulaciones) on March 14, 1591, with only the following
minor revisions: Ganado mayors were limited to a distance
of only three leagues and ganado menors to two leagues from
their settlements. The guarantee against alienation of lands was limited to five
years ["Capitulaciones del virey Velasco con le ciudad de Tlaxcala
para el enviro de cuatrocientas familias a poblar en tierra de Chichimecas",
(Velazques, 1897-1899, vol. I, pp. 177-183,
Powell, 1952, p. 196)].
Oņate, having lived with Tlascalan settlers around Zacatecas from 1691 on, must
have been aware of their special status granted by Viceroy Velasco. It was only
three years later that Viceroy Velasco granted him the right to colonize New Mexico,
and he started recruiting colonists in Zacatecas. Tlascalans accompanying Oņate
in 1598 would have considered the 1591 capitulations in effect in the new colony,
and their special status would have been recognized by Oņate. Though referred to
as "servants" in Oņate era documents, Tlascalans were not servants as we think of
that term. The testimony taken at San Gabriel on July 28, 1600, mentioned that a
half dozen Spanish men had started mining in the Cerrillos Hills with the help of
members of their households and "servants" (Tlascalans). In March 1601, Oņate wrote
that he had tried to keep Spanish men from doing mining up to that time so that
they would not get distracted from his explorations. The closest good agricultural
area to the Cerrillos Hills not occupied by Pubelo Indians would have been the site
of Santa Fe. The only colonists with authority (1591 concessions) to establish
their own community were the Tlascalans. Oņate kept the majority of Spanish
settlers confined to San Gabriel. While they vacillated on whether to stay or flee
back to New Spain, the Tlascalans may have started their own farming and mining
community on the Santa Fe River.
No mention of the 1591 Concessions to the Tlascalans was located in past historical
writings on New Mexico. The special status granted in 1591 to the Tlascalans
supports the concept that they were the founders of Analco rather than a combination
of different Nahuatl-speaking tribal groups. Powell (1952) was of the opinion that
other tribes of central Mexico (Nahuatl speakers) that moved to the northern
frontier only gradually and informally acquired some of the special rights of the
Tlascalans. Thus, at the time of the colonization of New Mexico probably only the
Tlascalans had special status, and certainly they were the only group known to have
that status guaranteed by Viceregal Law. Thus, in the Oñate Period Tlascalans
were the only colonists in New Mexico authorized to operate separately or
semi-independently of the Spanish colonists. The 1591 Concessions are evidence that
the identity of the "servants", who were the Cerrillos miners of 1600-1601, were
Tlascalans. The 1591 Concessions also provided the legal authority for the Tlascalans
to found a community separate from the Spanish colonists, and supports the
hypothesis that Analco was founded by Tlascalans either before or after the Spanish
started their community north of the Santa Fe River in 1605.
This website is maintained by the Cerrillos
Hills Park Coalition
and is dedicated to the creation, enhancement and stewardship
of an historical, recreational, and cultural open space in
Cerrillos Hills, Santa Fe County, New Mexico, USA