Birth of a City

A "You-Are-There" style piece          

By Jane C. Sanchez

Los Cerrillos, N. Mex., Jan. 7, 1882. This mining camp 20 miles south of Santa Fe became a full-fledged town last week in an unusual series of firsts. In Cerrillos' first election Tuesday, Mr. D. D. Harkness and Mr. Bud St. Clair were elected justice of the peace and constable respectively.

Fifty men completed a temporary railroad siding Thursday. The completion of Cerrillos' first permanent home and the birth of its first baby caused great excitement Monday. The first wedding in town took place Wednesday. In spite of all the excitement during the week, New Year's Day was comparatively dull. The only claim jumped was the Spiegelberg Brothers' Bourbon Mine. The town is booming. The streets are choked with traffic. Ore wagons compete with wagons carrying lumber for new buildings. Burros loaded with prospecting equipment weave in and out, dodging the wagons, or balk while their cursing owners make futile attempts to remove them from the crush. Dust is everywhere. Hotels are jammed. Harkness' Cerrillos House and Uptegrove's Tabor House have more business than they can handle.

New mineral strikes are being made every day. Last week's most significant was a six-foot coal vein a half-mile east of town. Established claims are expected to pay off handsomely when the new smelter opens February first. North of town, the Capital Mine is working three eight-hour shifts. The Aztec at a depth of 75 feet shows a well-defined lead of galena (lead sulphate and silver chloride). P. S. McCarthy's Autocrat Lode assays over 50% copper and $50 to $200 gold a ton.

George Holman, owner of the Cash Entry, hopes to obtain eastern capital to start working his mine again soon. It is rumored the owners of the Mina del Tiro are trying to raise funds to buy one of the powerful new pumps. The Mina, probably the oldest metal mine in the United States, is believed to have been worked by Indian slaves* before the Revolt of 1680. The lower part of the workings has been flooded since Spanish times, and mining experts think that if the mine could be de-watered much rich ore could be taken out.

Placer claims along the Galisteo River south of Cerrillos are showing up nicely. The Leni Loreta is netting as much as $3.20 a yard. A year ago, hardly a claim had been registered in that area. Now not a square inch is available.

Mine operators are bringing in new machinery and changing old from one claim to  another. Mr. Hall's dry-wash machines are being changed to entirely dry claims,  and W. George Day has ordered another Jordan machine.  Reliable sources state that placer owners in the district are trying to lease one of Mr. E. S. Bennett's patented Dry Placer Amalgamators. The Bennett machine was reviewed in the November 1, 1881, Mining World, and is causing excited comment in mining circles. This portable dry-washer works by force of gravity and amalgamation, and is run by a  10 horse-power engine. According to the Mining World, the capacity of this amazing machine is 1,000 cubic yards of gravel a day a hitherto unheard of volume.  Even better, it will run on as little as six inches of water. Numerous small water jets pass the pay dirt over 30 amalgam plates, which catch that precious metal.  Cost of treatment is 10ยข a yard. Figures based on the Mining World's analysis indicate that on an average placer producing two ounces of gold a ton, the machine will gross $7,000 a day. Dry Placer Amalgamators must be leased, as Mr.  Bennett will not sell.

A bit of excitement was provided New Year's Day by Mr. Robert Clark, who jumped the Spiegelberg Brothers' Bourbon Mine. Many Cerrillos people are ready to witness for Mr. Spiegelberg, the former owner, who claims he has done his assessment work.

In spite of claim jumpers and lack of capital, Cerrillos continues to boom. Dan O'Leary will open a pharmacy here when there is a building to put it in. There is a rumor that Cerrillos will have a library and a newspaper by spring. W. H. Nesbitt says that soon he will expand his saloon to include a billiard table. Mr. O'Mara plans to open his Placer House in about six weeks.

F. H. Mitchell, the grocer, completed his new house, the first permanent residence in town, just in time for his marriage last Wednesday to Miss Fanny Estus, whose family runs a restaurant here. The whole town turned out to celebrate its first wedding. The reception at the Tabor House lasted till dawn, with much ringing of bells, banging of gold pans, and a full-dress drill put on by the hook and ladder company.

The telegraph line will begin operating tomorrow, and improvement of the road from Cerrillos to San Pedro is scheduled to begin soon.

(sgd.) QUACK

Excerpts from this you-are-there piece, which was assembled primarily from items in the Santa Fe Daily Democrat,  January 1-7, 1882, were published in the Albuquerque Tribune in January, 1966, in Howard Bryan's "Off the  Beaten Path", and mistakenly attributed to George Albright, editor of the Democrat. 

* In spite of an extensive search no evidence has been found of Spanish use of Indian slave labor in Cerrillos area mines.  Levine & Goodman, 1990, pps 23, 24


Looking for the
Cerrillos Hills
Park Coalition?
Click here »