Raton Pass had been used by Spanish explorers and Indians for centuries to cut through the Rocky Mountain. The trail was too rough for wagons on the Santa Fe Trail. The town of Raton (Spanish for “mouse,” but literally meaning “large rat”) was founded at the site of Willow Springs, a stop on the Santa Fe Trail. In 1879, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway bought a local toll road and established a busy rail line. Other smaller railroad companies also had lines that ran from Raton west and south to carry various resources to market. Raton quickly developed as a railroad, mining and ranching center for the northeast part of the New Mexico territory, as well as the county seat and principal trading center of the area. The Raton area was part of the richest area for coal mining west of the Mississippi. Nearby Dawson, New Mexico was the site of the second worst coal mining disaster in US history.
The Raton Museum was founded by the Raton Historical Society in 1939. The museum celebrates the region’s history of railroads, ranching and mining. Among other things, the museum has a set of 4-foot-tall silver candlesticks that once belonged to Lucien B. Maxwell of the Maxwell Land Grant. The museum also has musical instruments, mining equipment, railroad memorabilia and equipment, WPA art produced in Raton, photographs, bultos and retablos, and a Ratonia television manufactured in Raton.
Address: 108 South 2nd Street, Raton, NM 87740
Hours: Summer: Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Winter: Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.