Pancho Villa State Park

Across Highway 11 from the Columbus Historical Museum you’ll find Pancho Villa State Park which has extensive historical exhibits depicting the raid and the U.S. Army’s subsequent “Punitive Expedition” into Mexico. The displays are housed in a 7,000-square-foot exhibit hall.

The park is located on the grounds of the former Camp Furlong. Gen. John J. “Black Jack” Pershing launched 10,000 troops on an 11-month, 500-mile pursuit of Villa from Camp Furlong. The exhibit hall tells the story that begins with the 1910 Mexican Revolution and ends with Pershing’s command of the Allied Forces when the U.S. entered World War I.

The exhibit hall contains a full-size replica Curtiss JN-3 “Jenny” airplane used by the 1st Aero Squadron; a 1916 Dodge touring car, the type used by Pershing for a field office; historic artifacts; military weapons and ribbons. An armored tank stands as a sentinel outside the facility.

The park includes several buildings that date from the time of Villa’s raid: the 1902 former U.S. Customs House, two adobe structures dating from the Camp Furlong era and Camp Furlong Recreation Hall.

Address: At the intersection of State Routes 9 and 11, Columbus, NM 88029
Phone: 575-531-2711
Hours: Daily, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Website: http://www.emnrd.state.nm.us/SPD/panchovillastatepark.html

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Columbus Historical Museum

Columbus is famous for having been invaded by Pancho Villa in 1916.
As the Mexican Revolution raged to the south, most Americans felt little threat. In Columbus, residents felt secure: a detachment of 350 U.S. Army soldiers from the 13th Calvary were stationed at Camp Furlong on the town’s outskirts, between Mexico and Columbus. But at 1 a.m. on March 9, 1916, about 500 Mexican revolutionaries, led by General Francisco “Pancho” Villa, crossed into the United States. Villa divided his troops and attacked Columbus from the southwest at approximately 4:20 a.m. This attack caught the entire town, as well as the Army camp, by surprise.

The Villistas concerned themselves more with raiding than killing, otherwise the town might have been erased. The Villistas burned and pillaged the business district. The Army camp and stables received little damage, even though the horses and armaments must have been attractive to the raiders. Alerted by the gunfire and burning buildings, many Columbus residents fled to the desert, or sought refuge in the school house, the Hoover Hotel, or private homes.

U.S. Army officers and soldiers, awakened by the commotion, set up a Benet-Mercier machine gun in front of the Hoover Hotel. Another machine gun set up on East Boundary Street fired north and caught anyone in the intersection of Broadway and East Boundary in a deadly crossfire. The raid lasted until dawn, or approximately 90 minutes. The death toll totaled 70 to 75 Villistas and 18 dead Americans, most of them civilians.

Whatever the reasons for the attack, its result was immediate: Columbus residents experienced a boom. General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing arrived in Columbus to lead a punitive expedition into Mexico to find and capture Pancho Villa. Columbus became the expedition’s home base. By late 1916, due to the growth of military personnel, Columbus had the largest population of any New Mexican city.

Columbus-Historical-Society-MuseumThe Columbus Historical Museum is housed in the old El Paso Southwestern rail station, which was built in 1902 to connect El Paso, Texas to Douglas, Arizona. The railroad used the depot until 1961 when it was abandoned. The building then became a meeting place for the local Boy Scouts troop and then a library and newspaper office. The museum is staffed by volunteers, and its displays tell the story of the Columbus – and the famous Villa raid.

Address: Intersection of Highways 9 and 11, Columbus, NM 88029
Phone: 575-531-2620
Hours: Open Daily, September – April 10 am – 4 pm, May – August 10 am – 1 pm
Closed most holidays
Website: http://www.columbushistoricalsociety.org/
Admission: No charge

 

Silver City Museum

The site where Silver City is now situated was first used as an Apache campsite and later as a Spanish copper mining center. Silver City itself was founded about 1870 after the discovery of silver. The 1870s were tumultuous and the town was the site of the first crime committed by a local kid, known at the time as William Bonney, and more widely known as Billy the Kid. Silver City became a commercial center for local mining operations and also became an education center for the southwestern part of the state with the building of the New Mexico Normal School (now Western New Mexico University) in 1893.

Silver City Museum The Silver City Museum has a permanent exhibition on Silver City’s history, including a display of an 1880s parlor and a reconstructed office from the nearby mining town of Tyrone. Other permanent displays tell about southwest New Mexico’s mining history and Silver City’s early mercantile commerce.
The museum hosts frequently changing exhibits as well as lectures and special events.

The museum’s collection includes some 20,000 objects relating to the peoples and history of southwest New Mexico. The museum also has a research library that is available to the public, along with a bookstore/gift shop.

The Silver City Museum opened in 1967. The museum is housed in the restored 1881 Mansard/Italianate H.B. Ailman house. The house was built for Harry Ailman, a prominent Silver City miner, merchant and banker. During the early 1920s, the city purchased the house for use as the town hall. In 1931, the town added a firehouse garage to the back of the building. The building was used as a fire station until about 1970.

Address: 312 W. Broadway, Silver City, NM 88061
Phone: 575-538-5921, 1-877-777-7947
Email: info@silvercitymuseum.org
Hours: Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Closed Mondays.
Website: www.silvercitymuseum.org/
Admission: $3 suggested donation

 

Western New Mexico University Museum

Western New Mexico Uuniversity MuseumThe Western New Mexico University Museum has the world’s most comprehensive permanent exhibition of prehistoric Mimbres Mogollon pottery and artifacts. Exhibits include separate displays of basketry, footwear, cordage, stone tools, and stone and shell jewelry.WNMU Museum exhibits

The museum also has exhibits about the history of WNMU and the Silver City area, the Scott Nichols Buggy Collection, American Indian tourist items, and a collection of mining tools.

The museum is located in Fleming Hall on the WNMU campus. The building was built between 1916 and 1917 to house the gymnasium and a science hall for what was then the New Mexico Normal School. Fleming Hall later served as the University library before it became home for the museum in 1974.

Address: Western New Mexico University Museum, Fleming Hall, 1000 W. College Avenue, Silver City, NM 88062
Phone: 575-534-2222
Email: Info@wnmumuseum.org
Hours: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Website: www.wnmumuseum.org
Admission: Free

Also worth seeing while in the area:

The Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, operated by the National Park Service, are what remains of a series of interlinked dwellings built in five cliff alcoves. The dwellings were built by the Mogollon peoples, probably around 1300.

Visiting the dwellings requires hiking a well-traveled, 1-mile trail loop with several foot bridges over a stream. The walk takes about an hour. The first half of the trail, which takes you to the dwellings, is up hill. Some of the trial is steep. After you visit the dwellings, the trail is all down hill.

There’s a small museum near the trailhead with displays about nature and wildlife. The visitor center, which is a few miles from the trailhead, also has a small museum that focuses on the dwellings. A looping video tells the story of the cliff dwellers.

Address: 44 New Mexico 15, Silver City, NM 88061
The cliff dwellings are in the Gila Wilderness within the Gila National Forest on NM 15. Although the distance from Silver City is 44 miles, the drive takes about 2 hours because of the winding mountain road. (An alternative is along NM 35 through the Mimbres Valley, which is 25 miles longer but less winding and easier to drive, so it takes about 2 hours, too.)
Phone: 575-536-9461
Hours: Cliff Dwellings: Daily, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Last visitors are allowed on the trail at 4 p.m., and must be off the trail by 5 p.m.)
Visitor center: Daily, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Website: http://www.nps.gov/gicl/index.htm
Admission: Fees are collected at a self-self station at the trailhead to the cliff dwellings, so bring exact change or a check. (You can pay by credit card at the visitor center.) Families, $10. Adults, $3. Children age 15 and younger, free.

The Lordsburg/Hidalgo County Museum

Lordsburg was once a transportation and commercial hub for southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona. Phelps Dodge ran the Playas Smelter nearby and the local economy was built on ranching, farming (cotton and roses), and mining. The main highway ran through town and into southern Arizona and an international crossing to Mexico was just south at Antelope Wells. Students, including former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, came from the surrounding area in both New Mexico and Arizona to attend school. During World War II, an internment camp outside of Lordsburg held German prisoners of war.

However, when Interstate 10 was built, it bypassed Lordsburg, and the town has suffered economically as a result.

Lordsburg-museum

The Lordsburg/Hidalgo County Museum is housed in the old Hidalgo County Armory. The museum covers the area’s history. A premier and extensive exhibitLordsburg/Hidalgo County Museum exhibits is on New Mexico’s various World War II internment camps. This exhibit began as a traveling exhibit funded by the New Mexico Humanities Council and is now housed permanently in Lordsburg.

Address: 710 East 2nd Street, Lordsburg, NM 88045
Phone:     575-542-9086
Hours:     Monday through Friday, 1 to 5 p.m.
Website: http://www.lordsburghidalgocounty.net/museum.htm
Admission: Free

Nearby you can also visit the ghost town, Shakespeare. Originally known as Mexican Springs, Shakespeare was a mining boom town on the Butterfield Overland Stage Trail. The town survived until 1932 and in 1935, it was purchased by the Hill family of Lordsburg. The town is known for its wild history that includes tales of Billy the Kid as well as, lesser known outlaws such as Russian Bill and Sandy King. The museum and visitor center are open two Saturdays a month when there are also tours and re-enactments about life in the town. There are occasional public tours offered for a donation. Call 575-542-9034 for the schedule. There are no private tours.