Did you know that Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders came from New Mexico? Visit the City of Las Vegas Museum and Rough Riders Memorial Collection to find out about New Mexico’s role in the iconic group of fighters from the Spanish American War. Las Vegas hosted the Rough Rider Reunions for many years and much of the memorabilia and artifacts relating to the 1st Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, better known as the Rough Riders is at the museum. Continue reading
Lamy was named for Archbishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy, and the town lies within the Bishop John Lamy Spanish Land Grant, which dates to the 18th century. Lamy is primarily a railroad town. In 1879, as the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad laid its track through New Mexico, it bypassed Santa Fe because the grade for the roadbed leading to Santa Fe would have been too steep for the engines of the day. The railroad built a spur line to Santa Fe, and Lamy grew up where that spur connects to the main track.
In 1896, when the Fred Harvey Company built the luxurious El Ortiz Hotel by the train station, Lamy became an important railroad junction. Today, Lamy is a stop for Amtrak.
The Lamy Railroad and History Museum features the story of Lamy and the AT&SF railroad. It is housed in a building that dates to 1881. The building was originally the Browne and Manzanares General Store. John Pfleuger took over the store and added a saloon and in 1894 he imported a hand-carved, cherry-wood bar from Bavaria. The saloon and general store served as headquarters for the village’s businessmen. Continue reading
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.
The 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
Hours: Open Daily, September – April 10 am – 4 pm, May – August 10 am – 1 pm
Closed most holidays
Admission: No charge
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. Continue reading
The town of Chama was built in the early 1880s as a service depot for the San Juan Extension of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad (D&RGW). The depot included a station house, mechanical shops for servicing equipment on the line, warehouses and stockyards. With the coming of the railroad, Chama became a boomtown full of contractors for the railroad, miners looking to exploit the coal in the Monero region of the San Juan Basin, sheep and cattle ranchers, and loggers and others working in the lumber industry. The town was know for its wild and raucous nature. Several events led to the downfall of the town — the loss of timber after forests were clear cut, the near loss of the sheep industry after a disastrous winter in 1931-32 and the abandonment of the D&RGW San Juan Extension in the late 1960s. In more recent years, tourism, especially the activities of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad (C&TS), has been helping to revive the town .
In 1970, the states of Colorado and New Mexico jointly purchased the portion of the San Juan Extension running from Antonito, Colorado to Chama, New Mexico, along with much of the equipment that had been used on the line. This section is the most scenic portion of the San Juan Extension and the line loops back and forth between both states. In 1977, the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad Commission was created by an act of Congress as a bi-state entity to oversee the railroad. The depot and yard in Chama are physically one of the most complete rail yards from the steam era of railroading.
In 1988, the Friends of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad was founded over concern for the railroad’s historic assets were not being properly preserved. The friends operate the museum arm for the railroad and provide a huge number of volunteers who provide financial and hands-on support for the railroads preservation activities. Volunteers work on the restoration of the rolling stock and serve as docents on the trains. They operate a small Visitor Center and Library with model trains and photographs showing the history of the railroad. The Visitor Center is on Terrace Avenue across from the Depot and is open when the train is running from late May until Mid-September.
Address: 500 S. Terrace Avenue, Chama,New Mexico 87520
Phone: 575-756-2151 or 888-286-2737 (for general information and tickets)
Hours: Late May to Mid-September, The Visitor Center is open on a catch-as-catch-can basis during the train season.
Admission: No admission charge for the Visitor Center. Train fares vary — see website.