The Allure of Ghost Towns

Ghost towns hold a unique charm that draws in history enthusiasts, adventure seekers, and those who yearn to connect with the past. The mysterious and abandoned aura of these historic towns invites exploration, sparking curiosity about the lives of the people who once called these places home.

Chloride, New Mexico

Chloride, a captivating ghost town in Sierra County, New Mexico, is one such place that has attracted many visitors.  At its peak, this mining town had a population of about 3,000 miners. Today, it is home to fewer than 15 residents. Let’s delve into the story of Don Edmund and his family and their unique connection to Chloride.

Discovering Chloride

In 1977, Don Edmund and his wife, Dona, set out to explore the Gila Mountains. They followed State Highway 52 to Winston but made a wrong turn which led them to the ghost town of Chloride.  They were so enchanted by its history and appeal that they decided to not only make it their mission to restore some of the town’s historic buildings but also to make Chloride their home.

An Amazing Discovery

Don and Dona bought some of the old buildings that were still, or partially, standing, including the general store, which had been locked for roughly eight decades. They were not allowed to look inside until the sale was complete. What they found was a treasure trove since literally everything was still on the shelves, just as if it had been frozen in time since the mining days of the late 1800’s. While the task to clean and restore seemed daunting, the couple, joined by their daughter, Linda Turner, embarked on a journey to preserve the heritage of Chloride, beginning with three years of restoring the store and the historic items that came with it.

Rich History

The town of Chloride dates back to the late 1870s when a mule skinner by the name of Harry Pye was hauling freight for the U.S. Army. “Float” on a creek bed caught his attention.  He collected rock samples, had them assayed, and was delighted to learn they were rich in silver.  Once his army contract ended, Pye, together with two other men, made their way back to Chloride where they built a cabin and staked their claim. Sadly, only a few months later, Pye was killed by Apache.  In spite of frequent raids, word spread, and the town rapidly grew to accommodate roughly 3,000 miners, most of whom lived in tents. The town boasted two general stores, butcher shops, a hotel, nine saloons, an assay office, a blacksmith shop, a livery stable, a laundry, a millinery store and much more.  Chloride’s demise began with the Silver Panic of 1893, brought on by the introduction of the gold standard.  The town hobbled along for the next three decades and was all but a ghost town by 1923. 

From Rubble to Glory

Chloride may have lain in ruins since the demise of silver mining in the late 1800s but with the dedication and hard work on the part of Don and his family, the town slowly rose from the rubble to become the popular tourist destination it is today.  With many buildings restored, the general store serving as the museum, and the former Monte Cristo Saloon and Dance Hall housing a local artist co-op, there’s plenty of history to absorb and enjoy, enhanced by the many examples of mining and farming equipment on the grounds surrounding the museum and co-op. 

In 1923, the owner of Chloride’s Pioneer Store, which was the local source for everything from household items and food to mining equipment and saddles, locked up and walked away, leaving literally everything on the shelves. When Don and Dona first opened the door, they realized they had a monumental task ahead of them as decades of dust, bat guano, and rat droppings covered every inch of the interior, from floor to ceiling. Three years later, after endless hours of cleaning and scrubbing, they were ready to introduce the world to a period-perfect museum, taking visitors back 100 years in time.  While some people think of the general store, now a museum, as an amazing assortment of period collectibles, nothing was actually collected.  It was all right there, on the floors and shelves!

Understanding the importance of preserving the town’s history, Don built and outfitted a fire station to protect the restored buildings, as well as the entire town and its residents, from potential fires.  

The Significance of Ghost Towns

Cultural and Historical Value

Ghost towns like Chloride hold immense cultural and historical value. By preserving these towns, we can keep their stories alive for future generations and offer insight into the lives of the people who once inhabited these historic towns. New Mexico is rich in ghost towns, including Cuchillo, Winston, Lake Valley, Hillsboro and Kingston, all in Sierra County and all well worth a visit!

Tourism in Sierra County

Ghost towns are a popular draw for tourists in Sierra County. Visiting places like Chloride allows people to step back in time and appreciate the rich history of the area. The efforts of individuals like Don and Dona Edmund ensure that these important historical sites remain accessible for all to enjoy.

Exploring Chloride

Attractions

Aside from the Pioneer Store Museum and the Monte Cristo Gift Shop and Gallery co-op, Chloride boasts other attractions that visitors can explore, such as Winston and Cuchillo (ghost towns on the way to Chloride), the Chloride cemeteries; wildlife such as elk and deer; and off-road adventures on the unpaved trails and roads leading from Chloride into the Gila Mountains’ Black Range.  There are also two fully-renovated historic cabins for overnight visitors to rent and enjoy.  

Local Stories

Visitors to Chloride can hear a host of stories about the town’s history and its residents, past and present, from Don and Dona’s daughter, Linda Turner. Her tales, many gleaned from the town’s old-timers, add personal insights and color to the already fascinating story of this once-bustling mining town. For more in-depth stories about Chloride, one can turn to a book by Don Edmund:  The Stories They Told Us:  Life in the Old West, available in both digital and print versions.

Conclusion

Chloride, NM, and its Pioneer Store Museum serve as shining examples of the value in preserving ghost towns and their histories. The efforts of Don Edmund and his family have made it possible for visitors to glimpse into the past and appreciate the cultural and historical significance of such towns. As more people discover the allure of ghost towns, it’s vital that we continue to protect and preserve these unique treasures for generations to come.

FAQs

What is the Pioneer Store Museum?

The Pioneer Store Museum is a restored general store in the ghost town of Chloride, NM. It showcases items that were left on the shelves when the store closed in 1923, offering visitors a glimpse into the town’s past.

Who is Don Edmund?

Don Edmund, and his wife, Dona, accidentally discovered Chloride, NM, in 1977 and realized there was a great deal of history to preserve. They made Chloride their home, restoring many of its historic buildings, and ultimately transforming the town into a popular tourist attraction.

How many people live in Chloride, NM today?

Today, fewer than 15 people call Chloride home, a stark contrast to the town’s peak population of around 3,000 miners and business owners.

What can visitors expect when exploring Chloride, NM?

Visitors to Chloride can explore the Pioneer Store Museum,  the Monte Cristo Gift Shop and Gallery co-op, various restored buildings, and the cemeteries while learning about the town’s rich history through local stories and accounts.

Why is it important to preserve ghost towns like Chloride, NM?

Preserving ghost towns helps keep their stories and history alive for future generations. It also offers unique educational and tourism opportunities, allowing visitors to step back in time, connecting with the cultural and historical significance of such unique


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