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(Old) Hachita, New Mexico
The name "Hachita" comes from the Spanish term for "Little Hatchet". Older maps show the mountains in this area as “Sierra de la Huachita” which is Spanish term meaning “mountains of the orphan girl” The real origin of the name appears to be lost in time and in language translations. Before the Spanish explorers discovered this area, bands of Apache Indians roamed freely in this region. As Spanish explorers and early settlers arrived, they heard stories told by Indians mentioning turquoise deposits in the hills of the Little Hatchet Mountains. In the early 1870’s, prospectors began working the area, discovering not only turquoise, but lead, copper and silver as well. This was at a time when Apache Indians roamed the area freely and the nearest settlement of any significance was a few hundred miles away. Considering the remoteness of the area, the furnace like heat of the desert, and the constant risk of Indian attacks made this a harsh environment for these hardy souls to endure. But endure they did, and eventually the area produced several highly productive mines. In 1877 the Eureka Mining District was created, composed of several high-grade base and precious metal mines. Among the better producing mining operations were the Hornet, the King, and the American mines. A small settlement located in the eastern foothills of the Little Hachet Mountains was grew around these mines, went on to become the town of Eureka. In late 1880, construction of the Southern Pacific Railroad came within 45 miles of this area as it was being built eastwards from Tucson, Arizona toward El Paso, Texas. This railroad gave Eureka better access to civilization, and provided better transportation for the ore being extracted from the mines. A post office was established in 1882 and the town was officially registered as Hachita. Two years later the town had a population of around three hundred people. At that time the town consisted of a steam smelting works, three saloons, two general stores, and the operations of several mining companies But as with most mining camps, eventually the ore diminishes, or it is no longer cost effective to extract the existing ore, and the mines and the businesses that support them reduce their operations. By 1890, the town had dwindled down to a population of around twenty-five. The post office remained until 1898, and then it was finally shut down. In 1902, construction of the El Paso and Southwestern Railroad brought the tracks just a few miles from the town. About 7 miles away in the Hachita Valley, a railroad town was built to provide a water stop for the railroad, and this new town took the name of the fading mining camp. The original town became known as "Old Hachita" and the new railroad town was officially known as Hachita. The post office was reopened at the new location in 1902 where it is still in operation today. The center of activity shifted to this new community where saloons, general stores and a hotel were established. The mines at Old Hachita also shared all the prosperity brought by the railroad. With the railroad nearby, it was now considerably cheaper to transport the ore from these mines, and they were reopened. A little over three miles west of Hachita at a point where the El Paso & Southwestern Railroad came closest to the mining operations in Old Hachita, the town of Minero, Spanish for miner, was built. This town consisted of a siding and facilities to load the ore onto the trains for shipment. The town flourished for several years until the 1920's when copper prices dropped and it once again was not cost effective to mine the ore. The mines were closed permanently, all mining operations were abandoned and the town became a true ghost town. As with most ghost towns, the elements take their toll on the structures. Most buildings were constructed of adobe and after years of neglect they have deteriorated. Today about two dozen structures are still standing, a few with sheet metal roofs still intact, and others with just the foundations and partial adobe walls still standing. Remains of a floatation mill at the American mine still exists. The entrances to most of the mineshafts are still open. Most of these are vertical shafts and, although very dangerous, some can still be entered with wooden ladders left behind. The head frame of the American Mine was partially cut down by vandals in the late 1980's. Some of the adobe walls are carved up with graffiti, but most of the deterioration is from natural elements.