On my recent trip out west for a high school reunion I stopped at the old mining town of Magdalena, New Mexico. Ever since I was a little kid I was intrigued by old mining town of the west. At the time, the early 1970’s the town reminded me of the desolate towns in Clint Eastwood’s Fistful of Dollars movies. Magdalena was a town where we never stopped, we just went through. My dad worked for the US Forest Service and they had a ranger district in Magdalena and my mother would thank her lucky stars that dad never been transferred there. So here I am years later able to stop. I didn’t spend too long though.
The Magdalena area was of course populated by Native Americans prior to, and after, Europeans arrived. Spainish soldiers explored the area in the 1500’s but I don’t think they stayed. In the 1860’s miners were digging for lead, gold, and silver and the town became incorporated in 1884. A railroad spur was built to the area about then. The railroad helped spur the cattle and wool industries in the region. Most of the mines were up the canyon in the little town of Kelly.
After World War II Magdalena started a long decline as the mines had depleted also wool and cattle prices declined. The railroad quit operating and the tracks were pulled up in the early 1970’s. Ranchers were shipping their cattle by truck by then.
The town has less than a thousand inhabitants but has kind of turning into a funky location. The town’s hotel and other buildings have been restored and there is kind of a funky vibe in the air. The Very Large Array Radio telescope is within a half hour and that has added some spice to the mix. They still have that beautiful blue New Mexico sky overhead as well as an intense sun beaming down despite relatively low temperatures.
I drove up the canyon the short distance to the old town of Kelly where the mines actually were. Lots of old mine entrances fenced off and violators will be violated signs. I don’t think anybody lives there any longer but it looks like a great place for the local high schoolers to party. The only building still standing was this old church.
I was up there all by myself and then this old guy in a truck with Texas plates shows up and he comes over and we start talking. Texans are like that you know. His family has a ranch in west Texas and it had an old abandoned mine in it. The guys brother was poking around in it and found some old metal parts of some kind labelled Magdalena Smelting Company, or something like that so this guy was always intrigued by that and so was scouting things out. He wanted to explore some more and I had a timed entry admission to the Very Large Array and so we parted ways.
On the way out of Kelly I came across these old foundations. Who knows maybe that was Magdalena Smelting Company?
So I got to visit Magdalena after being intrigued by it 50 years ago. Never give up is what I say.
Here is a video of the ghost town of Kelly made by not me. I tried to find old photos and there a bunch of them and many of them very cool old cowboy, ranching, mining stuff but all rights are reserved so I am not touching them.