We had pulled off the side of the road so that the car behind us could de-magnetized itself from the rear-end of our car, and get on his way…she said tongue-in-cheek.
I looked across the road and saw a herd of horses grazing in the pasture and then ambling towards the lean-to that must have held grain. There was one lone stallion high on the rocks watching over the herd. It was then that we saw the other sign pointing us to Elizabethtown.
We had been told that there wasn’t much to see but we filled up a couple of hours taking in different sights and buildings. While I love the written history of places, I enjoy “hearing” the story told by looking at old buildings, pictures and land. We crossed Hwy 38 and ambled down the gravel road trying not to kick up too much dust.
We turned left and received further instructions from this truck. It was hard to keep your eyes on the road because this area is so beautiful.
Side Note: I didn’t pick up a sense of despair or sadness from this deserted town. Perhaps because there is a descendant of one of the original citizens that is reviving it. I wonder if some of the early citizens were relieved to be moving to another town since I’d read that Elizabethtown was known for being a layover spot for outlaws. Its cemetery is known to be comparable to Boothill and other wild west towns.
This building is supposedly Froelick’s Store, once thriving and now just a memory, almost aching to tell its story. Hard to imagine that this building serviced 7,000 people at one point.
A few feet from the store were the remains of the Mutz Hotel. We were about to learn the history of that building. One sad aspect of these remains is the number of people who have taken stones from the building for souvenirs. I can’t imagine what they’ll do with the stones once they arrive home and can’t remember why they have them. Pieces of history gone due to the insensitivity of others.
Once we arrived at the museum, which is a group of old buildings that have been moved into the area, we were met by Beni-Jo Fulton, curator of the museum. She has kept the town open for the public. She is also a descendant of one of the families who lived in Elizabethtown.
Beni-Jo ushered us into the “theater”, a small one room house, and inserted a video that explained the history of Elizabethtown. As the story of the town unfolded there was an older man featured called “Mighty Whitey”. He sang a couple of songs, while playing a guitar placed in his lap, that wove part of the story together for us. Mighty Whitey looked a lot like photos you see of old miners, grizzly, beginnings of a white beard and missing some teeth. It somehow made him endearing and his songs more meaningful. Now, whenever I hear Ghostriders in the Sky, I’ll think of him.
In 1866, Captain William H. Moore was given some “pretty rocks” by an Indian friend. Capt. Moore realized that what he was holding in his hand was copper. He had his friend take him to where he’d found the rock. It was there at the 12,441 foot Baldy Mountain (pictured above), just across the Moreno Valley from the 13,161 foot Wheeler Peak (the highest point in New Mexico), that Capt. Moore’s life forever changed. Because not only was there copper, there was also gold.
In 1867, Capt. Moore and his brother, John, opened a general store that sold supplies to the miners. In 1868, John Moore and other businessmen incorporated the village and John named the town after his daughter, Elizabeth. It later became known as E-Town by the locals.
Side Note: Elizabeth (1863 – 19??) lived her entire life in Elizabethtown. She was a school teacher, married Joseph Lowery and had eight children, who either lived in the town or close by. Elizabeth is buried in the town cemetery, a lasting legacy to the place named after her. Pictured above is her home across the valley from Elizabethtown.
The town quickly grew from 400 residents to 7,000 at its peak and boasted seven saloons, three dance halls, five stores, a school, and two churches. One of several hotels, the Mutz Hotel was built by George W. Mutz, a rancher and cattleman of the area. The above photo, taken around 1943, shows the abandoned Mutz Hotel before it deteriorated.
Another contributor to the video about Elizabethtown’s history said that he remembered when he and his sister were quite young, the family would go to the hotel’s second floor dance hall and dance to the music. When the children grew tired, they were put to sleep on the window ledges, which were evidently quite wide.
After watching the video we toured some of the small buildings filled with antiques.
Above are photos of the Mutz family along with Mrs. Mutz’s wedding dress. There were several other pieces of clothing on display including a pair of very fuzzy, furry chaps!
The White Horse Saloon and a building that housed the tack for the horses are just a few of the buildings that are on the land.. They give you a feel for what the old mining town might have been.
The poles for a tee-pee sat among various bed frames, hip baths and an old iron stove with ashes that declared it still worked. I suppose it’s feasible that a tee-pee could have been erected there since it was an Indian who showed Capt. Moore to this place. However, I’m thinking the Indian probably stayed in one of the cabins!
One cabin had this forlorn woman sitting on the bed, obviously still waiting for her true love to return. She was last heard to be singing, “I’m tired, tired of love uninspired. Let’s face it. I’m tired.” a little ditty by Elizabethtown’s minstrel singer, Mel Brooks.
As happens with a lot of mines, Elizabethtown’s mine had played out by 1917 and the gold rush boom was over. Some of the people in town slowly started moving away leaving their homes abandoned because there wasn’t anyone to buy them. Others took their houses apart and moved everything down to Therma (later to be named Eagle Nest) over the next couple of years. By 1931, the post office officially closed their doors and Elizabethtown was left to the elements of nature and its former inhabitants memories..
The Elizabethtown Cemetery sits on a hill overlooking the Moreno Valley. It’s a serene setting that makes you want to linger and a final tribute to those who contributed, lawfully or unlawfully, to Elizabethtown’s history.
A light breeze gently blows over old graves and recent graves. It seems to be a town that died…and yet, won’t die.
Elizabethtown may have had a fast and furious history but it’s easy to see why people settled there, other than for the copper and gold. Maybe the views of the Moreno Valley explains why more and more people are trying to revive the old town. Wouldn’t you love to send out moving announcements with this photo?
Gruesome Detail: It appears that not far from Elizabethtown there was an evil person by the name of Charles Kennedy. He had a couple of spare rooms in his house so he would invite travelers to stay overnight to rest from their travels. However, once in the house, they never left and their rest became eternal. He would murder them, cut them up and slowly dispose of their bodies.
When his Indian wife discovered that he had killed their son, he locked her in a room and then proceeded to get drunk. When she heard him snoring in a drunken stupor, she climbed up the chimney and walked 19 miles to Elizabethtown to tell the authorities what he’d done. A group of vigilantes, including the notorious Clay Allison, rode out to Kennedy’s house. They brought him back to town and dragged his body behind a horse up and down the center of Elizabethtown until he was dead and…continued long after he was dead, so vile was his deed.
Remember the herd of horses I told you about in the beginning? Well, I fell in love with this Pinto Princess. The other horses in the herd were beautiful as well. But this one caught my eye until…..
that lone stallion, from high on the ledge in the beginning of this story, came trotting by. He literally stood by the fence in front of where the Pilot was taking pictures and blocked his view. We got the message:
Don’t mess with my ladies!
We’re looking forward to exploring more of the ghost towns around us. Maybe at some point we can all share our scary stories. Until next week…
Stay strong and steady with the wind always blowing at your back as you travel down the road to your next adventure.
Until next week…keep creating Sentimental Journeyz in your RV.