On April 18, 1867, U.S. Army Lt. Colonel Edward Bergmann resigned from a promising military career to become a miner in Elizabethtown, New Mexico’s Baldy Peak mining district. But Bergmann wasn’t just any miner. He was the superintending partner in Lucien Maxwell’s Aztec Mine on the east slopes of Baldy, a venture that would haul out roughly $1.5 million in gold in the first five years of operation. Bergmann’s work there and in other operations was so successful that he was worth $60,000 in real estate by the summer of 1870.
Born in Prussia around 1833, Bergmann had been a 28 year old private in the U.S. Army when the Civil War broke out in 1861, a private who was granted an immediate discharge from his clerking duties at Departmental headquarters in Santa Fe so he could accept a 1st Lieutenant commission in the New Mexico Volunteers.
He rose quickly. By September 1862, Bergmann was a Captain and responsible for rebuilding and resupplying Fort Stanton. By early 1867, he was a Lt. Colonel leading scouting expeditions on the San Juan and Las Animas Rivers.
But news of the gold on Baldy Mountain seems to have roused the mining fever in the Lt. Colonel, because he resigned his commission shortly thereafter and was soon on the ground in Etown and its surrounding mines.
He did well. By 1870, Bergmann owned $60,000 worth of real estate and was secure enough to attract the attention of local belle Augusta Sever, whom he married in December. Over the next fifteen years, he continued his activities in the area, participating in the Spanish Bar mine at the mouth of Grouse Gulch just east of Etown and taking on other roles, including acting as Etown Justice of the Peace during the Colfax County War.
Oddly, Bergmann’s real estate holdings seemed to have diminished to a mere $1,500 by April 1875, when the Territorial property tax assessment was made. However, he’d apparently made some powerful friends by that time, because when the New Mexico Territorial Penitentiary opened in Santa Fe in August 1885, Bergmann was named its first warden, a position he held until at least 1893. He must have gotten the mining fever once again, though, because he died in Colorado’s Bowl of Gold, near Cripple Creek, in 1910.
Sources: Louis Felsenthal, Citizen-Soldier of Territorial New Mexico, Jacqueline Meketa, UNM Press, 1982; Lure, Lore, and Legends of the Moreno Valley, Moreno Valley Writers Guild, 1997, Columbine Books, Angel Fire, NM; Roadside History of Colorado, Candy Moulton, Mountain Press, Missoula, 2006; Philmont, A History of New Mexico’s Cimarron Country, Lawrence Murphy, UNM Press, Albuquerque, 2014; Red River City: A history of Northern New Mexico 1800-2000, J.R. Pierce, JRP Publications Press, Red River, 2006; The Eagle Nest, New Mexico Story, F. Stanley, Dumas, Texas, 1961; A Civil War History of the New Mexico Volunteers and Militia; Jerry Thompson, UNM Press, Albuquerque, 2015; Myth of the Hanging Tree, Robert J. Torrez, UNM Press, 2008.