Baldy Town Celebrates the 4th of July

On July 4, 1871, up-and-coming lawyer Melvin Whitson Mills delivered the Independence Day oration at Baldy, the center of gold mining activity on the east side of Baldy Mountain north of Ute Park, New Mexico Territory. The celebrations included a parade of 500 people marching to a grove of trees outside town. There, the local newspaper editor read the United States Declaration of Independence and Mills, the young lawyer and would be politician who had so ably defended serial killer Charles Kennedy a year and a half before, delivered a “spread eagle” oration. A formal dance ended the day.

Although there were those who weren’t impressed that Mills had almost succeeded in rescuing Kennedy from the hangman’s noose, he was respected enough in the county to be elected as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1873 as well as various other municipal, county, and Territorial positions. Along with his legal practice and his connections to the Santa Fe Ring, these activities gave Mills the financial ability by the end of the decade to construct a handsome three-story mansard-roofed home in Springer which was known throughout the territory for its more than twenty rooms and its maple interior trim. He also owned a large ranch outside in eastern Colfax County, where he raised cattle and planted the fruit trees that can still be seen in what is now Mills Canyon.

July 4 illustration.Mills house

Sources: Bainbridge Bunting, Of Earth and Timbers Made: New Mexico Architecture, UNM Press, 1974; Loretta Miles Tollefson, The Pain and the Sorrow, Sunstone Press, 2017; Victor Westphall, Thomas Benton Catron and his era, U of Arizona Press, 1973.

Etown Has Stagecoach Service Again!

On May 1, 1894, the stagecoach once again arrived in Etown, New Mexico: The Springer and Moreno Valley Stage Line began daily passenger runs between Elizabethtown and Springer, where passengers could connect with the railroad. Even with fares at $5 a day, demand was high. The line was soon running double headers every other day. It didn’t just carry passengers. There were also contracts with Wells Fargo Express and the United States Post Office. In fact, the endeavor was so lucrative that H.H. Hankins jumped to serve the same route with the Moreno Valley Stage and Freight Company line.

These transportation services replaced Col. Valentine “Jim” S. Shelby’s 1868 Moreno Valley Stage and Freight Line, which had run three times a week between Maxwell’s Ranch (today’s Cimarron) and Elizabethtown, departing from Maxwell’s one day and returning from Elizabethtown the next. Fares in 1868 were $8 each way. Shelby, a former army wagon master, seems to have enjoyed a good challenge. A co-owner of the Aztec Mine, he also helped fund the construction project that diverted water from Red River to the Baldy Mountain mining district, then took it over when it failed to live up to projections, on the chance that he could find a buyer—which he did. Shelby eventually left the Etown area and ended up in Santa Fe, where he ran a large gambling “resort”—yet another service in high demand in New Mexico Territory.

May 1 illustration.etown stagecoach station

Sources: Lure, Lore and Legends of the Moreno Valley, Moreno Valley Writers Guild, Columbine Books, 1997; Philmont, A History of New Mexico’s Cimarron Country, Lawrence R. Murphy, UNM Press,