It’s not so much the pure history of the old 1870s silver mining town, and believe me there are many writings and impressions of Chloride, but the synopsis of the story that follows that we find so fascinating.
The town has the usual story of miner strikes a claim, is killed by roving Indians, word gets out about the silver strike, more miners arrive, saloons, stores, hotel, mercantile, stables, Chinese laundry, brothels, a drug store, and law office are built. The town acquires a stage stop, and a post office. Before you know it by its heyday in the 1880s, there is a population of 3,000 people. The population consists mainly of men and they recruit woman by offering a free building site to any woman who comes to Chloride to live.
With the change to gold as the monetary standard after the 1896 presidential election silver-mining towns all over the west begin an almost overnight decline and journey toward the fate of becoming “ghost towns”.
Yet, Chloride had a slightly different journey. Canadian, James Daglish who moved to Chloride in 1879 with the hopes his health would improve in the New Mexico climate built the Pioneer General Store 1n 1980 and operated it until 1897. The store sold anything and everything needed by the residents of Chloride. But by 1897 he finally realized the town and his health would not improve. The store was sold and resold and finally ended up being bought be the James family. The James family ran the store until 1923 when only a handful of residents remained.
This is where it gets interesting. In 1923 Mr. James locked the door and walked away leaving all the contents inside and it stayed that way for close to 70 years.
That brings us to 1989 when Mr. and Mrs. Don Edmund moved to Chloride, met the descendants of the original Mr. James and bought the Pioneer General Store. They then began the massive job of restoring the store and cleaning the items that spanned its history from 1880 – 1923 – stuff like still in-tact whisky bottles, clothes, tools, medicine, food stuffs, etc). Today, the store is showcased as a museum – and one we found well worth the trip to this out of the way town. Their daughter eventually moved to Chloride in 2005 and she, along with two, volunteer full-time RVers, help with the ongoing restoration of other town buildings, give tours of the museum, and relate the history and mysteries of this remarkable story. Today, the town is has risen from its ghost town status having 13 people (some are descendants of the original inhabitants) who call Chloride home. This includes the 2 fulltime RV volunteers.
BTW – they are looking for someone to run the Café” – the job comes with room and board.
We were fascinated by work of the Edmunds family and the volunteers who are trying to preserve the history of this community. They are able to acquire some funds from donations, the rental of two refurbished cabins, and parking spaces for four RVs the come with complete hook-ups. But more then money – this is a labor of love.
We seem to be drawn to the off-beat and quirky stories and sites like this. All you have to do is listen and look around and you too will be able to imagine a time in history…a blast from the real past in Chloride.
Some more photos here.