Bonnie Wayne McGuire


The first week of 2010 we visited the ghost town of Mogollon, New Mexico nestled in the mountains where grandfather Wayne managed the Last Chance-Ernestine Mine. Was it only coincidence that the Ernestine Mine sold in New York the same week as Taft signed the statehood proclamation? That's what historical research seems to prove. My grandmother, father and uncle used to talk about the place, but pronounced it differently than it's spelled. I learned later that to properly pronounce the word Mogollon, the accent is on the first and third syllables. The double "L" or, Spanish Ella, having the broad sound of "Y," hence, Muggy-own," but most pronounce it more like Muggee owen. It's both a common and proper noun. The common use means "a hanger on, a parasite," some felt was indicative of the parasitical growth of the mistletoe on the oaks, and other trees of the forest. The town was named after the governor Juan Ignacio Flores Mogollon appointed by the Spanish crown in 1712. He became the captain general of the vast empire that embraced within the limits of the states of Texas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, and the Territories of New Mexico and Arizona.

His name Mogollon also applied to one of the grandest, most massive, rugged and precipitous of many mountain systems of New Mexico and the richest in its treasures of gold, silver and copper in the great Southwest, dates from the administration of this most popular and efficient executive of the eighteenth century. The Spanish adventurer, in his explorations for precious metals of gold and silver "in mass and position," succeeded where others (organized at Santa Fe and elsewhere) with less energy and determination failed. The history of New Mexico grew pretty violent. First the Spanish, and then the miners invaded the Indian lands and eventually pushed them to resist by leaving  a trail of blood wherever they went. They knew the geography and freight trails well...something the government was slow to realize. Treasure hunting brings out the worst in human nature, and those who found gold and silver had to be wary of others who would kill them for many buried their accumulated wealth hoping to retrieve it later. Some perished by outlaws, Indians or the elements, and their buried treasures remained hidden. The Southwestern states abound with such mysteries.

Cinco de Mayo celebration in 1914

Since it's beginning as a miner's camp in the late 1800's, Mogollon (with about twenty year round residents)  has seen a lot. But it has never seen a ghost. "We just claim to be one of the ghosties" said one elderly resident. "There wasn't a time when there wasn't someone who lived here. Unless you think we're one of the ghosts, I guess." The town was settled by miners notorious in the town's history for being rowdy, tough and poor. Prospectors flocked to the town after hearing about Army Sergeant James Cooney's 1870 discovery of silver in the area, who was later killed by local Chiricahua Apache led by Victorio during a raid on settler's homes April 12, 1880, known as the Alma Massacre. Alma's history is bloody with constant attacks by Apache Indians. One writer mentions that "Four men laid the plans for the town whose name was originally Mogollon." In 1878 the town was bought by Capt. Birney who changed the name to "Alma" for his mother. It is rumored the town was inhabited by the Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch, Tom Ketchum, and William Antrim, the father in law of Billy the Kid.

Once they arrived in town they lived in tin huts, or under wood slats...and trudged their way to mines in Silver Creek Canyon. The names of the mines, like those who dug them reflect the severity of their situation...Deep Down, Last Chance and Never End. The mines produced a relative fortune and progress during their time. A post office was built in 1890, the first school house in 1892, and at least ten saloons and a red light district lined Mogollon's main street during it's golden years. In 1915 the town's population was around 2,000 with all the services associated with larger towns. (It later dropped to 200 in 1930). Through the years Mogollon saw five disastrous floods, at least that many major fires (above) that burned the town's dozen wood buildings to the ground. It also had desperado crimes equal to any western town famous for gunplay. All that remains today are the mine ruins and old buildings.

During our first visit to Silver City, New Mexico in April (2007) we stopped at the local museum to see if we could find anything about my grandparents. The people who worked there went through their files and did find a few newspaper account about them. One mentioned they moved a lot (as Uncle Earl said) and that one house they lived in had burned the following year, and was sold. We browsed the history books in the museum and the thought "muggy own" kept popping into my head, but I couldn't find anything about it. Even while I was staring at a stack of books titled "The Mogollon Mines." I picked one up and quickly looked through the pages. The following caught my attention. A man who called himself Has Been, who wrote:

"When I stop to think what one mill, the Last Chance or the Ernestine Company, has accomplished under the personal direction of that prince of mine owners and gentleman, Mr. Ernest Craig, it has a tendency to make 'Has Been' think that the biggest sometimes is the smallest. The latest rumor in camp is to the effect that Mr. Craig has parted company with his holdings in this district. The fortunate purchasers are E. A. Wayne and associates, one of the strongest financial combinations in the United States. This, if consummated, is a source of congratulation, since the new blood which will be infused into the mineral development of the Ernestine bodies good to the entire district. Operations will be conducted upon a much larger scale, and every advantage and appliance known to the science of mining and metallurgy will be placed in practical operation at once." Locals, grandma, Uncle Earl and dad pronounced Mogollon "Muggy-own." But that's not all we found out by visiting the museum. Volunteer, Tom Hester later emailed us. "Thank you for the picture and the response from the State Archives.  I will add this information to our collection in a separate folder.  Was it only coincidence that the Ernestine Mine sold in New York the same week as Taft signed the proclamation?

Those in the museum talked like New Mexico had been excluded for consideration of statehood. At the time I didn't notice the dates, nor who grandfather's associates were, although Uncle Earl mentioned that Taft had been a business partner at one time. So, if Mr. Hester's hunch is right, New Mexico was signed into statehood to correspond with the sale of the Last Chance - Ernestine Mine in New York, where grandfather  was a member of the Mining Exchange.

If the above is true, you might say that grandfather became the first official representative of New Mexico on February 14, 1912. His photo is on page 318 book "Representatives New Mexicans: the national newspaper reference book" Volume 1.  History recounts that many early representatives of western states were miners, but fail to mention their names. Above,  President Taft signs New Mexico into statehood. Of it's long struggle for statehood Taft said, "Well it is all over. I am glad to give you life. I hope you will be healthy." Grandfather Wayne is second from the right in the picture my Uncle claimed was the New Mexico signing. I contacted the White House Historical Association, and they had the same picture for signing Arizona into Statehood, but grandfather Wayne isn't in that one. Taft became the first chief executive to preside over 48 states.

Our little visit to Mogollon makes us realize that people seeking their fortunes in gold, silver, and copper brought them to explore and experience the harshness of the wilderness. According to the 1914 issue of Mogollon Mines publication, the reaction to mining news was the stimulus that led to  eventual development to the southwest: "The Fifth Annual edition of The Mogollon Mines verifies the predictions made in the First Annual, that developments in the ensuing half decade would place Cooney Mining District at the forefront as the greatest producer of gold and silver in the great Southwest..."

The incentive of gold and silver mining attracted investors and miners, and unfortunately outlaws looking for easy money, but often were caught and swiftly punished (right). As a consequence the surrounding area  developed to accommodate all those who  lived and worked in the mines. "In addition to the transmitted power, the impounded waters will irrigate and reclaim upwards of 50,000 acres of fertile land, and provide homes for thousands of people and build a city of no mean importance as to population, wealth, culture, refinement and intelligence, and provide a still lower rate and reduce power costs to a minimum, and place Cooney mining district in the lead of all others in the production of gold and silver."


Last Chance-Ernestine Mine in Mogollon Mountains

The Mogollon Mine publication briefly mentions Grandfather Wayne's Ernestine Mining Company. "The past year has been an exceptionally busy one for the Mogollon Mine's Company. The new management from the inception and final organization of the company left no possible improvement pass unnoticed without careful trial and examination whereby the tonnage capacity per diem might be increased and the crushing power brought to a higher grade of efficiency, and the recovery of values brought up to a percentage saving ranging from 90 percent and up.... While these improvements were progressing in the mill the development of the mine, in addition to the remodeling of the mill engaged the attention of Mr. E. A. Wayne, the general manager of the company. The main shaft on the Last Chance vein has been exploited to a depth of 1,600 feet, a distance of 800 feet below the tunnel level. This level is 600 feet below the apex or cropping of the discovery shaft of the Last Chance vein. Development ahead of production engages the undivided attention of the management, and the exploration of ore reserves exposed in the mines is indicative that the operation is productive...."

The Mogollon mines were located on precipitous slopes and ridges, including the Maud S., Deep Down, Last Chance, and the biggest and most profitable – the Little Fannie. In 1909, the proud miners related that nearly 70% of the precious metal of New Mexico was produced by the mines of Mogollon amounting to $5,500,000. They (and other prospectors) extracted approximately $1.5 million in gold and silver in 1913. During their lifetime, over 18 million ounces of silver were taken from the mines of the Mogollón Mountains, which was one-quarter of New Mexico's total production. Close to $20 million in gold and silver were extracted, with silver accounting for about two-thirds of the total.

Silver City was the railhead for Mogollon's eight-team freight wagons, packed with gold and silver ore. The drivers showed great ingenuity in harnessing and driving the wagons, often with 18 horses pulling them (or slowing them down) around mountain hairpin curves. The dirt road rose 2,000 feet in a distance of about seven miles before dropping back down about 1,200 feet to Mogollon. It was narrow and twisting, with solid rock straight up one side for hundreds of feet and straight down an equal or greater distance on the other side.

That was then, and on January 5, 2010. After we revisited the museum in Silver City,  to see if we could dig up more information, we headed for Mogollon to see what it's like today.

After leaving highway 180 we're headed for the Mogollon Mountains on Route 78, also known as Bursum Road, where the two lane highway eventually changes to a narrow, one lane road winding along the steep canyon wall. This road also leads to the Gila National Forest

As we enter the town, we recognize these buildings from old photos.

Paul Harden (of Socorro, NM) in the Epilogue following this story, mentioned to me that his next article is about a dual killing in 1912 in the former Mogollon Mercantile (left).  Two clerks were killed trying to defend the payroll of the Ernestine Mining Co. (Last Chance Mine).  They got away with $3500+.  The two robbers were apprehended by the sheriff, a shootout killed one, and the other arrested.  He was found guilty of first degree murder and was hung in Socorro in 1913 for the crime. I found more on it and others in Mark A. Allan's  "Capital Punishment or Compassion Executions in the State of New Mexico: The Death Penalty Since Territorial Days."

Above is a summer view of the Silver Creek Inn built in 1885 by Frank Lauderbaugh. It first known as the Mogollon House. Henry Johnson, the proprietor, rented upstairs rooms and sold food and merchandise on the Main Street floor. In 1980 Stan King arrived to renovate and restore the old adobe to its present condition. If you would like to stay at the Inn to explore  the old town and  the surrounding area you can check with their website above.

The small community museum across the street is available at times, and offers an even better glimpse of the mining technology and perils of Mogollon's early days. Life in Mogollon today reflects its remoteness: According to one writer, "A seasonal hotel and restaurant are available sometimes, but it is best to plan ahead when visiting the area. Gasoline is available in Glenwood, and a full tank is recommended if you contemplate traveling north of Mogollon to the Gila Wilderness." As to weather...It's cold in the winter and hot during the summer.

In 1973, a spaghetti western called My Name is Nobody, starring Henry Fonda, was filmed in Mogollón. A saloon and general store in town were built as part of the movie set. Today the town is privately owned.

Little Fannie May Mine tailings.

The mining camp at Mogollon was started during the 1890s in the bottom of Silver Creek Canyon. Several mines of some note were started, but the Little Fanny gained the reputation that is the history of the town itself. It was an extremely dusty mine. Miner's consumption (or black lung) was so severe it wasn't uncommon for miners working the Little Fanny to last only three years or less. The ghastly toll of men working in the mine forced the owners to develop the method of spraying water under pressure from the jack-hammers in breaking the quartz for removal from the mine. As the dust was reduced, so was the patient load for the town's three doctors. The population of the town around 1909 when Little Fanny was being developed was about 2,000.

Stage provided transportation and freight services to the camp, moving its "cargo” some eighty miles between the two points, a distance that took about 15 hours. By 1915, the mine's payroll each month was between $50,000 and $75,000 with the mine's gold and silver bullion being shipped to Silver City by mule team. During World War I, trucks took over hauling the ore to Silver City but the end was in sight. As time progressed, the assay value of the ore began to drop to the point it was no longer profitable to continue operations. When last mine (Little Fanny) closed in did Mogollon.  The history of this mine reminds me of my great-grandfather who left the Isle of Man for America to seek his fortune. He worked in mines near Virginia City, Nevada and died from miner's con in his early 20's around the time my grandmother was born in 1886.

View of the canyon and mountains from the road on the return trip to the main highway. It was wonderful to have visited the old town even though it was late, and Mel didn't want to spend the night there. Instead we opted to drive highway 180 about a hundred more miles before calling it a day.




(During the first week of May I received the information below.)

My name is Paul Harden in Socorro, NM and I write a monthly history article for the local El Defensor Chieftain newspaper.  My next article is about a dual killing in 1912 in the Mogollon Mercantile.  Two clerks were killed trying to defend the payroll of the Ernestine Mining Co. (Last Chance Mine).  They got away with $3500+.  The two robbers were apprehended by the sheriff, a shootout killed one, and the other arrested.  He was found guilty of first degree murder and was hung in Socorro in 1913 for the crime.

I would like permission to use one or two of your photos on your website of Mogollon showing the old Mogollon Mercantile Company.  I drove to Mogollon last Autumn to get some photos for this article and another, but an unfortunately laptop crash wiped out those photos.  The road to Mogollon is not yet opened due to snow.

The general description in Socorro at the old Bureau of Mines records indicates he (E. A. Wayne) moved to Mogollon in 1909; he consolidated the Top Mine and Last Chance mine into the Ernestine Mining Company in 1910.  In 1911 he purchased the Colonial Mines holdings and renamed them the Maud Mining Company (the Maud Mine was also one of the area's big producers).  He greatly improved the profitability of the Last Chance Mine by being one of the first to install fuel oil burning boilers for powering electric generators, which in turn operated the stamp mill.  Fuel oil was about 1/5th the cost of coal or wood, not to mention the cost of getting it shipped to Mogollon.  This reduced energy cost raised the mine's profit.

I talked to the NM State Mining Engineer at New Mexico Tech campus, who has many of the original records of the Mogollon mines.  He asked your grandfather's name and my mind went blank.  I have since emailed him the name (minus what the E stands for) to see what information he might have to pass on to you.

I'm glad to meet you, and glad you had the opportunity to visit Mogollon recently.  It is indeed one of the Southwest's classic mining ghost towns.  The Little Fanny Mine and mill was open to the public up to a few years ago. The owners got too old to run the minor tour business through the mill and abandoned it.  There is now a huge dirt berm blocking the road to the mine
and mill. I found a very nice photo of your grandfather on-line. Do a search for "E. A. Wayne Mogollon" and it will be a listing for an online Google Book entitled "Representative New Mexican's 1910."  His photo and brief bio is on page 316.

Many thanks,

Paul Harden
Socorro, NM

PS - Some of my history articles of the Socorro area are at: Thanks for your help.