Nov 6, 1939
Visitors Find Substantial Cattle Town Interesting Place for a Stop
In the vast desert near Oro Grande, N.M., a visitor gets the impression that nature, after lavishing her color everywhere-on the towering pines and firs of the Sacramento's-suddenly found her brush worn, the paint of her palette practically gone.
And, fatigued, she listlessly smeared across the canvas blobs of brown for the sun-seared hills; streaks of green for the puffs of greasewood; and decided to let the sun dry it.
Yet below the earth she has been riotously lavish, residents of Oro Grande tell you. The boisterous jangle of boom mining town life once swept through Oro Grande and brought 5000 prospectors, merchants and fortune seekers to the area. That was between 1900-06, when the town was a roaring mining camp and placers were averaging one ounce of gold an hour during running time.
Tells Of Past
And the running time was 24 hours a day.
Tom Bell, who has been a leading citizen of Oro Grande more than 14 years, has talked with many of the old-timers who worked placers in the vicinity during the "boom days."
"There were nine saloons in Oro Grande at one time and a shooting every night," Mr. Bell said. "It was a real boom mining town."
Water for the town was hauled from Wildie Well, north of Oro Grande, previous to an including part of the boom days.
A mining company was organized in 1906 and a six-inch water line was laid from the grapevine Horse Camp, now a part of the Oliver Lee Ranch, into town.
Prospectors were roaming the Javilla Mountains near Oro Grande then for deposits of gold, copper, iron and silver. Daily "strikes" of gold were made.
Things Were Popping
"Things were popping," Mr. Bell said, "Then a smelter was constructed. It looked like the area was a sure-fire mineral producer."
The foundation of the old smelter is still standing in Oro Grande
Law enforcement was a major item in Oro Grande during the blood days. The job was turned over to Lon Danley, who was appointed marshal.
Then the firm operating the mill and smelter at Oro Grande found that the high cost of production was cutting their profits. The ore became lower in grade and more expensive to take from the ground, mill and smelt. The smelter and mill were closed.
Cattle Town Now
Oro Grande gradually drifted from a boom mining town into a substantial cattle raising community. Today the town is the center of some of the most prosperous ranches in the area.
Douglas McGregor operates 365 sections in the Oro Grande vicinity. Mr. Bell operates about 42 sections. Other outfits are the Oliver Lee Jr. and Oliver Lee Sr. Ranches and the Bill McNew Ranch.
Mr. McNew owns land on which the Oro Grande Placer Syndicate, headed by James O'Hara of Denver, once stood. The area was last worked about two years ago.
Plenty Of Gold
"There's still plenty of gold in this region," Mr. Bell said. "But there's lots of dirt mixed with it."
Mr. Bell started working in the Otero county area in 1918 when he was employed as a cowboy for the Circle Cross Cattle Co.
Cattle ranges in the Oro Grande region are in fair condition. Several thousand cattle will be shipped from the area this season. Most of the calves in the vicinity have been contracted for by buyers for 7 and 8 cents a pound.
Business has been good because of the steady flow of tourist travel in and out of El Paso. Tourist attractions in the area include White Sands and points beyond in the Gila National Forest.