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Historic...Magdalena...where I was born.

Magdalena Facts


Historic Magdalena New Mexico

A community rich in history...
Stay and explore our history and natural beauty
The Village of Magdalena is an incorporated village with its own governing body, nestled in among the beauty of some of the most scenic mountains, trails and historic buildings. Located at an elevation ranging from 6,548 feet (Magdalena) to 12,600 feet (South Baldy Peak) and an area population of approximately 1200, the small town atmosphere is host to some exciting and vibrant changes. Over the past few years many new businesses have opened their doors to serve the local population and travelers.
The perennial mild climate makes this a great year-round destination with temperatures for this area ranging from around 19°–60's (fall/winter) and 43°–90's (spring/summer), with mountain breezes and summer monsoon showers.
There are several historic buildings, still to be found in Magdalena, and several of these today are home to active businesses and private homes. Magdalena is undergoing a "face-lift" and is being recognized for its growing arts community, place to stop, shop and stay a while. The Historic U.S. Route 60 is home to one of the most delightful towns, numerous galleries, stores, hiking trails and other events and attractions.
The history surrounding Magdalena is rich with Old West Legends, Dusty Cattle Drives, Pioneer families, Main Street Shoot-outs, Fiery Ranchers and Grimy-faced Miners. This history just adds to the many area attractions. To name but a few of those attractions:

Trail's End

Magdalena is known as the "Trails End" for the railroad/spur line which was built in 1885 from Socorro to Magdalena to transport the cattle, sheep wool, timber and ore. Thousands of cattle and sheep were driven into town (cowboy style) from the west, using the historic "Stock Driveway", aka "Hoof Highway." The original historic stockyards are still intact.
This historic Stock Driveway was used annually, from 1885 through 1916 when the driveway was officially designated by law through the signing of the "Grazing Homestead Act" and was continually in use through 1971.
The 125 mile driveway extended west to Datil, New Mexico then forked south toward Horse Springs and Reserve, New Mexico, while the other fork led to Springerville, Arizona.
The drive was 5 to 10 miles wide and covered 200 square miles. The peak trailing year, 1919, saw 150,000 sheep and 21,000 cattle pass the point around Ten Mile Hill.
The Civilian Conservation Corp., (the CCC) boys fenced the driveway in 1930, and drilled a well about every ten miles.
During the drives cowboys moved about 10 miles a day, and herders moved sheep about 5 miles a day, allowing them to graze as they went. Chuck wagons and relays of horses followed behind. Trailing gave way to trucking, and the last portion of the driveway was officially closed in November of 1971.

Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene (aka "Lady on the Mountain") gazes down from the Magdalena Peak today as she has for centuries, keeping a watchful eye over her town.

Kelly Ghost Town

The "Ghost Town of Kelly," located just minutes from Magdalena, was in its day home to close to 3,000 people, with shops, doctors, saloons, churches, hotels and schools. Mining bought prosperity to the area in the early 1880's.


Our family was adjusting to Albuquerque.  I had new friends; Dad liked his job; Bronco, in his four-year-old way, was always happy; and Mom neighbored with the ladies on the block.
  One neighbor, in particular, visited Mom often.  Sometimes on Saturdays they would sit at the kitchen table and have coffee.  One subject they always discussed was " religion".  Mom’s friend blamed the nervous breakdown her sister had suffered on “getting too religious.”  After one of these visits Mom said to me, “A person has to be careful not to go overboard on religion.  A lot of people have lost their minds that way.”
Despite the warnings on religion.  I missed the Presbyterian Church in Philipsburg and the Bible stories of Jesus, the friend of every child.
I walked up the driveway of our new home.  With its one level and attached garage, it faced east.  Mom said we could watch the sun come up from the living room and watch it set from the kitchen.  The house was clean and crisp with its white paint and green trim. 
 I felt a sense of pride as I looked at the green lawn.  I had helped by watering it to keep it damp, after Dad sowed the Kentucky Blue Grass seed.  He used string and stakes to make a barrier around the yard to ward off any treading feet.  Within days, tiny blades of grass had pushed their way through the soil and we watched as it grew and thickened, making a rich velvety carpet.  The back yard still had its original bareness.  Dad said that eventually we would plant grass there also.
The oak hardwood floor shown bright as I opened the front door.  Mom was especially pleased with the wooden floors that graced every room except the bathroom and kitchen.
          The living room, with its light green walls, complimented the gold furniture and the white brick fireplace built into the north wall.  I laid my books in the gold rocker and followed the voices I heard coming from the kitchen.
          The dining area and kitchen were one long room, partitioned by a counter.  The walls were white, and gold curtains, over west windows, accented the brown and gold linoleum.  Every room in the house had the fresh smell of newness.
          Mom was working at the counter making sandwiches, and Bronco sat at the oak table coloring with his crayons.
 “Look at the bird I colored, Glory,” he said proudly, as he help up his artwork for me to see.
          “That’s really good,” I said with extra approval in my voice.
          Satisfied with my attention he returned to his artistry.
          “Hi Mom,” I said as I opened the refrigerator door and pulled out a carton of milk.
          “Hi honey.  We’re picking Dad up at work and going to Magdalena to spend the night,” she said as she watched me pour the milk, “Be sure to lay out an extra set of clothes so I can pack them with mine.”
          “Ok,” I answered as I picked up a sandwich.  I frowned as I thought of going to Magdalena.  I sat next to Bronco and bit into the soft bread.  Almost every weekend we visited Grandma and Grandpa Williams.  I was bored there at times, but what really bothered me were the disagreements between Dad and Mom that often followed. 
          “Wanda,” Dad would begin, “I’d like to look at the Wilson’s place.  I’ve been told we could get a good price for it.  They’ve been trying to find a buyer for sometime now and...”
          “Slim, we’ve gone over this before,” Mom said with exasperation, “It isn’t that I wouldn’t enjoy living on a ranch.  I just don’t think it would work living that close to relatives.”
          “I don’t know why you feel that way.  My folks have been good to us.”  From his tone, it was evident that Dad was becoming irritated.
          “I feel they’ve never accepted Gloria or me,” Mom’s voice cracked with emotion.
          I was deep in thought as I drank the cold milk.  I decided to be very observant when we went to Grandma’s.  I’d see if they really did treat Mom and me differently.





          The sandy dirt covered the toes of my shoes as I left the school playground.  The pre-fab building sat behind me, it was serving its purpose until the new school building was finished.  Shuffling my books, I crossed Constitution Avenue and began the half-mile walk home.  The wind whipped across the mesa causing the sand to sting my legs.  Only the south side of the street had a sidewalk.  I looked across at the barren land.  Sand and sagebrush lay for miles in the distance.  Tumbleweed rolled from the mesa, across the pavement, and onto the green lawn before me.
      The new housing development was claiming the desert, turning it into structures and green grass.  Dad said the houses would someday be up to the mountains.  My eyes followed the mesa as it stretched for miles up to the base of the Sandia Mountains.  The Sandias' stood majestically against the blue New Mexico sky.  Shades of purple and browns enhanced their rugged beauty as they cast their royal gaze down upon Albuquerque, the civilization springing up in this once wilderness land.
          I still remembered my first impression of Albuquerque.  It had been overwhelming.  Bronco and I stared with fascinated wonder at the busy intersections, restaurants, stores, and pedestrians that passed by the windows of the 1949 ford, as it pulled the bulging U Haul down Central Avenue.
          We waited outside and “people watched” as Dad entered the large building bearing the name, “Public Service Company of New Mexico.”  It was close to an hour before Dad strolled back to the car.  His face was serious.
“Oh dear,” Mom said anxiously, as we watched him approach, “I wonder what happened.”
          “Well Wanda, what do you think we should do?” Dad asked solemnly.  His face was sober and under control, but his eyes twinkled.
          “Slim, don’t tease me at a time like this.  Did you get the job?”
          Dad’s face broke into the grin he had been suppressing.
          “Yep, I sure did,” he said with laughter in his voice, “See, I told you there wasn’t anything to worry about.”
          Celebration filled the interior of the black 1949 Ford.
          We rented an adobe house in the northeast side of Albuquerque.  We were living there when I started school.  I was scared when I entered the forth grade classroom.  I soon discovered I was only one of many new students.  The population explosion of Albuquerque was adding to the schools.
          One particular day, when I came home from school, Mom’s face was radiant.
          “The loan went through.  We’re going to have our own house,” she declared, “and a brand new one at that,” she added proudly.
          When Dad got home from work, we drove the four blocks to the new housing site.  We stood before the empty lot while Dad and Mom planned and dreamed.  The house would have an attached garage and we would plant a lawn and trees. 
         During the months that followed, in the cool of the evenings, amid the sounds of neighborhood dogs barking and young children playing on the sidewalks, we walked to the builder’s site.  The noises became distant as we entered the unoccupied street.  The builder’s tools had been put away for the day, and the houses stood half finished.  We watched with pride the building of our home.  Every part of the structure, from the foundation to the shingles on the roof, had been important to us.
          My thoughts returned to the present as I approached the familiar landscape.  The new signpost bore the name “Childers Drive.”  I quickened my steps as I turned the corner.  Manicured lawns and young-planted trees graced the front of the newly built homes.  At the end of the block the greenness ended and the barren mesa stretched into the distance until it reached the next development of houses.
          “Hi Gloria.”
          I turned in the direction of the voice and saw Jane waving as she walked up her driveway.
          “Hi Jane,” I answered and waved my one free hand.  I was adjusting to the move from Montana
back to New Mexico.
            Little did I know of the changes that would be taking place in all of our lives and the secrets I would soon learn.
                                        ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO AT NIGHT