Frozen in Time in New Mex­ico

Catron Courier - - Front Page - by Sam Palah­nuk

The year is 1870 in south­west New Mex­ico. A mule skin­ner named Harry Pye was haul­ing freight for the US army in the area when he came upon a lump of rock that looked to be chlo­ride sil­ver ore. The as- sayer’s of­fice con­firmed Pye’s hunch, and Pye did his best to keep his discovery a se­cret, but word soon got out and peo­ple of all stripes moved to the area hop­ing to make it rich. The town of Chlo­ride sprung up less than one hour north east of Truth or Con­se­quences what is now High­way 52. Be­fore you knew it, the town had nine sa­loons, a gen­eral store, a dry goods, millinery, a restau­rant, a candy store, phar­macy, one butcher, a pho­tog­ra­phy stu­dio, a school, a post of­fice and two fine ho­tels.

The gen­eral store was built by Mr. James Dal­glish in 1880. Like many in New Mex­ico, he was an im­mi­grant. He’d moved down from Canada to im­prove his health. He be­gan the back­break­ing task of build­ing a log build­ing of hand-hewn Pon­derosa Pine.

By the end of the year, Dal­glish had fin­ished his build­ing and opened The Pi­o­neer Store. Dal­glish op­er­ated the store through the sil­ver boom of 1880 through 1897, help­ing work­ers and fam­i­lies in Chlo­ride by car­ry­ing food, cloth­ing, and ranch equip­ment. He’d even or­der wag­ons and bug­gies.

The gov­ern­ment rented space in the store front for Chlo­ride’s post of­fice, and a news­pa­per called ‘the Black Range’, which ran weekly be­tween 1882 and 1896, rented space above the store.

When the boom ended, Dal­glish leased the build­ing to oth­ers who con­tin­ued to op­er­ate it un­til 1908. In 1923, Chlo­ride had be­come a true ghost town. The build­ing’s own­ers boarded it ex­actly how it stood, in­clud­ing the food on the shelves. It was frozen in time for 68 years.

In 1994, restora­tion be­gan. The build­ing had to be straight­ened, as the wood had sagged. The win­dows were re­placed. The roof, chink­ing and foun­da­tions all needed re­pair.

The bo­nanza in­side, how­ever, was 50 boxes of per­sonal and town records, from 1880 to 1923. All were care­fully cleaned and stored. Amaz­ingly, much of the store’s in­ven­tory was in fine con­di­tion.

The build­ing re­opened to the pub­lic as the Pi­o­neer Store Mu-

seum in 1998, and is reg­is­tered with the New Mex­ico State Reg­is­ter of Cul­tural Prop­er­ties and run by a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion. It is to re­main open as a mu­seum in per­pe­tu­ity.

Step­ping into the Pi­o­neer Store and Mu­seum is like step­ping back into the Old West. Shelves are stocked with canned goods, kerosene lamps, flour sacks, sugar loaves, han­d­op­er­ated meat grinders, cof­fee mills, cham­ber pots, cigars, am­mu­ni­tion, and count­less elixirs and snakeoil reme­dies.

Pe­riod tools and tack cov­ers an en­tire wall, and some items that are dif­fi­cult even to iden­tify by mod­ern eyes. An abun­dance of cloth­ing from the pe­riod in­cludes dresses, hats, un­der­gar­ments, and even bus­tles that were in style when the store was last open.

Only thirty of Chlo­ride’s orig­i­nal three hun­dred build­ings re­main to­day, mostly as dere­licts or in ter­ri­ble states of dis­re­pair. But you can also visit the Monte Cristo Saloon & Dance Hall, now a gift shop and gallery fea­tur­ing lo­cal artists, and the Apache Kid RV Park has full hookups, and Pye’s Cabin has been re­stored as a va­ca­tion rental.

The Pi­o­neer Store Mu­seum is a must-stop glance at the past, a time-ma­chine that’s not far away and is well worth the trip.

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