A Brief History of Lake Valley, New Mexico


The obligatory humble beginnings...  
       Lake Valley began as little more than a stage stop in the 1870s, at a location north of its present site. It was named for nearby dry lake beds. When that location was flooded, the settlement moved about a mile to the southwest.

     In August, 1878, George W. Lufkin and Chris Watson discovered silver ore around the area. Their discovery started a silver mining rush as  prospectors settled in the area to continue the mining.

     Lufkin sold his claim to George Daly, manager of the Sierra Grande Mining Company, and moved away.
A record-breaking discovery...
       In 1882, John Leavitt, a blacksmith, leased a claim that George Lufkin had been working.  Just 40 feet away from the surface, Leavitt discovered a huge cavern lined with solid silver.  This incredibly rich cavern was later named “The Bridal Chamber” because of the sparkle from its crystal encrusted walls.

     The settlement of Lake Valley moved to its present location after this discovery.

    Two and a half million ounces of silver were eventually removed from the Bridal Chamber, some of it so pure it required no smelting.  In fact, the silver was so easy to remove that a railroad spur was built into the chamber and silver was loaded directly onto the cars.
Lake Valley Hey-Days...  
        In 1884, the railroad was extended to Lake Valley.  Lake Valley became a typical mining town, with saloons open around the clock.  The town had a reputation for lawlessness.  A gunfighter named Jim Courtright, aka “Longhair Jim,” was hired as town marshall in 1882, and quickly brought things to order. 

    The Kingston Stage and Express line, run by Sadie Orchard, linked Lake Valley with its sister towns, Hillsboro and Kingston.
The decline...  
       In 1893, silver was devalued, and the prosperity Lake Valley had known took a down turn.  In 1895, most of Main Street burned to the ground. 

    A few settlers stayed, but most left to try their fortunes elsewhere.
A brief revival...  
       During the 1920s, and again during the World War II era and into the 1950s, the area around Lake Valley was mined for manganese ore.  The little adobe chapel was used for church services as recently at the 1970s, and the Schoolhouse is still in use for community events.

     A few people stuck with Lake Valley long after its heyday.  Mrs. Blanch Nowlin was a resident from 1908 until her death in 1982.  Pedro and Savina Martinez lived there until 1994.
Lake Valley today...  
       Today, Lake Valley is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.  The BLM has begun a progam to protect the area and stabilize some of the structures. 

     Two volunteer stewards live on site and serve as year-round caretakers.  They show the Schoolhouse, answer questions, and provide a guide for the walking tour, on which this virtual tour is based.