first heard the story of the lost colony of Roanoke, I stayed up most
of the night working out what might have happened to those poor
settlers. After reading about the Oak Island "Enigma" in eighth grade,
I devised a plan to get to the bottom of it, literally. (All we need is
a really powerful Hoover wet-dry vacuum. Who's with me?) And I have
several theories about what really happened aboard the Mary Celeste,
and only one of them involves space aliens.
- COUNTY: Otero
- POST OFFICE: 1904-1909
- NAME ORIGIN: Named
for a local mining company superintendent
I love a good mystery. That's why I
Brice is difficult to get to, and there's not much to see
when you do. There's metal debris scattered around and a cross marking
the site of the old cemetery (no graves are left). Some hillsides show
scars from old mining activity, and I did manage to photograph a rock
in the shape of New Mexico, shown below.
But most interesting are the cans.
Only one building remains in Brice, an roofless cement
structure at the east end of the site. Inside this building are cans,
thousands of them -- make that hundreds of thousands -- like the ones
shown above. Stacked five or six feet high in some places, the cans
appear to be pouring out the front door of the building, as if frozen
in an escape attempt. Imagine Pompeii in tin, and you have the mystery
What were the cans used for? Why are there so many of
them? What are they doing in the cement structure? Why are they stacked
so high? Why does it look like they're pouring out the front door?
I debated the question with family and friends for weeks.
We talked about it when driving, when eating. We considered every
possibility, but none seemed plausible enough to be the "Eureka!" I was
looking for. Still, the discussions were fun, if nothing else.
So I investigated the history of the town, thinking a
solution might surface there. Brice began as a gold mining town after
the discovery of gold in the Jarilla Mountains by S.M. "Ole Perk"
Perkins. He sold his claim for two barrels of water. The mine became
known as the Nannie Baird Mine, and the cement building itself is
probably the old Nannie Baird Mine building. The townsite was abandoned
by the 1920s.
Unless "Ole Perk" was a can collector, which I doubted, I
was out of luck in my search for an explanation.
Several weeks later, I was discussing the mystery with a
friend at work. She called a friend of hers, who in turn, recommended
another friend, an expert in mining history and the history of the
Brice area. She assured me he knew the history of the area well and
could solve definitively the mystery of the Brice cans.
I have his name and phone number in my rolodex.
Maybe I'll call him someday.