New Mexico’s Vanishing Ghost Towns by Gary Lamott
Continuing Our Adventures: My wife and I are continuing our adventures here in New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment, traveling the highways and byways to some of the more than 400 ghost towns, some of which not only died, but vanished! You can still find a few hardy souls that live in some of them, as well as some old buildings that are still standing. Starting in the late 1800s, these towns blazed in a moment of glory, then died in a sudden flame. Many were mining towns, where men lusted after the earth’s riches – gold, silver, turquoise, copper, lead and coal. A few were farming communities that flourished for a time and mysteriously fell silent. Some were water stops for the steam locomotives, their usefulness gone with the advent of the modern diesel engines that ride the rails today.
In previous blogs I mentioned how much I enjoy using Topaz Black and White Effects to bring out the drama and evoke the days of Old West in these subjects! I will also add a surprise twist here or there just to show how much fun these projects can be! Now please enjoy the journey into our past!
Taiban Presbyterian Church
The cover photo is of the now-abandoned Taiban Presbyterian Church which was built in 1908. In 1880 Pat Garrett captured Billy the Kid nearby this town, which was founded in 1906 as a ranching community, and named for nearby Taiban Creek.
The next photo is the Church and Town Plaza of Monticello, NM. is an excellent example of the artistic power of Topaz software. The town was first named Canada Alamosa, meaning “Canyon of the Cottonwoods,” when it was settled by farmers and ranchers in 1856. The town was built in a square to protect the residents from Apache attacks. In 1881, the town established a post office and was renamed for one of its first settlers, a man named John Sullivan, originally from Monticello, New York. After using Clarity on the original photo, I opened a duplicate layer in PaintShop Pro X8 and used ReMask 5 to create a mask of just the doors and windows. I then converted just the Church layer to Black and White using one of my custom presets which adjusts the Adaptive exposure slider to give the image more impact. Adding a sky mask was the final step in arriving at this iconic image taking you back in time to the old west!
By visiting these many towns you can stand in the near silence and reflect on the past. About 40 miles northwest of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico is the former mining boom town of Chloride. Harry Pye, a mule skinner and veteran prospector discovered the “Mother Lode,” which was later called the “Pye Lode of silver in the canyon where the town of Chloride would later be founded. It was found to be high-grade “chloride of silver,” a term for which the town would take its name. Over 500,000 dollars of silver were taken from the mines until 1893 when the ore deposits played out. The change to the Gold standard in 1896 was the final death knell for the town. Today, Chloride stands as one of the best Ghost towns to visit! Many of its original buildings have been restored, including the Pioneer Store, which now serves as an excellent museum, featuring original store fixtures, pre-1900 merchandise, photographs, town documents and numerous artifacts from early mining activities. In 1923, the last owners closed the store, boarding up the windows and doors, and left all the furnishings and merchandise inside. It was left untouched, as bats and rats made their home in it until the building was lovingly restored years later by the Edmund family who made it their mission to restore the town!
Here is an example of the many favorite presets that I have saved, both basic and custom ones that are great for these types of photos. You can even create the effects from the days of Kodak Tri-X and many other dark room film favorites. Using the red, yellow and orange filters along with adaptive exposure is another way to make great black and white photos. There are also times when I will adjust the Opacity of the BW effects to leave just a little color as well.
The town of Kelly was more than a mining boomtown. At one time thousands lived here. Huge shipments of lead, zinc, and silver ores were sent to smelters, helping build up America during the industrial westward expansion. At one time it was the foremost mine in New Mexico in the 1880’s. The name Kelly came from Patrick H. Kelley who held a few of the claims. By 1884 banks, churches, saloons, a clinic, and several mercantile stores were all established. In Magdalena, three miles north was the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway where the precious ores from these mines were hauled away. By 1947 most everything was gone and most of the homes were painstakingly hauled down to Magdalena. Today the population of Kelly is three! The mine headframe in the photograph was erected in 1906 and was designed by Alexander G. Eiffel. It was state-of-the-art back then and today it stands as a lasting monument to the men who worked and sacrificed their lives for the prosperity of our emerging nation. It towers 121 feet over the Tri-Bullion Shaft which drops nearly 1,000 feet down into a maze of over 30 miles of tunnels, all now closed, silent as a grave.
Cuervo, started off with a bang with cattle and sheep ranching coming to the area in 1910. A couple of decades later, Route 66 ran straight through town, easily supporting the few gas stations and hotels that sprang up in its wake. In its heyday , Cuervo had two of everything a person could want: schools, churches, doctors, and hotels. As with dozens of towns like this one that owed their prosperity to the railroads and RT 66, the building of the interstate system was it’s death knell. In the late 1960’s, I-40 went right through the center of town ending its days of glory. Today the population now may be in the single digits, including the owner of the non-functioning gas station on the north side of I-40. You can see the town as you pass it at 75 miles per hour. But if you stop for a little while you can visit and reflect on the past!
The town of Yeso sprang up along Yeso Creek in central, New Mexico. Yeso translates as “gypsum” or “chalk” in Spanish. It is not healthy to drink a glass of dissolved gypsum, but there was readily accessible groundwater for livestock and steam locomotive engines traveling through east-central New Mexico, away from the steep grades toward Colorado. One of the first train depots was built in here in 1906. It is the same story with the town doing well for awhile. A post office was built in 1909 and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad kept things going despite a very long regional drought. Yeso was also a gathering place for the ranchers and a few hardy farmers in the area. After WWII, when diesel locomotives were introduced and trains no longer had to stop in town to take on water the decline of Yeso began. Today there are just a few hardy individuals left and the town is just a shadow of its former self!
Oh, I used Impression 2 on the last photograph to add a little color lest we forget there are many other ways to have fun with Topaz!
Thanks to you all for sharing this continuing and wonderful journey with us. Many thanks to all my good friends at Topaz labs for their outstanding software and support!
More adventures to follow!
As always please checkout all the work of all the other fine Artists on the Topaz Labs Website!
Photos: All Rights Reserved
About Gary Lamott
Gary Lamott has been a photographer for over forty years, starting with black and white film and now working exclusively with digital. He is a member of the New Hampshire Society of Photographic Artists (NHSPA), a Board Member Emeritus of the Seacoast Artist Association (SAA) in Exeter, NH, a contributing member of the Artist Advisory Committee of Main Street Art (MSA) in Newfields, NH , an award winning juried exhibiting member of the Plymouth, MA Guild for the Arts and a member of the New Mexico Art League, as well as a member of several photo groups.
He is a regular contributor to Topaz Labs Software. He has developed educational tutorials and content for Topaz products and has been featured in their software promotions, product pages and galleries since Oct of 2013. His photo “Island In the Sky” was featured in the Topaz Labs February 2014 promotion in Photoshop User Magazine.
He participated in Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter’s Art On Loan Program, including having a photo on display in her Washington, DC office. As part of their photographic quest he and his wife have traveled over 30,000 miles in the American Southwest, as well as New England and other places of interest.
“My vision is to create original images that represent the spirit of the places that we travel to. I think of Photography as an art form. I use both my cameras and today’s software to create my images, which provide endless possibilities for unique photographs. When taking photos I feel the Artist’s vision is the most important aspect of all.”