“Without exception there was no town which harbored a more disreputable gang of desperadoes, and outlaws than did Las Vegas.”―Ralph Emerson Twitchell, historian
A little over a year ago, I flew back to New Mexico to visit one of my best friends, as well as explore one of my favorite places again. It had been years since I had been back, and I wanted to get some recent pictures. One of the most authentic, quirky, towns in the Southwest is Las Vegas, New Mexico, nestled in the beautiful valley of San Miguel County.
The last Spanish colony Established in North America 1835 by a Spanish land grant, Las Vegas, was originally called Nuestra Senora de los Dolores de Las Vegas Grandes (our Lady of Sorrows of the Great Meadows). The settlement began as a fort, secured for attacks by the Apache. It grew in size as the Santa Fe trail was travelled more frequently, although it was known by some of its notorious visitors.
Legendary names of the wild west visited or settled in Las Vegas in the early years: Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, Rattlesnake Sam, Cock-eyed Frank, Web-Fingered Billy, Doc Holliday, Big-Nose Kate, Bob Ford, Stuttering Tom, Durango Kid, Handome Harry the Dancehall Rustler, and Vicente Silva and his gang.
The summer of 1879, the notorious Doc Holiday rode into town. July 19, 1879, Doc was in a disagreement with Mike Gordon, a well-known and popular, local gun-slinger. The altercation escalated, and they took it to the street, where Doc instigated a gun fight with Gordon. Once he pulled his gun and fired, Gordon wound up dead in the middle of the road, with three holes in his gut. A lynch mob threatened to lynch Doc Holiday, and he retreated back to Dodge City.
By this time, the local residents grew tired of all of the violence, and in 1880, posted this notice:
TO MURDERERS, CONFIDENCE MEN, THIEVES:
“The citizens of Las Vegas have tired of robbery, murder, and other crimes that have made this town a byword in every civilized community. They have resolved to put a stop to crime, if in attaining that end they have to forget the law and resort to a speedier justice than it will afford. All such characters are therefore, hereby notified, that they must either leave this town or conform themselves to the requirements of law, or they will be summarily dealt with. The flow of blood must and shall be stopped in this community, and the good citizens of both the old and new towns have determined to stop it, if they have to HANG by the strong arm of FORCE every violator of the law in this country.” – Vigilantes
The photo below is of the old saloon in Vegas per the historic society.
Most of the outlaws moved to other locations after this notice was posted. Billy the Kid was killed in 1881 at Fort Sumner, NM, and his index finger was sent in a jar to the Las Vegas newspaper, but then it vanished. Link
– Illustration by Bob Boze Bell; Mason jar art by Robert Ray –
There are 900 buildings in Las Vegas on the National Register of Historic Places; four which are magnificent old hotels, two that still accept guests . Billy the Kid and Doc Holliday both hung out at a dentist’s office that Doc Holliday owned in town. Teddy Roosevelt even recruited some of his Rough Riders in Las Vegas, staying in the local hot-springs castle.
Teddy Roosevelt recruited some of his Rough Riders in Las Vegas and spent a not-so-rough stay at the local hot-springs castle. And before that, this was a stop on the Santa Fe Trail.The school grew up on the land and now has 200 students, but the castle remained empty until a restoration and renovation was completed in 2001.
“To create one’s world in any of the arts takes courage.”–Georgia O’Keefe
The first place we came across was The New Mexico Insane Asylum in Las Vegas: link, and it looked like only some of the buildings were abandoned (similar to Hastings). I began shooting photos, careful to only photograph the buildings no longer in use, and I remained off of the property while doing so. A very nice police office pulled in behind us, and actually made me delete every single photo in front of him. I asked if I could at least keep the pictures of the windows where you couldn’t tell what the building was, and he said no. This was a first! He did tell me about some other places nearby.
The next place we found is this old church, The Nuestra Señora Del Refugio, located at 87701, County Rd A11A, Las Vegas, NM 87701. The translation is our lady of refuge. There is an abandoned house directly across the road from it.
The house is just across from the church, and I really couldn’t find much about it.
The next place we found was this tiny cemetery. I have looked for it on Google Satellite, but I have not been able to pin-point its location.
The largest, most magnificent Hotel in Las Vegas is the Queen Anne-designed building they call Montezuma Castle. Drawn by the hot springs near the site, the railroad built a spur line in 1882. The current building is the American campus of United World Colleges, a London-based institution with 12 campuses worldwide. Two previous buildings on the same property burned to the ground
The next two places: linked on Google satellite. If you are in the area, you can check it out and maybe try to find out what theses two places were. I would love to know.
Richard and I came across this area that was s beautiful, and we had to stop to enjoy it for a moment. Across the way we noticed a father and son fishing. I had to take a few photos of them.
The boy also kept acting like he would run and jump into the tube, but he wouldn’t. It was adorable.
Naturally, I had to take a couple of my friend admiring the view. 🙂
What a view, right?
There is nothing like the fall in New Mexico. If you have never been to New Mexico, go!
Trish Eklund is the owner and creator of Abandoned, Forgotten, & Decayed, and Family Fusion Community, an online resource for blended families of all types. Trish’s photography has been featured on Only in Nebraska, Nature Takes Over and Pocket Abandoned. Check out the new Bonanza Store for AFD merchandise! Follow on Instagram and Facebook. Trish is regularly featured on The Mighty, Huffington Post Divorce, and Her View From Home. She has also been featured on Making Midlife Matter, and The Five Moms, and has an essay in the anthology, Hey, Who’s In My House? Stepkids Speak Out by Erin Mantz.