Saturday, June 8th, 2013

Trip to Mason’s Ranch

Map to Mason's Ranch

The site known as Mason’s Ranch or Slocum’s Ranch is about 20 miles west of Las Cruces and 10 miles north of Hwy 10. From 1862 to 1883, it was a life-saving lodging and watering stop for travelers heading west from the Mesilla Valley.

The site has natural water that is available part of the year, most years. Prior to 1862 it was known as “Water Holes” and had been used by Native Americans as a camping and watering spot for hundreds of years.
Mason's Ranch and Overland Stage Route

In 1862 Virgil Mastin built a stage stop on the site. The site was not a stop for the Butterfield Overland Mail Stage Line, but was for subsequent stage lines. As the satellite image above shows, the site is a short distance south of the old Overland Stage route. When the Civil War started, the Federal government, which had contracted with the Butterfield Overland Stage to carry mail, ordered the company to sell or recover its property and cease operations. The agents of the company sold their Mesilla properties on May 18, 1861.*

Mastin installed water tanks for supplying water when the springs were dry. When these tanks could not be filled from the local water, he hauled water by wagon from Mesilla. He also dug a large dirt reservoir to save rain water.

In 1865-66 Mastin took on John D. Slocum as a partner. Slocum had been running the stop for some time as an employee of Mastin.

On May 18, 1868, Mastin is killed by Indians. He was traveling to Pinos Altos by buggy, accompanied by two men on horseback:

“The horsemen stopped behind to allow their horses to drink at the crossing of Whiskey Creek, and Mr. Mastin drove on slowly, and when fired upon by the Indians was about half a mile beyond the creek and three miles from Pinos Altos. The horsemen hearing the firing rode up and fired upon the Indians – some forty in number – who were on foot and all after Mr M. who had turned his buggy about and was trying to get back into the road with the intention of running this way, but, unfortunately for him, just as he got back into the road the buggy turned over and threw him out when he was shot full of holes….”**

Slocum buys Mastin’s half of the stop from his estate on March 1, 1870, for $258. Slocum expands the stop with additional structures and corrals and calls it Slocum’s Ranch. The 1870 census shows Slocum, age 40, living at the stop with his wife Jesusa, 28, and two children Louis, 3, and John, 1. Two employees also live there, John Perry, 32, and John Brown, 26.
Mason's Ranch Aerial View 1974

The design of the stage stop is marked on the aerial photo above, taken by Keith J. Humphries in 1974. As indicated, the south section contained rooms, the north section two large corrals. All were protected by an adobe wall. The reservoir is south of the walled structure. Even though the site continues to degrade, you can still see the outline of the stop in this recent satellite photo:
Mason's Ranch Satellite Image
On October 25, 1875, Slocum leases the stop to Richard S. Mason for $75 a month. Mason advertises in the Mesilla paper:


R. S. Mason having leased the place heretofore known as


situate 25 miles west of Mesilla on the road to Silver City and the west, informs the public generally that he is prepared to receive and accommodate travellers, and to supply passing trains or herds of animals with water.

This is the only watering place between the Rio Grande and Fort Cummins. I always have an abundance of water on hand, which I will furnish at reasonable rates.

My table will be kept supplied with the best the market affords.

I have pleasant and comfortable rooms furnished with clean beds for the use of travellers. Also comfortable and secure stabling for animals. I always keep a good supply of hay and grain on hand.

Travellers will find at my place everything requisite to supply their wants and add to their comfort, my charges will not be found unreasonable.

R. S. Mason”***

Mason ran into financial trouble in 1879, borrowing money that year, and by 1884 had abandoned the site.

Some images as the site appears today:
Mason's Ranch - Stage Stop
(Above) Looking at the northeast corner of the compound. The rock structure served two purposes: to retain the dirt fill necessary to level the corral and as the foundation of the adobe wall surrounding the stage stop. Note the erosion.
Mason's Ranch - Stage Stop
Looking at the base of the foundation.
Mason's Ranch - Stage Stop
Looking south along the east wall. You can see the ruins of the housing section of the compound in the distance.
Mason's Ranch - Stage Stop
The housing ruins. Note the rock portion of the standing wall. The part of the structure used as a fireplace was rocked, the rest of the structure was adobe.

*La Posta – From the Founding of Mesilla, to Corn Exchange Hotel, to Billy the Kid Museum, to Famous Landmark, David G. Thomas, 2013.
**Santa Fe New Mexican, June 2, 1868.
***Mesilla Valley Independent, Oct 13, 1877.

See also:
Picacho — Forgotten Butterfield Stage Stop
Rough and Ready – Butterfield Stage Stop

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