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:

“TRAVELLERS, ATTENTION!

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

SLOCUM’S RANCH

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

 

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Rough and Ready – Butterfield Stage Stop

Rough and Ready was the second stop of the Overland Mail Stage Line after leaving Mesilla. (The first stop was Picacho.)

The Rough and Ready station is on the west side of the Rough and Ready Hills. Upon leaving Picacho, the trail led through Box Canyon north of Picacho peak, across flat tableland, and then through a pass to the station, as shown below. The hills to the north of the pass are the Sleeping Lady Hills, to the south the Rough and Ready Hills. The distance as traveled by the trail is about 15 miles. Traces of the trail are still easily seen in damage to the terrain and wagon-wheel wear-marks in rocks.Rough and Ready Butterfield Stage Stop

Here is a close view of the station location:
Rough and Ready Butterfield Stage Stop

If you climb the summit above the station, you see Picacho Peak in the distance (circled) and the environmental disturbance due to the trail:
Rough and Ready Butterfield Trail

In the foreground of the photo above is one of the cairns established by the Bartlett-Conde* survey to mark the border between Mexico and the United States. Following the end of the Mexican-American war in 1848, both countries agreed to a joint survey to establish the border. The survey was to start at El Paso del Norte and go west. Because of a bad map, the starting location was mistakenly set 42 miles north of where it should have been. This mistake put Mesilla in Mexico and led to a nasty border dispute that was only settled by the Gadsden Purchase of 1853. The map below shows the mistaken area (click for a larger map):
Bartlett-Conde Survey Map - 1848

There is little left of the Rough and Ready station. Many of the still visible ruins are likely of a later date. An archaeological excavation established that the station consisted of a two-room stone and adobe house with chimneys and a large adobe corral. There was no water source at the station. A dirt tank was dug to capture rain water and water was also hauled from Mesilla.

Here are some ruins:
Rough and Ready Butterfield Stage Stop

Here is one of the stakes marking a corner of the archaeological excavation:
Rough and Ready Butterfield Stage Stop

There is a mysterious burial or memorial of unknown origin a short distance from the old station that reads “Stubs, RIP.” It has no date, but can not be more than 20 years old. If you have any information on this cement marker, please communicate it.
Rough and Ready Butterfield Stage Stop - Stubs, RIP

*The lead American surveyor was John Russell Bartlett, the lead Mexican surveyor was Pedro Garcia Conde.

See also:
Picacho Cemetery
Picacho – A Brief History
Picacho Peak
Picacho — Forgotten Butterfield Stage Stop
Trip to Mason’s Ranch

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Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Picacho — Forgotten Butterfield Stage Stop

Many who have written about the Butterfield Overland Mail have left out the Picacho stage stop, sometimes called Rancho Picacho, in their accounts. This is a bit surprising as the very first written account of the Butterfield trail mentions the Picacho stop.
Waterman Lilly Ormsby
Waterman Lilly Ormsby, a special correspondent for the New York Herald, took the first stage from St. Louis to San Francisco so he could report on the experience. He was the only passenger with a straight-through ticket. He left St. Louis on September 16, 1858 and arrived in San Francisco 24 days later, the stage having traveled day and night, stopping so passengers could sleep only every second or third night.

During the trip Ormsby wrote 8 articles about the trip, which were published in the Herald.

Mesilla was almost exactly half way between St. Louis and San Francisco.

Here is what Ormsby wrote on leaving Mesilla:

“A few miles from Messilla [Mesilla] we changed our horses for another team of those interminable mules, and started on a dreary ride of 52 miles for Cook’s Spring. This is the commencement of that series of deserts without water extending from the Rio Grande to the Gila – one of the most tedious portions of the route.

Our road lay through what was called the Pecatch [Picacho] Pass, and, as I walked nearly all the way through it, it seemed to me rather mountainous. It was about 2 miles long and had some very bad hills. In comparison with other passes and canyons on the route, it was not very bad, though quite bad enough and all uphill. When, however, we reached the summit, we were upon the border of a broad and level plain extending as far away as the eye could reach. At our backs were the ranges of the Oregon [Organ] Mountains, the debris of the Rocky Mountains, forming the Eastern boundary of the Messilla [Mesilla] Valley. In front we could just see in the distance Cooke’s peak, rising from the plain in bold prominence from among the surrounding hills.”

The stop where the stage changed from horses to mules was the Picacho stop. Mules were used when the road was rough and mountainous. Mules could handle rougher terrain, but were slower than horses, so the Picacho stop was important, else mules would have had to be put on in Mesilla, making it a tough pull to reach the first stage stop after Picacho, Rough and Ready.

As noted in this post and confirmed by the Ormsby quote above, the stage went north of Picacho peak, not south as almost all writers have it. There was a southern road that stayed on the plains, which horse riders often took, but the water necessary for animals pulling a stage was available only on the mountainous route.

The last remains of the stage stop in Picacho were torn down in 1954, but here is the location today in the old village of Picacho:
Picacho Station
Below is a Google satellite image with the location of the Picacho station marked (white square). The GPS is 32.32459, -106.84989. The black line shows the route the stage took through Picacho.
Picacho Butterfield Stage Station Map
Here is an old adobe in Picacho probably built in the 1890s.
Picacho Old Adobe

See also:
Picacho Cemetery
Picacho — A Brief History
Picacho Peak
Rough and Ready — Butterfield Stage Stop
Trip to Mason’s Ranch

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Monday, February 1st, 2010

Picacho Peak


Picacho Peak, 4959 feet, about 7 miles from Las Cruces. (Click for a larger image.)

The old village of Picacho is located southeast of the peak, at the edge of the Mesilla Valley. Picacho was a stage stop on the , the first stop after Mesilla. From Picacho, the stage climbed the mesa and went around the north side of Picacho Peak through Box Canyon. This lead to a very difficult route through several mountain ranges, but was the only route on which water could be supplied at the stage stops, which were located about one hour of travel time apart.

From Mesilla the stage stops to the Arizona border were: Picacho, Rough and Ready, Goodsight, Cooke’s Springs, Mimbres, Cow Springs, Soldiers’s Farewell, Barney’s, Steins Peak.

The Butterfield Stage began operation on September 15, 1858, with stages leaving San Francisco and St. Louis, the two ends of the line, on that day. Mesilla was located about the middle of the route.

The Butterfield Stage was put out of operation by the start of the Civil War.

See also:
Picacho Cemetery
Picacho — A Brief History

Rough and Ready — Butterfield Stage Stop

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