Saturday, 06 April 2013 16:26

Dolores, NM - The West's First Gold Rush

Contributed by
Rate this item
(1 Vote)

In 1821, Spain signed the Treaty of Córdova and New Mexico became part of the new Republic of Mexico.  In 1827, placer gold was discovered in the Ortiz Mountains, the mining camp of Dolores sprang up almost overnight and the first gold rush in the West began - 22 years before the California gold rush.

In the early 1830s the gold quartz veins, source of the placer deposits, were discovered and developed by two wealthy Santa Fe merchants, Jose Francisco Ortiz and Ignacio Cano, on the Santa Rosalia lode about a mile up the hill from Dolores.  This led to a large influx of miners from as far away as Missouri.  The population after this is unknown, but there are estimates that it reached over 2,000 people.

In 1870, Real de Dolores had a population of 150, an ore stamping mill, a mercury separation facility, a store and a church, Nuestra Señora de los Dolores.  In May, 1900, Thomas Edison constructed a mill to test a new separation process which used an electric blower and static electricity to separate heavier gold from the lighter waste material.  An electric line was run from Madrid to power the mill and it was reported that the mill's electric lights could be seen from Santa Fe.  The project was unsuccessful and Edison abandoned it 6 months later.

By 1905, very little gold remained and Dolores was abandoned.  It is estimated that, during its 80 year existence, 100,000 ounces of gold were recovered.

Today, the ruins of Dolores are on private property and are not open to the public.  One can drive to the fenceline (about 2 miles north of Cerrillos on NM 14) and see what's left.

Photo taken in 1904 - 1905

Photographer unknown

--Mike Lord

Read 2959 times Last modified on Saturday, 26 October 2013 18:06
Mike Lord

4th generation Santa Fe Gringo.

6 comments

  • Comment Link Mike Lord Monday, 20 May 2013 00:08 posted by Mike Lord

    Hi Gia - all I know is that the old store is now the main house of a private ranch.

  • Comment Link Gia Thursday, 16 May 2013 16:53 posted by Gia

    Hi Mike:
    Curious as to who the private landowners are since I worked with so many of those folks during the development of our oil and gas ordinance. Wish I had an address or plat locater so I could check with the Assessors office. This struck my fancy as my grandfather worked as a miner in the Madrid and Cerrillos mines.

  • Comment Link Gia Thursday, 16 May 2013 16:53 posted by Gia

    Hi Mike:
    Curious as to who the private landowners are since I worked with so many of those folks during the development of our oil and gas ordinance. Wish I had an address or plat locater so I could check with the Assessors office. This struck my fancy as my grandfather worked as a miner in the Madrid and Cerrillos mines.

  • Comment Link Mike Lord Monday, 15 April 2013 19:42 posted by Mike Lord

    Here's what Wikipedia has to say about placer mining:

    The name is sometimes said to derive from Spanish placer, meaning "to please," (pleasure) because it is easy mining as compared with others. However, the origin of the word is actually from Spanish, placer meaning shoal or alluvial/sand deposit, from Catalan placer, (shoal), from plassa, (place) from Medieval Latin placea (place) the origin word for "place" and "plaza" in English. The word in Spanish is thus ultimately derived from placea and refers directly to an alluvial or glacial deposit of sand or gravel.

  • Comment Link ed Saiz Sunday, 14 April 2013 23:56 posted by ed Saiz

    To: Mike Lord;
    Very interesting and informative article.
    I do have one question; the article mentions "placer" gold,
    discovered in the Ortiz mountains. Why the name "placer?"
    My reason for asking is that I currently live in the foothills,
    in the town of Auburn, California, in "Placer" county in what
    is known as the gold country. Thanks, looking forward to
    the answer.

  • Comment Link Mike Lord Thursday, 11 April 2013 01:01 posted by Mike Lord

    Here's more on Edison's efforts:

    http://www.mine-engineer.com/mining/edison.htm

Login to post comments

Additional information