Nogal, Ancho, and Corona - content in peaceful existence
Last updated on Monday, December 30, 2002
Some towns in Southern New Mexico are so small they are scarcely noticed. Nevertheless they exist and have histories. Nogal, four miles off U. S. 370 on NM 37 and eight miles southeast of Carrizozo, is one.
Nogal area. Photo by Phyllis Eileen Banks
Known as Dry Gulch in 1879 when gold was discovered, then Galena, then Parsons, for a miner in 1892 and finally to Nogal. As often happened in the mining areas, when the ore played out the town dwindled or died. Nogal didn't die, although the large hotel that once lodged miners and others is no longer there. Many homes dot the hills, and there are churches and a few businesses - a tiny community content in its peaceful existence.
So-called progress isn't always progress, and when U. S. 54 was paved and rerouted in 1955, Ancho, 22 miles north of Carrizozo, was left two miles off the highway, spelling its demise.
The railroad and gold were often the beginnings of these towns. 1899 was Ancho's year of birth due to railroad and gold in the Jicarilla Mountains. But Ancho developed another product. A brick factory made cream-colored bricks and were used on homes throughout central New Mexico. After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, trainloads of Ancho bricks traveled almost 1,500 miles to the city by the bay to help in its reconstruction. This business closed too and Ancho's population diminished considerably. Some of the old bricks can be seen at the private museum "My House of Old Things." There are a few homes and ranches left as the world passes Ancho by.
Twenty-eight miles north of the Ancho turn-off on U. S. 54 is Corona, meaning summit, established in 1902. The Southern Pacific Railroad indicated Corona was the highest point, 6,724 feet, on its line and rail link between Chicago and Los Angeles.
Between the arrival of the railroad and the beginning of World War II there were dozens of communities in this area prospering on raising corn and pinto beans, cattle and sheep. Corona annually shipped hundreds of cattle, sheep, carloads of wool, and thousands of gallons of cream.
Farming has almost been abandoned due to two and three year droughts, and the exit of people seeking war-related jobs in the 1940s. Corona settlers also blame logging of the Ponderosa pines, dry farming and overgrazing, causing land erosion and the inability of large trees and the prairie grass to become re-established.
Fire destroyed much of Corona's downtown district in 1928, and now the town depends on trade and its school district which covers an area as large as a small state and contains dozens of ranches, some several sections in size.