Dawson, NM is about 17 miles northeast of Cimmaron, NM. The road leading to it is a harsh drive up unpaved dirt, gravel and in terrain that the environment is reclaiming. The town was established in 1906, when the surrounding mines were purchased by the Phelps Dodge Corporation. The corporation needed to attract workers to this very remote location, so they built homes for the miners, along with numerous other facilities including a hospital, department store, swimming pool, movie theater and a golf course. With all of these amenities - the quality of which was unheard of even in the larger cities - Phelps Dodge was able to maintain a stable employment rate, despite the inherent dangers of mining and the isolation of northern New Mexico.
Dawson was the site of two of the worst mining accidents in US history in the 1930s. It did not become a ghost town until 1950, when the Phelps Dodge Corporation shut down the mines. At closure, Mine 6 was the largest producer, and several other mines had been previously closed out because of declining demand. The entire town was sold or razed by Phelps Dodge, with some of the miners' houses moved to other locations. It was as if they wanted to erase what had happened there. But history isn't something you can erase.
The cemetery is first thing you will see at the end of the road. Rows and rows of white iron crosses. Some do not have names, because those pulling the bodies from the rubble couldn't identify the men for sure. If you go down the road, walk into the open field and part the high grass, you will see the ruins of two homes. We walked into one, saw a child-sided iron bed buried in the dirt and had to catch our breath. Real people - families like yours and ours - lived here. Most of the people who lived, worked and died here came from Italy, Mexico and the Ukraine. They arrived for a chance at a better life, only to lose theirs in the mines.
Should you choose to visit, this town will render you speechless. It has a quiet, sad beauty to it, and you can feel the aura of what was once a bustling mountain town. We visited on a day when there were storms in the mountains, and the passing clouds added an evocative touch to many of our images.