Friday, May 13, 2011

Hagan, New Mexico



East of I-25, beyond the San Felipe Casino north of Albuquerque and down a dirt county road heading towards Madrid, lay the ruins of Hagan, New Mexico. Established in 1902, Hagan was yet another New Mexican town brought to life by coal, taking its name from mining investor William Hagan. Coal deposits had been discovered along the Una de Gato (Cat’s Claw) Arroyo and, by 1905, about 60 miners were living in Hagan, adjacent to the base of operations.



Hagan had to wait a long time for the railroad, the life’s blood of any mining town. Hauling coal by wagon was so expensive that the mines were shut down by 1910. After a line was finally run to the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe in 1924, following a couple failed attempts, the town’s population grew to about 500. Soon Hagan had running water, electricity, and toilets and some large structures were built, including Hagan Mercantile (shown above), then the largest adobe building in New Mexico. Cattle ranching and brick-making also became important ways of making a living in Hagan. However, the railroad had been running less than six years when the coal seam started to thin out around 1930. The town died quickly. A few folks stuck around until the very early 1940's, but the post office was already gone by 1931.



Not much remains of Hagan. There are a couple crumbling buildings, a few foundations, and a slowly capsizing railroad way station (pictured above). However, Hagan’s location is very picturesque and its apparent (if not actual) remoteness makes for some excellent atmosphere. But if you visit, don’t go beyond the overlook beside the road. The Hagan property is owned by the sprawling Diamond Tail Ranch and posted as private. As none of our party was able to read the day of our trip, we crossed the arroyo and walked right into what was once the old town. But we got to spend only a few moments taking photos before a representative of NEW MEXICO JEEP TOURS arrived and asked us to leave. He was cordial enough (and, of course, he didn’t need to be) but made it clear that there was no way we were setting foot in Hagan without booking a jeep tour. The jeep tours look very interesting, actually, so perhaps NM Jeep Tours would like to provide me with a promotional discount. I’d certainly like to see a bit more of Hagan and check out the nearby petroglyphs, too.



Hagan has almost completely sunk beneath the sands of time. There is very little information available on the town’s history and much of what is out there is repetitious or, in some cases, probably wrong. So, my synopsis is based on my trusty copy of New Mexico's Best Ghost Towns: A Practical Guide by Philip Varney (1981, Northland Press) and an excellent post (including better photos than I was able to get) by the TORRANCE COUNTY ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY.

The next City of Dust post will be on Hagan’s ghost town neighbor, Coyote. Also, a stay at the St. James Hotel in Cimarron, New Mexico has been booked. In addition to being one of America’s most haunted hotels, the St. James is rich with history and bullet holes. A post on it will be forthcoming.

13 comments:

Roch said...

Great blog! BTW, I'm Roch and would be happy to take you out and show you more. My phone is 505-252-0112. When you get Ed book it and then call me at 505-252-0301 and I'll work with you. Glad I was cordial that day! Roch

jmhouse said...

Roch, thanks very much for your message. It's REALLY appreciated. I'd love to go back out for a more extensive (and legitimate) trip! I'm in South Dakota at the moment and will be working in Socorro County for a bit this fall, but I'll definitely be in touch.

In the meantime, if you see this, feel free to drop me a line at jmhouse(at)cityofdust(dot)com and I can give you a better idea of my fall schedule from there including when I might have some time for a trip.

Again, thanks for getting in touch AND being cordial that day. I realize you certainly didn't have to be. John

2:56 PM

Nancy B Davis said...

My father Henry N Davis was the high school principal at Hagen, and my brother, Gen. John K Davis, was born there. My grand father, John Meeks, was a railroad engineer and he transported the coal out of Hagen. Toby Smith wrote an article several years ago about Hagen and featuring my mother, Billye Davis. I drove out there a couple of weeks ago.

jmhouse said...

Thanks for the information about your family, Nancy, including your four-star general brother! (By the way, they misspelled Hagan as "Hagon" on his Wiki page.) I've never come across anyone with any personal connection to Hagan. There's just not much written about the place. Do you know where that article you referred to was published? A quick internet search didn't yield anything. I'd like to read it.

Thanks again! JM

Nancy B Davis said...

Oops, I spelled it wrong,too. The article was published in Albuquerque sometime in the 1980's. i believe. I have a copy somewhere, which I will look for. My mom said when they would drive to and from Albuquerque, bandits would lie in the road and rob people if they stopped. I have some footage shot on 8 millimeter in the 60's, now on dvd.

jmhouse said...

Well, I'd love to see that article if you can find it, but knowing the road to Hagan used to be frequented by bandits is pretty interesting in itself! Could you tell if any of the buildings in Hagan were in better shape when that video was shot in the '60's? There's not much left now.

Thanks for the recollections! JM

Chris said...

Hello, I was wondering how to get onto one of those jeep tours. I live less than 5 miles from Hagan, and found it accidentally. I was just exploring the area (in my vehicle) taking some of the back roads I have never gone on before, I was also testing how well my vehicle could handle less drivable roads. Any way, I saw the sign that said Diamond tail ranch stay on road next 7 mi, I had seen some interesting cliffs from the distance and my desire for exploration kicked in, I was driving along slowly ( it had just rained day before, so it was an adventure on its own) when I came around a corner and saw some ruins, ( I am studying to be an archaeologist) so instantly I was curious and excited about the discovery I had made. I marked the point on the road where you could see it on my gps. I turned around there drove home got out my topographical maps and the computer and started researching all I could. Then I stumbled upon this post, and I am highly intrigued by the proposition to go see it up close. Any and all information would be highly appritiated, my email is. "chatean@gmail.com"
Thanks!

jmhouse said...

Hey Chris,

You can visit Hagan through NM Jeep Tours. Their website is HERE. I think the Hagan/Coyote area is encompassed in what is called the "Most Popular Tour" on the website, but they'll tailor the trip to your interests. Check out their FACEBOOK page, too. And tell Roch that City of Dust sent you!

Thanks for your message! I think you'll be surprised how much that area has to offer. JM

jmhouse said...

Chris's comment above got me thinking about a story I read earlier this year on the ghost towns of Hagan and Coyote and the gravel road that runs past them and between Highway 14 and I-25. It was published in the Alibi, Albuquerque's local weekly, and is highly recommended. You can find it HERE. JM

James Winkler said...

I first went to Hagan when I was four or five years old, in 1942 or 1943.
My uncle, R.D. Smith of Santa Fe was a well driller and a salvage dealer, and he purchased
the fixtures in at least two ghost towns, one being Hagan and the other Waldo. So, one day my
aunt, uncle, cousins, and I went to Hagan. It was very exciting; most of the buildings were
intact. I especially remember the large post office with its dark basement.

In the 1960s I went to Hagan several times, making many photographs. I still am using some of the
dishes from Hagan and think of it daily.

jmhouse said...

James, that is incredible! You don't happen to have any idea where some of those fixtures might've ended up, do you? A long shot, I know! I'd love to see some of your photos!

That's fascinating that you're still using some of the dishes from Hagan. I'm still using heavy plates I got from an abandoned Annie's Parlour restaurant in Minnesota in the 1990's, but you've got me beat by a long shot.

Thanks very much for your comment! JM

Anonymous said...

I left a comment recently and wish that I had given my name and email. They are James Winkler, hahmes@yahoo.com

jmhouse said...

Thanks, James! It's never a bad idea to leave contact information as people sometimes do want to get in touch with others that have left comments.

There's no telling who you might hear from! JM