Monday 28th April 2008 and a date engraved on my heart, perhaps for life. I am 'ghost town' hunting in N.E. New Mexico and we have stayed overnight in Raton which is on the I-25 on the border with Colorado. This is as far north as we go for this visit. We take State Highway 72 from Raton to Folsom and I want to visit Johnson Mesa.
16 miles east of Raton, Johnson Mesa is a farming ghost town (often referred to as Bell) located on a hundred square mile plain at 8000 feet. Farming started here in 1880 however the severe winters, a flu epidemic in 1918, difficult farming conditions, and better opportunities elsewhere led to an exodus from the mesa and by 1933 the area had largely died. And that makes it a 'ghost'
We visited the St John's Methodist Episcopal church which was built in 1899, the cemetery located on the opposite side of the road, the Red Mountain Cemetery a few miles away, and the Quintanilla Ranch which appears to be a summer-only cattle fattening ranch.
Only 12 photos, our visit was only a couple of hours, however perhaps my photos will show why a small piece of my heart remains on this beautiful but forbidding mesa.
Starting with the St John's Methodist Episcopal church. This photo gives some idea of the 'big sky' nature of the area, I could turn 360 degrees and not one other building was visible. Look carefully to the left and you can see snow covered mountains, I think these are the Sangro de Cristo range.
A closer view of the church. All the windows are boarded and we thought it would be locked up.
To our amazement the door was open and we could enter the church. The decor was simple and there was a guest book as well as a collection dish for postcards! And I did sign the book ... using my proper name
A view of the church ceiling. This appears to be some sort of pressed metal, I have seen this in many ghost town already. Perhasp the 19th century equivalent of the artex ceiling God forbid!
This cemetery was on the opposite side of the road.
This was the Johnson Mesa cemetery. What a magnificent lonely desolate place.
A view from the graveyard.
Ok not often I struggle but this was an evocative sight. Clearly two families, six children, perhaps no survivors? What can I say? Life was tough back then but this was just over 100 years ago. And this was before the 'flu epidemic of 1918. I really am lost for words...
A couple of miles down the road, the remains of another Johnson Mesa community.
An abandoned farmstead?
Definitely not lived in yet the farmhouse seems to be in good condition. The Johnson Mesa is still used to fatten cattle in the summer and I suspect that this old farm is still used during the summer months.
What would the original ranchers have made of this? The truck seemed to be abandoned.
So that was Johnson Mesa NM. A recycle bin job for sure. Hell, deffo no 'urban' there, didn't explore much either. But I have to say that it was located in one of the most beautiful desolate areas I have ever visited. And yes, the cemetery did my head in. Because I have posted just two photos of the gravestones...but there were many others with the same stories. It was tough out there, is all I can say.