September 2018

History Lessons

Taking a Look Back column by John McVey Middagh

See also: At the Museum

Menu of this month's listings, stories and columns



El Paso Archaeological Society Awards — The society’s annual banquet and awards are Saturday, Sept. 15, at State Line Restaurant, 1222 Sunland Park, with Award of Distinction given to Joan Price and featured speaker Cruz Camargo. Check-in and cash bar for those registered is 6 p.m. Dinner served at 6:30 p.m. Cost of banquet: $32 ($11 child’s plate for 12 and younger). Registration deadline is Sept. 13; call Nena Arias, 309-8219. Information:
  Price, an independent filmmaker and educator, moved to Tularosa in 1994 from Santa Fe with a strong background in Native American cultural and civil rights productions, exhibits and informational campaigns with Video Southwest. She was guest curator for the “Institute for American Indian Arts Sacred Mountains: World Heritage” exhibit and produced two films on sacred landscapes.
  Camargo, an El Pasoan, businessman and descendant of the indigenous Manso Tribe of the El Paso region, shares his heritage, traditions, and culture in his presentation “The History and Culture of the Manso People.” Those arriving at 6 p.m. will have time to see a replica of the typical brush house or wickiup used by indigenous people of the El Paso area.

Fort Bayard tours — Fort Bayard Historic Preservation Society host walking tours of the historic fort beginning at 9:30 a.m. Saturdays at Fort Bayard National Historic Landmark. Fort Bayard is six miles east of Silver City, N.M. off U.S. 180.Tour begins at the 1910 Commanding Officer’s Quarter and museum (House 26). Museum is open 9:15 to 1 p.m. every Saturday. Tour takes about 90 minutes. Admission is free, but donations appreciated. Information, group tours: (575) 956-3294, (575) 574-8779, or (575) 388-4862.
  Fort Bayard served as an army post from 1866 to 1899 and army tuberculosis hospital from 1899 to 1920.
  Fort Bayard Days living history events begin at 9:15 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 22-23 with reenactors, life period music, sporting events, and a military ball Saturday night.

El Paso Genealogical Society — The society meets 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, at St. Paul’s Methodist Church, 7000 Edgemere (off Airway). Program is “How To Interpret Your DNA Report" presented by Barbara McCarthy. Visitors encouraged to bring old photos for an interactive program. Information: 479-1291.

Harvey Girls of El Paso — The Harvey Girls of El Paso Texas meet at 2 p.m. Monday, Sept. 10, at Union Depot Passenger Station, 700 San Francisco. Program is “Layout of the Fred Harvey Company at the 1906 Union Passenger Station." Visitors welcome. Admission is free. Information: 591-2326.

Southwest Chapter of Railway & Locomotive Historical Society — The society meets at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12, at St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church, 11050. Program is “History of the Caboose” by Steven Heetland. All train enthusiasts welcome. Information: 591-2326.

El Paso Corral of the Westerners — The monthly dinner program is 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21, at Holiday Inn El Paso-West (formerly Country Inn & Suites) 900 Sunland Park Drive at I-10. Program is  “El Paso’s Early Mayors” presented by Joseph Longo. Cost: $20. Visitors welcome, but RSVP needed by Sept. 17: 759-9538.

Old Fort Bliss — Building 5054, corner of Pershing and Pleasanton Roads, Fort Bliss. The Old West days of the “Soldiers of the Pass” are relived through replicas of the original adobe fort buildings and military artifacts of the Magoffinsville Post, 1854 to 1868. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; by appointment only Saturday. Admission is free. Information: 568-4518 or 588-8482 or on Facebook at Old Fort Bliss.

Chamizal National Memorial — 800 S. San Marcial. The National Park Service operates the memorial on land once claimed by Mexico as part of a decades-long dispute over the international boundary. The visitor center has an exhibit on the history of the Chamizal dispute, including a video presentation. Park grounds and picnic area open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily for both foot traffic and vehicles; visitor’s center hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturday. Admission is free. Information: 532-7273 or on Facebook at ChamizalNationalMemorial.
  “Tales, Tails and Tots” stories and visits with park mascot Chami are 11 to 11:30 a.m. for ages 3-6 the fourth Saturday of each month.

El Paso History Radio Show — The show runs 10:05 a.m. to noon Saturdays on KTSM AM 690 (and streamed at Documentary filmmaker Jackson Polk hosts the show with reenactor and historian Melissa Sargent. Details of each upcoming show, plus podcasts of previous programs, are at Information: 833-8700.

El Paso Mission Trail Visitor Center — El Paso Mission Trail Association’s center supporting the three historic churches in the Mission Valley — Ysleta Mission, Socorro Mission and San Elizario Chapel — is at 6095 Alameda (at Zaragoza). Hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Admission is free. Information 790-0661, 851-9997 or

EPCC Archive Collection donations — El Paso Community College will celebrate its 50th Anniversary in 2019, and is documenting the history of the college by establishing the EPCC Archive Collection. Anyone with memorabilia to donate to the collection such as posters, awards, photographs, brochures, programs, college publications, architectural records, documents on the beginning of the college or more are invited to share. Information: Antonio Rodarte at 831-4052; or Gale Sanchez at 831-4458,
  The community is also invited to share their favorite experiences, funny stories, memories of campuses and colleagues. Information:

Fort Bliss Historical Association — The group meets at 1 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month at the Fort Bliss museum complex, 1735 Marshall. Information: 269-4831. Dues are $25 a year ($10 students and junior enlisted soldiers).

Los Portales Museum and Visitor Center — 1521 San Elizario Road. The museum is operated by the San Elizario Genealogy and Historical Society, and is housed in an 1850s Territorial-style building across from the San Elizario church. It offers gifts, family trees, historical artifacts as well as information on the “First Thanksgiving” and the Salt War of 1877. Hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. Information: 851-1682.

Mission Trail — Three historic churches lie within eight miles of each other in El Paso County’s Mission Valley.
• Mission Ysleta — Spanish and Tigua Indian refugees from northern New Mexico founded the community in the 1680s. The first mission was built in 1692 and rebuilt completely in both the 18th and 19th centuries. The current structure was built in 1851. It’s near Zaragoza and Alameda on the Tigua Reservation. Information: 851-9997 (El Paso Mission Trail Association).
• Mission Socorro — The first adobe structure in Socorro was built in 1692, and like nearby Mission Ysleta, was destroyed by floods in later centuries. The current structure dates back to 1843, with additions completed in 1873. It’s off Socorro Road two miles southeast of Ysleta.
• San Elizario Chapel — Established in 1789 as a Spanish presidio, or fort, to protect the Camino Real, San Elizario was the first county seat of El Paso. The church was built in 1877, replacing a church built about 25 years earlier. Technically, San Elizario Chapel is a presidio church, not a mission. It’s on the San Elizario plaza, off Socorro Road, 5.5 miles southeast of Socorro Mission. Nearby is the famous jail that Billy the Kid reportedly broke into to rescue a friend. Group tours are available. For San Elizario tour information, call 851-1682.

San Elizario Veterans Museum and Memorial Walk — The museum, operated and managed by the non-profit San Elizario Veterans Committee of the San Elizario Genealogy and Historical Society, is at 1501-B Main Street in San Elizario. Hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. Information: Ann Lara, 345-3741 or Ray Borrego, 383-8529.

San Elizario walking tours — The San Elizario Historic District hosts free guided walking tours of its nationally recognized historic district at noon and 3 p.m. the fourth Sunday of the month starting at Main Street Mercantile, 1501 Main Street. Learn about the 17 historic sites of San Elizario, about the arrival of Don Juan de Onate to the area in 1598 and the First Thanksgiving Celebration, the Presidio de San Elizario and the San Elcear Chapel on the Mission Trail. Information: 851-0093 or
  To get there: Take Loop 375 to Socorro Road then go east seven miles to San Elizario. District is on the right. Look for the brown signs.

Scottish Rite Temple tour — The Downtown El Paso historic landmark, 301 W. Missouri, is open to the public for a free walking tour at 9 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Learn about El Paso’s Masonic history, the design and architecture of the theater. Information: 533-4409.

History Notes Lecture Series — The monthly program is 1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, with “Mesilla Valley Community of Hope” by David Lea Del Norte at the Branigan Cultural Center, 501 N. Main, north end of the Downtown Mall in Las Cruces. Admission is free. Information: (575) 541-2154 or
  Next month’s lecture is Oct. 11 with “The Messiah from New Mexico: Francis Schlatter” by Jeff Schwehn.

Fort Selden State Monument — The monument, 1280 Fort Selden Road in Radium Springs, 13 miles north of Las Cruces, is open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday (Monday and closed Tuesday). Admission is $5; (ages 16 and under free). Admission for New Mexico residents with ID is free the first Sunday of each month; and for seniors with ID each Wednesday. Information: (575) 526-8911 or
  Fort Selden was a 19th century adobe fort established to protect early settlers. The monument seeks to preserve the remaining ruins and has a visitor’s center with exhibits of military life at the post. From Las Cruces, take I-25 north to Exit 19.

Fort Stanton — The fort was established and built in 1855 by troopers of the 1st Dragoon Regiment to serve as a base of operations against the Mescalero Apache Indians. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday (Hours may be shorter in winter — call for schedule). Admission is free. Information: (575) 354-0341,

Shakespeare Ghost Town — The small pioneer settlement and mining town on the trail to California is just south of Lordsburg, N.M. A 1½-hour tour at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday on the second weekend of the month; call to confirm. Cost is $4 ($3 ages 6-12). Information: (575) 542-9034 or
  To get there: From Lordsburg, take the Main Street exit (Exit 22) from Interstate 10 and turn south. Follow signs to Shakespeare.

Taking a Look Back column by John McVey Middagh

Tombstone pioneer made millions off of mining


Many prospectors were killed while searching for gold and silver as they roamed the hills east of the San Pedro River in southern Arizona, an area near one of the homes of the Chiricahua Apache. Beginning around 1860, hostilities grew between the Chiricahuas and American settlers, after a series of provocations. At one point miners tied up and whipped the famed Chiricahua chief Mangas Colorado after he tried to get the miners to leave Chiricahua lands.
Ed Schieffelin was one miner who ignored those dangers. At age 17 he set out on his own prospecting, traveling in 1864 from Oregon down into New Mexico before finding his big strike in Arizona. After many months of searching and being told that all he’d find was his tombstone, he hit the mother lode.
Having dug all around the foothills, with little luck, he joined company with the Army out of Fort Huachuca. This enabled him to forage deeper into Indian country. While there he befriended the famous scout Al Sieber. He rode with them until he saw an outcropping of rock that he felt was very promising, asking the army captain and Sieber if they couldn’t hold up a day or two. He was told no, they had to move on. Schieffelin stayed behind and his persistence paid off.
In 1877, Schieffelin spent many months working those hills when he found pieces of silver in a dry wash off a plateau called Goose Flats. Locating the vein, he staked his claim that turned out to be near a dead miner’s grave. He named his claim “Tombstone.”
Dead broke, he left to find his brother and possible partners. In February 1878 he found his brother working for a mining company in far northern Arizona. After showing his ore samples to 20-30 people who were skeptical and uncertain, he was lucky to find the newly arrived assayer, Richard Gird. After seeing the last of Schieffelin’s samples, Gird said he’d get back to him. Some days later Gird told Schieffelin that the best ore tested out to be worth $2,000 a ton. Ed, brother Al, and Richard Gird formed a partnership there and then with a handshake. They put nothing down on paper. Their gentleman’s agreement would make them three million dollars.
They bought a second-hand spring wagon, loaded it with supplies and returned to Cochise County where they formed the Tombstone Gold and Silver Mining Company. The original vein played out sooner than thought and the three were worried. After some months Ed Schieffelin found the main source, earning him the label of “lucky cuss.” That became the name of their next mine, which turned out to be one of the richest mines in the Tombstone area. In June Schieffelin went to Tucson driving that same spring wagon with the first load of silver bullion that brought $18,744. (the equivalent of a half-million dollars today).
With the finding of silver, the town of Tombstone began to build and people of all sorts started arriving. Soon it was one of the wildest cow towns ever, even surpassing El Paso, Texas, and Wichita, Kansas. By 1880 it was the most hell-raising town in the west.
Schieffelin, using Tombstone as his home base, was in and out of town often. One of his friends was a lady named Samantha Fallon who owned the San Jose House Hotel and a millinery shop. She was thought to be his girlfriend, but they never married. Years later he married another.
When the first chance to sell part of their holding came along, the partners jumped at it, getting $10,000. That turned out to be a bargain for the new owners, who earned millions from their deal. The three partners held on to enough to make their own fortune.
Ed and Al Schieffelin would sell their half of the remaining interest for millions. Their partner, Gird, later sold his shares for the same amount. Ed and Al, having had enough of the rough life, left the mining country for civilization.
Ed’s travels took him all around the world. While on trip to the Yukon aboard a steamship built at his own expense, he married a Mrs. Mary E. Brown. Upon their return he built his bride a mission near Alameda on San Francisco Bay. He later purchased a house in Los Angeles where his brother lived with them. The three lived there for several years until Al died in 1885.
The death of his brother sent Ed into a deep depression. Suddenly he became disgusted with the comfort and luxury he’d surrounded himself with. Twenty years after he’d made the Tombstone claim, the call of the wild took hold of him once again, taking him back to the brush country of Oregon. In 1897 the rugged miner died in a plain, lonely shack.
Ed Schieffelin’s body was taken back to Tombstone where he was dressed in miner clothes and was buried with his pick and shovel in a $10,000 casket. Friends erected a tall prospector’s monument over his grave. Making Al Sieber’s words come true: “All you’ll ever find in those hills is your tombstone.”

John McVey Middagh is a former
saddle shop owner. You can reach
him at

El Paso Scene MONTHLY
This month's listings, stories and columns

Feature story
Here's the Ticket
Program Notes
On Stage
Southwest Art Scene
At the Museum
History Lessons
Film Scene
Keep on Bookin'
Liner Notes
Stage Talk
Gallery Talk


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