New Mexico February 18, 2017
Most People Have Long Forgotten About This Desolate Ghost Town In New Mexico
When you hear the name “Georgetown,” odds are good that the one in Washington D.C. pops into your head. Few remember that New Mexico ever had its own Georgetown, located in Grant County. Although it was abandoned by 1903, photographer Russell Lee visited this spot in the Gila Wilderness in 1940. He documented what remained of a once vibrant town. His images are the ones I’m sharing with you today.
This is what Georgetown looked like in 1940, long after it became a ghost town.
Today, all that is left of the original settlement is this cemetery.
So, what happened?
Although the town was surrounded by lovely scenery, the setting is not what attracted settlers. Like many places in New Mexico, Georgetown was established because of mining - this area is still riddled with abandoned mines.
Silver was first discovered in the hills here in the 1860s and, by the 1870s, a mining camp had formed. It was named Georgetown in honor of George Magruder, the vice president of the Mimbres Mining and Reduction Company.
In 1880, the population consisted of a scant 54 people. However, that number quickly swelled to 1200 residents.
An impressive $3.5 million in silver was extracted from Georgetown’s mines while they were operational.
The town itself was actually planned out. The main businesses occupied the center of Georgetown. These included a hotel and the standard stores you’d expect to find in most communities. This image depicts an old safe, presumably from the town's bank.
Other less typical businesses included a theater, brewery, Chinese restaurant, and billiards parlor!
The second section of Georgetown was dedicated to more upscale residences, along with a Catholic church and schools.
Those looking for a good time headed to the third part of town, to frequent the bars and other establishments that sprang up there. This was the wrong side of the tracks, so to speak.
It’s worth noting that Georgetown actually had tracks by 1891, when a branch of the Arizona-New Mexico Railroad connected the town to the rest of the state, making it easier to remove the mined silver.
Georgetown also boasted its own newspaper. Considering its size, the town had a lot to offer. All signs pointed to a successful community.
However, three blows that came in quick succession proved fatal to the town’s future. In 1892, two disasters occurred: a fire and a smallpox epidemic. The latter is why many of the people buried in the cemetery died young.
A year later, one of the worst economic crises to ever hit the nation – the Silver Panic – took its toll on the American Southwest, especially on silver mining towns. People abandoned Georgetown, along with other mining towns in the area.
By 1903 everyone was gone, leaving derelict buildings scattered across the landscape. As time marched on, even these reminders crumbled away until the only sign that 1200 people once lived in Georgetown, is its cemetery.
You can reach the land where the town used to be by taking Georgetown Road from Mimbres. To pick up this road from the other end, take Highway 152 east from Silver City. This route takes you by an overlook where you can
view one of the world’s largest open pit copper mines, which essentially ate a whole New Mexico town!
Here is a map to the Georgetown Cemetery.
If you’re intrigued by places that have faded into history, check out our past article: “
This Haunting Road Trip Through New Mexico Ghost Towns Is One You Won’t Forget.” It’s easy to combine this adventure with a visit to Georgetown.
Did you know about Georgetown? What New Mexico ghost town most fascinates you?