Colfax County Courthouse (Springer, New Mexico)

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Colfax County Courthouse
Former courthouse in Springer, NM IMG 0543.JPG
Colfax County Courthouse (Springer, New Mexico) is located in New Mexico
Colfax County Courthouse (Springer, New Mexico)
Colfax County Courthouse (Springer, New Mexico) is located in USA
Colfax County Courthouse (Springer, New Mexico)
Location Springer, New Mexico
Coordinates 36°21′50.4″N 104°35′43.5″W / 36.364000°N 104.595417°W / 36.364000; -104.595417Coordinates: 36°21′50.4″N 104°35′43.5″W / 36.364000°N 104.595417°W / 36.364000; -104.595417
Built 1881
Architect R.W. Vorhees
Architectural style Second Empire
NRHP Reference #


Added to NRHP 1987

The Colfax County Courthouse [2] in Springer, New Mexico, is a building on the National Register of Historic Places that was used as a seat of county government for Colfax County, New Mexico from 1881 until 1897. The building is located at 614 Maxwell Avenue, Springer, NM 87747, and today it houses a museum devoted to the Santa Fe Trail.[3] The building was placed on the National Register in 1987.


The arrival of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad and the subsequent abandonment of the Santa Fe Trail, caused the county seat of Colfax County to be moved from Cimarron to Springer in 1881. Local citizens were required to partially underwrite the construction of a new courthouse.

The building was constructed in Second Empire Style, and is a typical New Mexico Territorial courthouse. The symmetrical, two-story building has a pitched roof, arched windows, and projecting three-story tower. The top floor of the tower held a gallows. The courtroom was on the second floor, with the judge's chambers in the rear. A single brick jail cell was later added at the back of the building.

Colfax County War[edit]

In 1885, the courthouse lawn was the site of one of the last gun battles of the Colfax County War, which was a series of skirmishes between squatters and the new owners of the Maxwell Land Grant. A group led by George Curry was assaulted by a group of sheriff's deputies on the courthouse lawn. Curry's brother and one of his followers were killed in the gun battle. Curry pleaded guilty to unlawfully caring firearms, and was fined five dollars. Curry went on to serve as governor of the New Mexico Territory from 1907 to 1910, and a US Representative from New Mexico from 1911 to 1913.

New Location[edit]

In 1897, as the result of a referendum and legislative action, the county seat was moved from Springer to Raton, forty miles to the north. The county clerk in Springer refused to release the county records until officials removed them by force. The loss of the county seat contributed to the decline of Springer.

From 1910 to 1917, the courthouse was the first home of the New Mexico Reform School, which was later renamed the New Mexico Industrial School for Boys. After that, the courthouse was the site of the municipal offices and the Springer Public Library.

In 1965, Springer residents voted to make the building into a museum devoted to the history of the Santa Fe Trail. The Santa Fe Trail Museum displays focus on the Santa Fe Trail, early pioneer life and art exhibits.[4] Other exhibits include a shoe from Robert Wadlow,[5] the "gentle giant." The museum also contains the only electric chair used by the State Prison in Santa Fe until it was replaced by a gas chamber.


Further reading[edit]

  • Pike, David (2004). Roadside New Mexico: a guide to historic markers. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press. pp. 434 p. ISBN 0-8263-3118-1.