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Santa Rita, New Mexico

Coordinates: 32°48′13″N 108°03′39″W / 32.80361°N 108.06083°W / 32.80361; -108.06083
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32°48′13″N 108°03′39″W / 32.80361°N 108.06083°W / 32.80361; -108.06083

Santa Rita in 1919 with mine in background

Santa Rita is a ghost town in Grant County in the U.S. state of New Mexico. The site of Chino copper mine, Santa Rita was located fifteen miles (24.1 km) east of Silver City.


Copper mining in the area began late in the Spanish colonial period, but it was not until 1803 that Franscisco Manuel Elguea, a Chihuahua banker and businessman, founded the town of Santa Rita. He named it Santa Rita del Cobre (Saint Rita of the Copper), after Saint Rita of Cascia and the existing mine. During the early 19th century the mine produced over 6 million pounds (2.7 million kg) of copper annually.[1] The crudely smeltered ore was shipped to Chihuahua for further smelting and then sent to Mexico City on mule back.[1] Americans Sylvester Pattie, James Kirker, and Robert McKnight managed the mine in the 1820s and 1830s. Partners Robert McKnight and Stephen Courcier took possession of "El Cobre", (Santa Rita del Cobre mine) in 1828 and worked the property until 1834.[2] McKnight and Courcier profited greatly from the rich copper mining operation and amassed a large fortune from it.[3]

The area was relatively peaceful, despite an occasional attack from the Warm Springs (Mimbres) band of the Chiricahua Apache, who lived nearby at the headwaters of the Gila and Mimbres rivers.

In 1837, however, an American trader named John Johnson lured the Apaches to a gathering and then massacred them to sell their scalps for the bounty offered by the Mexican government.[4] Johnson's massacre inflamed the Apache rather than intimidated them. The rich Santa Rita copper mine in New Mexico was a principal target of Mangas Coloradas and his followers. In 1838, 22 fur trappers were killed nearby and the Apache severed the mine's supply line. The 300 to 400 inhabitants of Santa Rita fled south toward the Janos presidio, 150 miles (241.4 km) away, but the Apache killed nearly all of them en route. Afterwards, the Santa Rita mine was only occasionally in operation until 1873, when Apache chief Cochise signed a peace agreement with the U.S. and the mine was reopened.[5][6]

Martin B. Hayes reopened the mine.[7] However, the town continued to be subject to Apache attacks from Geronimo, Victorio and other Apache warleaders until 1886, when Geronimo surrendered for the last time. A post office opened in 1881 and the coming of the railroad five years later spurred further development of the mine.

After the Santa Rita mine was converted to an open pit in 1901, the town was forced to move several times as the pit grew. Shortly after the town relocated in 1957, heavy rains washed boulders and mud into the new townsite.[8] The town was abandoned once and for all in 1967, and the school system for the area was discontinued in 1972.[9]

The population of Santa Rita was about 500 in 1884. By 1915 it was 2,500, and by 1920 had reached 6,000.[7] It remained at 6,000, until significant layoffs at the mine started in the 1950s.[7]

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b New Mexico Office of Cultural Affairs (1995) "Santa Rite" Enchanted Lifeways: The History, Museums, Arts & Festivals of New Mexico New Mexico Magazine, Santa Fe, N.M., p. 186, ISBN 0-937206-39-3
  2. ^ Strickland, Rex W. (1972). The mountain men and the fur trade of the far West, Volume 9: biographical sketches of the participants by scholars of the subject and with introductions by the editor. Arthur H. Clark Company. pp. 259–268. ISBN 0-87062-099-1.
  3. ^ Bartlett, John Russell (1965). Personal narrative of explorations and incidents in Texas, New Mexico, California, Sonora, and Chihuahua, connected with the United States and Mexican Boundary Commission during the years 1850, '51, '52, and '53. Rio Grande Press. p. 228. ISBN 978-1502826459.
  4. ^ Strickland, Rex W. "The Birth and Death of a Legend: The Johnson 'Massacre' of 1837" Arizona and the West, Vol 18, No. 3 (Autumn 1976), p. 257-286
  5. ^ Bowded, J. J., http://newmexicohistory.org/people/santa-rita-del-cobre, accessed 27 Aug 2018
  6. ^ Cooper, James E. (1975) "Santa Rita" Ghost Towns and Mining Camps of New Mexico University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK, pp. 188-191, ISBN 0-8061-1066-X
  7. ^ a b c Cooper, James E. (1975) "Santa Rita" Ghost Towns and Mining Camps of New Mexico University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK, pp. 188-191, ISBN 0-8061-1066-X
  8. ^ Staff (9 August 1957) "Flood Waters Hit Mine Pit" The Albuquerque Tribune 35(105): p. 1
  9. ^ Walz, Kent (30 August 1972) "Local School Systems Short of Projections" Silver City Daily Press p. 1
  10. ^ "Factsheet: Lieutenant William Harrell Nellis" Archived 2010-12-29 at the Wayback Machine, Nellis Air Force Base, retrieved 18 September 2008
  11. ^ "Astronaut Bio: Harrison Schmitt" NASA

Further reading[edit]

  • Julyan, Robert Hixson (1998) "Santa Rita" The place names of New Mexico (2nd ed.) University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, NM, p. 326, ISBN 0-8263-1688-3
  • Pearce, T. M. (1965) "Santa Rita" New Mexico place names; a geographical dictionary University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, NM, p. 149, OCLC 420847

External links[edit]