If Madrid was once a ghost town (and officially still is, despite its lively appearance) then Golden, just to the south, most definitely is one to this day. It was the site of the very first gold rush west of the Mississippi back in 1825, even before the more famous California and Colorado gold rushes. So rich did the seam of gold appear that the town, originally named El Real de San Francisco, changed its name, and it soon grew to support several saloons, businesses, a school, and even a stock exchange.
But by 1884 the gold was already beginning to run out and with no gold to keep them here people began to leave. The town survived for a while, acting as a small hub for local ranchers (the Golden General Merchandise Store opened in 1918 and is still operating today, though we didn't go in). But decline seemed to be inevitable, and by 1928 its population was so small that Golden was officially declared a ghost town. For years afterwards its many abandoned buildings remained, falling into ruins among the very few still occupied, and that’s pretty much how you’ll find it today. There is a scattering of houses, and if you look carefully, several piles of old stone that on close inspection reveal themselves to be crumbling walls. Most are too far gone even to be very photogenic, unlike some other ghost towns.
But one building is definitely worth stopping for a photo or two, and that is the pretty little Catholic Church of San Francisco, dating back to 1830. Unfortunately when we stopped here the gate to the churchyard was firmly locked so we could only take pictures from some distance. Later the same day we met the local priest in Los Cerrillos and he explained that the church was undergoing restoration so was locked for safety reasons. But it still made an attractive image as you can see.
The church is on the east side of the road, so on your right if travelling north towards Santa Fe.
Los Cerrillos (usually shortened to simply Cerrillos) is the place that gave the Turquoise Trail its name, but in the past its mines have yielded treasures of many kinds. Los Cerrillos means Little Hills, and in the hills surrounding this once prosperous town were found not just turquoise, in a distinctive green-tinged variety, but also gold, silver, lead and zinc. At the peak of all this activity, in the mid 1880s, there were roughly 3,000 prospectors working these hills and at the heart of them Cerrillos provided for all their needs, with 21 saloons, five brothels, four hotels, and several newspapers. The town became so well known that it was seriously considered as a possible capitol for New Mexico – hard to believe when you look around today.
Although a few people live here, the sleepy dirt streets and decidedly run-down bar give it something of a forgotten look. But Cerrillos is well worth turning away briefly from the Turquoise Trail for. And if you should get the feeling that you are in a movie set, well ... you are! Cerrillos has been the location for some 13 movies, including Young Guns, Young Guns II, Shoot Out (with Gregory Peck) and John Wayne’s 1972 movie, The Cowboys. Welcome to the Wild West!
See my separate Los Cerrillos page for more info and pictures.
Someone with a sense of humor used to live just south of Madrid on State Highway 14. The little house is partially made out of a railroad car and the bridge from a flatbed trailer. He/She must have been a welder, since the gate is very unique. The "ranch" is abandoned now. Madrid has problems with getting potable water. Maybe that is why the owner left.