Tuesday, November 4th, 2008
Van Patten Mining Camp
The ruins of the Van Patten Mining Camp are a short hike north of the springs. Construction of the Camp began about 1895 and was completed and advertising for business in 1897. The Camp sold itself as a vacation resort in the Organ mountains several thousand feet above the sultry southern New Mexico desert. The resort building was L-shaped. One two-story wing had 14 hotel rooms for customers, and the other wing a large dining hall, a dance hall, a roller skate rink, and living rooms for the operators.
A historical marker at the site provides a photo of what the Camp, also known as the Dripping Springs Resort, looked like in 1900.
The marker provides a few historical details on Van Patten, but does not convey the extent of the accomplishments of this remarkable New Mexico pioneer.
Albert Eugene Van Patten was born November 10, 1839 in Oneida, New York, but many sources give a different, erroneous birth date.
In 1857 when John Butterfield was starting the Overland Mail Company, he hired Van Patten and his three older brothers to help set up the El Paso link of the stagecoach trail. They arrived in El Paso as part of the first Overland work crew on December 23, 1857. Van Patten did all kinds of work for the Company, including driving stages and serving as stationkeeper at the Picacho Station.
On February 9, 1860, Van Patten was the conductor of a stage coach ambushed by Apaches in Cooke’s Canyon on its way from Tucson to Mesilla. After a long standoff in which all of coach’s mules but one were killed, Van Patten, the driver, and the six passengers abandoned the coach and fortified themselves behind rock outcrops. They were rescued eventually by scouts of a merchant party which happened to hear shooting.
When the civil war started he joined the Confederates, even though he was born a Yankee. Following the war, he was a life-long Republican.
In 1865 he married Benita Madrid Vargas, a high ranking Piro Indian. This began a life-long commitment to Indian interests, and he was a major player in the Piros relocating to Tortugas and being granted title to that land by the State of New Mexico in 1914.
He served in many offices, including county sheriff from 1884 to 1888 and deputy U. S. Marshall from 1889 to 1896. He led the posse that tracked the murders of Colonel Albert Fountain and his son Henry, and was a major witness at the trial (the accused were acquitted). Although unable to serve, he helped organize the New Mexico contingent of Roosevelt’s Rough Riders.
In 1917 (not 1915 as given by the historical marker) he sold the Van Patten Mountain Camp to Dr. Nathan Boyd and entered a long period of financial difficulties. When he died on February 28, 1926, he was almost destitute.
The Camp Ruins are extensive, and make stunning photographs. This part of the original structure is in the best condition. Note how the two end windows in the eve match the windows in the old photo.
These ruins are of the other wing.
Las Cruces New Mexico, 1849-1999, Gordon Owen, Red Sky Publishing Company, Inc, 1999.
Pioneers of the Mesilla Valley, Paxton P. Price, Yucca Tree Press, 1995
The Butterfield Trail in New Mexico, George Hackler, Yucca Enterprises, 2005