Main Street in Bland, New Mexico.
Main Street in Bland in the 1890s. Used with permission from the files of Sandoval County Historical Society.

Bland, now a ghost town on private property deep in the Jemez Mountains, was started about 1894. It hit the peak of gold and silver mining there in 1900 and then was mostly abandoned by 1905. It once had a population of around 3,000, a newspaper, a church, two banks, an opera house, a stock exchange, several mercantiles, a stage line, and lots of saloons. All these establishments and more were on one main street because the canyon was only 60 feet wide. When something more needed to be built, additional space was blasted out of the canyon wall.

A happy family enjoying a fine day in Bland, New Mexico, Circa 1890.
A happy family enjoying a fine day in Bland, New Mexico, Circa 1890.

The town was named for Richard Parks Bland, a senator who fought against the demonetization of silver. Several sawmills in the area supplied timber for mining operations. One of the sawmill owners was Joseph Routledge, who then lived in Glorieta, and whose family later lived in the Jemez Mountains. A stamp mill installed at Abermarle in 1898 was the first steel building in New Mexico. (A stamp mill crushes ore rather than grinding it to release the mineral, in this case gold, for further processing.)

Early prospectors found gold in 1881 in what became the Cochiti Mining District. Most of the mines were in the Bland and Abermarle groups, and each was assigned a colorful name, such as Crown Point, Tip Top, Mammoth, Iron King, Monster, No Name, Cross Keys, Old Dutch, Good Hope, Little Mollie and Sister C.

Bland Canyon, N.M. Exchange Hotel and Doctor’s House (2002) Photo courtesy of Mark Ruttkay of Cochiti, N.M.
Bland Canyon, Exchange Hotel and Doctor’s House, 2002. Photo courtesy of Mark Ruttkay of Cochiti, NM. Used with permission from files of Sandoval County Historical Society

After the “gold rush” ended, a few families retained their connection to the property there. Effie Jenks, widow of Harry Jenks, a mining engineer, moved back when she retired and lived there until the 1980s. Helen Callahan Blount bought Jenk’s old home and the Exchange Hotel in 1980 and returned to live in the place of her childhood home.

Much has been published about Bland over the years. The December 1991 of El Cronicón (Official Publication of the Sandoval County Historical Society) was devoted entirely to her memories of Bland. To read this and a selection of the numerous articles written about Bland over the years, go to Bland Stories. Those wanting a detailed account of mining activities in the canyons near Bland may wish to read The Bland, New Mexico Story by F. Stanley, published in a limited run in 1964.

Bland became a ghost town, with many buildings still standing. However, everything was destroyed in the 2011 Los Conchas fire.

1 Comment

  1. Helen Callahan Blount is my Great-Grandmother. I used to go spend portions of my summers in Bland as a child. I loved exploring and getting away from the city. It breaks my heart that it was destroyed by a fire.

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