Dawson, Mining Camp, Colfax County, New Mexico Genealogy

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It is difficult to visit Dawson, a once large thriving city, now only marked by empty fields and a few hundred grave markers, without wondering about the people who lived, laughed, and enjoyed life in this place. The now gone Opera House was one of the places these people enjoyed. It is described below. You will also find a list of the movies and other events for 1923, as described in the weekly issues of the Dawson News in 1923. Since the town was destroyed as well as its records, information is rare and difficult to attain.

Pictures of Dawson buildings can be viewed here.

A brief history of Dawson, the Town, the Mines, and the Cemetery can be learned by clicking here.


14 miles northeast of Cimarron


Latitude: 36.6642 N;      Longitude: -104.7747 W.


6,339 feet (1,932 meters)


Interactive Map.


1. Ghost Towns and Mining Camps of New Mexico, by James E. and Barbara Sherman. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman. 1974. pp. 62-69 has the following photographs:Dawson News cover page, view of city, 1922; Dawson Coal Tipple and homes, c. 1945; Residential street, c. 1945; Coal Washer, c.1925;  Catholic Church, c. 1945; Advertisements for: Bank of Dawson, The Dawson Bakery, Barber Shop, Dentists Hoover and Poliak, Sweet Shop, Lash's Hall, and Theatre Program; Phelps Dodge Company Store, c.1945; Coal mine and coke ovens; Notice of Eviction, from Phelps Dodge to Dawson residents, 1950; Coke ovens and smoke stack, c. 1974; Dawson Cemetery; Boy Scout first aid class, 1922;  Employee photograph, closing of the mine, 1950; 

2.Different Google images. Dawson, c.1900 same view in 2008; Dawson Hotel;  8 photos;

3. 52 Old photos of Dawson from the Dawson Association Photo Album.

4. Video presentation by the University of Florence, Italy.

5. Database for Dawson New Mexico 400 photographs from the Carol and Dwight Myers Collection of the Rio Grande Historic Collections of New Mexico State University.

6. New Mexico State Archives Historical Film Collection, Dawson, 12 minute film.

7. New Mexico State Records Center and Archives Dawson, NM films by Hubert M. Loy (1937-8), 8 mm home movies shot when he was a High School teacher in Dawson.

8. General View of Washery, elevator, storage tanks and No.4 Tipple, page 51; Electric Locomotive coming out of mine with trip of loaded cars, page 52; Amusement Hall, Opera House, Rescue Station, Church, Hospital, and General Offices, page 53; Shaking screen showing belt conveyor carrying undersize coal to a re-screeniing plant, page 55; Showing gradual feed of lump coal from shaking screen to pickling table (No. 1,2, and 3 tipple), page 56; All photos in New Mexico, the land of opportunity: Official data on the Resources by New Mexico Board of Exposition Managers.Swastika Fuel Company by L.C. White, page 40-60. Google Books.

9. The Denver Public Library in its Western History Photograph Collection has an undigitized folder for Dawson.

Post Office               

Established 1900, discontinued in 1954.

Doing Business In Dawson:

The Dawson newspaper clearly states in many issues, that any person doing or soliciting business in Dawson must register at the Welfare Office. It is not known whether there was a fee involved, or to what extent any business agreement may have been with prospective or existing businessmen. Dawson was a company town strongly controlled by the owner. In reading the company's history, it is obvious that profit was always a motive.
In looking at the personal history of Dawson business "proprietors" one may get a hint as to the type of business arrangement(s) that may have existed. The "proprietor" of the Bakery, was only listed as such on the newspaper ads for the Bakery. On his passport application he listed his occupation as baker not proprietor or owner. On the census records he listed himself as manager of a bakery shop. It appears that the bakery was not owned by him. While it is expected that in frontier towns, doctors and dentists owned their own practises, the census records show that the doctors and dentists in Dawson worked for the owner of the company town, Phelps Dodge. Corp.

Dawson Bakery

The weekly advertisement in the Dawson News, all issues in 1923, reads: Italian, French or American Bread, Parties of all kinds, Fresh Baked every Day, Candies, Tobacco, Soft Drinks. Louis Savio, Proprietor. The Dawson Bakery was the only Dawson business run by an immigrant, at that time.

Case Study on Dawson immigrant Louis Andrea Savio:

Louis Andrea Savio who was born June 22, 1879, in Valperga, Italy. He emigrated to the US from Le Havre, France on December 20, 1901. He married his first wife, Regina, in 1905. In 1910, he was a Saloon Keeper in Rockvale, a mining town in Colorado. His passport application shows, he resided only in Rockvale, Colorado and Dawson, New Mexico. He obtained citizenship April 16, 1909 in Canon City, Colorado. His second marriage was on July 6, 1918 to Ernesta. In September, 1918 he was listed as a musician employed by the Phelps Dodge Corporation. His occupation in 1925 was listed as Baker, when he and his wife planned to travel to Italy to visit his mother. His father, Antonio, was deceased. Mr. Savio was active in supporting the Dawson community. He was the Dawson High School Band Director. He donated a piano and art to support the high school activities. He always led the 4th of July Parade with his band. He was Treasurer for the Loyal Order of Moose. He also belonged to the Dawson Club and participated in men’s basketball and baseball games. The 1920 census shows him to be Manager of the Bakery Shop. In 1938 he was elected to the Board of Governors of the New Mexico Bakers Association. He was residing in Raton, NM, at that time. In 1954, he and his wife were 2 of 65 persons who enjoyed a Dawson Picnic Reunion in Pasadena, California. He died in Los Angeles, California on March 8, 1960.

Sources for discovering Louis Andre Savio's history:

  • Dawson News for 1921 and 1923.
  • World War I Draft Registration Card 1917-1918 in Dawson, New Mexico.
  • US Passport application, issued March 1925, Raton, New Mexico.
  • 1906 Mining Directory, Colorado State Business Directory.
  • 1910 US Census, Rockvale, Fremont, Colorado.
  • 1930 US Census, precinct 13, Dawson, NM.
  • Albuquerque Journal, May 15, 1938, page 3 “Bakers Elect, Convention Closes”
  • Albuquerque Journal, August 7, 1954, page 6, “ 65 Former Dawson Residents attend California Picnic Reunion”.

Dawson Banks

In 1922 there were 5 banks in Colfax County , one each in Dawson, Maxwell and Springer and two in Raton. They were: Bank of Dawson, Colfax County State bank in Springer, Farmers State Bank in Maxwell, International State Bank in Raton and, Blossburg Mercantile Co. Bank in Raton. In 1923, the Officers of the Bank of Dawson were: James G. McNary, President; E.W. Kayser, Vice President; W..J. Horan, Cashier; D.G. Secrest, Assistant Cashier. The Directors of the Bank of Dawson were: McNary, Kayser, Horan, Secrest, and G.M. Hanson. In January, 25, 1923, W.E. Easton became cashier and the Directors were : W.D. Brennan, D.G. Secrest, and E.W.Kayser. Jessie Sayers was the Notary Public. F.M. Murchinson became President, replacing McNary. 1923Who were these men?

Dawson Bank Photo click here

James Graham McNary born in 1877 in Bloomington, Indiana was a teacher of modern languages at the New Mexico Normal University in Las Vegas, NM, for five years. He became editor of the Las Vegas Optic, the local newspaper, from 1903 to 1906. While owner of "Optic", he was appointed public printer of New Mexico by the Governor. He then began as clerk for the First National Bank, and became President of the bank by 1914. He also became President of: the El Paso First Mortgage Co., First National Bank of El Paso. Texas, and the Bank of Dawson. He became the Director of the El Paso Chamber of Commerce, Chairman of the Red Cross and Liberty Loan Drives for the Southwest. He was sent to France, England and Belgium on special mission for Y. M. C. A., and on a speaking tour through New Mexico, Arizona and Texas for United War Work Drive. Chairman of the El Paso Bankers Association. He was also an accomplished musician. He was appointed by President Harding as Comptroller of the US Currency, in 1923, when he was President of the Bank of Dawson. He testified in Congress in 1914 regarding the International Peace Forum and border difficulties with Mexico.

Dawson Bank and Hotel historical photos click here

In 1913 McNary and Kayser, and others, organized the El Paso Mortgage and Trust Co. with a million dollars of capital. In 1917, James G. McNary was President and Director, and Edgar W. Kayser was also an officer and Directors of the El Paso First National Bank. The bank governed many subsidiaries that facilitated commercial transactions between the US and Mexico. They had an unexcelled Mexican Department that solicited such transactions. Kayser lobbied Congress saying, “We must not overlook the fact that trade and commerce mean better understanding between two nations….we need Mexico, with her untold and as yet undiscovered natural resources such as gold, copper, silver, oil….The foundation should be laid with such strength that no matter what may come in the way of commercial competition, that foundation cannot be torn asunder”. He was also on the Board of Directors for the El Paso Retail Merchants Association. Kayser was Director in the Bank in 1921.

WJ Horan, Cashier of the Dawson Bank born in 1884 in Chicago, Illinois. Arrived in Dawson in 1903, employed by the then company store and bank. He became Assistant Cashier. In 1913 the banking department of the company’s business was sold to outside interests and was incorporated under the name of the Dawson Bank, at which time Mr. Horan was made Cashier of the institution. Fraternally, he was connected to the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. For the 13 years he resided in Dawson, he was closely connected with its business interests and the success of the Dawson Bank.

Donald Gregory Secrest, born in 1886 in Ohio, was Assistant Cashier of the Bank of Dawson in 1923.

George Murray “G.M.” Hanson was born 1869 in Ohio. In July 1904, he was auditor for the El Paso Northeastern Railway, El Paso Rock Island Railway, Dawson Railway and Alamogordo and Sacramento Mountain Railway Companies, all subsidiaries of the El Paso Northern System. On the social side, in 1910, he became the Supreme Chancellor for the Knights of Pythias. All coal and coke from the Dawson mines was handled by the Dawson Fuel Sales Company, a sales corporation, of which G.M. Hanson was the General Manager, in 1915. He was, also, the General Sales Agent and Auditor for the Phelps Dodge Corp., Stag Canon Branch.

William D. Brennan, General Manager of the Mines, 1920-1929. In 1915 the Rocky Mountain Coal Mining Institute appointed him Vice President for the State of Wyoming, by 1929 he represents the State of New Mexico at the Institute. Son, was a Yale University Graduate in English, in 1926.

F.M. Murchinson, Vice President of Texas Bank and Trust Company in El Paso, and Chairman of the Hotel Committee for the El Paso Bankers Association. He became President of the Bank of Dawson when McNary received his presidential appointment as the Comptroller of US Currency. Within a year he McNary reclaimed the Presidency and Murchinson returned to his previous posts.

Jessie Sayers, the Notary Public in 1923, is shown to be the Bank's Book Keeper in the 1930 US Census.

The attorneys for Bank of Dawson and Phelps Dodge Corp in 1918 were Edwin Cook Crampton and Orie Leon Phillips of Raton, NM. They also represented: The Bank of Springer, Raton First National Bank, Maxwell Irrigated Land Co. , St. Louis Rocky Mountain and Pacific Co. and Trinidad Electric Transmission Railway and Gas Co.

The Bank of Dawson was a modern bank for its day. It offered: traveler’s checks, interest of 4% on savings accounts compounded semi annually, safety deposit boxes for one cent a day ($3.65 per annum in 1923 = $47.24 in 2011) , issued credit and offered loans, issued money orders, transferred sums anywhere in the world. Seventy per cent of the bank activity was savings accounts. The bank boasted that it had few commercial accounts, it was a company town. This bank did not suffer negative consequences because of the market crash in 1929. However, First National of El Paso, failed long before it closed its doors in 1931.

Dawson, Mining Camp, Colfax County, New Mexico today click here

The Dawson Barber Shop

The weekly advertisement in the Dawson News, all issues in 1923, reads: Sanitary and Up-To-Date, Children’s Haircuts a Specialty. Hours - 8 AM to 7 PM, Saturdays, open to 9 PM. E.F. Scott, Proprietor.
Earl F. Scott, born in November 7, 1892, in Marysville, Marshall County, Kansas. His wife was Juanita, married in 1911. He had 2 sons Earl Jr. and Bobbie. In 1920 through1930 worked as a Barber in Barber Shop. World War I Draft Registration, signed June 5, 1917, shows occupation Barber employed by S.L. Jewell, Dawson. Socially, Earl Scott belonged to the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.

The 1920 US Census for Dawson, NM, showed Miller Aldridge, born 1887 in Texas, a Barber and proprietor. The 1930 US Census for Dawson, NM, showed Albert McDonald, born 1898 in Texas, a Barber working in a barbershop. The newspaper only mentioned one barbershop. If this is true, then these persons worked with Earl Scott.



  • All 1923 issues for the Dawson News.
  • Scott Family History and ebook
  • World War I Draft Registration Card, signed June 5, 1917, by Earl Scott.
  • 1920 and 1930 US Censuses for Dawson, N.M.

Other Businesses in Dawson New Mexico 

will be expanded in future updates providing the researcher with sources and information of those who called this small town "home".

Davis Garage

The Dawson Garage and Livery

The Dawson Hotel
For photos and information about the Dawson Hotel and Boarding houses, click here.

The Dawson Laundry

The Dawson News

The Dawson Opera House

The Dawson Plumbing Shop

The Dawson Sweet Shop

The Dawson Tailor Shop



El Paso and Southwestern Railroad

Farmers Development Co.

Hawkeye Ranch

Hartford Insurance Company


Lash’s Hall

New York Life Insurance Company

Phelps Dodge Mercantile Company


Rodman’s Boarding House

Southern Surety Co.


Dawson Cemetery, and Dawson family Cemetery

Dawson Cemetery Inscriptions and other Vital Record.

Census Data

No enumeration on the 1900 US Census.

Closest enumeration precincts were Cimilario (closest to the Dawson Ranch), and Cimarron.


In 1867, John Barkley Dawson bought from the Maxwell Land Grant 23,000 acres of rich ranching land along the Vermejo River and settled there with his borther L.S. Dawson. About 1895, coal was found on the land, and the first coal mine on Dawson's ranch opened in 1899. During that year the Dawson Fuel Company was organized, and a railroad was constructed from Tucumcari to Dawson. Phelps Dodge Corporation purchased the property in 1906. Dawson became a concern of the Stag Canyon Branch, a subsidiary of Phelps Dodge. The increasing coal and coke market brought about rapid development. Dawson grew into a prosperous City reaching a peak population of 11,000 residents. 

In total, the Dawson coal operations had ten mines, numbered 1 - 10 in the immediate vicinity of Dawson. The mines are generally referred to as "Stag Canyon #" or  "Dawson Mine #", in reference to their locale.  Several of these mines were connected to the coal processing and loading facilities in Dawson by means of an electric powered narrow gauge 36 inch railroad. This railroad was apparently 6,600 feet in length, running along Rail Canyon from the entries of Mines 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6. Mines 5 and 7 also connected to this line through underground connections to the other mines, but they also had their own tipples.The actual Dawson Mine No. 5 was located along the Vermejo River, near the town of Lauretta.  Cars would be loaded inside the mines, taken outside and then transported in trains of cars to the facilities in Dawson proper. This line served the No 1 & 2 Tipple, located in Rail Canyon.

Mines 8, 9 and 10 are located to the SW of the town of Dawson. Early research indicates that they had their own mine tipple for coal cleaning and loading into standard gauge railroad cars for delivery to customers. These three mines also had an electric powered railroad inside the mines which led to their own tipple, but they apparently were not connected to the other mines.

The coal was cleaned of non-combustible debris and sorted into general sizes for different uses. In addition to the coal processing facilities, there also were coking ovens which processed the coal, transforming it into coke which was used for metal processing by Phelps Dodge at other facilities. The coking ovens produced carbon monoxide gas, which was captured and then burned to create steam for generating electricity for mine machinery and electric lighting, both in the mines and in the towns around the mines.

The Dawson Railway was purchased by Phelps Dodge at the same time and made part of its El Paso and Southwestern Railroad system. The EP&SW was later purchased by the Southern Pacific Railroad, which also purchased long term contracts for the coal production from Dawson. The SP used steam locomotives which were mostly fueled by oil, but the operating division located at Tucumcari utilized coal fueled steam engines, the only group of such locomotives on their roster.

The town quickly improved including: modern homes, shade trees, sidewalks, a hotel, an opera house and theatre, a ball park, an athletic field, a swimming pool, golf course, bowling alley, billiard parlor, and a newspaper "The Dawson News". In 1914, the mercantile department store opened. The store had up to date: hardware, furniture, clothes, shoes, food, a bakery, and an ice plant. The ice plant produced 5,000 pounds of ice every 24 hours. By 1919, the store had 3 branches and more than 60 employees.   

The Dawson Schools evolved from simple frame buildings into a modern grade school and a large stone and brick high school. The basketball and football teams were especially outstanding, for years they were at the top.The big football game of the year with Raton was held on Thanksgiving Day and usually decided the district championship.  The whole town took interest in the games and businesses closed for the games.

The medical community in Dawson maintained: a dispensary, a modern hospital staffed with 5 doctors, doctors offices, 2 dentist offices, and a registered pharmacist.  On the spiritual side the town had a Catholic Church with a resident priest and a Protestant Chapel.  

Besides Americans from many states, the city had a cosmopolitan aspect representing many nationalities: Italy, Greece, England, Mexico, France, Germany, Yugoslavia, Japan and China. Many of the immigrants lived in boarding houses. During leisure hours the men entertained themselves with native games like soccer, and cooking their country's food for friends and visitors.

Dawson's long life was scarred by 2 terrible mine tragedies. The unbroken rows of uniform crosses in Dawson's cemetery are a vivid reminder of those events. On October 22, 1913 at 3:10 PM, a solid mass of fire catapulted from the mouth of Mine #2. Moments later 15 men stumbled out too dazed to know what happened. Two men from the Koehler Mine came to help and were asphyxiated during their rescue attempt, 25 more men managed to escape. The death toll was 265, including the rescuers. The other major tragedy was on February 8, 1923, at 2 PM. An explosion crumbled the reinforced concrete mine entrance of Mine #1. Miraculously 2 men came out alive, but 120 perished.

Dawson's demise was brought about by circumstances and progress. Phelps Dodge was forced to cease mining operations at their Stag Canyon Branch. With the conversion from steam locomotives to diesel, the need for coal decreased dramatically. 

Dawson did not become a ghost town until 1950, when the Phelps Dodge Corporation shut down the mines. At closure, Mine 6 was the largest producer, and several other mines had been previously closed out because of declining demand and mine safety. The closures were also due in large part to the completion of the twenty five year coal contract with the Southern Pacific Railroad. The entire town was sold or razed, with some of the miners' houses moved to other locations. The tall smoke stacks of the coking ovens were eventually demolished in the early 2000s because they represented a liability to the current owner of the property.

The Southern Pacific branch to Tucumcari was lifted at about the same time, but was later rebuilt by the Santa Fe Railroad, continuing up the canyon to the York Canyon mines. These mines were initially operated by Kaiser Steel, with their output being transported to their steel mill at Fontana, California. The York Canyon mine was operated by several different companies, finally closing in the early 2000s.

Dawson was sold to the National Iron and Metal Company of Phoenix, Arizona, who agreed to dismantle the town. The residents were given 30 days notice, and the entire City of Dawson was razed to the ground. Everything from pencil sharpeners to mine equipment was sold to buyers all over the country. Two men from Albuquerque (Van Roush and Dugan Guest) purchased 400 houses which they sold to be moved or torn down. The coal washer, bought by Harlan County, Kentucky, was dismantled and shipped by rail. The only exception to the sale was the Catholic Church, which was given to the diocese before the town was sold. The church was dismantled and materials sent to different locations. The large department store that cost $250,000 to build was razed at no profit, along with the opera house, hospital and other buildings. All that is left today is the cemetery, the rest of Dawson is scattered in parts throughout the United States.

For a description of Community Life in Dawson, click here.

For a description of the Dawson Opera House and some of its activities, click here.

For a description of the businesses in Dawson, click here.

For a description of the 1923 mine accident, NM Bureau of Mine Safety Newsletter,click here.

Family History Links

  • For an alphabetic list of obituaries, family trees and histories, or other information available online for persons who lived in Dawson, click here.
  • For an alphabetic list of the miners who died in the 1913 accident, click here.
  • For an alphabetic list of the miners who died in the 1923 accident, click here.
  • For an alphabetic list of persons mentioned in the Dawson, New Mexico Story by Father Stanley,click here.
  • For baptisms, marriages and burials by St. Johns Church, click here.
  • For an alphabetic list of Mine employees in the WW II Armed Forces, click here.
  • For a list of persons found in the May, 1948, Dawson Telephone Directory, click here.
  • For an alphabetic list of persons found in stories in the Dawson News, by year. 1921, Dawson and Colfax County Residents: A-C;  D-G;  H-LM-P;  Q-S;  T-Z;1921, Non county residents .A-Z ; for the abbreviated 1921 Surname Index, click here.
  • Dawson News: 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927, 1928, 1929. For 1921 Archives, click here.
  • For an alphabetic list of persons who once lived in Springer and have online information, click here.
  • For an alphabetic list of persons who once lived in Maxwell and have online information, click here
  • For an alphabetic list of persons who once lived in Cimarron and have online information, click here. 
  •  Free search of obituaries in the Albuquerque Journal, click here.
  • For free search of ALL records, includding all census records, click here.
  • For a free search of New Mexico Births and Christening records, 1726-1910, click here.
  • For a free search of New Mexico Marriage records, 1751-1918, click here.
  • For a free search of New Mexico Deaths and Burial records, 1788-1798, 1838-1955, click here.
  • For a free search of New Mexico Death records 1889-1945,click here.
  • To go to the Colfax County section, click here

Other Information

1. Dawson New Mexico Association: 944 N. 3rd St. Raton, NM 87740 Click here

2. Dawson New Mexico and the Miners Who Lived There.

3. Cemetery on National Historic Register

4. Dawson Reunion Information: 2008, 2010

5. Dawson Facebook

6. Who's who in finance and banking By John William Leonard. 1917 Financier, by University of Michigan. Volume 109, page 1491. Click Here

7. Prominent people from Dawson NM:  Dolores Huerta


1. The Register of Dawson Family Papers 1852-1950, Mandeville Special Collections Library, Geisel Library, University of California, San Diego. Index of Dawson Family Papers, Online Archive of California

2. Ghost Towns and Mining Camps of New Mexico, by James E. and Barbara Sherman. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman. 1974.

3. History of New Mexico:Its resources and people. Volume 2. by George B Anderson. Pacific States Publishing Company. Google books.

4. Wikipedia

5. Land of enchantment, Ghost Town - Dawson

6. Coal Town: The Life and Times of Dawson, by Toby Smith. Ancient City Press, 1995.

7. The Grant that Maxwell Bought by F. Stanley, pages 226-229. Google Books.

8. New Mexico, the land of opportunity: Official data on the Resources by New Mexico Board of Exposition Managers.Swastika Fuel Company by L.C. White, page 40-52. Google Books.

9. Annual Report of the Mine Inspector for the Territory of New Mexico, by the United States Mine Inspector of the United States to the Secretary of the Interior, Fiscal Year ending June 30, 1907. pages 5-23. Google Books

10. American Mining and Metallurgical Manual, page 282. Phelps Dodge Corporation. Google Books.

11. Congressional Serial Set, Issue 6223, by the US Government Printing Office. pages 743-763. Google Books.

12. The Denver Public Library in its Western History Photograph Collection has an undigitized folder for Dawson.