Virginia City, Colfax County, New Mexico Genealogy

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Location:               4 miles north of Eagle Nest

GPS:                       Latitude: 36.5798 N;    Longitude: -105.2400 W.

Elevation:              8,842 feet (2,695 meters)

Map:                      Interactive Map.


Post Office:          Established 1868, discontinued 1869.


Census Data:


Some dredging dumps from placer deposits along Willow Creek and an obscure cemetery situated on a prominent hill in the vicinity mark the site of long forgotten, short-lived Virginia City.

Virginia City's birth was initiated from the same frenzied gold boom that spawned Elizabethtown and Baldy; however, Virginia City preceeded both of these towns.

In October 1866, 3 men sent to do assessment work on a previously located copper property near the top of Baldy Mountain camped one night at Willow Creek, where they accidentally discovered rich gold placers. News quickly circulated. In the following years scores of gold seekers flocked to the area.

The site was on Lucien Maxwell's Land Grant. When a sprawling little camp began to form, he named it for his daughter, Virginia. By naming the hastily and crudely built shanties a city, Maxwell must have had high hopes for the camp.  It fell far short of Maxwell's dream. The businesses amounted to one store and a post office. Many people coming in from Colorado were bringing in their own supplies.

In January 1868, Maxwell was leasing the land for the mines at $2.00 monthly per claim of 200 feet with the guarantee to protect the miner in their titles. Quartz lodes were found daily, the richest to that date yielded 37 cents to a 1/4 pound of rock, and 100 houses were predicted to be built and a population of 2,000 by springtime. By April 2 streets were laid out and only 15 homes were built. The snow was still very deep. There was only one store, no hotel, stable, restaurant or barbershop to greet the weary traveler. 

Before Virginia City had a chance to show any prosperity, the populace began drifting to the newly established and more promising camp of Elizabethtown, 5 miles to the northwest. It is surmised that the town failed because Maxwell was already thinking of selling his Grant. Constant law suits, claim jumpers, and the high influx of undesirables helped to make up his mind. It is surmised that had he not sold the Grant, Virginia City would have progressed into one of the major mining towns in the southwest, instead nearby Elizabethtown prospered.

Family History Links:

1. Robert and Charlotte Canary  and their daughter Calamity. The Lady was a Gambler: True Stories of Notorious Women of the Old West by Chris Enss, page 108. Google Books.

2. Colonel JD Henderson, Stanley page 217.

3. Georgia C. Tillis, 78 of Jacksonville, died January 30,2010. Obituary February 6, 2010.

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

2. The Grant Maxwell Bought by F. Stanley, page 216-217. Google Books.