Pinos Altos Opera House
May 2016. One of our day trips while staying in Silver City New Mexico was to the once thriving mining town of Pinos Altos (Spanish for Tall Pines). In 1860, three prospectors stopped for a drink at Bear Creek 7 miles north of Silver City and discovered gold. Soon, 700 miners were ravaging the hills in search of their fortune. They needed a town from which they could buy food and supplies, liquor and female companionship, so they created Pinos Altos, originally named Birchville for one of the men who made the discovery.
Building a town was the easy part. Keeping it was something altogether more difficult.
You see, this new town of Pinos Altos was located on hills claimed by Apaches. And not just any Apaches. This was the ancestral home of the Chiricahuas … yup, those same Chiricahuas who claimed most of Southern Arizona. And not just any ol’ band of Chiricahuas either. These were the Chiricahuas led by their greatest chiefs, Mangus Coloradas (Red Sleeves) who joined with his son-in-law, Cochise, to raise an army of over 300 warriors to drive the miners from the hills of Pinos Altos. Read More
Pinos Altos “Museum”.
Battle of Pinos Altos
The Battle of Pinos Altos took place on September 27, 1861. The Chiricahuas attacked killing many miners and burning buildings. Not long before, the miners, fearing attacks like those that had occurred in other Southwestern mining camps, had formed a militia of about 30 men. On this day the militia was out on patrol when the battle started, but they soon returned and established a defensive position near the center of town.
For two hours the Chiricahuas shot at the miners from a distance, but at noon they attacked en masse. For a while it looked like the Indians would massacre all the miners and overwhelm the little quasi-military force. With matters seemingly hopeless, the captain of the militia noticed an old cannon in front of Sam & Roy Bean’s store (yes that Bean who later became “Judge Roy Bean: The Law West of the Pecos”).
The captain ordered the cannon to be moved into the defensive position and loaded with rusty nails and buckshot. When the Indians charged again, at least 10 were instantly transformed into hamburger and many others were badly wounded. The chiefs called off the attack hoping to fight again another day.
Ms. Karen checks out the dinner menu at The Buckhorn Saloon
In the late 1880’s and early 90’s, Pinos Altos had a population of about 9,000. But soon after the turn of the 20th century, it was mostly abandoned. Many of the buildings from that era are still standing. Today, many people have summer homes in the cool mountain air of Pinos Altos. Locals cater to tourists, like Ms. Karen & me.
Pinos Altos has a replica of the old fort, a “museum”, a church, a graveyard, and most importantly, The Buckhorn Saloon & Opera House. The fort wasn’t open when we were there, but the museum was. For $1 apiece, we got to go in and wander about what is nothing more than a small junk yard. Across the street is The Buckhorn where we planned to have dinner.
As disappointing as the museum was, The Buckhorn was a surprise and delight. Not only are the buildings historical, they served us one of the finest steak dinners we have ever enjoyed. If you visit Silver City, definitely drive the 7 miles to Pinos Altos for dinner. We understand that Pinos Altos also has good places of lodging. Bear Creek Lodge was recommended to us by friends. If you go, let us know.
Hearst Church in Pinos Altos. The widow of George Hearst put up most of the money to build this church. She was the mother of William Randolph Hearst.