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20 • DECEMBER 2017

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Smokey the Mattocks cat takes a break on top of a model of the Mattocks Ruin. (Courtesy Photo)

School children learn about the Mattocks Ruin. (Photo by William Hudson)

HISTORIC TREASURE

Mimbres Cult

Preserving 1,000

T

he Mimbres Culture Heritage Site (MCHS), a historic treasure in the Mimbres Valley, long known as the old Mattocks place, tells the story of the people of the Mimbres Valley. Through artifacts and architectural remains, archival information and oral histories, the legacy of the Mimbres is unveiled at MCHS. A large Mimbres pithouse/pueblo ruin and two Territorial adobe houses are the focus of the site itself. Humans have long been attracted to the area — because of the Mimbres River and its permanent source of water, prime agricultural land and proximity to the natural resources of the river corridor and nearby mountains and deserts. The people that lived and died at the “Mattocks” left behind bits and pieces of the past. An interpretive trail through the archaeological site, a replica 1800s doctor’s office, a museum with displays of pottery, other artifacts and exhibits on the homestead, ranching and mining eras, help tell the story of the history of the Mimbres Valley. The Mattocks Ruin, a close to 1,000-yearold Mimbres village with an estimated 200 rooms, was partially excavated in 192931 by Paul Nesbitt of Beloit College and by Mimbres Foundation archaeologists in the mid 1970s. Artifacts and other data collected from the site have greatly added to what is known about the prehistory of southwest New Mexico. Archaeologists recovered a large number of Mimbres pottery bowls with intricate geometric designs and naturalistic images. These images, including those of a man whirling a bullroarer, a man and woman sharing a blanket, parrot trainers, an antelope with a turkey tail, frogs, bighorn sheep, insects, bats, a man on the back of an owl offer up a glimpse of life along the Mimbres River a thousand and more years ago. The two territorial adobe structures on the property are some of the last remaining buildings from the New Mexico territorial era in the Mimbres Valley. Research into the history of the houses using archival information and oral history has uncovered fascinating tales about the colorful people

who lived on the property and made their living from the land. Dr. Granville Wood homesteaded 160 acres along the Mimbres River in 1882. He was awarded his homestead patent in 1887. Wood, a practicing physician and prominent member of Georgetown society, built an adobe house, planted a large orchard and 40 acres of alfalfa. Georgetown was a nearby silver mining boomtown. The mining mill was located where the Mimbres post office is today. Gun ports in one room of Wood’s house reflect the era in which it was built — a time of Apache raids along the Mimbres. The Eastern Chiricahua Chihene Apache, the Red Paint People, had seasonally occupied the Mimbres area for a few hundred years before the arrival of Hispanic and Anglo homesteaders. As more homesteaders, ranchers and miners poured into the region, the Apaches were pushed out. As a result of the Apache Wars of the 1870s and 1880s the Apaches were effectively “removed” from southwest New Mexico. In December of 1883 Adolph Bandelier, the pioneering archaeologist, visited Wood as part of his survey of prehistoric sites in the Mimbres area. He investigated the ruin on the Wood property and wrote the following account in his journal: “Dec.28: We called on Dr. Woods, and he showed us an axe, which is of diorite. It has large flanges. There is a large pueblo near his house, which I shall measure tomorrow. On the highest mountain overlooking the Mimbres on the east side, opposite Dr. Woods, there are two circular depressions, and there many arrowheads were found. Metates are met with frequently. The ruins extend to the high hills along the river too. “ Dec.29: In the afternoon I went to Dr. Woods, who gave me his stone axe. We then measured his ruin. It is fairly preserved. There are many very large blocks of stone in it. The circular depression is interesting. On the northwest side, there is a wall which runs partly into it. On the south side, there is like an entrance to it, formed by huge blocks of stone. The ruin is of earth, but there are many stones scat-

Students head out on the interpretive trail through the Mattocks Ruin. (Photo by William

tered along it. The walls of all the buildings were of rubble or cobble, and the foundations frequently set on edge … “Dec. 30: I saw, near Dr. Woods’ … a juniper tree … standing in the midst of a quadrangle of stone foundation. The lowest point [temperature] reached here is +6ºF. Snow falls occasionally, but never lasts. The soil is exceedingly fertile, every kind of vegetable grows splendidly. Potatoes are fine and very good. But there is a lack of water supply, and the river sinks at many places, even north of here. Here it is a clear handsome brook, bordered by willows and

osiers.” Near the end of 1887, Dr. Wood traded the property to Robert Floyd, a health seeker, for Floyd’s Texas property. Floyd died in 1889 and the Mimbres property passed to his wife Kate Abi Floyd. In December 1889, Kate Floyd married Benjamin F. Gooch. Ben Gooch and Kate were reunited, so said the Silver City newspapers, having once been “sweethearts,” but parted due to a lover’s quarrel. Gooch built a larger adobe house, grew vegetables, picked fruit from the orchard, and raised cattle. In 1901, Gooch opened a grocery store and meat

Desert Exposure - December 2017  
Desert Exposure - December 2017