Geology of the Cerrillos coal field, Santa Fe County, New Mexico
— Edward C. Beaumont
Still fresh in the minds of oldtimers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe are the spectacular pageants and elaborate displays at Christmas in the once-booming mining town of Madrid. Now occupied by an ever-increasing number of relatively young people who are seeking principally a quieter and simpler life than can be found in the city, Madrid in its heyday was a major center of coal-mining activity.
A part of the Cerrillos coal field, the major Madrid Gulch development came rather late in the history of the greater area. Records indicate (Huber, undated, p. 3) coal having been mined from the Madrid area to operate a gold mill at Dolores in 1835. There are also records (J. Huber, personal commun.) of coal having been mined from the "B" seam at the Government mine to supply military establishments at Santa Fe and Las Vegas during Civil War days.
It wasn't until what is now the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway reached Cerrillos (3 mi (4.8 km) north of Madrid) in 1880 that the coal field began to produce on an ongoing commercial basis. The earliest development apart from those mentioned above were in Waldo and Miller gulches which approximately parallel the north-trending Madrid Gulch, and are located about 1.0 ml (1.6 km) and 1.5 mi (2.4 km) west of Madrid Gulch, respectively. These earlier mining localities were closer to the main line of the railroad, and the coal is less involved with igneous intrusions that complicate the geology and hence the mining at Madrid. Also, the dip of the beds is several degrees less than in Madrid Gulch. The coal seams mined at Miller Gulch are lower in the Mesaverde sequence than those in Waldo and Madrid gulches. The Miller Gulch seam is reported (Turnbull and others, 1951, p. 7, 10) to be about three ft (1 m) thick in an abandoned drift, and to thin to unminable thicknesses away from the Miller Gulch mine. The quality of the coal at Miller Gulch is such that it was in great demand for smithing and the manufacture of gas (Lee, 1913, p.311).
Initially, the Santa Fe spur was built from the Waldo switch across Galisteo Creek and up Waldo Gulch about 1.5 ml (2.4 km) to the old village of Waldo. The mines at Waldo operated by the railroad prospered for several years until the demand for anthracite became so great that the Santa Fe extended their spur up Madrid Gulch in 1889, and in 1893, they shifted their entire operation to Madrid (Huber, undated, p. 5). Generally, mining economics favored the Madrid anthracite operations, and the Miller and Waldo gulch operations were closed.
The Colorado Fuel and Iron Company of Pueblo, Colorado leased the Santa Fe's holdings in 1896, and produced bituminous and anthracite coal from Madrid and a superior blending coal that was mixed with their Colorado coking coals. After ten years of difficult mining conditions resulting from steep dips, faults and dikes, Colorado Fuel and Iron relinquished their leases and the properties were leased to Mr. George Kaseman, a prominent Albuquerque businessman and banker. He operated the Albuquerque and Cerrillos Coal Co. until his tragic death in 1938.
It was during this period that the Huber family, present owners of the property, came on the scene. Mr. Oscar Huber, who had been superintendent of the A&C operations, continued to operate the mines and eventually purchased the property in 1947 (Huber, undated, p. 7). Economic events (e.g., conversion of the railroads to diesel power, and the advent of cheap natural gas and fuel oil) produced a gradual decline in Madrid production until the last mine closed in 1958.
Madrid developed into an archtypical "company town." It was self sufficient in many ways, with the company owning everything, including the company store from which items could be purchased with company scrip. There were many features of this domination of the company over the lives of the employees which were criticized then and would be met with even more vehement criticism in today's world. But there must have been a good side to the sovereignty of the company for Madrid produced an esprit de corps and civic pride that would be hard to match anywhere in this nation today. They had a baseball team that was the perennial champion in the Central New Mexico League which included Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Vegas. Through the auspices of the Employee's Club, the townspeople put on day-long Forth of July celebrations, organized elaborate Easter festivities, and from the early '20's, put together a yearly Christmas spectacle which lasted until World War II. Massive Christmas scenes were placed atop the hills and lighted dramatically by power donated by the coal company (Huber, undated, p. 24).
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- Beaumont, Edward C., 1979, Geology of the Cerrillos coal field, Santa Fe County, New Mexico, in: Santa Fe Country, Ingersoll, Raymond V.; Woodward, Lee A.; James, H. L., New Mexico Geological Society, Guidebook, 30th Field Conference, pp. 269-274.