Grants, New Mexico
May 5, 2007
We are staying in the Blue Spruce RV Park $13.50 for 50-amps, water & Cable TV with central dump. Blue Spruce is located on the south west corner of the I-40 exit 81 intersection in Grants, NM.
By 1880, the seeds of what is now called Grants had been planted.
By 1882 a crude log building was constructed at the western reaches of the developing railroad line. The settlement was called "Grants' Camp," later "Grants' Station," for the three Grant brothers who were contractors for the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad. The Grant brothers managed a crew of 4,000 workers, plus 2,000 mules, and equipment. The name was again changed in 1935 to Grants.
While just a few small houses clustered together, Grants continued its gradual growth. Ranchers brought in their sheep and cattle for shipping, and the cross-country trains stopped at Grants Station to refuel and take on water.
Early settlers of Grants were cattle and sheep men. Thousands of cattle and sheep grazed on the excellent pasture land, but a dry period set in around 1918. The rains didn't come and the grass withered, so the settlers began to fence in the land. That time is looked back on by old-timers as "the beginning of the end of an era."
Raising sheep continued as a major industry for the next 40-years, with cattle ranching ranked second. Sheep dipping camps were prominent throughout the area. As the years have passed, however, the sheep-raising business has declined in the Grants area.
By 1930, the lumber industry had brought a new surge of growth to Grants. The population grew to an estimated 1,000.
The lumber industry played out then was replaced by uranium. Word went out that uranium was in demand before people even knew why. Its use as an explosive and as a fuel was only known, at that point, to scientists and physicists. Many of the geologists and prospectors already in the area looking for other ores had previously come across uranium and knew where to look once there was a demand for it. Abundant secondary sources of uranium, notably carmotite, were contained in the sedimentary rocks known as the Morrison formation. The formation extended over southeastern Utah and southwestern Colorado, edging into New Mexico west of Shiprock and the Navajo Indian Reservation. Indeed, the first uranium mined in New Mexico was in these deposits west of Shiprock.
One of the most colorful uranium discovery stories is that of Navajo Indian Paddy Martinez. He had tramped all over the areas west of Mt. Taylor as a sheep herder and knew the region well. He began hearing the geologists and prospectors in the bars and restaurants talking of uranium. One had a sample of a rock that gave a low radiation count. Martinez recognized similar rocks from his hiking and set out to Haystack Mountain, west of Grants, to do some exploring. His successful findings prompted a great search west of Mt. Taylor. As a result, some very good uranium beds were found in the Morrison formation in that area. Anaconda Copper Company came in to build a mill to handle the ore from the Haystack property. What really kept Anaconda in the area for more than 30-years, though, was the discovery of the enormous Jackpile ore body on the Laguna reservation. In 1952, Kerr-McGee Oil Corporation also began exploring the area, resulting in the development and expansion of the company's Ambrosia Lake operations beginning in 1955. During the 50's, there were more than 45 shippers of uranium ore in the Grants area.
Uranium rock found near Grants, New Mexico and now on display at a Mining Museum in Grants.
Large diameter drill bit used in uranium mining near Grants, New Mexico
This is a "Large Diameter" drill bit. It was used at a mine near Grants to drill a 10-foot diameter shaft 2,234-feet. The Drill Cutters weigh 30,000 pounds. The total assembly used to drill the 10-fool diameter shaft weighed 443,000 lbs.. About one third of its weight was used on the drill bit for cutting purposes. The rest of the weight was used like a pendulum to keep the drill stem straight in order to drill a straight shaft. The drilling was done with the use of a large drill rig that had the load capacity of 1,000,000-lbs using a 112-foot mast and two 615 horsepower diesel engines.
We took a picture of this drill bit where it was on display outside the mining museum in Grants. It was used in uranium mining.
I have neglected to tell the history of the Native Americans living in this area long before those of European ancestry arrived. In fact a number of Native American Nations populated this region. Several different tribes of Navajo, Laguna, Acoma and Zuni to name a few.
Laguna Indian woman at her horno (oven) baking bread
This is a Laguna Indian woman at her horno (oven) baking bread. We saw and photographed a horno like this one that was currently in use at the Sky City Pueblo of Acoma.
In one of the museums or visitors centers I picked up some comments from "Homesteaders" who tried to make it on the edge of the "Bad Country" surrounding what is now El Malpais National Monument.
During the Great Depression, land surrounding El Malpais was some of the last in the United States open to homestead. Throughout the 1930's, a few hardy emigrants were able to eke out a living along the edge of the "The Bad Country." As soon as they were able, most homesteaders packed up and moved to areas offering dependable jobs and better wages at the start of World War II. They left behind a few odds and ends and many stories.
"Talk about the Model-T we came out in. We pushed the damn thing farther than we ever rode it."
"You was lucky if you had some crooked nails to straighten... Just think of the labor, cutting these...red cedars...trimming them all, splitting them, skidding them up there with a team of horses...and cutting them to the right height...We don't know what....work is anymore..."
"It was a pole house, I guess they call it...We didn't have enough long timbers to make a log house, so we stuck a post on the corners, run a longer pole across the top, and stood up the shorter pinion posts underneath it with windows cut out occasionally..."
"This dry-land farming...If you could get corn, that was pretty good. Soon as the roasting ears got big enough to eat, why, that was really something...In those days a good rain was an emotional event."
Old sandstone structure near Grants, New Mexico
"...if you went anywhere, you prit near always carried a gun because venison was what you lived on, so far as meat was concerned."
"Once in a while,...off in the Malpais at night we'd see a light. 'Must be somebody out there hiding from the law,' Dad would say."
When we saw this old sandstone structure it made us wonder if it is one abandoned by those homesteaders. I for the life of me can not see how anyone could eke out a living on this land.
Mike & Joyce Hendrix
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