The village of Santa Clara was founded in the early 1860’s. Gold was discovered just outside the Fort Bayard garrison gate about this same time miners descended upon the area in hopes of finding riches. The troops stationed in Fort Bayard had to extend themselves to protect the increasing number of miners as well as travelers from the marauding Apaches who also claimed the area.
In February, 1868, the New Mexico Legislature created the County of Grant from a portion of the existing county of Dona Ana. By this time, Santa Clara had been renamed Central City and was designated the county seat. This early distinction was probably earned because of it’s proximity to the fort. A courthouse and jail were promptly constructed, followed closely by the establishment of businesses and pleasure houses to accommodate the miners and soldiers who came into town seeking relaxation. Central City was the place where soldiers spent their money and free time.
Central City’s boom, like many other mining town’s, turned out to be short lived. By May, 1869 there was a probate judge’s motion to receive bids for the sale of the Central City Courthouse in the minutes of the official court records. The county seat had been moved to Pinos Altos. For short amount of time , though, Central City was the hub of Grant County.
In the early 1900’s Central City experienced another period of growth due to the rediscovery of the old claims. This time, though, it was a slower and more constant growth.
There is no record of when the “ City” was dropped, but at a special meeting of the Board of County Commisson of Grant County held on May 12, 1947, the commissioners passed a resolution incorporating the community of Central into a village.
One hundred fifty-four resident owners of real estate within the proposed area to be incorporated had filed a petition on May 5, 1947 asking that community of Central be incorporated. The census report filed shows that there were 1609 persons residing within the area to be incorporated. W. H. Emerick served as chairman of the board, Thomas McCauley, member , Thomas Eby, member, and J. A. Dye, clerk.
It was further resolved that Jesus Parra, Emma Wiley and Floyd Todd to be appointed election judges. Lilly May Dorsey, Mary Hall and Eddie Duran were appointed county judges and clerk. Tuesday, June 3, was set as election day to choose Central’s first mayor and four trustees . Henry B. Hall became Central’s first mayor by defeating his only opponent by a vote of 154 to 52. Results of the election for councilmen were: Joe Horcasitas,173; Jesus Parra, 135; Floyd Todd, 117; Charley Martin, 114; Herb Barnett, 111; and George Eaton, 104. Eddie Duran, the only candidate for clerk, received 170 votes. Central’s newly incorporated municipality was set up.
Central began a third period of growth around 1965. Residents from near-by Santa Rita found it necessary to remove their homes from the path of the expanding open pit mining operation of the Kennecott Copper Corp. Many of them found Central the most logical and convenient place to resettle.
Santa Clara Church
The Santa Clara Church appears to have been restored or has been well taken care of by the community. With a construction date of 1884 and the very important role the church has played in the history of Santa Clara, it appears a likely candidate for both state and national registers. A building survey was completed in 1996 that lists minor repairs that should be made to the building.
This two story adobe was built circa 1890 as a brothel that serviced Fort Bayard, The former hotel has seen uses as a convenience store and liquor store. It is currently used a wood and furniture-making shop, and is slated for restoration utilizing small diameter wood in the the reconstruction of the front facade. Future plans include developing a Mercardo on the adjacent properties.
Publication of the Village of Santa Clara, NM Committee on History, Culture and Tourism
Historic Mining District
Santa Clara / Central