Koehler Mining Camp, Colfax County, New Mexico Genealogy
Location: 16 miles southwest of Raton in the Crow Creek Valley. The mine is located 22 miles southwest of Raton in Prairie Crow Canyon.
GPS: Latitude: 36.7409 N; Longitude: -104.6183 W.
Elevation: 6,460 feet (1,969 meters)
Photos: Mine employee homes, c.1915; Miners clubhouse, c.1915. Sherman, pp.129; Koehler Plant and Town, Power Plant and Washer in Distance; Swastika Fuel Company advertisement, p.155; Koehler mine, years after it closed;
Post Office: Established 1907, discontinued 1957.
Cemetery: "God's Acre". Mr. and Mrs. Heard and other African Americans were buried in the pasture east of the coke ovens for the years 1918-1922. Others were buried in Raton. Garcia, page 14.
Census Data: No enumeration on 1900 US Census.
The townsite of Koehler and the coal mines were on land which at one time belonged to Lucien Maxwell and the Maxwell Land Grant. The town was named after Harry Koehler, President of the American Brewing Company in St. Louis, Missouri, and also Chairman of the Maxwell Land Grant Company Board of Directors. The growth of the Santa Fe Railroad and its need for fuel, brought about Henry Koehler's interest in the Colfax County venture. Charles Springer was instrumental in selling him the idea.
Its days as a vital coal mining camp began in the Spring of 1906, with the opening of the first coal mine operated by the Swastika Fuel Company. The St. Louis, Rocky Mountain and Pacific Company, with its railroad and coal interests, owned the property.
It was a success from the start. By 1907 the Koehler camp claimed: 1,000 people, a post office, a company general store, and a two-story school. Koehler gradually expanded, embracing 210 beehive coking ovens, a coal washing plant, an electrical generating plant, 3 boarding houses, bath houses, school house, railroad station, company amusement hall/saloon, company meat market, 158 company homes, and 1,800 people.
It was a company town. The homes, looked alike and were rented from the company. Residents bought provisions from the company general store, always called the Blossberg Mercantile Company in the St. Louis Rocky Mountain owned camps. The company provided the electricity from the company power plant. The camp, like neighboring Van Houten, had every accomodation and comfort of similarly sized towns: good water, electric lights, cheap rents, and boarding houses for single men. All provisions and goods were purchased from the company. All drinks and cigars from the company saloon. Immigrants, once they learned English ventured out of the camp to Raton to buy their purchases. Extra deputies were on hand on pay day which was once a month, the pay offfice was loaded with sharp shooters.
The young miners organized a baseball team. They had a sports team that competed against ones in other mining camps. The arch rival for Koehler was Van Houten, they also played teams from Dawson, Raton, Brilliant, Trinidad, Springer, Maxwell, French and Starkville. Sewing circles, box suppers, shows, liberty bond drives were held to help the WWI war effort. Koehler raised more money for the war effort than any other city.
The coal seam was operated through three openings, dumping over the same tipple; thickness of the coal seam was from 4 to 11 feet. The length of No.1 mine main entry was 3,700 feet, with other entries being from 1,000 to 1,700 feet long. The main entry for No.2 mine was 3,100 feet, went through the hill into Ashenfelter Canyon. The first and second entries were each over 2,600 feet long. The main entry for the No.2 mine was 1,400 feet, its first and second entries were each over 2,100 feet. Five 15 ton motors , capacity of 3,000 tons daily, were used to haul coal from the partings to the tipple.The railroad spur was operated by the St. Louis, Rocky Mountain and Pacific Railroad. Koehler employed 275 miners, 80 company men and 6 boys underground; and, 33 men and 3 boys employed outside the mine. As soon as the electric power plant was built, it was destroyed by fire, transformer and building were totalled. Portable equipment was brought in, and the mine was closed for days instead of months. The coking plant had 219 beehive ovens and a coal washing plant.
Life at Koehler was much the same as it was in the other mining camps. Ministers from various denominations came out for services usually held in the school building. The amusement hall was the place for Wednesday night and Saturday afternoon movies and the Saturday night dances. Sunday was set aside for picnics and excursions to Yankee, ball games and other entertainment.
Although there were no major mine disasters at Koehler, when the union organized, the miners did not hesitate to join. They took the strikes seriously. During one strike, over 600 soldiers and militia were stationed at Koehler Junction to keep a watchful eye. If violence , the blood spilt would be at the Junction. Frequent strikes caused the miners and other disturbances to seek employment elsewhere. When near depression conditions caused the board of directors of the Rocky Mountain Company to close down a mine, the first one they picked was Koehler.
About 3 miles west of Koehler was Koehler Junction where the railroads crossed to enter Koehler. A tremendous packing plant was built there. The daily capacity was 50 cattle, 250 hogs, and 200 sheep. A large demand was met by the nearby camps of Dawson, Koehler and Van Houten and a large home demand was partially met by its products. A complete ice making and refrigerating plant placed the company on an independent basis. A poultry yard contained nearly 1,000 fowl. The closest competitor was located in Denver, Colorado. The Koehler Junction plant payed higher prices for stock due to the savings in freight. The curing at this plant was equal to any of the famous houses.
In 1923, the school house caught fire and was totally destroyed. Everyone managed to escape, there was no loss of life. The camp closed in 1924, and people scattered to other mining camps. Koehler had produced 31 million tons of coal. For the next 12 years, it was a ghost town. In 1936, the Koehler mines reopened. Demands for coal decreased due to conversion to other sources of energy. The town died.
The Brilliant mine was closed July 29, 1953; Van Houten closed February 2, 1954; even with a conservative reserve of 20 million tons of coal, Koehler also was closed. Eventually Kaiser Steel purchased the property in 1955. Most of Koehler is gone. The Kaiser Steel Corporation razed all of the buildings except a small office, a shop and a processing plant.
Family History Links:
1. Marcos Baca, family tree.
2. Ben Butler Baker, Annual Report - New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources, 1945. page 49. Google Books.
3. Louis H. Corazzi, Annual Report - New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources, 1945. page 49. Google Books.
4. Andrew Cunningham, New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources Report of the Inspector of the Mines 1945-1949, 1946 page 39. Google Books.
7.Dragicevic, pages 95 and 116 of New Mexico Genealogist, Volumes 41-42. Google Books.
10. Gatti family
11. Jose Bivian Gilbert, family
12. Andrew Gracie, New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources Report of the Inspector of the Mines 1945-1949, 1946 page 39. Google Books.
13. John I. Grbac, Annual Report - New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources, 1945. page 49. Google Books.
14. John Jellico, biography in "Treasures on New Mexico Trails: Discover New Deal Art." by Kathryn Flynn. page 233.
15. Kezele, pages 95 and 116 of New Mexico Genealogist, Volumes 41-42. Google Books.
16. Pete Leal, Annual Report - New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources, 1945. page 49. Google Books.
17. Walter Lovett, American Mining and Metallurgical Manual, page 282
18. Pavletic, pages 95 and 116 of New Mexico Genealogist, Volumes 41-42. Google Books.
19. David Stewart, Annual Report - New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources, 1945. page 49. Google Books.
20. Benjamin Enrique Tapia, family tree, page 242, El Cerrito: 8 generations in a Spanish Village by Richard Lee Nostrand. Google Books.
21. Alphabetic list of 122 persons mentioned in The Koehler Story, click here.
1. The Leading Facts of New Mexican History, by Emerson Twitchell. Volume 3. page 84. Google Books.
2. Ghost Towns and Mining Camps of New Mexico, by James E. and Barbara Sherman. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman. 1974. Google Books
3. Texas A&M University Digital Library, Raton-Brilliant-Koehler, folio 214, published 1922.
4. The Grant that Maxwell Bought, by F. Stanley, page 226. Google Books.
7. New Mexico, The Land of Opportunity: Official data on the Resources by New Mexico Board of Exposition Managers.Swastika Fuel Company by L.C. White, 1915, page 40-60. Google Books.
8. Annual Report of the Mine Inspector for the Territory of New Mexico, by the United States Mine Inspector of the United States to the Secretary of the Interior, Fiscal Year ending June 30, 1907. pages 5-23. Google Books.
9. The Railway Age Weekly, Volume 43, by the Wilson Company, January 4, 1907. page 677. Google Books.
10. Coal Age Weekly, Volume 10 No. 23, December 2, 1916, page 952. Google Books
11. The Koehler Coal MIne, New Mexico by F.A. Young. M & M, volume 28, page 520.
12. Report of the Secretary of the Interior for the fiscal year 1912, by US Dept. of the Interior. Volume 2 pages 751-752.
14. Railroad Gazette, July 6 1906. Volume 41, page 39. Google Books.
15. Brother Bill's Bait Bites Back and other tales from the Raton, by Ricardo L. Garcia, page 14. Google Books.
16. Coal Camp Days: a Boy's Remembrance by Ricardo L. Garcia, page vii, Google Books.
17. The Koehler, New Mexico Story by F. Stanley. August 1964. 20 pages. Worldcat.org