The year 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of New Mexico statehood, and Kingston, N.M., “the gem of the Black Range,” is planning a centennial celebration the weekend of April 28-29. The goal is to have fun recalling the lively history of this mountain community on the eastern edge of the majestic Gila National Forest. Proceeds from the event will help renovate the old Kingston schoolhouse, currently the meeting place of the Spit & Whittle Club.
The Sixth Annual Heritage Music Festival will be held in conjunction with the Kingston Centennial Celebration. Festivities will include two afternoons of music in the backyard of the Black Range Lodge in Kingston and an evening performance at the Community Center in nearby Hillsboro by Jeff Scroggins and Fresh Horses, a high-velocity bluegrass band.
The Kingston Spit & Whittle Club is one of the oldest continually active social clubs in the western United States. The club’s inception dates back to the heyday of the silver mining boom in Kingston, during the 1880s, when it was reputedly the largest town in New Mexico Territory.
The Spit & Whittle Club and local residents plan both fun and educational events during the weekend, including a treasure hunt, gold panning, a historic building tour, mine and cemetery tours, a history fair at the old Kingston schoolhouse, and a silent auction of art, crafts, curios and collectibles on Saturday. Vendors along “Centennial Avenue” will offer regional art and crafts, plants, jewelry, geodes and crystals, and tasty food. Picnickers are also welcome.
On Sunday, visitors may ride through town in a horse-drawn stagecoach, just like in days gone by. The Spit & Whittle Club encourages visitors to have fun dressing in period costume, and having their photographs taken during this highly anticipated weekend.
Among the attractions on the historic building tour is the handsome stone Percha Bank Museum, which displays an impressive collection of Kingston photographs and memorabilia. The Black Range Lodge will host book signings by New Mexico authors, demonstrations of primitive pottery making, and the Heritage Music Festival both afternoons, 12-5 p.m. Vintage Wines will have a wine tent at the Lodge, offering exclusively New Mexico wines.
Regional authors on hand to sign their books include Max Evans and Jan Haley, “Hi Low Country” (and others), Patsy King, “Sadie Orchard, the Time of Her Life,” Bill Racocy, “Kingston and Hillsboro,” Harley Shaw, “Soul Among Lions,” and the Hillsboro Historical Society, Around Hillsboro, about the history of Hillsboro, Kingston and Lake Valley. Award-winning authors Doug Fine, Farewell My Subaru, Marsha Scarbrough, Medicine Dance, and Catherine Wanek, “The Hybrid House,” will also be on hand to sign and talk about their books.
Nearby Hillsboro will also be celebrating with an art show at the Percha Creek Traders, local cafés offering their good home-cooking, and a virtuoso bluegrass benefit concert Saturday at 7 p.m. Jeff Scroggins and Fresh Horses will entertain at the Hillsboro Community Center with an award-winning roster of musicians, including Jeff on banjo and his son, Tristin on mandolin. They will be joined by Gretchen van Houton on fiddle, Mark and Ruth Bennett, guitar and vocals, and K.C. Groves on bass. The name, “Fresh Horses” represents the power and freedom of the band’s music.
At its height, Kingston boasted of 22 saloons, three newspapers, an opera house, and thousands of residents. It was a lively and hard-working mining town, established in the domain of Apache leaders Victorio and Geronimo. During the 1880s and 1890s, Kingston yielded a large production of silver. By 1904, $6.25 million worth of silver had been extracted from the district. But in 1893, with the adoption of the gold standard, the price of silver declined, and Kingston became a “living ghost town.”
The ravages of time have greatly reduced Kingston’s buildings, but its quiet serenity now serves as a retreat for artists and writers. Thirty miles west of Interstate 25, on State Highway 152, one bears right onto Kingston Main Street. The first stone building to be seen on the south side of the road is the old Victorio Hotel, originally three stories high. Further down is the historic Percha Bank, now a museum, and the historic Black Range Lodge, now a bed and breakfast. Across Main Street, at the volunteer fire station, is a historic bell, which was used to announce the arrival of mail, as well as Apache raids. Further west is a double-roofed brick building, which was originally an assay office.
The rich silver mines are relics of the past, and today Kingston has things money can’t buy – clean air, a relaxed pace of life, and good neighbors. They invite you to visit their community and celebrate their heritage.
Visit www.kingstonNM.com for more information.