What Happened to Dawson?

This article was written by Vern Luse

This article was published in 1974 Baseball Research Journal

In past years the Journal has carried articles about locating old-time ball players who have vanished from the scene.  This is not about a player, but a minor league city, Dawson, New Mexico, which is no longer in existence.

Back in 1912, the Rocky Mountain League began the season with teams in Canon City, Colorado Springs, La Junta, and Pueblo, Colorado.  A few weeks after the 1912 season started, problems developed with some of these franchises and some changes were necessitated.   The Canon City club shifted to Raton, New Mexico;   Pueblo shifted to Trinidad, Colorado;  and Colorado Springs was succeeded by Dawson, New Mexico.   But, where is Dawson?  or where was Dawson?   No road map or atlas of the last 20 years has anything about Dawson.

Based on the theory that most of the old towns were located on railroads, fellow SABR member Robert Hoie of San Marino, California, located an old railroad map which placed Dawson in Colfax County, bordering Colorado  in NE New Mexico.   He also came up with part of the story about Dawson.   The city location was originally a ranch on the Varmejo Creek owned by J.R. and I.S. Dawson.  After coal was discovered in 1895, it became a Phelps-Dodge owned coal mining town.   It had a peak population of nearly 3,000 and became one of the first O.B. entries in New Mexico when that territory became the 47th State in 1912.   Dawson only operated part of that 1912 season; there was no Rocky Mountain League the next year.

But this still doesn’t indicate what happened to the city of Dawson, which was located about 25 miles SW of Raton.  Jack Bell, an engineer from Seattle, clarifies the story;  Mining continued at Dawson into the 1940’s.  Shortly after World War II, the coal miners formed a union, struck, and were successful in gaining increased pay.  It worked so well, in fact, that they decided to strike again.  They did this in spite of the strong assertion by the coal company that the coal would no longer be economical enough for the uses for which it was being mined.  The miners struck and the company closed down the mine.  Coal was the only business of Dawson and that was now ended.   All the people moved away.  The hospital, school, stores, churches, and homes were soon bulldozed into the mined-out area and the whole thing covered with dirt.  Today there is absolutely no indication that a city, or mine, ever existed there.   Even the Southern Pacific Railroad track was picked up, according to Jack Bell’s brother-in-law, who was an engineer and train-master on that line.

There are a number of minor league “ghost towns” around the country, but absolutely nothing remains of Dawson, New Mexico.