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Tiffany Cerillos Mine


Tiffany Cerrillos Mine

This is some historical information on the Tiffany Cerrillos mine owned by Doug. This is an exert from “SMA High Desert News”, by Mr. Bill Baxter.

Prior to about 1890, for people of European descent, turquoise was generally regarded as next to worthless. It was left to the Indians, who were apparently crazy for it. Those same Europeans weren’t any less crazy when it came to the soft yellow pebble they called gold, but that’s another story. The world of turquoise began to change in the late 1880s when a handful of wealthy easterners saw the possibility of making lots of money by promoting that stone. This small group, practically singlehandedly, created the turquoise fashion frenzy of the 1890s. Among the first wave of eastern turquoise promoters in northern New Mexico were James H. Allen of Chicago, and his brother-in-law Chauncey G. Storey of New York City. In the spring of 1891 Allen and Storey acquired the Muñiz claims, at Turquoise Hill, on the north side of the Cerrillos Hills. They hired John R. Maddux of nearby Carbonateville, to superintend the workforce.



Immediately John Maddux went to work to expand the 75-foot deep shaft on the Muñiz mine. His men hand-drilled holes into the rock, filled those holes with black powder, and set fuses. It was about 6 o’clock on August 24, 1891, a Monday evening, that everything was ready. All the workmen had been cleared from the mine. Superintendent Maddux stood inside the ore bucket at the bottom of the Muñiz shaft, and called out to start hoisting. The men raised the ore bucket and Maddux lit the fuses one by one. As the bucket approached the top of the shaft he lit the last fuse, and that was when the rope broke. Maddux and the ore bucket plummeted down the shaft, bouncing off the sides, landing 60 feet below. He was badly hurt from the fall, but those injuries paled compared to those that came next. Up above him, in the shaft, the powder charges began to detonate. When the rescue crew reached him Maddux was barely conscious, and was able to whisper to them “This is the end of me.” He was brought to the surface where he survived long enough for many relatives and other nearby residents to reach the scene. He expired shortly before midnight. Among his last words were that no one should be blamed for what had happened to him.





The next day the towns of Carbonateville and Cerrillos shut down for the funeral of John R. Maddux.
Four months after Maddux’ death, Allen and Storey’s Turquoise Hill mines, still without a superintendent, became the prize assets of the brand new, well-funded American Turquoise Company (ATC). Among the ATC’s stockholders was the New York jeweler to whom Allen and Storey, over the previous seven months, had been selling most of their product; Charles Lewis Tiffany. Mr. Tiffany apparently liked what he saw because the old Muñiz mine was at this time rechristened the Tiffany Mine. The plan was for the ATC to acquire all the quality turquoise mines in North America, and by controlling the supply of the stone during a time of rising demand, drive up the price. That plan worked to perfection.

Meanwhile, back at the mines, by law you had to work your claim each year to hold it, a minimum of ten feet of tunnel or shaft each year. It happened that at the end of 1891 James P. McNulty was in Cerrillos from Utah, for the annual assessment work on the Benton gold mine in the Ortiz Mountains. McNulty, 45 at the time, was a well-known and experienced miner. The American Turquoise Company made McNulty an offer he couldn’t ignore. The new and well-backed company with the seemingly bright future promised to pay him $300 per month (maybe $30,000 in today’s money) to be superintendent of the Tiffany Mine. Not surprisingly McNulty took the job, and he ran that mine for the ATC for the next 24 years.
If you want to know more about the ATC and J.P. McNulty, read TIFFANY BLUE, by Patricia McCraw.


Land around the mine

wagon 2

Wagon Two