Pat Garret Really Should Have Stayed the Night
Organ, New Mexico isn’t really a ghost town these days, but I’m gonna make it look like one. Sorry, good people of Organ. I’ll explain in a minute.
Organ is named for the razor-spired Organ Mountains visible to the south, which were themselves named because they look like the pipes of…an organ. After being a mining encampment from the 1840’s, the town was officially founded in 1883 as lead, copper, fluorite, zinc, gold, and silver mines were punched into the hill slopes to the northeast with ever-increasing frequency. By the turn of the century, Organ was peaking at about 1,800 residents, seven saloons, two smelters, two general stores, a two-teacher school, a Catholic church, a post office, a hotel, and a jail in a tunnel that had once been a powder magazine.
It seems strange that Organ was not called San Augustin, in honor of the San Augustin Mountains immediately to the northeast, or 7,030-foot San Augustin Peak, which literally towers over the town to the east, or even San Augustin Pass, now part of US Highway 70/82, which, if traveled eastward, will take you down onto a vast plain and the southern extent of the White Sands Missile Range. But, in 1908, long before US 70/82 was named, it was on this same stretch of road, traveling southwestward toward Las Cruces, that Pat Garrett was shot and killed some 28 years after he’d shot Billy the Kid in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. This bit of Organ’s history has remained long after its mines, which filled with water in the 1930’s, have mostly faded from memory.
Because Organ is the closest inhabited place to White Sands Missile Range, it was revived somewhat in the mid-1940’s when work began on the atomic bomb and missile range employees moved-in. Thus, while the population is still only just over 300, there are many well-kept homes and what looks like it would be a very quaint and tasty Thai restaurant. Too bad it was closed during our visit. Philip Varney mentions Bentley’s Store and Assay Office in New Mexico’s Best Ghost Towns and notes that it had become a private residence. This is still true and, in fact, the old building looks to be very well-maintained with lots of tended greenery out front. Varney also mentions the Organ School, notable for its corner bell tower, but I couldn’t find it. I think the tower has been removed and the school probably now just blends in with its older neighbors.
So, you may ask, if there are a few hundred people living in Organ, renovating their historic homes and eating Thai food, why all these photos of derelict buildings? Well, these pictures were taken on the south side of the highway. Those are the Organ Mountains in the background of a couple. As to WHY virtually every commercial enterprise on that side of the road has been abandoned—and apparently long-abandoned—I can’t say. Perhaps people prefer to eat and shop in Las Cruces, 15 miles away. That’s really the only other city in the area, but as New Mexico’s second-largest it would offer some retail competition. Whatever the case, I find it surprising that the spectacular views of the Organ Mountains to the south, San Augustin Peak to the east and Las Cruces to the southwest haven’t had more people stopping for sandwitches. I know I’d stop for a bite.
Next time we’ll go deep into the Organ Mountains themselves and visit Dripping Springs. But first I need to figure out how to make my crummy photos more presentable. Oh, and the photo above is the only shot from the north side of the highway. In the distance are the Doña Ana Mountains and the northern edge of Las Cruces, beyond which lies the Jornada del Muerto (“Journey of Death”), a waterless, 90-mile stretch of El Camino Real. Sounds like fun, huh?
For more information on Organ, consult ghostowns.com, Wikipedia and, of course, New Mexico’s Best Ghost Towns.
The Thai restaurant closed and moved to Las Cruces around 2012/13 if I remember correctly
You are correct! They moved to Las Cruces
The Thai restaurant is open actually. I’m new here so they may be new owners, no idea.
That’s my Grandparents graves in that final picture. Traditionally we dig the graves by hand in the old Organ cemetery (I’ve helped dig a few), but a movie was being filmed in the cemetery when grandpa died and they had a back hoe rented to dig a fake grave and we’re kind enough to dig grandpa’s for us. Organ is a nice little town once you leave the highway, but the highway makes it look dumpy. Most of us wish those buildings would be torn down. One is in eternal probate, likely the owner had no will. Another was donated to a church when the owner passed and the church thinks it’s worth 250k just because it’s by the highway. I don’t know what the story is behind the old Chevron station and the building next door that was once the Sawahoo Trading Post, those have been boarded up for 20 years now. The building at the top of the hill that was once a gas station and restaurant belongs to a guy who just doesn’t care how ugly it is because he lives in a McMansion down in the valley. When I was a kid growing up in Organ in the 80’s there were 2 gas stations, 2 restaurants, 2 stores, 2 bars, and the trading post. Now all there is is a post office.
Made me a lil home sick. Growing up in Organ is now just a shock to anyone who I tell, or better yet show. We had fun, run the roads and owned the sand the ran down the mountain after a summer rain.
I C I would love to rebuild it I love old towns my little town did the same thing Taylor Taylor TX I was born in Austin but it got to big a have walked all these mountains and alot of biblical history in and around Las cruises NM I know because we are related and yes its who you think its biblical when you can prove your the monarch of the us but currupt government doesn’t want to let go of power
So Did I.
Spent all of my High School days there. 9th thru Senior year ( 1962-1966) before spending the next 24+~ years in the US NAVY.
Knew just about everyone in town from GEORGE CHANDLER,Lenny Fisher, Uncle Bert, J.R. And Betty Stanley, Ace Adams, Rojo Pobar ,
And now just my Brother L. Grant Rogers who runs the ORGAN GROCERY STORE.
Is Grant still around these days? I ask because my stepfather at the time used to hang at the store all the time 25+ years ago and I was also close behind. Long ago memories, very cool now that I’m an adult I am interested in looking more into all the history also.
Yes..his store has been closed due to his health. He has mobility issues. He wants me to come help him clean it up ans move stuff around so he can open back up but my vehicle just wont make it up and down that hill, it would be a great if I was able to go help and I definately would, if I could. Grants a great guy, full of stories. He has no one he trusts to come help. Yoi can go speak with him every Sunday morning bright and early at Big Daddys Flea. He goes and sits at his space, Shed 3, in his small Silver transport van. He has no one to help him load and unload his van, so he just sits and talks to whomever drops by.
Actually in the 60’s and 70’s there were 3 gas stations . The STANDARD STATION ( POBARS) Fina Station ( Lenny Fishers) and the SHELL STATION. Restiarnts were Organ Mountain Lodge/ Restuarent behind Fishers gas Station. 2 churches 1st Baptist Church and CHURCH OF Christ.
Grocery stores ? Well my Brothers ( Grant Rogers and Bentleys ( long been Closed.
Beer joints ?
Organ mountain Lodge
Charley’s then it became ACES PLACE.
The Hitchen Post down towards LC with (go go girls) ( Sometime topless/ Sometimes Not) .
How do I know all this stuff ?
I grew up there from 1963 till 1966 and off and on after that until Zi settled down I. TEXAS !
What year’s did you live there. I was there from 80-84 when I was 11-15. There were about 7 or 8 of us teenagers in that town and we explored all over that town. I’ve found most of my friends that I grew up with and still keep in touch with Grant at the General Store.
Jeanette Phillips Booker
1980 to 1990. I graduated MHS 1990.
There is 1 going concern business in ORGAN. MY BROTHER ( Mr. L. Grant Rogers) owns and operates the ORGAN General store.
I too grew up in ORGAN IN THE 60S AND 70S. IT is a crying shame what has happened to THE ORGAN MOUNTAIN LODGE/ACES PLACE/SOWAHU TRADING POST/FISHERS GARAGE/ETC.
I didn’t know Grant had a brother! Nice to meet you! I used to buy bubble gum from him when I was a little kid in the late 70’s. Good man. He isn’t getting around so well lately, but he is still at the flea market most weekends. I’ve always said if I won the lottery I would buy up all the old buildings and give them away to someone who would do something with them. I would buy the school house and fix it myself, but the old guy that owns it wants all the gold in fort Knox for it. He is to old to fix it up, and by the time he kicks the bucket I will be too!
That old guy wouldn’t be Pete Burak Sr. (Ret US ARMY) would it ?
You grew up with my parents (Weisner’s and St. John’s). I stopped to see Grant the last time we were visiting NM (about six years ago). Please tell him “Hello!” for me. My grandparents, too, would be terribly saddened by what Organ has become. I adored my years there, and have found memories of Lenny, Bum, and many others.
I was stationed at wsmr in 83. Iced across the street from Bart. I left in 84 . I remember Grant, on occasion we would sit out back of his store and feed his gophers beetles and bugs. I really loved that place, people!!! BART and the gang have me my ETS party at the Organ Mountain Lodge!!
Grant use to have turtles too!! I remember partying at Bart’s
That old guy wouldn’t be Pete Burak Sr. (Ret US ARMY) would it ?
No sir. Old Italian fellow named Lucian something or other. Grant knows him.
It was a great time [60’s/70s 80″S .
I’m thought i commented on this site before but maybe it was another. I met there Bruce as well. I lived in Organ in the early 70’s when a two week vacation became a four year adventure. It’s hard to look at the photo of the Organ Mountain Lodge now as I bartended there and remember the rich cross section of personalities and professions all drinking together. The patio with it’s Chinaberry trees providing shade for the bands and events we held there. The staff and family members lived in the old motel units. John and Justine Gilkey ran it after taking ownership from George Chandler. The old gas station was Lenny Fisher’s, a friendly guy who loved to share his opinion. The little flat topped house was Tidwell’s. An old welder who lived by himself, loved his brew and was an honor to call friend. The Chevron station and trading post were owned by the Pobars who would call the police about the noise from the Lodge a half hour before the music even began. I have communicated with Grant on and off over the years. He has helped more folks down on their luck than is hard to imagine. I helped him do his trash collections for the aluminum cans for a spell and worked his flea market table a few times. Grant is probably the town historian at this point. Mike
Merrick is another old timer who helped a lot of folks, including me, when times were tough. I hold both these guys in high esteem. Organ was like an outpost where you could feel insulated from the rest of the world for awhile before they butchered the desert and the world got even smaller with the computer age. Amen…
I was sent to work at the radar station installing a fire sprinkler system in 1969 we stayed in the vacant motel half a block from the pool hall/ grocery across from the post office. We used to buy fresh milk from Perry at the gas station what a different time the owner of the bar wouldn’t sell me a beer said the state patrol stopped in occasionally and couldn’t take a chance lol. Use to hear the Mexicans running behind the motel at night to elude the Border Patrol I’m sure it’s changed. Memories aren’t they great.
Huh? Ya sure ’bout that?
I know Grant and Mike.
Both great guys and helps me out many times when I was living in Organ.
I was stationed at WSMR and Mike rented me a trailer. Grant operated a store and sold the best dang cheeseburgers! He also married me over my harley inside his store. I miss those times of riding up and down 70/82 with teh fellas from the Army base and stopping at Aces for 25 cent beers and freee chips and salsa. Then the Lodge, what can you say. It’s all history now. I lived in the old school house for a while, was buying it from Pete and then found out it was haunted. Strange events led us to leave, the baby kept getting pinched at night and weird events with nise, picture off the walls and no lights working.
Even has solar water heat and a sauna in that place.
Smitty, Fat pat, preacher, rat pat, rudy to name a few.
What ever happened to thumper at teh lodge?
What a great place to be alive in the 80’s, wish I could buy the old chevron and fix it up and operate it. Sorry to hear Grants not getting along well, Jan, his old GF is blind in one eye and can’t see much out of the other, shes barely able to move around either and mean as a bob cat!
Jan Discala died in 2022. She lived with Gran for years, ran the Mutt Hut dog grooming shop in the rail road card next door to the store. Jackie, Jan’s daughter, my ex-wife stroked out 2 years ago and barely gets along these days. Me? I’m still on a Harley and loving life.
This is really interesting. I know some of these people. I was postmaster in Organ back in the day.
Anybody remember the small grocery store that was ran up there in 1999?
Mabey the ORGAN GENERAL STORE run by my Brother Grant Rogers ? He idd as my brother
I moved up to o r g a n in the 70s I left for many years and I am now back living there again. I don’t remember a lot of you people. Do any of you remember Jack schubbe he lived here for over 40 years. And the General Store used to be run by Jerry powers who has a son named Wayne powers we used to hang out when I was here the Lambs were here mutt Hutt Barbara the Abernathy’s who are still here bud had passed away but Nancy is still here. Linda coffee Robert and Edgar Allan Poe old man Fisher bill l e e for now his son Weston Lee has his property Sally and Curtis b e a n The Jeffersons , Mike Merritt who is still here still has property here p e c k s use to live here and many more but I can’t think of offhand right now oh and p u l b a r not sure the spelling of that name had the jewelry store Joni Tyler Jim Tyler both have passed away the Cody’s the Helms does anybody remember any of these people?
Jack schubbe ? I have a classmate who is related to him . Her name is Hazel Weinrich. We graduated in 1966 ( along with +800 others from LCHS ! Go Bulldogs ( not DAWGS)
Denise, I remember all those people. Mr Jefferson was my grandfather. My Mom and Sister and Myself lived in the first trailer in grandads Park across the field from your house. Jack senior used to give me a dollar on my birthday which I’m sure I spent at Grant’s store. Jack junior made us crazy playing the Eagles on repeat. We used to build forts in the cinder block pile until a mouse ran up his pants leg. I helped bury Dewain Helms when he was killed in a car crash, along with Jeff Tyler and Travis Helms. Travis, last I knew, is working for the railroad and his mom is living in Tularosa. Still see Jeff now and then here in Cruces.
Ok Denise my HS friend thinks she knows you . Your full name please ( I’ll relay it to her ) ok ?
Jerry Powers never ran the General Store, Grant did.
Hey, everyone. I grew up in Alamogordo, and when I would visit Las Cruces, on the way back home, there was a flat-roofed house that had chain link fence all around the leading edge of the roof, and inside the fence, was a basketball hoop and backboard and a jungle gym. I would always tell my dad we should stop and make friends and he would always reply with a smart-assed remark of why we shouldn’t. What ended up happening with that place? I had to drive through the area for some work in Deming and noticed it wasn’t there anymore.
I worked at the NASA site when the big antennas were first built back in the late 70’s. Remember stopping at a place with a sign saying Only Second Class Saloon near Organ. Does anyone know where it is or was? Inside there were pool tables and, I think it was there, a big chair made of horns and hide with a sign which said $5 ticket for a raffle in the year 2000.
Does anyone remember the go go dancers at the HITCHEN POST down from ORGAN ?
The Hitchin’ Post was owned by George Chandler who used to own the lodge. I worked for George around the bar and doing whatever project he had going. I also tended at the Lodge and cleaned up Ace’s bar for Phil Burlinton on Sundays. Names that pop up – Lenny Fisher, Joe (worked for Lenny, saw action WWII, Jim Lambe, Stanley, Bob Vohn (pawn shop owner), Ed Slosar aka “Snoopy”, Mickey Hurly, Donny Joe, Joe and Ureta Lewis, John Coffee, Mr. and Mrs. Weisner, Ken and Karen Weisner, Jim Daley (tended at the lodge), Ulana, John and Justine Gilkey (owned the Lodge), Mr. Pobar, Old Rex (who read the water meters), Tidwell, Grant of course, Mike Merrick (made him my guru), Dale Hopkins, Bum Walters, JJ and stepson Kurt, Crazy Richard, Cody, Mickie (who lived across from the post office, was blind and had monkeys. She was a good friend of Jerry Powers who owned Grants store first). I ended up moving out to Soledad Canyon with my wife Nina (also worked the Lodge). I want my ashes spread up there with my dogs. Best place i ever lived.
Tom “Tk” Kennedy
Don’t you mean Crazy Larry, the one who walked around with a concrete guitar?
My parents rented The Colonel’s house from 1971-73. We had a PO Box at the Post Office, but our “address” was 3rd house down from the pass on the south side of 70. There were 4 houses there at the time – Cooper’s, Ingraham’s (the house with the basketball court), The Colonel’s, and the A-frame whose owners were never there. The best turn-off was the one west of The Rock Shop. The ruts in the turn-off by Cooper’s cracked our station wagon’s axle.
Dad worked at WSMR. On our move there the U-haul broke down on the east side because of the steep incline. It was late at night. Dad walked to Pobar’s gas station, which was closed. Then he walked to their house. They were total strangers to us. Mrs. Pobar sent cookies with Rojo in his big truck. The year I got to dress up and go to Pobar’s Christmas party was amazing with all the sparkling lights, decorations, and people laughing.
The Stammer girls were our babysitters, even when we moved into town. Susie took me to her high school for an Easter egg hunt. Barbie drove a yellow pickup truck. My little brother and I called it Yellow Banana and made up a song about it. Patsy got or shared Yellow Banana when she could drive.
I loved going up on Ingraham’s patio on their roof. I loved walking as close to the edge as I could, which scared the crap out of everyone, especially Dorothy. Greg taught me how to shoot basketballs. I was 4 so he would hold me up over his head to throw the ball. Greg was always great with my brother and me. Being the only 3 kids on the south side of the highway was fun for me. We ran up and down the arroyo, would climb through the barbed wire to try to pet the cows, and had picnics.
The people I knew have left Organ, one way or another. It was a wonderful time and place to be a little kid because of those people.
My Granny, Mother, Brother and I were all heading to CA when our car broke down in Organ, A nice family stopped and helped us, put us up for the night and helped us find a place to live. We moved into one of the moble homes in the trailer court behind the gas station that Lenny Fisher owned from 1978-1984. I was 11 when we moved there. I met Tabby and Debbie, and later Irene and Nancy and Eda and my dear deceased friends Melissa and Michael that lived further up the mountian. There was Dan Coday and Sean his side kick and his older brother Troy. The older group was Wayne, Jace, Michelle, Lisa, and I’m sure I’m missing some.
Pobar’s and the jewelry store, the Lodge, Ace’s, Grant’s Store were all open at the time. I use to go and Sweep and mop the floors and dust at Grants in exchange for Batteries for my walkman, A Dr. Pepper and a bag of peanuts.
I remember exploring the caves behind the trailer and walking up and down the arora. Climbing up to the water tower and sometimes walking to the higher rock hill. Once we even walked to Little Grove, there was a hot springs nearby too.
I swear everyone smoked weed and partied up there!!! It was one of the best times of my life.
My Mom worked at the Lodge for a little while as well as Ace’s, then worked at the Chili plant for a while.
Since leaving in 84 I have reconnected with several old friends, Tabby, Dan, Sean, Eda and I’ve always stated in contact with Grant. In fact I’m leaving tomorrow for NM to go see him and the old town and see the sunset from up there one last time.