There’s something about cemeteries that always tell a story of their own. You can read the headstones and learn about the generations before you. You can learn about the kind of lives they lived, and what brought them to their final resting place. Occasionally, you may see headstones with the very same date at the bottom. Dozens. Hundreds. When you step into the cemetery of this coal mining ghost town in New Mexico, you will learn the history and fates of hundreds of coal miners who met their fate too early. All you need to do is observe how many white iron crosses litter the land. Today, we explore the tragic and short history of Dawson, NM, the cemetery that still stands, and the ghostly echoes of those who once lived there. 

Like many towns nearby natural resources, Dawson was plotted and built by the Phelps Dodge Corporation to provide housing and comfort for the employees at the local coal mines in 1906. An oasis boomtown in the desert, Dawson featured swimming pools, a hospital, golf course, and movie theater. The town thrived, growing to a population of over 6,000 in 1913. That same year, however, tragedy would strike the growing town. 

On October 22, 1913, a town two miles away was rocked with aftershocks from a massive explosion from one of the mines in the vicinity of Dawson. Hundreds of rescue workers flocked to the mine to try to save the miners, but in the end only 23 people would survive. The blast took the lives of 263 men, including two members of the rescue teams fighting to save who they could. An investigation found that the blast was caused by a charge of dynamite being discharged while the mine was operating, thus igniting the coal dust in the air and causing the devastating explosion. Many of the casualties were buried in Dawson Cemetery on the outskirts of town. 

Disaster was not finished with Dawson, however, and in 1923, another tragedy struck the mines and took lives of the men who worked there. This time, a train carrying coal out of the mine derailed and knocked down electric trolly cables. These sparks ignited the coal dust in the air, again causing an explosion. Many of the men lost in the disaster were descendants of those who were lost in the 1913 explosion. When the smoke cleared, 123 men were declared dead. Again, several of the fallen coal miners were laid to rest in the town cemetery. 

The town of Dawson would heal from these events, the coal mines continuing operations until slowly closing the ten mines in the 1950. Residents slowly started trickling out, some taking their homes with them as they moved. When the final mine closed, the company had the entire town demolished, with very few buildings remaining. Today, the once-bustling town of Dawson is a ghost town and is barely recognizable as a town at all. 

Dawson Cemetery is the only remaining landmark, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Walking into the cemetery will immediately remind you of the two disasters the town suffered, as white iron crosses mark the location of the final resting places of coal miners taken too soon. You’ll also find graves of individuals who were killed during WWII and sent home to be buried by their families. Other headstones will tell you the stories of the immigrants of a varied number of nationalities who came to Dawson for prosperity. Some of those immigrants were also taken with the mining disasters of 1913 and 1923. 

It’s no wonder with a tragic past like Dawson’s that the cemetery would gain an infamous reputation of being haunted. Many say the miners buried there are still in a state of unrest. Over 600 graves are neatly organized in the cemetery, and visitors have reported seeing misty shadows emerging from the nearby hills and descending to wander the rows of graves. Others say that bobbing lights are common when visiting the cemetery at nighttime, describing them as looking like mining helmets with headlamps affixed to the top. Low voices are said to be carried by the wind, and paranormal investigators have reported capturing those voices as EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomenons.) 

Even if the ghost town of Dawson is barely there after all these years, the history of the town is still carried by the inscriptions on headstones in the local cemetery. It is kept maintained by those visiting Dawson for a reunion that occurs every 2 years. Great efforts have been made to keep this piece of local history alive, so it will still be there for generations to come and the legacy of the mining town and those who lost their lives there will continue on into the future. 

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