Hillsboro was founded in a creek-fed valley at the edge of Apache territory in the 1870s, by miners and the merchants supplying them. A mere 30 miles southwest of Truth or Consequences, the scenic drive to historic Hillsboro leads you along the Geronimo Trail, into the foothills of the Black Range mountains -- an awesome backdrop for this charming village of ranchers, writers, artists and other colorful characters.
Hillsboro’s walkable “downtown” invites visitors to soak up the adobe ambiance of the historic homes, churches and the Black Range Museum. Two popular cafes dish up flavorful home-cooked fare, while locals discuss the latest going’s on. You’ll find antiques, art, books, photographs and pottery produced locally, as well as New Mexico wines served at Vintage Wines, opening May, 2013.
On the south hill, the Hillsboro Community Center hosts concerts, dances, films and theatre, and the Library offers free wi-fi. Every Friday at 6pm, local musicians gather at the HCC for an acoustic “picking circle” where they take turns sharing songs and the fun of music making, and drop-ins are welcome.
Annual Hillsboro events include the Zia Velo bicycle race in March, and Christmas in the Foothills the first Saturday in December. Over the Labor Day weekend, August 31 & September 1, 2013, the Hillsboro Historical Society is producing a dramatization of a notorious murder trial held in Hillsboro in 1896.
In 1892 Hillsboro built a handsome brick courthouse as a symbol of civilization on the frontier. The courthouse was chosen for the politically-charged trial of rancher Oliver Lee and two cowhands for the murder of Judge Albert Jennings Fountain and his 8-year-old son Henry, who disappeared on a lonely stretch of desert between Lincoln and Mesilla in 1894.
The trial reads like a who’s who of 1890’s New Mexico territory: Sherriff Pat Garrett, arresting officer, Albert Bacon Fall, defense attorney, with Thomas Catron prosecuting. Telegraph lines were strung 20 miles from Lake Valley to Hillsboro for the occasion, and reporters transmitted the trial proceedings to the Wall Street Journal in New York City.
In the absence of bodies, the case against Oliver Lee and his men couldn’t be proved, and the jury’s verdict was “Not guilty.” This notorious trial put Hillsboro on the map, but the alleged crime was so distasteful it was said to have delayed statehood for New Mexico for over a decade.
Hillsboro served as the Sierra County seat of government from these territory days, until 1936. The celebrated courthouse was sold in 1939, and partially dismantled, but Hillsboro survived, buoyed by gold mines in the area, and surrounded by cattle ranches. The remains of Hillsboro’s majestic courthouse and jail still stand against the backdrop of the majestic Black Range Mountains.
Overnight choices in Hillsboro include the Enchanted Villa Bed & Breakfast, the Barbershop plaza motel, and several vacation rentals in historic homes.