Melinda Bonewell owns the Mine Shaft Tavern, in Madrid. Photograph by Andrew Kornylak.
MELINDA BONEWELL TRADED SEATTLE’S RAIN FOR the sunny skies of New Mexico 18 years ago when she moved to the former mining town of Madrid, south of Santa Fe. Many of its coal-mining buildings still stand, and the town attracts artists and shop owners. She and her partner own the Mine Shaft Tavern. Bonewell dubs herself the unofficial town historian, collecting various items and stories for the Mine Shaft’s (currently closed) museum.
When we first moved here, there was no internet, no trash pickup service. We were some of the youngest people here. Once we got internet and people realized they could live anywhere, a lot of people moved here with kids.
The town’s heyday was in the twenties and thirties. We might have had up to 2,000 people—mostly coal-mining families.
When Pearl Harbor happened, it all stopped abruptly. A lot of the miners went off to war. After the war, the demand for coal dropped off. It became a ghost town almost overnight.
From roughly the 1950s to the 1970s, there were only about 12 people living here. In the 1970s, they tried to sell the town of Madrid, and it wouldn’t sell. Finally, they worked with a local real estate agent and put up smaller lots. Those sold.
It was really run-down. There was no power. The water had always been brought in by train. We basically resurrected from our ghost town past. It was mostly hippies and veterans at first. Who else was going to live in those houses without power?
Quite a few ghost hunters have come out. Especially up at the tavern, when people work late, they will see unexplainable things. I definitely believe in them.
If Madrid doesn’t like you, they’ll kick you out. The spirits must like me.