Col. Eugene Van Patten originally built Dripping Springs Resort in the 1870's. A native of New York State, Van Patten came to Mesilla at the invitation of his uncle, John Butterfield, who operated the Butterfield State Line. Van Patten worked at the Picacho Stage Station and probably elsewhere after the stage line ceased operations in the Las Cruces area in 1861. During the Civil War he joined the Confederacy and saw action in the Battle of Glorieta Pass near Santa Fe.
Van Patten's Mountain Camp - early photo
Dripping Springs Resort was originally called "Van Patten's Mountain Camp. " It had approximately 16 rooms, a large dining room and a concert hall. It was very popular around the turn of the century and many famous people, including Pat Garret and Pancho Villa, have stayed there. Van Patten was married to a local Piro Indian woman and a number of Indians lived and worked at the resort. The Indians hand-carried water from the spring to the rooms in "ollas" attached to long wooden poles and, from time to time, held dances for the amusement of the guests.
In the late 1800's a stageline brought guests to the hotel from Las Cruces, 17 miles away. The stage would deliver the guests to the front of the hotel and then return to the livery. The wagons and horses for the stageline, as well as the personal livestock of the guests were kept in this area. In the 1900's guests began to arrive by automobile as well as by horse and wagon.
Remnants of the livery
The resort had its share of exciting times. When Albert J. Fountain, a prominent figure in the Lincoln County War, was murdered on the East Side of the Organ Mountains in 1896, his daughter was notified of the murder at the resort. Van Patten led a large posse to investigate but Fountain's body, and that of his 12-year-old son Henry, were never found.
In 1917 Van Patten went bankrupt and Dripping Springs was sold to Dr. Nathan Boyd who homesteaded on a parcel of land adjacent to the resort. Boyd was a physician in San Francisco who later married the daughter of a wealthy Australian engineer. Boyd joined his in-laws' business and became involved in large engineering projects all over the world. He and his wife came to Las Cruces to promote, design and build a dam on the Rio Grande whose floods often devastated the countryside. Local farmers whose lands would have been inundated by the lake behind the dam stopped the dam. Ironically, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, creating the state's largest man-made lake, Elephant Butte Reservoir, eventually built a dam farther north. By the time Boyd had acquired Van Patten's resort, his wife had contracted tuberculosis. Deciding to remain in Las Cruces, Boyd converted Dripping Springs into a sanitarium. New structures were built in different parts of the canyon to provide housing and care for the patients.
The Boyd family eventually sold the property to another physician, a Dr. Sexton of Las Cruces, who continued to operate it as a sanatorium. As late as 1946 the resort was still in relatively good shape and a group of local citizens attempted to raise $4,000 to purchase it for historic preservation. Unfortunately, their effort failed and unknown persons scavenged the resort for building materials.
Today, the ruins of Dripping Springs Resort lie scattered along the canyon, preserving the memory of Col. Van Patten, the doctors Boyd and Sexton, and the many famous and not so famous who visited there.
Remnants of a guest room
Remnants of the dining area
Video recorded on: January 27, 2011 HINT: If video starts/stops often, PAUSE the playback for 45-60 seconds to allow the video buffer memory to fill. To resume playback press PLAY.
La Cueva rock shelter is an archeological site associated with the Jornada branch of the prehistoric Mogollon culture. La Cueva was identified as such by Dr. Donald Lehmer of the University of Arizona who conducted test excavations in the cave in the 1940s. Dr. Lehmer had hoped that the shelter was a totally dry environment where artifacts, such as baskets and yucca fiber sandals, would have been preserved. Unfortunately, he found that moisture entered the shelter, and few perishable artifacts were recovered.
La Cueva has seen considerable pothunting activity over the years. In fact, the dirt mound in front of the shelter is the screened "back dirt" the pothunters had removed from La Cueva's interior. This mound effectively capped and preserved archeological deposits immediately in front of the shelter.
In the mid 1970's, the Centennial Museum of the University of Texas at El Paso conducted test excavations in front of La Cueva where approximately 100,000 artifacts were recovered. Preliminary analysis indicated that the rock shelter was occupied from about 5000 BC, through the historic period that followed the arrival of the Europeans. The lower levels of the excavation sites yielded artifacts from the early, or Archaic period; while the upper levels contained artifacts associated with the Jornada branch of the Mogollon culture. A considerable amount of animal bones were recovered during the excavations; some of which have been identified. It appears that the prehistoric occupants of La Cueva subsisted on rabbits, deer, antelope and bighorn sheep. These early occupants of the rock shelter probably spent most of their time outside of the cave, retreating to its interior only in times of bad weather.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, the rock shelter of La Cueva was probably known to the roving bands of Apaches who frequented the area. Then, in the late 1860's, the cave reportedly served as home to one of the more eccentric figures in New Mexico's history. Giovanni Maria Agostini, know to local folks as "El Ermitano"...the Hermit.
Born to Italian nobles in 1800, Agostini-Justiniani may have studied for the priesthood but refused his vows and spent many years walking through Europe, South America, Mexico and Cuba.
At age 62, he walked with the wagon train of Eugenio Romero from Kansas to Las Vegas, New Mexico, and lived for a while in Romeroville before settling on Cerro Tecolote northwest of Las Vegas. The hill has since become known as Hermit's Peak. Agostini had known Penitentes in Spain and got along with them well in New Mexico, as they were in awe of his healing powers and believed in his sanctity. A "Sociedad del Ermitano" still makes rosaries of native plants to honor his memory at Easter.
In 1867, he accompanied the wagon train of Don Ramon Gonzales to Mesilla to find Colonel Albert J. Fountain to discuss a legal matter, then walked on to San Antonio, Texas, and then back to a cave near Juarez, Mexico. In 1869 he visited often with the Barela family on the plaza in Old Mesilla, sometimes preaching in their home. He told the Barela family of his plans to live at La Cueva. When they warned him of the dangers of staying there alone, he supposedly replied I shall make a fire in front of my cave every Friday evening while I shall be alive. If the fire fails to appear, it will be because I have been killed. I shall bless you daily in my prayers." Antonio Garcia was aware of Agostini's miraculous healing powers and transported sick people to La Cueva to be healed. The Hermit found an abundance of herbs nearby to help effect his cures.
One Friday night in the spring of 1869 the fire failed to appear at La Cueva. Antonio Garcia led a group up the mountain to find the Hermit lying face down on his crucifix with a knife in his back. He was wearing a penitential "metal girdle full of spikes."
El Ermitano is buried in the Mesilla Cemetery with the following Spanish inscription, "John Mary Justiniani, Hermit of the Old and New World. He died the 17th of April, 1869, at 69 years and 49 years a hermit." This murder was one of many unsolved murders in the late 1800's in Dona Ana County.