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Town of Gabriella takes visitors to the Old West

A trip to the Town of Gabriella can be a step back in time.

That was the case for the Romine family from Quemado with relatives in town from Texas.

“This is amazing,” Brian Romine said after his family toured the town with its saloon, dance hall, newspaper office, barber shop, courthouse, hotel, gallows and stagecoach stop. “It makes you feel like you’re in that time period.”

The gallows is conveniently located next to the Town of Gabriella courthouse.

“It makes you wish the world was a little more like this,” said Kim Pollak of the peaceful setting of the town south of Datil that is the brainchild of Larry Iams.

She was in town visiting family from Farmersville, Texas, not far from Dallas.

The town is the result of work by Iams and friend Sal Zagra. It’s taken them about seven years to construct the town on a 128-acre spread of Highway 12.

“I’ve been wanting to do this for about 40 years,” Iams said.

Iams said he has had a fascination with western history dating back to his childhood days.

He and his wife, Janet “Missy” Iams, became involved in gunfighter groups.

They started participating in shows in Catron County, which included building sets. Zagra saw one of the shows and decided to become involved.

They built sets they transported to events in Quemado, the Pie Festival in Pie Town, the Old Timers Reunion in Magdalena and Octoberfest in Socorro.

The rough roads on the way to those events took its toll on the sets, which ended up leading them to bring the sets to the current site of the town so they can rehearse.

“I said the heck with it, I’m going to start a town,” Iams said. “That’s how this all got started.”

In all there are about 22 buildings including a post office, leather worker, marshal’s office with jail, grocery store, a shooting iron shop and a log cabin at the end of the street that was built in the 1930s.

It is a work in progress. They are trying for an authentic look in every building.

Like many others who are committed to keep American history of the west alive, Iams strives to stay as close to what it was like in the 1800s, even to the extent of finding period correct wallpaper and the acquisition of a fully-functional historical barber chair from Tombstone, Ariz., for the barbershop.

That isn’t the only connection to Tombstone. There is an area of the town where a re-enactment of the Gunfight at the O.K Corral is being constructed. Iams plays Ike Clanton in the re-enactment of the famous event involving Wyatt Earp, his brothers and Doc Holliday.

Iams said, however, that the town isn’t modeled after any town in particular. He said it was more modeled after Kansas cowtowns.

The first event held at the town was a Fourth of July event. There was a family in the community that had never been to a Fourth of July parade.

“We decided to have a potluck, a band and a parade just for the community,” Iams said.

Word spread initially through word-of-mouth. An Albuquerque television station did a feature story on the town. Iams said the television crew spent more than three hours filming around the town.

“That blew doors wide open,” Iams said. “We had people call from Arizona and Texas.”

He was also contacted by a gunfight group from El Paso. It was a branch of the Salt River Regulators out of Arizona. The group wanted to come up for gunfights and shows.

The town hosted an open house last September that featured four different gunfight groups. It had vendors and a band. It was a one-day event that drew about 300 people.

The town is open on weekends from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and hosts gunfight groups from Albuquerque, El Paso and Arizona.

People are welcome to visit during the week, but Iams prefers they make reservations.

Check the town’s Facebook page, Town Of Gabriella, for updates on upcoming events. Reservations can be made through messaging the Facebook page.