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Hidden history

Lordsburg, in the southwestern corner of New Mexico, is often just a quick drive-by on Interstate 10.

The small ranching and mining bastion and the surrounding area are home to some interesting historical footnotes.

For instance, at the outbreak of World War II, the area was the site of one of the country’s Japanese internment camps, a time chronicled at the Lordsburg-Hidalgo County Museum, said Marsha Hill, director of the Lordsburg-Hidalgo County Chamber of Commerce.

The museum, housed in one of the state’s old armories, also shows how the area was later turned into a prisoner-of-war stockade to house soldiers captured from Germany and Italy, she said.

“We have actual items that came from the camp,” she said, “some souvenirs with Japanese writing on them and some artwork done by one of the POWs. ”

Guided tours of the silver boom-and-bust town of Shakespeare south of Lordsburg are scheduled for Oct. 7-8. (SOURCE: The New Mexico Department Of Tourism)

Displays dedicated to the town’s roots make up a large part of the museum.

“Because we are a mining and ranching community, we have a room that is dedicated to the ranchers in our Cowboy Hall of Fame,” Hill said. “It’s dedicated to all of the ranching families in the area. We have a mining room with lots of items from the local mines. Lordsburg and Hidalgo County had lots of the mines at one time.”

The town also is home to a park that was set aside as a salute to service members and first responders.

The Lordsburg-Hidalgo County Museum has displays recognizing the area’s use as a Japanese internment camp and later as a World War II prison for captured German and Italian soldiers.

Veteran’s Park is “dedicated to military, law enforcement, firefighters and people who perform any type of service to the community and to the county,” Hill said.

A wall holds bricks honoring those who served, and 15 flagpoles fly the banners of the various entities. Numerous statues dot the grounds, including one depicting a solider saluting a fallen comrade’s boots and helmet.

“We’ve received wonderful compliments on it,” Hill said. “It’s dedicated in memory to those who serve and those who continue to serve.”

The Lordsburg Hidalgo Library, built in 1936-37 by the Works Project Administration in Aztec-Pueblo style, “is more than just a library,” she said. “It’s like a museum in itself.”

Veterans Park flies the flags of 15 military and service units, as well as bricks dedicated to local service members and first responders. (SOURCE: The New Mexico Department Of Tourism)

Designated an Historic Building on the New Mexico State Register of Cultural Properties and the National Register of Historic Places, the library features special collections of Reference, Southwest, Spanish, Children’s, Grant Writing and Literacy.

North of the city, the Gila Lower Box Canyon is a Bureau of Land Management site that is a wildlife wonderland.

Livestock was removed from the area in 1990, and ever since, the riparian oasis has exploded with lush growth of cottonwoods and willows. That makes it one of the premier birding locations in the state. With about 200 species, the area is one of the most diverse spots for bird-watching in New Mexico.

The Lordsburg Hidalgo Library was built in 1936-37 by the Works Progress Administration in Aztec-Pueblo style and is like a museum in its own right.

Bell’s vireo, peregrine, bald eagle, golden eagle, black hawk, zone-tail hawk, grey hawk, yellow-billed cuckoo, Gila woodpecker, and Abert’s towhee are among the feathered friends that frequent the area.

Likewise, the Gila River is rife with smallmouth bass and several species of catfish to offer challenging opportunities to anglers.

Just south of Lordsburg near the Mexican border, the ghost town of Shakespeare (shakespeareghostown.com) is a National Historic Site and has guided tours every month. The tours visit seven buildings and 28 points of interest, including the Grant House, the back portion of which was the old Butterfield Stage Station and the front dining room of which was, on occasion, the hanging room.

Tours of the silver-boom town are scheduled for Oct. 7-8, Nov. 11-12 and Dec. 9-10.

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