Early History Edit
Native Americans of the Jicarilla Apache tribe and Ute tribe once inhabited Philmont. At least one Native American archaeological site exists in the northern section, and various camps seek to preserve Philmont's Native American heritage.
Private ownership Edit
In the mid-19th century, the Santa Fe Trail crossed the plains just southwest of Philmont. The Tooth of Time owes its name to this trail; travelers knew that once they passed it, they had only a few weeks to go until they reached Santa Fe, New Mexico. Philmont's strategic location along the trail spurred some interest in it. In 1841, Carlos Beaubien and Guadalupe Miranda obtained a large land grant from the Mexican government, including the present ranch. Soon the grant fell into the hands of Beaubien's son-in-law Lucien Maxwell, who played an important role in developing and settling it. Maxwell sold the ranch to the Maxwell Land Grant and Railroad Company, which gave up and handed it on to a Dutch development company, which decided to parcel it out to ranchers.
One of the most prominent ranchers was Jesus Gil Abreu, who ran the Abreu Rayado Ranch from the 1870s to his death in 1901. Operating from the Rayado Settlement, he raised cattle, goats, sheep, as well as growing limited amounts of crops. The family owned this property until 1911, when they sold most of it off. One of the sons remained on the ranch at the site of Abreu Camp, and his homestead was preserved for years. However, the building was made from adobe and collapsed. The foundation of this building now serves as the foundation for the Abreu Cantina. The house was reconstructed by Cabin Restoration in 1998 about 100 feet uphill.
The history of mining at Philmont dates back to the years immediately after the Civil War. At the time, many U.S. soldiers were stationed in the West, as the U.S. Army was driving out the American Indians. The story is that one of these soldiers befriended an Indian, who happened to give him a shiny rock. The shiny material in the rock was found to be copper. According to the story, the soldier and two of his friends went up to investigate, and found gold. However, they could not stay and mine the gold, and by the time they returned the next year, the area was overrun by miners. Scores of gold mines were excavated in Philmont, and operated into the early 20th century. A large vein of gold is said to lie under Baldy Mountain to this day, but extracting it has not been feasible. The Contention Mine, located at Cyphers Mine camp, is open to guided tours.
The penultimate owner of Philmont was wealthy oil magnate and wilderness enthusiast Waite Phillips, who amassed a large part of the old land grant in the 1920s, totaling over 300,000 acres (1,200 km²). Phillips built a large residence in the lowlands of Philmont, and called it the Villa Philmonte. The ranch became a private game reserve for Phillips and his friends, and a number of hunting lodges and day-use camps were built. It would not have been beyond his means to bring electricity to those camps, but he decided not to. Some of these camps, including Fish Camp and the Hunting Lodge, have been preserved, complete with wood-burning stoves, oil lamps, and unique design features indicative of Phillips's often eccentric taste.
Boy Scout involvement Edit
Phillips sometimes allowed others to visit his ranch, including a few Boy Scout troops. He was so impressed with the Scouts that in 1938, he donated 35,857 acres (145 km²) to the Boy Scouts of America. They initially named it the "Philturn Rockymountain Scoutcamp" [sic]. The word 'Philturn' comes from Waite Phillips's name, together with the "Good Turn" he did by donating the property. In 1941, Phillips added more Philmont property, including the Villa Philmonte, bringing the total to 127,395 acres (516 km²). (Contrary to popular belief, Phillips did not give his entire ranch to the BSA, but only those properties that would have the most recreational value. The total donation comprised about 40% of the ranch.) To help fund the upkeep of Philmont, he threw in his Philtower office building in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The ranch's name was changed at this time to the "Philmont Scout Ranch and Explorer Base".
Philmont was run differently in the early years than it is now. Half a dozen "base camps" were constructed at strategic locations. A visiting group of Scouts would stay at one of these camps for a week, and day-hike to surrounding locations of interest. If the Scouts wanted to visit a different area, they would pack up their gear, hoist it onto donkeys, and hike to another base camp. Eventually, possibly due to the advent of modern lightweight metal-frame backpacks and other backpacking technology, the program was restructured to be backpacking-based.
In 1963, through the generosity of Norton Clapp, vice-president of the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America, another piece of the Maxwell Land Grant was purchased and added to Philmont. This was the Baldy Mountain mining area, consisting of 10,098 acres (41 km²).
In recent years, Philmont has also been able to gain use of the Valle Vidal section of the Carson National Forest. Since 1989, Philmont has had a series of five-year special-use permits from the Forest Service, allowing crews to hike and camp in the Valle Vidal as part of their Philmont treks. Philmont operates four staffed camps (Rich Cabins, Whiteman Vega, Seally Canyon, and Ring Place) and two trail camps in that part of the Valle. Those camps serve around 3,000 Philmont campers each summer. Each camper performs four hours of conservation work in the Valle on projects approved by the Forest Service.
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