It (Estey City) is today the most important mining proposition in this territory, and is exceeded by few in the entire country."
"....the Company owns one of the most valuable pieces of mining property in the Southwest-rich in copper, lead, gold and silver ores."
The above quotes are taken from the 1905 prospectus issued by the Dividend Mining and Milling Company of Boston concerning its Estey City, N.M. holdings.
Estey City is the only sizeable ghost town on White Sands Missile Range. After the turn of the century Estey City claimed several hundred hardy souls and existed long enough to have its own post office. It was a typical mining boom-town where hope and expectations far outreached actual ore production and riches.
Estey City is located in the northeast part of the range. In 1910 a U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper stated it was "located about 15 miles slightly north of west from Oscura station on the El Paso and Southwestern Railroad." The easiest way to get to this isolated spot now is by helicopter.
The town was named after D.M. Estey, a Boston businessman whose family made the Estey organ. He started the mining development in 1901 but it quickly faded as water was a problem in the area. The Dividend Mining and Milling Company then purchased the property and developed it further.
According to James and Barbara Sherman in "Ghost Towns and Mining Camps in New Mexico" the Estey City post office was in operation from 1901 through 1903 and then again from 1904 through 1910. The town boasted about 50 dwellings, a general merchandise store, one saloon, a church, a school and a hotel. At its peak, the town´s population may have reached 500.
The company prospectus is so glowing, so promising, it is hard to believe the mining district produced basically nothing.
The prospectus says, "No industry known to the human race affords the profit for the investor, nor has so bright a future, as copper and lead mines have furnished for the last few years."
In reality, very little ore was milled at Estey City and only a few carloads were shipped from the site. In fact, Bureau of Land Management mining engineers, who were asked to study the area in 1973, were reluctant to use the word "ore" in describing the material which was worked at the mill. They also cited other reports in 1903, 1910, 1916, 1959 and 1968 which all concluded the copper deposits in the Estey City district have no economic value.
Because of the lack of any real ore and the inability to get reliable water to the area, some people feel the mining operation may have been a scam to milk investors - a time-honored profession in New Mexico.
Today, only a few of the walls to the mill and assay office still stand. The foundations to the general store and few other buildings are still visible. Also, rusted tin cans and other trash can be found in many dumps around the area.
There is no documentation available to tell historians what dreams and hopes once flourished in Estey City. Most of the area has returned to its pre-1900 condition and the desert stillness prevails.