Taos County, New Mexico
Brigham John Young

The Youngs of Red River
They came to find gold, but found riches in tourism
By J. Binford-Bell, For The Taos News

RED RIVER -- Brigham John Young first moved to the Red River Valley in the spring of 1892. B.J. Young and his wife, Sara, and the first of their 13 children had been living in Colorado prior to the move. Many of their ultimate six daughters and seven sons would be born in the new Red River City incorporated in 1895 by mining and real estate promoter E. I. Jones.

It was gold that brought B.J. Young and his family to Red River, but B.J. was the true entrepreneur of his time. He went from farming to operating a sawmill to gold mining and then to a mercantile store. His sawmill, which milled trees he cut off Sawmill Mountain, sold lumber to Red River citizens and Camp Twining, a gold mining area located at present day Taos Ski Valley.

In the summer of 1902, B.J. was turning out lumber as fast as possible. The sawmill prospered, but so did his gold mining. In 1894, B.J. hit sulfide ore at his IXL Mine in Bobcat Gulch. The ore assayed at $12 a ton in gold. He also developed the Last Chance mine and the Iron Queen Mine. The ore coming out of the IXL was prosperous enough for a time that B.J. was able to build the only brick residence in the town at the time.

To construct the house, which once stood at 600 E. Main Street, he had to import a brickmaker, who fired the bricks at Elizabethtown. The bricks then had to be hauled over the treacherous old Canyon Road. The 1895 house was for a time on the National Historic Register. Local historians tried desperately to save the house located between Jayhawk Trail and Golden Treasure, but like many homes in the Red River Valley its foundation suffered from the exposure of too many springs. The house had to be torn down in the early 1990s. Portions of the materials in the house have been used in The Timber's Restaurant in Red River.

In 1895, B.J. also opened a general merchandising establishment with proceeds from his mining businesses. B.J. Young and Sons competed with the Brandenburg meat market and another general store. The town also boasted a livery stable, blacksmith shop, barber shop, nine to 13 saloons, several hotels and boarding houses and a dance hall. There was even a hospital.

B.J. was one of the leading citizens and promoters of the booming mining town. He served as a notary public and a justice of the peace as well as being the town's first postmaster. In 1907, with the decline of mining in Red River, all the Youngs, except for B.J.'s son, Jesse, moved back to Colorado. Jesse married Augusta Mutz of Elizabethtown, daughter of another old pioneer family. Jesse and Augusta homesteaded a parcel between Red River and Tall Pine.

Jesse was known as the first person to bring a piano into the valley. He often played at parties and dances which were held in the town and attended by citizens of the neighboring towns of Questa, La Belle and Elizabethtown. Jesse also did some of his own mining and was at various times involved in the Aztec, The Belle of Mexico and The Bullet mines. He hired out himself and his team of horses for $6 an hour hauling freight up through Bear Canyon to the Midnight and Anchor mines.

The real gold mine for Jesse, however, would be his ranch. As tourism overtook mining as the primary business of the town in the 1920s, his homesteaded parcel of land would be worth all the gold mines the family had once owned. Together with the Oldmans, another old pioneer family, Jesse built a fishing lake, cabins and stables, and a Red River guest ranch was born.

Despite the Great Depression, vacationers continued to escape the oppressive heat of Oklahoma and Texas in the mountains of New Mexico. Tourists and the miners at the molybdenum mine toward Questa kept the few remaining residents of the former boomtown alive. But the town was truly only active during the summers. In the winter, it seemed deserted until after the construction of the Red River Ski area.

Jesse and August had two children -- Gene and Marie. Gene married Dorris Jones on May 1, 1943, and on Oct. 18, 1944, Harold Young was born.

Dorris Jones was from Wichita Falls, Texas, and spent the summers with her dad, Sam Jones, in the booming tourist town. No doubt Gene met her at any one of the numerous tourist attractions in the town. Her father, Sam, ran the gambling tables for Dan Zena's business, which was where the Bull O' the Woods Saloon now stands. Gambling was big in Red River through the 1940s and into the early 1950s.

Harold and his wife, Angela, continue to run the family tourist business. The Young Ranch is now a very successful park for recreational vehicles. The fishing pond built in the mid 1920s has been drained and the original cabins have been sold to private owners. Many of them have been renovated to be vacation homes.

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© Karen Mitchell