Colorado Fuel and Iron: Company Mines

Gibson, New Mexico

Location: McKinley County, New Mexico
Years of Operation: 1900-?
Total Production (Tons): 

The town of Gibson was in the Gallup District of New Mexico, roughly three miles from the city of Gallup. It was home to the miners who worked in the Gibson, Gallup, and Weaver mines and their families. The town was made up of a number of four to six room company model houses along with a boarding house large enough to hold 100 unmarried men. It also had a public school that served between eighty and ninety students, which also served as a place of worship for the various religious denominations that members of the community practiced. The town also had a post office, a Colorado Supply Company store, and a small seven-bed company hospital. [1] 

The excerpt below was taken from The Franciscan Missions of the Southwest (1917), an annual publication from the Franciscan Fathers at Saint Michaels, Arizona. 

~Every Sunday Holy Mass is said at Gibson, N. M., about three miles distant from Gallup. The school-house where Mass is said, is a small building about 50 feet long, divided into two rooms. One is used for the Kindergarten, and the other for divine services. A small but neat little altar, with statues of the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Conception, an organ, about a dozen school benches and a home-made confessional comprise the entire church furnishing.

As may be imagined, the “church” cannot hold more than about 80 people and then it is taxed to its utmost. Considering that in Gibson and in Weaver just adjoining, there are about 350 adult Catholics, one should think, that the little room would be overcrowded every Sunday. Sad to say, however, this is not the case. Ordinarily, the attendance averages about 50 persons. Only on special occasions, such as Christmas, Easter, the day of the first Holy Communion, or when the Slavish Society celebrates the Patron feast, is the schoolroom overcrowded.

The congregation is a most varied one for its size; the Croatians, Croats, or Slavs, as they are called here, constituting by far the majority of the church going people. The entire Weaver camp is practically inhabited by Croatians, of whom there are about 250 adults. There are perhaps a dozen Slovenians, a few Lithuanians, two or three Hungarians, some 15 or 20 Italians, a dozen Catholic Americans, and about 50 Mexicans. These comprise the Catholic population of Gibson and Weaver. Half a mile just over the hill from Gibson is another camp called Navajo. The population is as varied as at Gibson. The Croatians are in the majority with about 250 adults. There are perhaps 50 Italians, 75 Mexicans, and half a dozen American Catholics. Mass is not said in the mining camp Navajo, because the faithful can easily attend divine services at Gibson. There are, then, some 700 Catholics, who ought to attend Holy Mass in Gibson, but the vast majority neglect to do so.

Until two years ago Mass was said once a month at the Gibson mines, and at times, the interval was even longer. The Catholics there became somewhat accustomed to be without Mass and soon grew indifferent, so that when the priest did come to say Mass, very few put in their appearance.

About two miles to the north of Weaver, is still another coal mine, called Heaton, where Mass is said on the first Sunday of every month. Here, too, the public schoolhouse is used for services, but it is necessary to take along everything needed for the Holy Sacrifice. There are about 60 families in Heaton, Creations, Slovenians, Mexicans, Americans, Japanese, Negroes, and Italians.

In a few months, we hope to erect a church at Gibson for all the Catholics of the several mining camps. The foundation of the new structure is already laid. With a place where divine services can be held exclusively, where all the Catholics of these mines can be accommodated, and the Gospel preached to them in their own language, we hope that they will once again be the practical Catholics that most of them were, before they left their homes in the old country.~

This excerpt was sent in by Bierce Riley, whose father-in-law was born at the Gibson mine in 1912. 

[1] Camp and Plant, Vol. 1 No. 16, 29 March 1902.  


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