The first European to visit what is now New Mexico was likely Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, a Spanish explorer who traveled through the region in the early 16th century. However, it was not until the arrival of Juan de Oñate in 1598 that the Spanish established a permanent settlement in the area.
Catron County, located in the southwestern region of New Mexico, has a rich history dating back thousands of years. It is the largest county in the state and has been home to various indigenous groups, including the Apache and Navajo tribes. Before European settlement, these Native American communities utilized the land for hunting, gathering, and trading.

In the 16th century, Spanish explorers arrived in the region, bringing with them horses and establishing the area as part of New Spain. The Spanish influence remained strong for several centuries, with missions and settlements established throughout the area. However, it wasn't until the mid-19th century that non-indigenous settlers began to arrive in significant numbers.

By the 1860s, the discovery of gold and other precious minerals in nearby areas drew prospectors to Catron County. This led to the establishment of mining camps and towns, which experienced rapid growth. However, as the mining boom began to fade, the economy shifted towards ranching and agriculture. The development of railroads in the late 19th century further stimulated trade and transportation in the area.

Throughout its history, Catron County has remained closely tied to its traditional ranching and agricultural roots. Today, it is known for its rugged natural beauty, with expansive forests, mountains, and pristine wilderness areas. Catron County attracts tourists and outdoor enthusiasts seeking activities such as hunting, fishing, hiking, and camping. It continues to honor its Native American heritage and maintains a strong sense of community, with a population that cherishes its deep historical and cultural roots.

This timeline provides a condensed summary of the historical journey of Catron County, New Mexico.

  • 1870: Proposed to become a county in New Mexico Territory
  • 1880: Catron County officially established and named after Thomas B. Catron
  • 1892: Reserve becomes the county seat
  • 1920s: Economic decline due to depletion of natural resources
  • 1940s: Uranium mining increases in the county
  • 1950s-1960s: Establishment of the Gila Wilderness and creation of the Apache-Sitgreaves and Cibola National Forests
  • 1999: The Gila National Forest's Catron County territory affected by the largest wildfire in New Mexico history, the "Mud Fire"
  • 2000s: Various conservation and land management efforts in the county
  • 2010s: Ongoing rural population decline and economic challenges