DAWSON (KRQE) - One hundred years ago this week, a town in northern New Mexico was the site of one of the worst coal mining disasters in U.S. history.
The lives of 263 miners were lost - most of them immigrants who came to Dawson in search of a better life.
A century later, the town between Taos and Raton is gone - buildings and all.
The former town is now a private ranch.
No one who lived in Dawson in 1913 is alive today, but 82-year-old Ed Zavala, the son of a Dawson miner, knows the story well.
"They said they heard it down here and they knew something happened because it rumbled the earth like an earthquake and the loud bang - so they all started going up there," said Zavala, who was born and raised in the town.
A second disaster happened a decade later - where more than 100 miners died.
Many of them were sons of miners who died in the first disaster.
"Even after the first explosion, they went in. They said, 'We have to make a living. How else can we survive?'" Zavala remembers. "We have to take care of our families."
The Phelps Dodge company shut down operations in 1950 and told residents to pack up.
The company razed most of the buildings, but faint outlines of some structures can still be seen there.
Every two years around 500 of the descendants of the Dawson miners gather in the ghost town for a reunion.
The town is usually off-limits except for the cemetery.
Zavala often wonders what his life would have been like if the town hadn't been shut down.
"I see my friends; I see the people that were here and we're all together," he said. "About the only difference is we're all better off now than we were back then."
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