The town of Wagon Mound sprouted at the foot of the Wagon Mound, often touted as "the last great natural landmark on the Santa Fe Trail," (now it's a designated National Historic Landmark). The Cimarron Cutoff went through here before joining with the Mountain Branch near Watrous, about 20 miles further south. Las Vegas is about 40 miles south from here and Santa Fe is about 60 miles beyond that. But the volcanic outcroppings and lava palisades are a great natural landmark that can be seen from 60 miles away to the north and east. When the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad came through in 1881, this was a natural place to build a town. And Wagon Mound may be the only incorporated town in all of Mora County.
This is big horse and cattle country with large ranches all around. As you can see from the photos, Wagon Mound used to be reasonably prosperous. Until the I-25 came through and now, virtually all the traffic just whistles on past. When I lived in Santa Fe I knew some folks who lived in Wagon Mound. They told me they really enjoyed the peace and quiet, and the slower lifestyle. One of my friends taught at the Wagon Mound schools. He said the ranchers insisted on good behavior and good manners from the students, and an excellent and challenging curriculum from the teachers. He thought Wagon Mound was one of the best school systems he'd ever worked in. His partner worked for the state Department of Education. If it wasn't for the politics in Santa Fe, they'd probably still be living in Wagon Mound.
I seem to be in Wagon Mound about once a month these days. The local folks are really friendly and they've got some great architecture around. There's even a house on this one hilltop right in town that looks like something out of Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas.