In the early 1850’s the U.S. government was having problems trying to maintain peace between the Mescalero Apaches and the white settlers who had recently begun homesteading in the area. The Indians would leave their reservation to steal horses, cattle, and sheep in order to survive. The settlers, fearing the Indians, asked the military for protection.
Capt. Henry W. Stanton, for whom Fort Stanton was named, and a party of soldiers were dispatched from San Patricio to search for Apaches. On January 18th, 1855, the Indians suprised the party as they traveled up the Penasco River. Stanton and several others were killed in the vicinity of present-day Mayhill. This historical incident is recorded on a marker in the village.
The village of Mayhill is situated on the eastern slopes of the Sacramento Mountains at an elevation of 6,500feet. It is located at the forks of the Rio Penasco and James Canyon, about 17 miles east of Cloudcroft on US Highway 82, at its junction with US Highway 130 to Weed.
Albert Coe, who had come to new Mexico in 1867 and whose brother Frank and cousin George were involved with Billy the Kid in the Lincoln County Wars, arrived in the Rio Penasco area in 1873 and settled on what is now the Jim Mahill ranch, about 1/2 mile east of the present village. One of the log cabins he built still stands on the homestead.
Soon, other settlers began coming into the area, including Charles Arthur (1884), Teen Clayton (1883), Joe Curtis (1880), John Gardessler (1880), Ben Henry (1882), Aled & Kim Hunter (1884), John James (1879), Henry Kepler (1884), Robert McGee (1878), W.C. Warren (1878), and John G. White (1878).
In 1881, Albert Coe returned to his former home in Missouri and married his childhood sweetheart Mary (Molly) Mahill. They returned to the Penasco for their honeymoon. One year later, Molly’s parents, John and Sara Mahill and their family joined them.
John Mahill bought the land covering the present village site from John James, for whom James Canyon was named, for $300 in December of 1882 and built an adobe house, which is still standing and occupied by family members.
The first post office, called Upper Penasco, was established in 1885. It was located in the Coe residence and Molly Coe was the first postmaster. In 1904 after several moves, the post office was permanently located and the village was officially named Mayhill, rather than Mahill, apparently through an error by the Postal Department. Attempts to correct the misspelling have been in vain.
Over the years, more people have settled in the fertile valley and Mayhill today continues to thrive with its farming and ranching industries. The lumber business is another activity in the area. Tourists are attracted to Mayhill in the summertime to enjoy the cool clear atmosphere, and each fall hundreds of deer hunters invade the region to enjoy the sport in the wide-open spaces ofthe Sacramento Mountains.
Author ’s Note: Information for this article was taken from the archives ofthe Sacramento Mountains Historical Museum and Research Center.