About Defiance, New Mexico
Facts, Trivia and useful information
Elevation 6,450 ft (1.968 m), population n⁄a.
Time zone: Mountain (MST): UTC minus 7 hours. Summer (DST) MDT (UTC-6).
Defiance is a small villagfe in McKinley county, 9 miles west of Gallup. See a Map of Defiance.
Central western New Mexico has been inhabited for over 10,000 years. During the historic period, the Navajo and Zuni people lived in this region and they were the first to encounter the Spanish in 1540, when an expedition led by Francisco Vásquez de Coronado's reached Zuni pueblo searching for gold.
A view of old Route 66 in Defiance, New Mexico
As no gold was found Spain left it alone until 1597, when they returned and settled the area of the Rio Grande River and neighboring pueblos. The area close to what is now Gallup and Defiance was never settled during the Spanish Colonial period.
The Navajo people who lived in the area permanently raided the Spanish settlements. In 1821 an independent Mexico replaced Spain as the ruler of New Mexico, but had to cede the territory to the US after being defeated in the Mexican American War of 1846-48.
The U.S. decided to pacify the region and established a fort in what is now Arizona (at that time it was New Mexico), in Navajo territory: Fort Defiance. It served as a base for the expedition led by Lt. Edward Fitzgerald "Ned" Beale to open a wagon trail from Kansas to California in 1857 (this expedition used camels as pack animals).
The constant raids of the Navajo forced the Army to plan a campaign against the natives. However the American Civil War broke out so Fort Defiance was abandoned and another fort (The "Old" Fort Wingate) was established near Grants in 1862. The Navajo were defeated and finally constrained to the Navajo Reservation. The fort at Defiance was reopened and Fort Wingate moved further west, to Wingate, just east of Defiance.
Fort Defiance and the Navajo Wars
Fort Defiance was established by Col. Edwin V. Sumner in 1851 as a military outpost in the Navajo territory. It was the first military post in what is now Arizona (in those days it was New Mexico). The site was chosen because it had very good grazing land around it.
The fort was in fact a "Defiance" to the war-like Navajo who were not allowed to use the pastures. They resisted and attacked the fort in 1856 and 1860. In 1861 the American Civil War broke out and the fort was abandoned as the Army retreated to New Mexico to face the Confederate threat.
This emboldened the Indians who intensified their raids on the New Mexican settlements. The new Commander in New Mexico, Brig. Gen. James Carleton clamped down on the Navajo and conducted an attrition war from the Old Fort Wingate near what is now Grants..
The natives finally surrendered and were forced to march (the Long Walk) under dreadful conditions for 450 miles (720 km) to a camp near Fort Sumner in NM. The dreadful conditons of this internment place led to Carleton's replacement and the Navajo Treaty of 1868 allowed the Indians to return to their homes. The Navajo Reservation was created and Fort Defiance was reestablished as an Indian agency.
Now it is a village in the Navajo Nation in Arizona. (Map with Fort Defiance's location).
The military road that linked both forts passed by Gallup, and it was the route chosen by the The Atlantic & Pacific Railroad (later the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe RR) to cross the Continental Divide en route to California.
The name: Defiance
The station was named after the fort it supplied, Fort Defiance.
The railroad reached Gallup in 1882 and at that time the coal mines which had been discovered to the north of the town gained importance, they would be used as fuel for the steam engines and also, the coal could be shipped out cheaply using the railroad.
When the tracks pushed further west, the station that was named Defiance in 1882 displaced Fort Wingate station and became the main shipping point for supplying Fort Defiance (26 miles to the NW). A wagon road followed what now is the Pittsburg-Midway Mine railroad spur where it met the wagon road that linked the two forts.
Defiance would be in turn replaced by Ferry Station (later renamed Manuelito), further west as the main station for supplying Fort Defiance.
The Navajo called Defiance "Gap in the Rocks", and it had a post office from 1881 to 1890.
In 1926 Route 66 was aligned through the area following NM state highway 6. Defiance appeared in the Rand McNally 1927 map of Route 66, as being 8 miles west of Gallup and 9 miles east of Manuelito on an unpaved but improved highway.
Route 66 was later replaced by I-40 as the main highway in the 1960s, bypassing Defiance on its south side.
Where to Stay
There is lodging along Route 66 very close to Defiance:
>> Book your Hotels in Gallup
Lodging Near Defiance along Route 66
Heading West...in Arizona
- 41 miles. Motels and Hotels in Chambers.
- 88 miles. Motels and Hotels in Holbrook.
- 120 miles. Motels and Hotels in Winslow.
- 155 miles. Motels and Hotels in Twin Arrows.
- 9 miles. Motels and Hotels in Gallup.
- 71 miles. Motels and Hotels in Grants.
- 90 miles. Motels and Hotels in Acomita Pueblo.
- 150 miles. Motels and Hotels in Albuquerque
- 185 miles. Motels and Hotels in Moriarty
The Santa Fe Route 66 segment
>> There are RV campgrounds near Defiance, in Gallup.
Weather in Defiance
Defiance is located in the high western region of NM; its climate is semi-arid with cold winters and relatively hot summers. Dry air and high altitude provide relief in summer: nights are cool, but in winter it makes the nights even colder. There is a large day-to-night temperature swing throughout the year.
The winter average high is around 45°F (7°C) and the average low is a "below freezing" 11°F (-12°C). The average summer high is 89°F (32°C) and the low is a cool 51°F (10.5°C).
Rain is not abundant; only 11.5 in (292 mm) per year and most of it falls between Jul. and Nov. (6.8 in, 173 mm); there are around 71 days with precipitation each year.
Snow is quite heavy: 30.4 inches (77.2 cm) per year; it falls at any time between Oct. and May, but mostly between November and March.
There are no tornados in Defiance: McKinley County has no Tornado watches. The area west of this point has no tornado events at all.
Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.
Getting to Defiance
Heading north from Albuquerque on the old "Santa Fe loop of Route 66" is Santa Fe (208 mi.), Glorieta, Pecos and Romeroville.
Map of Defiance and Route66
Map of Defiance and Route 66 in New Mexico.
Pale Blue: Historic Route 66 alignment; Red line: I-40 & I-25 where they overlap the old alignment.
See Route 66's alignment in Texas
Remove or restore State shading
The Route 66, its alignment through Defiance
Route 66 across New Mexico
Click on the link for a Full description of Route 66 across New Mexico.
Below you will find more information on Route 66's 1926 alignment through the town of Defiance
The Santa Fe Loop (1926 - 1937)
Visit our Santa Fe Loop page which describes the 1926 to 1937 alignment of Route 66 between Santa Rosa and Albuquerque via Romeroville, Pecos, Santa Fe and Bernalillo.
Defiance, New Mexico: Attractions & Sights
Things to Do and See
A long gone Coal Mining Town
Defiance a small village that at one time was a coal mining town on Route 66, next to Allison, Mentmore and Twin Buttes.
Tours & Itineraries plus outdoor Fun
Nearby Route 66 Towns
Below we list the "villages" (almost ghost towns) that lie between Gallup and Defiance:
A ghost town
It was, as most of these small villages to the north and west of Gallup, a coal mining town. Nowadays it has about 500 residents living in scattered trailer houses and the remains of company houses from the 1920s.
It was named after Fletcher J. Allison, who bought the stake in 1897 and sold it in 1917 to the Diamond Coal Co. who owned the town. It provided the housing and services for its workers.
Allison to Twin Buttes
The AT & SF railway had a station here, between Allison and Twin Buttes, named West Yard 4.3 miles west of Gallup station. It served as a coal shipping point.
Head west along Route 66 and after crossing I-40 which here takes a wide "S" and passes to the south side of US 66 you will reach Twin Buttes:
Twin Buttes is 5.3 miles west of Gallup; see this map from Gallup to Twin Buttes (with directions).
In his 1946 Guide Book to Route 66, DeVere Rittenhouse mentions the "Twin Butte Nazarene Navajo Mission" and a "Gas station nearby" 6 miles west of Gallup, and you can still see a flourishing Nazarene Church on the north (right) side of the highway:
Nazarene Church, Twin Buttes on the old alignment of Route 66, New Mexico
The Twin Buttes landform
Looking south you will see the "buttes" that gave the place its name. Beyond I-40 is a lumpy hill, which formerly had two summits and was therefore named "Twin Buttes". It is a volcanic neck, one of many in the Navajo Volcanic Field. During the construction of I-40 basalt was mined from this hill for road aggregate, as rock extraction continues, the hill is gradually being consumed and is a shaddow of its former self.
A Butte is an isolated hill with sheer steep sides and a relatively flat top; they are a small type of mesa or plateau. This is a Street View of the Twin Buttes from the East.
They were also known as "Twin Cones" due to their volcanic origin. Its eastern peak is 6,838 ft. (2.086 m). NM 26 runs on the east of the hills and I-40 runs in front of them. The Twin Buttes Wash flows along its western flank, into the Western Rio Puerco River.
The following image shows them as they were in the 1970s, and as they are now.
Twin Buttes are being whittled away. Then and now.
Twin Buttes Trading Post
On old Route 66, about 4 mi. West of Gallup.
This was a genuine Navajo Trading Post (they named it "Tsé Ndeeshgizh" or "Gapped Rock"). The post was established in the early 1930s on the original Route 66 alignment by Walter and Margaret Florence. It had six tourist cabins. In the late 1940s, they moved to a new spot on US 66 after it was realigned. After Florences death, Walter gave up and sold it in the late 1950s.
On to Mentmore
Right beside Twin Buttes, along the old Route 66 is Mentmore, with its streets named after greek letters.
Mentmore (Location) is 5.9 miles west of Gallup; on Route 66.
Altitude 6,405 ft. (1.953 m.) Pop. n⁄a.
Mentmore, the meaning
Mentmore is a parish in Buckinghamshire, England, and the name is an Old English name that means "Menta's Moor". It was recorded in the Doomsday Book in 1086 as Mentmore.
Mentmore is a small village located on the south side of the tracks of the former Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad (AT & SF), and of Route 66 now NM-118; it is north of I-40. Further north, beyond the tracks is the Western Rio Puerco River, Torrivio Mesa and the former coal mines.
The Dilco Coal Mine belonging to Direct Coal Company opened a mine there in 1913, and named the place "Dilco". But three years later, when the post office opened, it did not use the name Dilco. Instead it used Mentmore, of unknown origin.
Defiance Coal Company
In 1918 the mine and another one just one mile north of it named Morris Mine, were acquired by George Kaseman, who renamed the combined mining operation "The Defiance Coal Company".
The mine covered 320 acres and had a narrow gauge railroad (40 inches wide) with two steam engines that shunted the coal in "pit cars" along a 20 mile-long system both underground and on the surface. The coal yard was located at Mentmore where the cargo was shipped out via the AT & SF railroad.
One of the mine's steam locomotives, the "Porter No. 1" and some ore cars survived being scrapped after the mine closed, and are now on exhbition at the Rail City Historical Museum (External link) in Sandy Creek New York, a long way from their original home in New Mexico. By clicking you will leave our Website. Come back soon!
Hollywood trivia in Mentmore
Many Cowboy movies were shot in Gallup in the 1940s, the desert, and red sandstone were an exciting backdrop for the films.
One was filmed in Defiance in 1943, but it was not a western, instead it was a musical with a World War II moral-boosting theme: a group of desert bandits fight the Nazis who want them to work on their railroad.
The film, "Desert Song" was shot using railroad equipment from the Defiance Coal Co. It was directed by Robert Florey and starred Dennis Morgan, Irene Manning, Gene Lokhart and Jack LaRue. It was nominated for "Best Art Direction".
A view of Mentmore, Route 66, New Mexico
The small coal mining town had around 500 residents and the mining company provided housing for its employees as well as a post office, elementary school, a company store and a power plant.
In 1952, the mines became exhausted and the company folded. Mentmore became a shadow of what it was. The townsite is now privately owned and has a scattering of houses and old caravans used as permanent homes.
West towards Defiance
It was on Route 66, between Mentmore and Defiance that another Trading Post once stood:
Defiance Station Trading Post
North side of Route 66, about 6 mi. west of Gallup.
The first trading post opened in 1881 and housed the post office, which closed in 1887 and reopened briefly between 1889 and 1890. The post was operated by D.M. Smith who also had an interst in a local coal mine. He was killed by some Navajos over a gambling dispute ca. 1894.
The store remained open until the influenza pandemic in 1918, when the next owner died of flu.
A second trading post was opened in 1935 by Thomas and Violet Kilpatrick, who set it up on Route 66 and they catered to the Navajo and tourists. They had two gas pumps. It closed in the mid 1950s.
Route 66 reaches Defiance 9.1 miles west of Gallup.
The Alignment of Old Route 66 near Defiance
Route 66 Near Defiance: From Gallup to the Arizona State Line
Route 66 passed right through Defiance since it was created in 1926 and it remained so until it was replaced by I-40 in the late 1960s.
The map of the Gallup to Defiance segment shows the alignment of US 66 all the way to its dead end right next to I-40 west of Defiance. The road used to carry on, but is now cut off by Interstate 40. Its old alignment continues on the south side of I-40, which you can access by backtracking to NM-32 and following it and NM-118 first south under I-40 and then west as its South Frontage Road (NM-118). Continue along the road until I-40's Exit 8, where you will cross to the north side of the Interstate (Map from Defiance to Exit 8 of I-40) and reach the "Historic Segment":
Historic Route 66 from from Manuelito to the Arizona State Line
Old Route 66Manuelito, NM.
National Historic Landmark
The road was built as part of the National Old Trails Highway which became New Mexico state highway 6 in 1914. In 1926 it was incorporated into the alignment of U.S. Highway 66.
The road west of Manuelito follows the Western Rio Puerco River's Valley, along the north side of the River. It is a valley which narrows at times and is enclosed by sheer sandstone cliffs that rise from the valley floor.
Juniper and pinyon trees grow on the mesas and the railroad runs next to the highway. This was a difficult stretch due to the unstable terrain at the roadcuts which washed away or were covered by rockslides.
The road was paved in 1930 and has great vistas of the "Devil's cliff". New steel mesh fencing protects the road from rockslides.
The Route of the Beast, U.S. 666
Superstition meets the Mother Road...
Once there was a U.S. Highway bearing the number 666 but on May 31, 2003, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials approved a new number for it: the route became U.S. 491, a spur of U.S. 191.
Route 66 and U.S. 666 shared the roadbed between Gallup and Sanders in Arizona (where US 666 headed south all the way to Douglas on the Mexican border).
It was an unsafe highway and things were made worse by those D.U.I. But state officials thought that the cause was supernatural and voted to have the number changed for the following reasons:
WHEREAS, people living near the road already live under the cloud of opprobrium created by having a road that many believe is cursed running near their homes and through their homeland; and
WHEREAS, the number "666" carries the stigma of being the mark of the beast, the mark of the devil, which was described in the book of revelations in the Bible; and
WHEREAS, there are people who refuse to travel the road, not because of the issue of safety, but because of the fear that the devil controls events along United States route 666; and
WHEREAS, the economy in the area is greatly depressed when compared with many parts of the United States, and the infamy brought by the inopportune naming of the road will only make development in the area more difficult....
The road is now NM-118 and runs along a narrow valley of the Western Rio Puerco River from Exit 8, 3 mi. east of Manuelito to the AZ-NM state line.See The map from Exit 8 of I-40 through Manuelito to Arizona (Historic Segment).
> > See the previous segment Thoreau to Gallup
National and State Parks
Read about the parks nearby, at Grants: El Malpais National Monument and Cibola National Forest Mount Taylor District and also the El Malpais National Conservation Area with its incredible La Ventana Natural Arch.
Bluewater Lake State Park
Read about the Bluewater Lake State Park. Ideal for fishing, hiking and watching wildlife. RV Campground.
Guidebook of the Western United States: Part C - The Santa Fe Route, With a Side Trip to Grand Canyon of the Colorado, bulletin 613. Nelson Horatio Darton.
Jack DeVere Rittenhouse, (1946). A Guide Book to Highway 66.
Image Used as per Google Street View Image Api Updated Dec. 31, 2014.
Robert Julyan. 1996, The Place Names of New Mexico, UNM Press.