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Clayton has long been a major stop on the trails of the west. Coronado passed through there on his way to Kansas. The Goodnight-Loving Trail with its large cattle drives, used Clayton for a stop over and resting place for the many herds of cattle driven over the famous trail.
In the latter days of the Santa Fe Trail, freight lines from the railroads in Kansas passed through here. Soon after the railroad reached Santa Fe, another railroad came to Clayton. The arrival of the railroad in 1887, probably signaled the birth of Clayton.
Freighting, by wagon, was major industry here at that time.
Before entering Northeastern New Mexico from one of the four adjoining states, the Rabbit Ear Mountains stand out like sentinels, visible from a distance of forty to fifty miles away. Upon determining the name of these peaks from their highway maps, tourists immediately ask the question about these first foot hills of the Rockies "Why do the call it Rabbit Ears". They in no way resemble a pair of rabbits ears. Which is exactly right.
The portion of the trail here near Clayton was in the heart of the land of the Indian. Indian scouts could watch the slow progress of the westbound wagon trains from the top of these two mountains from one, to possibly three or four days depending on where the wagons were pulled by horses and mules or slow plodding oxen.
Chief Rabbit Ear and his braves began raiding these wagon trains, as they invaded his hunting and camping grounds. No doubt ambushing them as they attempted the crossings on the Corrumpa and Seneca Creeks and the tributaries.
The Governor, of what was then the Spanish Colony of Santa Fe, governed by Mexico, sent a detachment of Cavalry along with their indian scouts and guides, into what is now northeastern New Mexico to stop the Indians from interfering with the traffic on the Trail. The Cavalry located the Indian Village, which was near the foot of the peaks, possibly in the Seneca Creek Valley, as this spot shows evidence of having been inhabited by Indians for many, many years.
The Spanish Cavalry took the village by surprise, and in the ensuing battle, killed Chief Rabbit Ear and his warriors, leaving only women and children. The engagement made the Trail much safer for commerce, and gave those peaks their name - RABBIT EAR MOUNTAIN.
The population of Clayton NM is 2,874 as of 2013.
There is currently one Wi-Fi Hotspot available at the Tourist Information Center, 1103 South First Street.
Zip code: 88415
Nearest city with pop. 50,000+: Amarillo Texas (126.1 Miles)
Nearest city with pop. 200,000+: Colorado Springs (200.3 Miles)
Nearest city with pop. 1,000,000+: Dallas Texas (506.7 Miles)
Texline, TX (11.9 Miles)
Boise City, OK (49.9 miles)
Dalhart, TX (52.9 miles)
Hartley, TX (66.5 miles)
Keyes, OK (68.4 miles)
Stratford, TX (76.6 miles)
Springfield, CO (76.7 miles)
Logan, NM (77.5 miles)