Following the Civil War, Mesilla resumed its role as the commercial and transportation center for the region. It outfitted
the profitable mining activities and ranching operations that had become important industries in the territory. An even greater number of passengers and freighters made the
town a vital link in the important and dangerous transportation network of the west.
Mesilla was a lively social center in the 1880s. People came from as far as the
City of Chihuahua and Tucson to attend bailes (dances), bullfights, cockfights and theatrical presentations. As a social center, the town attracted more than its share of
violence. It was not uncommon to see differences settled in the streets with guns. Outlaws such as Dutch Hubert, Nicolas Provencio and Billy the Kid frequented many of the bars
and dances in town. It was at the jail and courthouse on the southeast corner of the plaza that Billy the Kid was tried and sentenced to hang in 1881. The town of Mesilla
was as wild as the West ever was.
In 1881, the railroad bypassed Mesilla in favor of Las Cruces, four miles to the northeast. With this event, the county seat was
moved to Las Cruces and Mesilla's importance was soon dimmed by its neighbor. As a result, Mesilla has experienced little growth until recently, and so, has retained much
of its original nineteenth century character.