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Date of visit:
June 25, 2000

For location of this site in NM, click on the map:
 Location of Shakespeare Ghost Town ...
 

We rate this site a:

Site Highlights:
 On private ranch
 Tours once a month
 Few visitors
 Modest entry fee
 Working ranch
 Site well preserved
 Saloon / Hotel
 Blacksmith Shop
 Stagecoach Depot
 Assay Office
 Period reenactments

 Kachina

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Shakesperare Ghost Town NM
Welcome to Shakespeare
Welcome to Shakespeare
Shakespeare has had several names through the years and only acquired its present one in 1879 at the beginning of its second mining boom.
It is located here because there was a small but reliable spring located in the arroyo west of the town. This reliable water source attracted many people. Indians who ground mesquite beans left their metates scattered about, probably a few Spaniards stopped by, arid then some of the Forty-niners who were taking the southern route to the gold fields of California, watered their stock at this little spring. About 1856 the Army built a building here, evidently to serve as a relay station on the Army Mail line between Ft. Thorn on the Rio Grande and Ft. Buchannan, south of Tucson. This spring served as an alternate-stopping place for the San Antonio and San Diego mail line but was bypassed by the first Butterfield coaches. However before the Butterfield quit running in 1861, they had moved the road back up in the hills and had built a square adobe stage station here. During this time the spring was sometimes called Mexican Spring according to old timers.
 A familiar visitor
A familiar visitor
The outbreak of the Civil War completely disrupted the stage line, what with fighting around the eastern terminals and Union soldiers being moved back East, leaving the Southwest to the mercy of the Apaches. But the Civil War brought more people to Mexican Spring-soldiers of both sides.
First a small detachment of hard-riding Texans led by Captain Sherod Hunter traveled through this area on their way to Tucson, and from there, they hoped, to the gold fields of California. Their hopes were futile because California was overwhelmingly Union in its sentiments. Carleton and the California Volunteers rode east across Arizona and met the tattered Texans at Picacho Pass, west of Tucson. The Texans were defeated and trailed back to Texas, their dreams of California gold crushed under overwhelming numbers. During this time the Soldiers built one or two more buildings at Mexican Spring. The largest one was later referred to as the "old stone fort."
 An Old West symbol
An Old West symbol
With the close of the Civil War Kerens and Mitchell started a new stage line. They hired men in San Diego to reopen some of the Butterfield's stations. A man named John Evensen was hired to reopen this station. Evensen came here in 1865 and lived on here until his death in 1887. He said that when he came here the little settlement was called Grant.
 A Shakespeare ranchhouse
A Shakespeare ranchhouse

 A Shakespeare remnant

A Shakespeare remnant

 Shakespeare Main Street

Shakespeare Main Street
In 1870, some of the prospectors hanging around this little station discovered samples of very rich silver ore in the stii-rounding hills and they went hunting for financing to develop their new mines. Some of them must have had San Francisco connections because they interested the group of financiers connected with William Ralstoii, President of the Bank of California. A company was formed and the town was named in Ralston's honor. The town grew rapidly and newspapers as far away as San Diego carried stories about the promising new camp. The population boomed to 3000 people with independent miners flocking in to try to get a piece of the action. The company had some hired fighting men on their payroll to keep these independent miners off. The rich silver mined out very rapidly but then the rumor began to circulate that diamonds had been discovered on Lee's Peak west of town. The Hired Fighting men stayed on the payroll, the -stages kept running, and the town boomed until sometime in 1872 when the diamond swindle was revealed as a hoax all over the country. Most people left town for fear of being implicated in the crooked work and the town almost emptied of people.
In 1879 Colonel William G. Boyle got hold of most of the good claims and renamed the town Shakespeare to eliminate memories of the earlier swindles. With financing coming from St. Louis this time he started the Shakespeare Gold and Silver Mining and Milling Company and the town enjoyed a second boom. More men brought their families and the place settled down to some extent but it never got a church, a school, a newspaper, or any real law. Occasionally there would be a serious fight and some of the losers might be hanged to the timbers of the Grant House dining room.
 Still a ranch
Still a ranch
The railroad missed Shakespeare by about 3 miles and the beginning of the new railroad town of Lordsburg was the death knell for Shakespeare. Businesses gradually moved down to the new town to be closer to the source of supplies. The depression of 1893 caused the mines to close and most people moved away to find jobs elsewhere.
People often took the roofs and other salvageable material off of their houses and left the walls to crumble in the weather. In 1907 a new copper mine about a mile south of Shakespeare started to work and some of those miners rented remaining buildings in the old town. Many ghost stories date from this era when the older residents seemed to come back to haunt the newer ones. In 1935 Frank and Rita Hill purchased the town and buildings for a ranch. They maintained the buildings as well as they could with limited resources.

Shakespeare was declared a National Historic Site in 1970. Frank Hill passed away in 1970 and Rita in 1985. They are buried at the top of the hill overlooking the town. Their daughter, Janaloo and her husband, Manny Hough, live in the General Merchandise Building and continue to work toward preserving the town as a monument to the Real Old West.

What's Left of Shakespeare
 Grant House Saloon
Grant House Saloon

 Grant House Saloon Patron

Grant House Saloon Patron

 Waiting For A Customer

Waiting For A Customer
GRANT HOUSE SALOON

This small saloon was added on to the Stage Station by stagekeeper John Evensen, probably in the middle 1870's. A door connected this saloon with the kitchen of the Stage Station so the Hostler and Stagekeeper could wait on both sections. This room served as a hospital of sorts for Charlie Williams after he was shot up by Apaches.

Charlie had been expelled from town for killing a man in cold blood but when he came back in, barely able to hang on to his horse, the men relented and placed him on a plank in a corner with a blanket to keep the flies off. Charlie was feeling very "Poorly" and to cheer him the boys would bet him a quart of whiskey each morning that he would not be alive that night. When he still lingered that evening, they would bet him another quart he would be dead by morning. Whether it was the whiskey or the challenge, Charlie lived.

This saloon was later used as a restaurant during Prohibition Days.

 Grant House Sign
Grant House Sign

 Grant House

Grant House

 Grant House Butterfield Station

Grant House Butterfield Station
THE GRANT HOUSE

The back room of this building was the old Butterfield Station built sometime between the time of the first coaches of 1858 and the end of the line in 1861. John Evensen, who was sent here in 1865 to re-open the Butterfield station, found this large, square building in need of some repairs but sound.

The front room was the "new" dining room built on in 1870 when Ralston City started to boom. This room, with its strong support timbers, served as the hanging room upon occasion for there were no trees here. All hangings were of the "unofficial" variety so no one knows for certain how many men met their death here. The names of only two men are known - Sandy King and Russian Bill who were hanged here in early 1881.

Emma Marble Muir's parents later bought the Grant House from Stagekeeper Evensen and used it for their home and boardinghouse.

 Stratford Hotel
Stratford Hotel

 Stratford Hotel

Stratford Hotel
THE STRATFORD HOTEL

The lower part of this building is of mud and rock construction and was built during the Civil War.

In 1870, when the town started to boom, a half story adobe addition was put on the building as well as a new adobe front with doors and windows.

At first the partitions upstairs were made of muslin tacked from ceiling to floor making it necessary for ladies to blow out their candles before they undressed.

In 1879 a sad killing took place in the dining room. Bean Belly Smith shot Ross Woods in a quarrel, which started over an egg. The two men did not like each other (gossip hinted at woman trouble) and that morning, Ross, being the son of Annie Woods who ran the Stratford, was served the last egg. Bean Belly Smith objected to this and used some language that Ross could not, in honor, take. Ross went upstairs and got his gun, came down and shot from the doorway. However, he missed and Bean Belly did not. Ross Woods has the first marker in the Shakespeare Cemetery.
 
 The Hotel  What a view!  Master Suite
 Modern kitchen  Living room  Fireplace
 
 Old Mail Station
Old Mail DStation

 Inside the mail station

Inside the mail station
THE OLD MAIL STATION

The mud and rock section of this building is the oldest structure still standing in the town. It was here several years before the Civil War and was called a "Mail Station and Commissary" by old timers.

Supplies were freighted down from Socorro and unloaded in this building. Soldiers were here during the Civil War and at least one man lived here through that time and was still here in the 1880's. Many stories, Indians, and ghosts are told about this room. The older room still has the original old yucca-stalk ceiling.

 The Assay Office
The Assay Office
THE ASSAY OFFICE

During the second boom this was the main assay office, the one owned by the big Shakespeare Gold and Silver Company.

 
 The Assay Office  Inside View  Inside View
 
 Blacksmith Shop
Blacksmith Shop

 Inside the mail station

Blacksmith at work
THE BLACKSMITH SHOP

Site of a Blacksmith shop during the 1889s.

This particular building is a reconstruction of the original which burned down in the late 1990's. As we've been told, old photos and recall were used to rebuild true to the original.

 Powder Magazine

THE POWDER MAGAZINE

Black powder and other explosives were stored here by the Shakespeare Gold and Silver Mining and Milling Company. The General Merchandise and the Shakespeare Guard (Militia) also used it for powder storage.

 
 The Powder Magazine  Inside the Powder Magazine
 
 General Merchandise
General Merchandise
GENERAL MERCHANDISE

This large building with the full-length basement was used as a store, arsenal for the militia, telegraph office and Post Office during the 1879-1893 boom. It was remodeled three times before 1880 and in the last remodeling, redwood and pine ceiling and wall panneling was freighted in wagons from California.

It was run by Smyth, Long and Price, later by. Smyth and Carrol and with its large basement could store a great deal of supplies. Freight wagons were backed up to the big doors on the southwest side for unloading. There is one man buried in the basement, identity unknown, and another man was killed there. John Ringo purchased his last pair of boots in this store. It was formerly the home of the owners of Shakespeare. This building, plus the adjacent blacksmith shop burned down in the late 1990's. It is awaiting rebuilding when adequate funds are available.
Site Gallery - "Gunfights of the Old West"
 
 Gunfight reenactment  Gunfight reenactment  Gunfight reenactment
 Gunfight reenactment  Gunfight reenactment  Gunfight reenactment
 
Site Gallery - Friends of Ft. Selden
 
 Military life reenactment  Military life reenactment  Military life reenactment
 Military life reenactment  Military life reenactment  Military life reenactment
 
Entrance to Pancho Villa State Park
Pancho Villa State park
Picnic at Pancho Villa SP

Satisfying a hunger and quenching our thirst at the notorious Pancho Villa State Park .. only a few miles north of the Mexican Border.

 
 Looking south to Mexico  The raid
 
For More Information
Shakespeare Ghost Town - New Mexico USA
The Paso del Norte Pistoleros
Ft. Selden (Friends of Ft. Selden)
Our Visit to Ft. Selden

Text source partially exrtracted from:
Ghost Towns and Mining Camps of New Mexico, James E. Sherman, 1975
New Mexico's Best Ghost Towns, Philip Varney, 1999
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