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Shakespeare - Born Again and Again

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The popular ghost town of Shakespeare was a regular stop for travelers and pioneers in this remote region, long before it became a settlement. West of the site that would later become Shakespeare was a reliable spring that early on, enticed Indians and Spaniards, and later, those headed to the California Gold Rush, to quench their thirsts and rest their horses. The fresh water spring was sometimes referred to as Mexican Springs by local Hispanics in the area.


The first building was erected by the U.S. Army in about 1856, which served as a relay station on the mail line between Fort Thorn and Fort Buchanan, south of Tucson, Arizona. Later, mail contracts were awarded to the San Antonio-San Diego Mail Line, which often stopped at the reliable spring.


When the Butterfield Overland Stage Line came through the territory, it bypassed the spring; however, when other area springs on its regular route became too alkaline, some say that the stage line began to stop at the spring near Shakespeare.


Shakespeare, New Mexico Town View

Shakespeare, New Mexico, February, 2008, Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

This image available for photo prints & editorial downloads HERE!



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However, when the Civil War broke out, all stagecoach services were discontinued. During this time, numerous Union soldiers were heading back East to fight the war, Confederate soldiers headed to California  hoping to take the goldfields, and the Apache were left to take over their old stomping grounds.

When the war was over, the Southern Pacific Mail Line began operations from San Diego, California to Mesilla, New Mexico. The line soon sent a man named John Evenson to reopen many of the old Butterfield Stations. When he arrived in Shakespeare in 1865, he said the old settlement was called Grant. He soon established a station for the line and continued to live here until his death in 1887.

William Chapman RalstonBy 1870, the area had attracted a number of prospectors always on the look-out for mineral deposits. When a couple of them found rich silver ore, they contacted San Francisco businessman and financier, William Ralston. When the prospectors were successful in gaining Ralston’s financial support to develop the mines, the settlement’s name was changed to Ralston in his honor.

Soon, the New Mexico Mining Company was digging for ore and a new town was laid out, filling with tents and about 200 people. In no time; however; the town boomed when newspapers as far away as San Diego and San Francisco, told the news of the rich silver finds. More miners flocked to the area, that some say, soon sported some 3,000 people.

Though the New Mexico Mining Company found a few isolated pockets of silver ore, William Ralston's credibility was quickly waning. His stock dropped dramatically and people began to leave the newly formed camp. The next thing you know, a rumor began that diamonds had been found on Lee’s Peak, near Ralston. Though people were skeptical, they began to invest once again into Ralston’s stocks. Later, it was found to be a hoax.


To William Ralston’s credit, he paid back, from his own pocket, all who had invested into the scheme. By 1873, there were only a few people left in the boom town, primarily those that worked at the stage station and a few prospectors.


William Ralston, meantime, continued to suffer through several years of hardship until finally, during the depression of 1875, the Bank of California collapsed, leaving him in financial ruin. That same year, on August 27th, he reportedly went for a swim in the San Francisco Bay and drowned.


Mail Station, Shakespeare, New Mexico

The old mail station is said to date back to 1856, when  it served as a U.S. Army relay station on the mail line, February, 2008, Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

This image available for photo prints & editorial downloads HERE!


In 1879, though the town of Ralston was virtually non-existent, another investor, Colonel John Boyle of St. Louis, Missouri, staked a number of claims under the name of the Shakespeare Mining Company. In 1879, due to all of the bad press the town had received, the settlement’s name was once again changed – this time to Shakespeare.


Mining was in full force again with the principal mines being Boyle’s Shakespeare Gold and Silver Mining and Milling Company, as well as the Henry Clay, Atwood, Eighty-Five, and Yellow Jacket. Colonel Boyle also bought an adobe building which he turned into the Stratford Hotel. The town began to grow again, this time with adobe buildings.


Though the town was typical of the time with rowdy miners and lawlessness, it never gained the reputation of other mining towns of the time, such as the more decadent mining camps of Leadville, Colorado and Deadwood, South Dakota.


In fact, men began to bring in their families and settle down; however, the town never settled so much as to ever get a school, a church, or a newspaper.


"Law” was generally handled by the citizens of the community, even though the settlement was overseen by a County Deputy Sheriff  as early as  1870. Some offenders were even hanged by the timbers of the Grant House dining room.


On one occasion, a well known outlaw by the name of Sandy King was making his home in Shakespeare and when he got into an argument with a storekeeper and shot off his index finger, he was quickly taken to jail Deputy Sheriff Dan Tucker.



Continued Next Page

Grant House, Shakespeare, New Mexico

The Grant House on the right and saloon on the left. The  back portion of the Grant House once held the stage  station. The front dining room sometimes served as the "hanging" room, February, 2008, Kathy Weiser.

This image available for photo prints & editorial downloads HERE!


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Ghost Towns: America's Lost World DVDKathy Weiser-AlexanderGhost Towns (America's Lost World) 2 Disc DVD


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