This old railroad and mining town south of the Peloncillo Mountain Range,
got its start as a small stop on the Birch Stage Line in 1857. A year
later, Birch was replaced by the Butterfield Overland Stage Company, who
continued to use the station. At that time, it was called Doubtful Canyon,
for the nearby pass by the same name, called such because of the constant
Indian attacks. In 1873, another such skirmish occurred in the canyon
Apache Indians and the cavalry led by Captain Enoch
Steins, who was killed in the attack. Afterwards, it was called Steins
When rich mineral deposits of gold,
silver, lead and copper were found several years later, in the
Peloncillo Mountains north of the pass, the area began to crawl with
Steins town site, Kathy Weiser,
February, 2008. Available for Prints and Downloads
Called the Kimball Mining District, a number of mining
camps, with names like Kimball, Pocahontas, and Beck, sprang up along
the base of the Peloncillo Range.
In 1878, the Southern Pacific Railroad began to blast away at the rock
bluffs of the area, developing a quarry and taking away tons of rock
for a new railroad bed. During this time, some 1,000 Chinese railroad
workers lived at the foot of Steins Peak. By 1880, the railway was
complete through the area and the railroad stabled a station at Steins
Pass. In 1888, a post office, called Doubtful Canyon, was established
on the main wagon road to serve the mining camps. For more than a
decade, the area was dotted with little more than ramshackle cabins
and prospector tents, though Beck’s Camp sported a store and a hotel,
with buckboard service to the Southern Pacific Station.
On December 9, 1897, the mining camps were bursting with excitement
when the Southern Pacific Sunset Limited was held up at Steins Pass by
the Black Jack Ketchum Gang. In the robbery attempt a trainman named
Edward Cullen was killed, and the bandits were able to escape;
however, they made off with no money.
In 1902, the Doubtful Canyon had only 35 registered voters, but sported a
schoolhouse for the children. A few years later, the Southern Pacific
Railroad built a new station a few miles east of the older one and the
town of Steins grew up around it. Soon, the Doubtful Canyon Post
Office was transferred to the new "town.” By 1905, the settlement
boasted about 100 people, a mercantile store, a restaurant, and a
saloon. Acting as a headquarters for a few of the mining companies,
the town grew to about 200 people, most of who worked in the nearby
mines or in the rock quarry.
However, it is estimated, at its high
point in 1919, the surrounding area supported more than 1,000
residents. By this time, the town also had a boarding house, two
bordellos, a dance hall, more stores, two more saloons, and a hotel.
But, for those early pioneers, life was tough in the desert region, as
there was no source of water and had to be brought into the area on
the train, selling as high as $1.00 per barrel.
But, for Steins, prosperity would be
short lived. In 1925, the rock quarry closed putting dozens of men out
of work and at the end of World War II, the Southern Pacific Railroad
discontinued its stop in Steins, giving the town notice that it would
no longer deliver water and the station would be closed.
Spelling certain death for the town,
the railway offered the residents free transportation to wherever
they might like to go and the vast majority of its inhabitants
took the offer, leaving many of their possessions behind. In time
Steins was completely abandoned. The post office was discontinued
in 1944. Some time later, a fire destroyed many of the deserted