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New Mexico Flag - High Country LegendsNEW MEXICO LEGENDS

Steins - A Railroad Ghost Town

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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 threat of Indian attacks. In 1873, another such skirmish occurred in the canyon between the Apache Indians and the cavalry led by Captain Enoch Steins, who was killed in the attack. Afterwards, it was called Steins Pass.

 

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 prospectors.

 

Steins New Mexico Town Site, Kathy Weiser-Alexander 2008

Steins town site, Kathy Weiser, February, 2008. Available for Prints and Downloads HERE.

 

 

 

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 buildings.

 

Steins, New Mexico Mercantile

Steins, New Mexico Mercantile, Kathy Weiser, February, 2008. Available for Prints and Downloads HERE.

 

Steins became a privately-owned ghost town in 1988 when Larry and Linda Link purchased the property.  They hosted thousands of tourists until retiring in 2008. Then continued tours by appointment.  In June of 2011, Larry Link was murdered, a crime that as of this writing, is still unsolved. In June of 2013 family members announced they would no longer open the ghost town to the public. 

 

What’s left of the community includes several adobe ruins and about ten restored buildings, including a tack shop, a community kitchen, and "Girdie’s Garter.” Nearby is an old cemetery that is dotted with a few worn and weathered tombstones.

 

Though its many residents are gone, the Southern Pacific locomotives still make their way past the town daily, whistling away to remind the coyotes and its two residents of a more prominent time.

 

Steins is 19 miles west of Lordsburg, New Mexico, just off I-10 at Exit #3, just east of the Arizona-New Mexico border.

 

© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated February, 2014.

 

More information see: Stein's Railroad Ghost Town Official Site

Also See:

Black Jack Ketchum

The Railroad in the American West

Ghost Towns of New Mexico

New Mexico Ghost Towns Photo Print Gallery

 

 

Steins, New Mexico

Much of Steins has been reduced to ruins today, Kathy Weiser, February, 2008. Available for Prints and Downloads HERE.

 

 

From Legends' General Store

Saloon Style Advertising Prints - What were on the walls of the saloons in the Old West?  Likely, much of the same as those you find today - advertisements for liquor, beer, and tobacco.  Plus the "decadent" women of the time.  In our Photo Print Shop, you'll find dozens of photographs for decorating your "real" saloon or den in a saloon type atmosphere.

          

 

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