Shakespeare Ghost Town

Today we toured the town of Shakespeare. It is a ghost town located just south of Lordsburg New Mexico.

This building dates to about 1855 and was used by the US Army as a commissary or supply storage point as it was halfway between two military forts. The main reason for this location is the close proximity to a clean and fresh spring. Water is hard to come by in the desert.

In 1870 silver was found in the hills behind the town and the town boomed to around 3,000 people. Also the Butterfield Stage Coach line came through this town where it stopped to change horses and allow the riders a quick meal and a chance to stretch their legs.

Due to a lack of trees in the desert the front room/dining area of the stagecoach station doubled as the hanging area.

A saloon was built onto the stagecoach building to bring additional revenue. Mostly whiskey was served to local miners.

It was in this town that the “famed diamond hoax” occurred. In 1871 two prospectors showed a bag of diamonds to then Bank of California President, William Ralston and said the diamonds were found in the hills here. They even planted some diamonds to make it believable. Ralston bought the claim and even changed the town name to Ralston City. When it was found to be a scam Ralston lost the bank’s money and was found floating in the San Francisco Bay.

After this the town dwindled to about 50 prospectors and in 1879 the town was named Shakespeare to try to distance itself from the diamond scandal.

From 1908-1932 the town had a reputation for lawlessness as there was no church, no newspaper and no law enforcement. Most families lived in nearby Lordsburg. The owners of the Stratford Hotel lived in private quarters in the same building.

The original owners of the hotel had a son named Ross who was disliked by most of the miners. One morning at breakfast an argument began because Ross was given the last egg. A local miner derided him over this so Ross got his gun and shot at the miner. Unfortunately he missed but the miner did not, so Ross was killed in self defense over an egg.

Because dirt sifted down from the ceilings fabric was placed between the beams .

In 1935 the town was bought by the Hill family (Frank, Rita, and their daughter Janaloo) who lived and ranched there. They tried to preserve the town and led tours once a month to help with costs. Currently the granddaughter of Frank and Rita Hill and her husband live on-site and conduct the tours. They are working to restore and preserve the town for future generations to enjoy and learn.

The powder magazine where storage was safer than in the general merchandise building.
When Interstate 10 was being built it ran right through the Hill’s ranch. Rita Hill built this shack right in the path of the highway and stayed in it for 3 months. This did delay the highway but she was arrested and jailed until she agreed not to fight the road, which ended up to be 70 days. The shack was moved back onto their property where it remains today.

We had a great time touring this ghost town and if you are ever near Lordsburg New Mexico it is highly recommended. There is a website and facebook page and tours need to be scheduled. Just do a search for Shakespeare Ghost Town.

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