Shakespeare Ghost Town

2023 Full-Time, New Mexico, Road Trip, States

Today we visited Stratford upon Avon. That is the ruins of the historic Stratford Hotel on Avon Avenue in the ghost town of Shakespeare near Lordsburg, New Mexico. A small spring here in southern New Mexico served as a source of water for travelers at least since the time of the Apache. After the discovery of gold in California, Forty-Niners traveling this southern route would stop here to refresh themselves and their animals. In 1854 the US military established an Army Mail depot here. From 1858 to 1861 it was stagecoach stop for the Butterfield Overland Mail. Just after the Civil War the tiny community changed its name to Grant to honor the Union war hero. By 1870 this place was a boomtown, now called Ralston, after the San Francisco businessman backing the mines. The town of three thousand men boasted 16 saloons and no churches. Then the surface silver ran out in 1871. The Coinage Act of 1873 devalued silver bullion. On top of that Ralston was involved in the Great Diamond Hoax of 1872 so the town’s name was tarnished and the boom was over. By the 1879 Englishmen Col. William Boyle and Gen. John Boyle were the movers and shakers in the town they renamed the Shakespeare. They bought up mine claims and were owners of the hotel they renamed the Stratford on the main street renamed Avon Avenue. All this was as a second gold and silver mining rush came on that spurred economic growth into the 1890s until mining ceased again. Then just after the turn of the 20th Century there was a third mining boom. This time the precious metal was copper and times were good again until the last mine shut down in 1929. During the Great Depression Frank and Rita Hill purchased the abandoned town of Shakespeare as a cattle ranch in 1935. But Rita who had starred in silent films in Hollywood, and who was a teacher was truly interested in the history here. Along with Emma Marble Muir who had moved here as a young girl in 1880, Rita began to document Shakespeare’s history and to offer tours of the ghost town. As the years passed Janaloo, Rita & Frank‘s daughter who had left to pursue a career as a model and a dancer, returned and joined her mother in preserving the history and by 1973 Shakespeare was a National Historic Site. These three extraordinary women were extremely instrumental in preserving this part of New Mexico history. Today this town on privately owned property is still cared for by family and is opened to the public for guided tours by appointment. We were privileged to take the tour and as members of Harvest Hosts, to spend the night under starry skies here.

Dave, our tour guide, greeted us and confirmed our tour reservation.
Dating back to the earliest days of the community, this is the earliest saloon.
The saloon is tiny and had few offerings but it served the residents and travelers well.
Meals were cooked on an open hearth.
Relics from the era include original pieces and donated items.
The Shakespeare Hotel offered accommodations for travelers.
Reportedly Billy the Kid worked at the Shakespeare Hotel waiting tables and washing dishes.
The oldest building on the site, built in 1854 and enlarged in 1856.
Many artifacts remain from the mining operations.
The assay office for the silver miners.
An exceedingly well equipped blacksmith shop.
The cone shaped bucket was used for fighting fires. The unstable design assured it wouldn’t be borrowed for other uses.
An important part of the family story involves Janaloo returning to run the family and to help preserve the history all the while continuing her own career.
There are still former students living in Lordsburg who remember learning to dance and performing at the studio.
At the end of the day we’ve got a beautiful and peaceful location for an overnight stay.

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3 Comments

  1. Ted Horsch

    We’re enjoying your posts! Thanks so much.

    Reply
  2. Donna Cody

    As always, truly enjoying your adventures!

    Reply
  3. SUSAN O'GARA

    Amazing adventure, my dear friends!!!

    Reply

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