THE WELL WEST
has had several names through the years and only acquired its present
one in 1879 at the beginning of its second mining boom. It is located
here because there was a small but reliable spring located in the arroyo
west of the town. This reliable water source attracted many people.
Indians who ground mesquite beans left their metates scattered about,
probably a few Spaniards stopped by, and then some of the Forty-niners
who were taking the southern route to the gold fields of California,
watered their stock at this little spring. About 1856 a building was
built here by the Army, evidently to serve as a relay station on the
Army Mail line between Fort Thorn on the Rio Grande and Fort Buchannan,
south of Tucson. This spring served as an alternate stopping place for
the San Antonio and San Diego mail line but was bypassed by the first
Butterfield coaches However before the Butterfield quit
running in 1861, they had moved the road back up in the hills and had
built a square adobe stage station here. During this time the spring was
sometimes called Mexican Spring according to old timers.
outbreak of the Civil War completely disrupted the stage line, what with
fighting around the eastern terminals and Union soldiers being moved
back East, leaving the Southwest to the mercy of the Apaches. But the
Civil War brought more people to Mexican Spring-- soldiers of both
sides. First a small detachment of hard-riding Texans led by Captain
Sherod Hunter traveled through this area on their way to Tucson, and
from there, they hoped, to the gold fields of California. Their hopes
were futile because California was overwhelmingly Union in its
sentiments. Carelton and the California Volunteers rode east across
Arizona and met the tattered Texans at Picacho Pass, west of Tucson. The
Texans were defeated and trailed back to Texas, their dreams of
California gold crushed under overwhelming numbers. During this time one
or two more buildings were built at Mexican Spring by the Soldiers. The
largest one was later referred to as the "old stone fort."
With the close of the Civil War a new stage line was started by Kerens
and Mitchell. They hired men in San Diego to reopen some of the
Butterfield's Stations. A man named John Eversen was hired to reopen
this station. Evensen came here in 1865 and lived on here until his
death in 1887. He said that when he came here the little settlement was
1870, some of the prospectors hanging around this little station
discovered samples of very rich silver ore in the surrounding hills and
they went hunting for financing to develop
their new mines. Some of them must have had San Francisco connections
because they interested the group of financiers connected with William
Ralston, President of the Bank of California. A company was formed and
the town was named in Ralston's honor. The town grew rapidly and
newspapers as far away as San Diego carried stories about the promising
new camp. The population boomed to 3000 people with independent miners
flocking in to try to get a piece of the action. The company had some
hired fighting men on their payroll to keep these independent miners
off. The rich silver mined out very rapidly but then the rumor began to
circulate that diamonds had been discovered on Lee's Peak west of town.
The Hired Fighting men stayed on the payroll, the stages kept running,
and the town boomed until sometime in 1872 when the diamond swindle was
revealed as a hoax all over the country. Most people left town for fear
of being implicated in the crooked work and the town almost emptied of
1879 Colonel William G. Boyle got hold of most of the good claims and
renamed the town Shakespeare to eliminate memories of the earlier
swindles. With financing coming from St. Louis this time he started the
Shakespeare Gold and Silver Mining and Milling Company and the town
enjoyed a second boom. More men brought their families and the place
settled down to some extent but it never got a church , a school, a
newspaper, or any real law. Occasionally there would be a serious fight
and some of the losers might be hanged to the timbers of the Grant House
The railroad missed Shakespeare by about 3 miles and the beginning of
the new railroad town of Lordsburg was the death knell for Shakespeare.
Businesses gradually moved down to the new town to be closer to the
source of supplies. The depression of 1893 caused the mines to close and
most people moved away to find jobs elsewhere. People often took the
roofs and other salvageable material off of their houses and left the
walls to crumble in the weather. In 1907 a new copper mine about a mile
south of Shakespeare started to work and some of those miners rented
remaining buildings in the old town. Many ghost stories date from this
era when the older residents seemed to come back to haunt the newer
ones. In 1935 the town and buildings were purchased by Frank and Rita
Hill for a ranch. They maintained the buildings as well as they could
with limited resources.
Shakespeare was declared a National
Historic Site in 1970. Frank Hill passed away in 1970 and Rita in
1985. They are buried at the top of the hill overlooking the town.
Their daughter,Janaloo and her husband, Manny Hough, lived in the
General Merchandise Building and continue to work toward preserving
the town as a monument to the Real Old West
OLD MINES IN THE PYRAMID MNTS
OUTLAWS AND LAWMEN
annals of Shakespeare's history have no tales of fearless lawmen
stalking the streets in search of wrongdoers. According to old timers,
there was no law here at all-just the agreed upon rule that "if you
killed someone you had to dig the grave." This kept down indiscriminate
shootings. During the days of the Silver Strike and the Diamond Swindle,
the silver mining company from San Francisco had on their payroll some
Texas boys whose job it was to keep order and to guard the company
interests mainly by preventing independent miners from staking claims.
Though the Company sometimes called these fellows "Vigilantes," others
just called them "Hired Fighting Men."
a few of these men are now referred to as outlaws by modern writers
although the word "outlaw" should designate a man who is "outside the
law," or wanted by the law. Many of the prominent so-called "outlaws"
had no warrants out for their arrests and so cannot be technically
considered outlaws at all though they may have been pretty hard
prime example of this type was Curly Bill Brocius. No one seems to know
where Bill came from but it seems pretty certain that his roots were in
Texas. Old timers said that he ran the "hired fighting men" at Ralston.
With the end of the silver strike and diamond swindle and no mining
company to pay his salary, Bill Brocius drifted south and west. Large
herds of wild cattle roamed the Animas and San Simon valley and these
Texas boys had a ready market for beef because the Army had to feed the
Apaches on the reservations. When the cowboys depleted the wild cattle
north of the Mexican border, they gathered herds south of the border.
Soon retaliatory raids were made by Mexican ranchers and there was
almost a state of war along the border between Texans and Mexicans. With
Curly rode other men and according to old-timers some of these were
Sandy King, the Clantons, Jack McKenzie, Milt Hicks, George Turner and
later Zwing Hunt, Billy Grounds, John Ringo, Jim Hughes and Joe Hill.
These men all considered Ralston-Shakespeare their home town, the place
they came to for their supplies and to get their mail.
The new town of Tombstone started in 1879 and Curly Bill with some of
his friends, drifted that way to look over the new town, to check out
chances of making money, or of having a good time. On October 28, 1880,
Curly Bill killed Marshall White of Tombstone, a shooting which was
declared an accident. Curly stayed out of Tombstone after that but he
freely rode the trails between Charleston, Galleyville, Shakespeare and
the Mexican Border, dealing in cattle. Many accusations were thrown his
way but no warrants were issued.
In 1881 Curly Billy disappeared from the southwestern scene. Wyatt Earp,
claimed that he killed Curly Bill. There were no confirming witnesses
except for a few of Wyatt's close friends and no body. Curly Bill's
friends stoutly denied this ever happened. Neither side could produce
Curly, either dead or alive. Some say that Curly Bill Brocius simply
rode out of the country and became a respectable rancher in Mexico or
Montana or somewhere else. Old timers here told another story. They said
that Curly died from a case of measles combined with the effects of an
old gunshot wound and that he was buried in the basement of the General
Merchandise to keep his enemies from being able to gloat over his death.
Clanton is another name which is often numbered among the "outlaw"
faction. While Newman Hays Clanton or some of his older boys may have
been among the "hired fighting men" at Shakespeare and may have engaged
in some shady cattle dealing with Curly Bill, they were much more
settled citizens. Records show that N.H. Clanton was a farmer, a
freighter and latter had a dairy at Charleston. His youngest son, Billy
was killed in the famous OK Corral fight in Tombstone in 1881 and N.H.
Clanton was killed with a group of respectable cattlemen who were moving
a herd of cattle from the Animas to the San Simon Valley. People at
Shakespeare were saddened by these killings because the Clantons had
been well respected here.
John Ringo was a frequent visitor to Shakespeare because his friends,
the Hughes family moved here when they left their ranch on the San
Simon. The oldest Hughes Boy, Jim, was another member of the so-called
outlaws and he and John often rode together. John Ringo bought his last
pair of boots in the General Merchandise, the boots that he tied to his
saddle horn before shooting himself in Turkey Creek Canyon in 1881.
King, one of the long-time members of the San Simon Cowboys and Russian
Bill, a romantic looking foreigner, were hanged to the timbers of the
Grant House Dining Room in early 1881. The next morning the Stage Keeper
told the stage passengers that Russian Bill had stolen a horse and Sandy
King was a damned nuisance.
In the middle 1870's a skinny blond kid with a tendency to buck teeth,
drifted into town looking for a job. He was too young and small for
heavy work but he got employment washing dishes in the Stratford Hotel.
After he left Shakespeare he headed for Arizona. From there he drifted
to Lincoln County where he became known as the famous, "Billy the Kid."
During the 1890's some members of the Wild Bunch or Black Jack Ketchum's
gang hung out in the hills south of town, camping in an old mine tunnel
and probably buying supplies here.
Shakespeare was almost as lawless during the days of the third mining
boom when the buildings were being rented by people working in the
Eighty-Five Mine. There was a Deputy Sheriff at the Mine a mile south
and a Deputy in Lordsburg, three miles north, but neither lawman spent
much time enforcing law here at Shakespeare. Strange people came and
went for this was the time of the revolutions in Mexico and this place
is only a day's ride from the border. Some say Pancho Villa was here at
least once on a horse buying trip.
P.O. BOX 253
LORDSBURG, NM 88045