|After a lovely church service at the Cowboy Church in Deming, Bonnie, Brad, Lee Ann, Larry, John and I headed to Taco Bell for a quick lunch.
We then drove the hour drive to the Ghost Town of Shakespeare out side of Lordsburg. The town is only open for 2 days a month for tours. It is on the National Register of Historic Places. A gentleman, dressed in cowboy gear leads the tour.
The town was founded as a rest stop called Mexican Springs along a stagecoach route, it was renamed Grant after the Civil War, after General U. S. Grant. When silver was discovered nearby it became a mining town called Ralston City, named after financier William Chapman Ralston. This silver discovery brought thousands of people to the town. When it was discovered that some in the town were performing diamond hoaxes, Ralston left town even though he was not part of the hoax. He later became the founder of the Bank of California. Many left the town at that time.
Our tour guide told us that the town of Shakespeare was named by a British gentleman by the name of William George Boyle. Since the town had a bad reputation due to the diamond hoaxes it was necessary to change it's name. The main street was then named Avon Avenue....plus, the hotel's name was changed to Stratford. A little play on Shakespeare, so to speak. Boyle started the Shakespeare Gold and Silver mining company and this started a second boom to the town with approximately 600 residents.
On November 9, 1881, Old West outlaws "Russian Bill" Tattenbaum and Sandy King, both cattle rustlers and former members of the Clanton faction of Charleston, Arizona Territory, were lynched in Shakespeare, and their bodies were left hanging for several days as a reminder to others that lawlessness would not be tolerated. The two had been captured by gunman "Dangerous Dan" Tucker, who at the time was the Shakespeare town marshal. They were hanged from the rafters of the Grant Stage Station dining room, as there weren't any trees in the area to hang them from.
In the early 1880’s the railroad pushed through the area, but to Shakespeare's undoing, it missed the town by three miles, heading through Lordsburg instead. By this time, Shakespeare was called home to some 200 people and boasted three saloons, two hotels, two blacksmiths, a meat market, a mercantile store, and a lawyer. It also finally had a deputy sheriff.
But the railroad would spell the end of Shakespeare, as most of its businesses moved to nearby Lordsburg. At the same time, the United States moved to the gold standard, putting the silver mines out of business. Most of Shakespeare's residents moved on taking any salvageable material with them.
In 1907, when a new copper mine about a mile south of Shakespeare was built, the town saw a short resurgence, as miners rented many of the buildings in the old town. But, it was not enough to revive it permanently.
Much of the town people left when the mines closed. In 1935 a couple by the name of Frank & Rita Hill purchased the town as a ranch and opened it up for tourism. They raised a daughter, Janaloo who had a career in modeling and the movies in California, but returned to Shakespeare to help teach and assist with the preservation of the town. Over a period of 25 years she taught over 600 girls ballet, tap and jazz dance. Her home/studio was placed in the town of Shakespeare in the mid 1970's. It was built between 1914 and 1923, and was previously located near the Santa Rita Mine.
An interesting story about the hotel. In 1879 a killing took place in the dining room. It seemed that the son (Ross Woods) of Annie Woods, who ran the Stratford, was served an egg for his breakfast. Turns out that was the last egg, and a guest at the hotel, Bean Belly Smith who had a falling out with Woods over a woman, was displeased. Mr Bean Belly shouted his dismay at not having an egg, using language that Ross would not tolerate, which upset Ross so much that he ran upstairs to get his gun. He came down shooting, but missed Bean's Belly and got killed himself. A sad end over an egg.
It was a great day, lots of history to see and of course, John was in his element as it was, after all a Cowboy Town.