Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ghost Towns- Steins

Leaving Tombstone Arizona, our next stop was Las Cruces NM., where we would stop overnight before popping into El Paso Tx to see the famous Concordia cemetery. On the way to Las Cruces we had planned stops in the Ghost towns of Steins and Shakespear.

Steins was very easy to find and right, beside the I-10- literally. You can see some cars and the highway in some of the photos. Unfortunately however, Steins was all fenced in.  There were signs posted citing danger due to deadly pesticides. And there was a strong smell of something in the air near the town.

 I have since read however, that the owner of Steins has closed it due to people stealing from him. That is too bad because it looked to be a very interesting place. I did manage to get some photos through the fence however.  It was later in the afternoon wen we arrived, and there did not seem to be anyone else there. However one did have the distinct sense that we were being watched and it felt creepy because of that. Here is a little history about Steins.

Steins Railroad Ghost town was once a thriving railroad station town named after Captain Enoch Stein, U.S. Army officer (sometimes spelled Steen) who was the first Anglo witness to sign a treaty with the Mimbres Apaches including Delgadito and Victorio. At the town's peak, between 1905 to 1945 Steins supported 1300 residents.

In 1857 the Birch stage line rumbled through Steins, and when James Birch was drowned in a shipwreck off the New England coast, his stagecoach company line was replaced in 1858 by the Butterfield Overland Stage Company.

Waterman L. Owsby, a reporter for the New York Herald was the first "through" passenger, thus tales of the Wild West were begun. In April of 1861, five men traveling west by stagecoach to Tucson were attacked by Cochise and his band while approaching Stein's Peak. Two white men were killed in the first fire. The others, including John J. Giddings of San Antonio, traffic manager of the Butterfield Texas division, and one other passenger survived long enough to face a terrible fate, hung upside down and burned alive. The bodies were found and buried by passing freighters. Giddings daughter visited the grave in 1925, erecting a headstone in her father's memory.

Congress ordered the Butterfield road closed in 1861 due to the onset of Civil War.
Later, during the 1880s Apaches once again figured into Steins history when the Army set up a heliograph station on Steins Peak signaling information regarding the movements of Geronimo. With the surrender of Geronimo in 1886 citizens of the Territory breathed a sigh of relief, but three years later heliograph stations began blinking messages once again to the Army hard on the trail of Apache Kid. Later, gangs of horse thieves and express robbers including Black Jack Ketchum terrorized the little village.

In early 1880s Southern Pacific built track through Steins Pass and the town was established as work station for the railroad. Dwellings were made of rough-cut lumber, adobe, and salvaged railroad ties. Water hauled from Doubtful Canyon sold for a dollar a barrel. Numerous businesses included three saloons, two bordellos, a boarding house, and a general store stood at the center of the community. After World War II Southern Pacific switched from steam to diesel, the work station was closed down and the town began to die.

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