The Ghost Town of Shafter, Tx

Sunday, January 18th, 2009


I have been loaned a SPOT (tracking device) good for “help” “911” and also for anyone wanting to see and know the roads we have been on or are on. The unit is turned off at night and should be back on every morning while traveling. Click on this link for the tracking page.

rd sign  

The night is young, for the first time I realized the lengthening of the day when arriving back from our little 300 mile ride. These are the days I live for, cold mornings when it takes about half an hour just to suit up, warmer noons when the layers slowly come off, an average amount of miles with a destination, the wind blowing only to enhance the thoughts while the blue ribbon beneath me passes by as a fast forward movie. Mother Nature or remnants of an old town, my senses and vision’s extension were happy today with many photos to share, many photos maybe some day to look back at when in that rocking chair in motion, some years future at “The Oasis”.


This above is what keeps me here throughout these cold months of winter. As much as I look forward to truly being back on the road full time, versus shorter trips as today, I know that when that time comes and the days pass away from here, I will miss everything this space represents, including “The Oasis”. I will have to think hard about it then knowing the summer temperatures here, to willingly be forced to stay away. It is mystifying, it is still a mystery to me every time these sights appear around the curves leading here.

old house a 

old house b  

I have been planning for a while now to visit the Ghost Town of Shafter as curiosity always drives me to those desolate areas where once thriving a slice of society lived within. There are still a dozen families on site, Marfa and Presidio being near by. The town goes back to 1880 when John W. Spender discovered silver ore. Spencer showed a sample to a Colonel William R. Shafter, at the time a commander of Fort Davis who had it assayed. As Shafter shared the information with two other fellow officers, they managed to convinced the State to allow them to buy huge tracts of school land around the site in 1880. The three of them turned around and made Spender a partner, but although they now owned the land, they lacked the capital to mine the silver!

old house c

old house d  

In 1882, they leased some of their holdings to a California Mining group from which a new company was formed “The Presidio Mining Company”. Machinery was then installed and the town of Shafter was born in 1884. The post office was granted in 1885. One partner sued when the company started mining on land deeded under his wife’s name. The case went to the Texas Supreme Court who ruled in favor of the mine over the disgruntled partner in 1887. Operations increased and Shafter became a full-fledged “company town” with the miners totally dependent on the company. Shafter only had 110 people around 1900. The mine closed and reopened several times throughout the 20s and 30s.

cemetery c

cemetery a  

By 1943 Shafter’s population had grown to 1,500 with the economy buoyed by nearby Cavalry Fort D. A. Russell and Marfa Army Air Field. When the posts were closed at the end of WWII, the population shrank to only 20. There is also the fact that the town was called “Bews” when Shafter was a siding for the Nevada Northern Railway which was established in 1906. Lots were sold in the town. About 40 people lived here and a school opened in 1909 that did not close until 1932. By 1959 the office was closed and the town died, renamed previously Shafter. 

old house e

church a  
cemetery b  

We arrived in warm weather, jacket and all came off as I knew we would be there for a while, moving only a few feet at the time. It always happens in Ghost Towns, standing still in the middle of the unpaved road which was once Main Street, quiet with then not a soul around, I could however hear the past voices of the locals and sounds of carriages coming and going throughout an era we ourselves will never experience. Where they good times? where they bad times? They were just another time, maybe with more of a human facet, more of a personal touch compared to today’s experiences as “words” where of an importance said to each other face instead of words send out through the waves of space as we do today. Not better, not worse, just a slice of the reality for the time as today also has its advantages being able to stay in touch as never done before.

church b

historical site a  

For some reason our first stop at the end of town after crossing a shallow creek was the old cemetery. The end of a Journey for so many that laid in front of us. Names, dates, crosses and much thoughts. How strange when one truly thinks about it all. Birth, growing pains, daily lessons which never know the time of the day or the year, everyone one way or another with such a full Life, joys and sadness all combined as finally the body will rest once done their time on Earth. The souls where of many as I walked around within my own at times asking questions, sometimes feeling the answers throughout the quiet and peaceful space.

historical site d

historical site e  
historical site b historical site c

It was then next the Memorial Historical Site which seems to be always open. I could tell it was being worked on as besides all the photos of past occupants of the town on the walls, many were still laying on the floor waiting to be put up. A guest book I signed surprised me to see so many visitors have been from as far as Alaska, the East Coast, all over the country really, and yet we were alone for that day. So many stories up on the walls tastefully adorned, so many that suddenly while reading them one can become part of it so easily and feel even more profoundly the richness of the past years.

creek b 

Not a bad ride! Not a bad place to visit, ponder a bit, a taste unlike others… who said Texas was ever boring and flat! I have two weeks before my next Dr’s appointment, another check up to make sure of all this medicine working as I think they are, feeling a bit better every day. Texas Hills call me, a place called Coopers for BBQ I was told is one of the best, that itself sounds like a good excuse for some getting away. So I am packing again today, my mystery tire and a couple extra tubes have arrived, oil is changed and I can only hope that the weather will be kind to us as we will be camping most of the way. It is an area we never have been through, maybe not the best time of the year, but it is time to experience new roads, maybe witness new sunsets as the one last night when returning to “The Oasis” after stopping, surprised to see… some camels!!!

camel a

camel b camel c

Two years of Photography is finally in order on SmugMug… In “Your Favorites”, in “States”, some labeled “first year” and second year”, now also “Texas the third year”. Feel free to browse, you can even use the slide show mode and have fun.

Merchandise is also available through SmugMug. If you like to order a print all sizes are available as I store the originals myself considering the huge bandwidth needed to upload on the Gallery.

Help us keep the site alive. Please contribute… The logistics of it have become costly. It is an open book, its pages for the taking with always the hope that you will support their presence.

Be well…

Ara & Spirit


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16 Responses to “The Ghost Town of Shafter, Tx”

  1. Heidi Says:

    WOW Ara…Camels?? haha How cool and unexpected! As always, your pictures are spectacular and your storytelling even better. Thank you for showing me a little bit of this vast USA that I may never get a chance to see in person. I wish you and Spirit smooth riding and hope everything goes well with the doctors.

  2. Randy Says:

    You make me feel good. Minus 29 in Cedar Rapids this week, even unusual for Iowa, and your clear sky and history brought alive make it OK. Thank you!

  3. Starla Says:

    LOL! How Cool! I lived in Texas for many years & never encountered a Camel! I would love to see the look on Spirit’s face when he caught site of that strange critter! Glad to hear your meds are working. Hope you get Good News from your upcoming visit w/ the Dr.

  4. Debbie Says:

    I really like the SPOT idea. You travel some really remote roads and it could be hours or days before someone might just happen on you if you needed help. Great idea. Made your Beef stew today for a friend that just got out of the hospital today. I made enough to feed her family for a couple of meals. She just called and couldn’t believe that it was so good. She said what a treat to have the Cilantro in it.

    Unbelievable, camels out in the middle of no where. Cut pics.

  5. TexasShadow Says:

    I, like you, thoroughly enjoy visiting ghost towns and ‘feeling’ their ghosts. Not supernatural entities, but places, things (living and non-living) and people that are on the brink of the vanishing point. One can read all the history books, but one can’t really ‘know’ places, events and the people unless standing on the same ground, breathing the same air, and being surrounded by the same environment. I often think what people a hundred years or so from now will think of where we live, and what we were.

    Funny…. many times I feel more at home with ‘ghosts’ than I do living cities/towns. 😉

    Glad you are having a good time and feeling well, Ara.

  6. TexasShadow Says:

    Camels were brought to the Big Bend area/desert back in the late 1800’s as an experiment. There are still some around and used.

  7. TJ Avery Says:

    Great story and excellent photos, Ara. I enjoyed your journey to Shafter 🙂

    If you’re going to Coopers in Llano, then you’ll enjoy it. It’s pretty good BBQ. People come from far away just for it.

    If you’re going to be in Llano for a bit, then check out the river that goes through town. It’s pretty there. The old truss bridge that spans over the river is classic.

    If you go east from Llano on highway 29 about 7 or 8 miles, you’ll find a pair of nesting bald eagles near the highway. Just look for a large yellow caution sign that warns drivers to look out for pedestrians, and shortly after the sign you’ll see a large, open patch of dirt on the south side of the road. There’s a high chain-link fence to keep people out. Look through the fence towards some large trees about 100 yards or so south of the road, and you’ll see the gigantic nest.

    This pair of eagles have been nesting in that same spot every fall/winter for many years now. This year they have two chicks. Check out this page for some info:

  8. Lisa Levy Says:

    well, you won’t believe this, but, i’m the one who emailed you about Jan 10 about riding near Chinati, but turns out i couldn’t bring my motorcycle.
    had a great time at Chinati, and i met a moto guy who knows you from Terlingua named Roger (he was with Camilla, an Italian lady)…anyway, the day we left Chinati we were driving from Presidio to Marfa about 3:30 pm or so and we SAW you on your bike w Spirit, right near Shafter! I really wanted to stop and meet you, but we were already so many hours behind schedule we didn’t and sorry i didn’t!
    Found out there was an 85 acre parcel for sale w house in Shafter, and that place looks really amazing.
    hope i can ride with you some day!
    I will have my own blog up soon and send you the link.
    I really love that part of texas too.
    Happy Travels,

  9. Lisa Levy Says:

    one more thing
    we saw the camel too!
    also, is your wordpress template a standard one, or one of the special ones?
    i really like it.

  10. Tim Rice Says:

    Ara, after planning to visit the ghost town, we had traveled to Marfa during some festival going on there Oct 10,2009. To my surprise, we saw you with the sidecar motoring down the street! We came up and talked to you outside one of the art galleries. It was nice meeting and talking with you. Later we drove to Alpine for a planned stayover. We happened to see your bike at a gas station again. Thanks for the pictures. They are great. Tim & family

  11. Christina Luera Says:

    John W. Spencer was my grandmother’s father. I am 46 and suddenly curious about my heritage, so I did a google search. I don’t know if I will ever have the opportunity to visit Shafter, Texas…reading your website was almost like being there! Thank you.

  12. Christina Luera Says:

    Oops, correction….John W. Spencer was my grandmother’s grandfather! =)

  13. Sam Rinehart Says:

    The pictures in the little museum at the cemetery were of my family, the Brooks family. Our family has been here in Shafter since the 1800s working in the silver mine. I am glad you stopped by Shafter, most drive by without a thought.
    There are no ghosts here, but if there is i am probably related to them anyway.
    By the way, that camel is a new addition to the area. It was brought in so tourists would stop and take pictures.

  14. Frank G. Steinmetz Says:

    Ara, thanks for the ‘trip to Shafter’. Some friends and I are heading out on a motorcycle trip to the Big Bend Country on our annual ‘spring trip’. Some of the guys have seen this area and some of them will see it for the first time. I can’t wait to hear their comments reference Shafter, Fort Davis, ‘The River Road’, Big Bend and well, that whole area there. I just forwarded this site to them so they will have some idea on what they are going to see. Shafter has changed, the museum, since my last visit there. What a nice change to the museum too. Last time it was just a roof! I’ve heard rumors that some are thinking of reopening the mines.

    Maybe we will see you on the road somewhere during our visit. Once again, thanks for hosting this site. It’s great!

  15. Georgia Bell Says:

    My Mother and Father were both born there in Shafter in 913 and 1911. I have been there a few years ago and found it very interesting. I wanted find the house they lived in but could not. I am wondering if you would know how to find out these things? It is just a shot in the dark and thanks even if you do not know how.

  16. Ara & Spirit Says:

    Hi Georgia. I won’t be back there till end of the year. Might be worth a shot if you have an address. There are a few people that live there and I can ask. Stay well. Ara and Spirit

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