Where in the World is Shafter, Texas?
Life's hard for those who live in the Big Bend Region of West Texas. Even harder for the communities that periodically have sprung up throughout history. Ghost towns such as Terlingua, Shafter and Study Butte (pronounced Stewde Boot not Study Butt) once thrived by now barely survived with a dwindling or almost non-existent population.
Shafter, Texas is an unincorporated town located in the Chinati Mountains next to Cibolo Creek. The small town lies 18 miles north of Presidio. In 2010, the Texas Attorney General's Office reported the small town had a population of 11 people. Shafter wasn't always that small. In fact, the 1940 census shows Shafter had around 4,000 residents.
The ghost town is one of a few mining towns in the Big Bend Region. In 1882, John Spencer discovered silver ore in the hills. He took a sample of the ore to Fort Davis where he presented it to General William R. Shafter. The ninth calvary commander had the ore assessed. After the assessor informed General Shafter that the hills contained large quantities of silver General Shafter informed his military friends, Lt. John L. Bullis and Lt. Louis Wilhelmi, of his discovery. The three soldiers convinced the state of Texas to allow them to purchase tracks of school land around the mountains with the intent to mine the silver themselves. The officers approached John Spencer with their idea of investing into mining silver from the mountains. Spencer agreed to join them.
The four men decided they would purchase equal amounts of land close to where Spencer had discovered the ore with the agreement they would equally share the profits. The men purchased a total of 2560 acres but lacked the funds to develop their mining venture. In 1882, the four men leased some of their land to a California mining group. The group then formed a new company - the Presidio Mining Company.
Two years later, the company installed mining equipment and the small town of Shafter, Texas was born. Shafter was a company town. The company built houses for their workers and families. Company stores provided anything their families would need and a company doctor was always available.
The Presidio Mining Company then approached Shafter, Bullis, Wilhelmi and Spencer with the the prospect of acquiring more land with a stock for land trade. The men were promised 5,000 shares in the company with a bonus of $1,600 cash in hand upon completion of the transaction. Bullis declined the offer stating that he had used his wife's funds for the land and thus had no authority to take such an offer. The company then sued Bullis for not allowing them access to his lands. The Wilhelmi, Spencer and Shafter agreed to the stock for land trader. A post office was installed in 1885. The town was named Shafter in honor of General William R. Shafter.
Shafter was a thriving company town that operated from 1885 to the 1940's. It went through periods of opening and closings during the 1920's and 1930's. During the 1940's the mining town grew even larger with the influx of families stationed at the Marfa Army Air Field and the Fort D.A. Russell. When the bases closed in 1945 and 1946 Shafter's population dramatically declined. Shafter was abandoned soon after that.
All has been quiet in Shafter since the end of WWII. In 2010, the Canadian mining group, Aurcana decided to invest their interest in the Shafter mines.
They officially reopened the mines in March of 2011. You can see the first explosion in the video below.