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STEINS, NM

 

By

 

Gary B. Speck

 

St-EYE-nz, or St-EE-nz? There seems to be controversy over the pronunciation of the name of Steins, New Mexico, a tiny, privately-owned, railroad ghost town in the southwestern corner of the state. It was named after Enoch Steins, a US Cavalry officer who was killed in a clash with Apaches in 1873.  So, what’s the story behind the ghost town snuggled up to the north side of I-10 at EXIT #3?  This spot of desert is just east of the Arizona/New Mexico state line and 19 miles southwest of Lordsburg.  Although readily accessible to all types of vehicles, it is currently closed to general exploration, BUT is available by appointment.  For more information, please contact them via their website at:  Steins NM Railroad Ghost Town.  Be sure to tell them Gary sent you. 

 

This is one of the friendliest ghost towns and the owners will make you feel like family.  The ambiance of this little ghost hits you as soon as you disembark from your vehicle, and follows you as you visit the funky old Steins Mercantile general store and pay the minimal fee for a guided tour of the part of town behind the fence.

 

As already mentioned, the town was named after a US Army Cavalry officer, Enoch Steins when the tiny railroad station was established here in the 1880s.  However, the story of Steins is more than that.  It began as a stage station in 1857, when the Birch Stage Line, passed over a natural pass through the mountains near here. The stage line was replaced by the Butterfield Overland Stage Company the following year. 

 

The army visited the area in 1873, the resulting conflict with the Apaches causing the death of Captain Steins.  The Doubtful Canyon area was renamed Steins Pass to honor him.  Sometime between 1873 and 1888 gold and silver were discovered in the Peloncillo Mountains, north of present-day Steins.  A number of mining camps popped up, including one named Doubtful Canyon, which received a post office in 1888. 

 

South of the Peloncillo Range, a long flat grade dropping into Lordsburg to the east and Arizona to the west, providing a natural location for a railroad to pass through.  In the 1880s, the Southern Pacific Railroad took advantage of the location, running tracks, then building a water tower, coaling station and work camp named Steins Pass.  Wagons roads connected the station to the mining camps off to the north.

 

The railroad station only had 35 registered voters in 1902, but, it did brag of a schoolhouse. Shortly before 1905, the Southern Pacific relocated their Steins Pass Station a couple miles east, renaming it Steins.  It quickly grew into a small town when the Doubtful Canyon Post Office was transferred to the new station, and the town soon had 100 folks, a general store, restaurant and saloon.

 

It grew slowly, in 1919 claiming a population varying between 200 and 1300 depending on the source. In any case, Steins was a busy little railroad town, whose businesses included a boarding house, two bordellos, a dance hall, a general store, hotel, railroad section house and station, as well as three saloons.

           

In 1944, the post office closed and the town faded. By 1955, with the demise of coal-powered trains, Steins passed into the recesses of history when its railroad station closed.  Since Steins sat near the summit of a usable pass, its position was important enough that when Interstate 10 replaced US 80, that new highway was built literally along the southern edge of the old town, with an offramp coming down into the town.  It is one of the few ghost towns with its own Interstate exit!

           

Steins today is a very intriguing collection of ruins and restored buildings.  Despite the wire fencing erected to keep most of the town intact, it is a great place to stop and visit for a while.  Just remember to make your appointment.  You’ll be glad you did.  When we visited back in 2003, the aforementioned tour took us behind the fence, and we followed our guide on an unhurried tour of ten or so structures, all filled with relics and memorabilia of the past.  Old bottles, tools, clothing, furniture and all sorts of neat doodads, gewgaws and whatchamacallits flap in the wind, sit on shelves or line the walls of old buildings. This living history museum that was brought to life and lovingly cared for by Larry Link and family is a wonderful place to visit.  Its owners, who happen to pronounce the name St-EYE-nz have extended the invitation.   SO, here you have it – the answer that you all have been wanting to know!

 

To quote the town’s current owner - Melissa Lamoree - the granddaughter of Larry link: 

 

This page is dedicated to the Man that had a vision and brought Stein's Ghost Town history to life.

My grandpa Larry Link also known as "Uncle Larry" entered heaven on June 7th 2011.

He is greatly loved and deeply missed but his passion and love of sharing history with others

goes on with this page and the reopening of the town that he cherished so much!

 

 

To her quote, I would like to add…Thank you Melissa for continuing to share the town with the rest of the world!

 

I spoke with Melissa recently (2013) as a French Television crew was interested in filming the town, but unfortunately they ended up settling on another NON-ghost town location in another state.  Until Steins makes the television screen, please support it and keep this wonderful old ghost on your itineraries.  But please be sure to contact them first for the tour. 

 

This was originally posted as our GHOST TOWN OF THE MONTH for November, 2004, but was updated and reposted for our Ghost Town of the Month for June/July 2013.

 

 

Location:

·        Latitude: 32.2292481 / 32° 13’ 45” N

·        Longitude: -108.9895014 / 108° 59’ 22” W

·        S-Ctr Sec 10, T24S, R21E, New Mexico Prime Meridian

 

 

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THIS PAGE

FIRST POSTED:  November 04, 2004

LAST UPDATED: August 06, 2013

 

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