Shafter, Texas

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unincorporated community
Shafter is located in Texas
Location within the state of Texas
Coordinates: 29°48′58″N 104°18′23″W / 29.81611°N 104.30639°W / 29.81611; -104.30639
Elevation 1,169 m (3,835 ft)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-6)
GNIS feature ID 1370986[1]
"Shafter Ghost Town", with Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church

Shafter is an unincorporated community in Presidio County, Texas. The Texas Attorney General's Office gives a population of 11 as of the 2000 Census.[2] It was named in honor of General William R. Shafter, who at one point commanded the nearby (relatively speaking) Fort Davis. In the early 1900s six silver mines were in operation near Shafter. When the mines closed the town died. It was later the location for several scenes in the 1971 movie The Andromeda Strain. As of 2012, at least one silver mine, La Mina Grande, has been reopened by Aurcana Corporation.[3]


Tucked in the Chinati Mountains on Cibolo Creek, eighteen miles north of Presidio, Shafter was once a bustling mining town with a population as high as four thousand. That was in 1940.

It was in 1882 that John Spencer found silver near this location. He and General William R. Shafter, who had been stationed at Fort Davis, collaborated to establish the mining operation. Shafter was at the time a Colonel with the 9th Cavalry.[4]

When an assay commissioned by Colonel Shafter confirmed profitable amounts of silver were in Spencer's ore samples, he brought in two of his military associates, Lt. John L. Bullis and Lt. Louis Wilhelmi, to join the venture. Each would contribute, first, by acquiring acreage around Spencer's discovery. In all, four sections of land, or 2400 acres, were acquired. It was agreed that they and Spencer would all share equally in profits from the venture.[5] Then, in June 1882, lacking sufficient capital to develop the acreage on their own, the partners leased a portion of their holdings to a mining group from California which had both the money and expertise to proceed. In 1883, this group established the Presidio Mining Company, which in turn contracted with three of the partners to acquire their interests in a stock-for-land trade. Shafter, Wilhelmi, and Spencer received 5,000 shares and a bonus of $1,600 in cash to complete the trade. Bullis, asserting that his purchase money to buy the acreage had been from his wife's account, refused to join the transaction. This would later be cause for dispute.

Nevertheless, development proceeded and a settlement began to grow around the mining operation. A post office opened in 1885 and took the name "Shafter" after the colonel. Milling equipment was purchased and put into operation, company housing was provided for the miners. Company stores provided their staples and a company doctor provided medical care.

The recorded production of the Shafter mines between 1883 and 1942 is 30,290,556 troy ounces of silver, 8,389,526 pounds of lead, and 5,981 troy ounces of gold. Additional, but minor production, was reported for 1946 and 1947 (Evans, 1975).


In 1928 the mines were sold to the American Metal Company, but operations continued unabated for another 12 years or more.

Then, in the 1940s, faced with increased production costs, a shortage of miners and an attempt to unionize those who were employed, the American Metal Company simply shut down the operation.

Even so, as the businesses established there also catered to the two military bases in the county, Marfa Army Air Field and Fort D.A. Russell, Shafter continued to support a population of some 1,500. When those installations closed, however—Marfa Air Field in December,1945; Fort Russel in 1946—Shafter went into rapid decline.[6]

Today Shafter is home to only a few families and, over the past several decades, has registered a population ranging from eleven to 30 persons. Still, as noted above, there is renewed interest and renewed activity at Shafter. Given rising values for precious metals and modern mining and processing techniques, the little town may well live again.

Occasionally movie buffs still visit the town and take photographs in front of the church.


Shafter is zoned to schools in the Marfa Independent School District.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Shafter, Texas
  2. ^ Texas Attorney General Colonia Data
  3. ^ MacCormack, John (November 11, 2012). "Water concerns temper elation over Big Bend silver mine". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved November 12, 2012. 
  4. ^ King, p.81
  5. ^ Smith, Julia Cauble, Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association. "Shafter, TX". Retrieved December 7, 2012. 
  6. ^ Smith, Julia Cauble, Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association. "Shafter, TX". Retrieved December 7, 2012. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 29°49′13″N 104°18′12″W / 29.82028°N 104.30333°W / 29.82028; -104.30333