Through the tireless efforts of three women from three generations, a piece of New Mexico history has been preserved for posterity. If not for their preservation, protection, research, and education efforts, the “ghost town” of Shakespeare would have faded into oblivion both physically and in memory.
In southwestern New Mexico, two miles south of Lordsburg, a small vestige of a town called Shakespeare survives as one of the state’s well-known ghost towns. Were it not for three women, the town would have faded into oblivion both physically and in memory. Emma Marble Muir (1873-1959), Rita Wells Hill (1901-1985), and Janaloo Hill Hough (1939-2005) represent three generations who were residents, historians, and owners of Shakespeare beginning in 1882. when Emma Marble Muir came to the mining town. Muri learned about its history from “Uncle” Johnny Evenson, the stage keeper and postmaster who had lived in Shakespeare since 1865. Through their tireless efforts in preservation, protection, research, and education, a piece of history from New Mexico’s often-neglected southwestern corner has been preserved for posterity.
Emma Marble Muir was born on September 20, 1873, in Virginia City, Nevada, and moved with her family to the prosperous mining town of Shakespeare, New Mexico, in 1882. She learned its history and developed a deep appreciation for the place. Her parents bought the old stage station and the Grant House. She taught for many years in Lordsburg, where she also wrote articles about Shakespeare and the southwest. She and her husband, who was a prominent rancher and state representative, kept the First National Bank of Lordsburg open during the Great Depression by selling part of their interests in their oil lands in Texas.
Rita Wells Hill—whose full name was Allarita Jessie Nina Javerna Wells—grew up in the Midwest. She was an actress in silent films in Hollywood, a skilled horsewoman, and a teacher in New Mexico. She and her husband loved the southwest and purchased the ghost town of Shakespeare, along with surrounding property, in 1935. They would use their Shakespeare ranch to raise horses and cattle. They restored the town and lived with their daughter Janaloo in the old General Merchandise building. Along with their natural love for the place, they learned its history from Emma Marble Muir. Like Muir, Hill and her daughter also researched and published numerous articles about the town and area.
Janaloo Hill Hough was born in Santa Fe but spent most of her life in Shakespeare. She studied modeling, acting, and dance in Los Angeles, Hollywood, New York, and Denver, but returned to Shakespeare to help run the ranch and, like her mother and Muir, become a teacher and historian. She and her husband Emanuel D. Hough restored the town after a devastating fire in 1997. She carried on the tradition of researching, sharing, and promoting Shakespeare while making sure that the town would not be “touristed to death.”
A Child's Shakespeare Ghost Town Dictionary and Coloring Book (Janaloo Hill Hough), 2000.
"Alias Shakespeare: The Town Nobody Knew" (Rita and Janaloo Hill), New Mexico Historical Review, July 1967.
Old Shakespeare (Emma Marble Muir), a series of four articles published by New Mexico Magazine, including "The Stage to Shakespeare," "The Great Diamond Swindle," "Bonanza Days at Shakespeare," and "Shakespeare Becomes a Ghost Town," 1948.
"The Vision of Pioneers" (Emma Marble Muir), New Mexico Magazine, March 1952.
"We Lived under the Forts" (Emma Marble Muir), New Mexico Magazine, May 1954.