RV Trip 10.16 – New Mexico – Shakespeare Ghost Town, Rock Hound State Park, D.H. Lescombes Winery, Oliver Lee Memorial SP – Mar 19–24, 2023

We were booked into Shakespeare Ghost Town HH for the night.  They offered a 3pm tour so we made sure we arrived in time for that. We were the only ones on that tour.  Here is a bit of the history of the area:

  • Shakespeare Ghost town has the remains of a southwestern town that was a small settlement on the stage and emigrant trail to California.
  • In 1870 with the silver strike and the diamond swindle the town grew to almost 3,000 people under the name Ralston City.
  • In 1879 other mine promoters changed the town name to Shakespeare after the diamond swindle (planting diamonds in the hills to attract people to buy the land claims) and it prospered as a mining camp until the 1893 depression.
  • During the 1908-1932 mining boom the remaining buildings were again occupied and the events during this time period added to the town’s reputation of lawlessness.
  • The town had no church, no newspaper, and no local law enforcement. If you pissed people off you ran the risk of being hanged in the local saloon!
  • Since 1935 the town has been owned by the Hill family and they have tried to preserve the history of the old buildings without commercializing the property.
  • Frank and Rita Hill looked after the property and they had a daughter Janaloo who was an accomplished dancer. When Frank got sick Janaloo returned to the property to help Rita look after it and she setup a dance studio on the property so the local kids could learn dance.
  • Our tour guide was the stepson in law of Janaloo. He had incredible stories to tell us as we spent over 2 hours touring the buildings. Although he was our first tour guide ever who was chewing tobacco and spitting it into his coke can occasionally😉
  • One of the interesting stories is that Rita Hill didn’t want the Interstate-10 to go through her property so she setup a shed right along the path of the highway and she lived in that shed for 3 months before they forcefully removed her. The shack was saved and you will see a photo of it. She then went on to protest at the state legislature and eventually got better compensation for the land but the I-10 did go through. She was a feisty lady.
  • The coolest thing on the tour was the Blacksmith Shop as it was the most equipped shop we had ever seen!

After the tour we hiked up the hill to see the overlook of the town and the cemetery and then returned to our RV for dinner. There were 2 other HH guests that stayed there that night as well.

The next day we headed back into Deming, getting diesel at the cheap station and filling our propane at the expensive place.  Since it was lunchtime, we decided to find a place to eat.  We ended up at the Custom House, a historic building that was trying something new by offering light lunches. I had the Sonora hot dog with really good chips and Sharon had a corn meal muffin and a tomato stuffed with chicken salad.  They had interesting displays of dishes; Sharon’s favourite was the hot chocolate set. The building was the original custom house from 1848-1900 so there was a display dedicated to that. 

We were on our way to Rockhound SP when the RV automatically drove into the Lacombe winery, we’re not sure how that happened😉.  We went in for a tasting (we had enjoyed their wine at the Lacombe Bistro in Las Cruces).  Since they are a Harvest Host, we decided to book in for the next night since we already had a booking at Rockhound SP.  At Rockhound we lucked out with one of the best and biggest sites (Site 16) with a great view and we even got escorted to our site by the camp host!  Since we could only get one night, we went out and did the Thunder Egg Trail (didn’t find the thunder egg rocks), then connected into the Jasper Trail.  This is the only State Park that allows you to take something, you can take small rocks, so Sharon had a small collection by the end of our hike.

The next morning after a quick museum tour, we drove to Spring Canyon up the road with a 17% grade hill to get there.  We did the Lover’s Leap trail of 5 kms straight up 330 m and when we got to the top the wind was blowing like crazy.  We had done this trail the last time we were here, and it was windy then as well.  We weren’t as tired as last time since we drove the RV instead of riding bikes!  We didn’t have far to drive to the HH where Sharon sampled bubbly and I had a glass of wine before heading to the RV to enjoy some of the wine and cheese we’d purchased.

We were headed to Oliver Lee Memorial SP that only had first come first serve sites available, so we hit the road early in hopes of getting a site but also to avoid the wind that was coming in.  On the way we drove by White Sands National Monument, but we could see that the wind was already starting to blow the sand around. We also saw the fighter jets practicing out of Holloman Air Force Base. All the sites at Oliver Lee were gone but they let us go in an overflow area for the night (which wasn’t very level).  We have been to this park before but this time we did several different things.  First was a short hike to Lawson’s Spring.  You can tell where it was based on the green tress in the desert.  One cool thing along the trail was finding the Torrey Yucca starting to bloom.  There certainly wasn’t much water in the spring but that was to be expected.  We saw another LTV in the campground and had a nice chat with Dawn and Kirby from Saskatchewan.

After spending the morning getting a regular site in the campground, we walked through the cactus garden and hiked the Riparian Nature Trail.  Along the nature trail we learned about Francois-Jean “Frenchy” Rochas who was a French Immigrant who lived in Dog Canyon from 1886 through 1894. In his short 8-year residency he tapped water from Dog Canyon, grew a successful orchard and vineyard in the desert, tended his cattle herds, and built rock walls around the canyon to contain the cattle. Frenchy was mysteriously found dead in his cabin from a gun shot wound. The archaeologists excavated the remains of the cabin in 1978 and found lots of artifacts. We hiked up the canyon to find some of the freshwater springs and see the remains of the aqueduct used to bring the water out of Dog Canyon by Oliver Lee.  It was very cool to see how the rocks had become smooth over time from all the water, again, not much water right now but still a beautiful area to discover. After the trail we saw some of the exhibits in the museum and that evening we had a nice reverse sunset.

On Friday they offered a tour of the Oliver Lee Ranch House, so we walked the 3km there and learned a lot of history.  There were 2 other couples and the volunteer doing the tour that was a real storyteller. He felt the State Park should be called Frenchy State Park instead of Oliver Lee Memorial State Park. Here are some facts:

  • Oliver Lee was born in 1865 in Buffalo Gap Texas. He moved to the Dog Canyon area in 1889 and understood the power of having water rights, especially when the railroad was coming through.
  • He made friends with Frenchy so he could build the aqueduct in 1893 to bring the Dog Canyon spring water down to his ranch for his cattle.
  • In 1898 he was indicted for the murder of Colonel A. J. Fountain and his son and then Pat Garrett was brought in to try to arrest him. Due to Oliver Lee’s political connections, he was acquitted of the murders in 1899.
  • In 1907 Oliver moved his ranching operation headquarters to Circle Cross in the Sacramento Mountains and was in operation until 1929. At the peak the ranch encompassed nearly 1 million acres in New Mexico.
  • In 1918 Oliver was elected a State Representative and in 1922 he was elected a State Senator.
  • The ranch went bankrupt during the great depression and was dissolved.
  • Oliver died in Alamogordo in 1941 at the age of 76.
  • The military purchased the ranch property for the water rights in the 1960s and the farmhouse area became a party hangout and a target practice range by shooting beer bottles off the wall ruins.
  • In 1971 Disney filmed the move Scandalous John at the site.  We were told it isn’t a very good movie.
  • In 1987 the State Park was formed, and restoration began on the farmhouse.

After we learned all the history, we could wander through the ranch house and see the displays. The tour was just over 2 hours and well worth the time. On the way back we saw a Torrey Yucca cactus in bloom.

The next morning when we were leaving the park, Dawn and Kirby were also leaving so we got a shot of the 2 RVs at the dump station. I’ll close this blog off with my next beer selection. The favourite here was the Copper Brothel Brewery Scarlett Porter but the Milk Stout from Tirrito Brewery was close. The names were fun on 2 of the others with Kilt Lifter and Alien😉  


  • Hi Joel and Sharon
    Wonderful pictures (what amazing scenery!) and interesting blog. Love hearing all your news, history, sights and foodie experiences. I am at Wendy’s for the next week and she sends along her warm hellos as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Cool stay at Shakespeare. I think that’s the most pictures for a paragraph of all your blogs. The black smith can make his own tools, so he has the most of all the trades people in any town…hahaha.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Wow – great photos with this blog, especially from Shakespeare and the Oliver Lee MSP. I especially enjoyed the Torrey yucca in bloom! And Sharon standing behind a cluster of cacti that look like coral. 😄. Not sure about that chewing tobacco and coke drink..😝

    I think Oliver Lee murdered Frenchy.

    Too bad the movie “Scandalous John” is out of circulation. It would have been worth it just to hear Rod McKuen’s music.

    I would have joined you in having a Kilt Lifter Joel. I’m still giggling at that beer’s name!!

    Onward and safe travels, as always!

    Liked by 1 person

  • “Automatically drove to a winery”!….Plankton has developed a conscience, and preference for wine. Always running low on wine? Are you sure your RV isn’t sipping some of your wine purchases at night? LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

  • So Oliver Lee likely killed Frenchy and still had a state park named after him. The state of U.S. politics remain the same. 😦 Say hi to Mike, maybe we can meet up for some skiing at Tremblant next season.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There was a lot of speculation on who killed Frenchy. Some did say Oliver Lee but others said it was one of the labourers that Frenchy had fired. The case was never solved.


Submit a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s