Shafter is on Cibolo Creek and U.S. Highway 67, at the east end of the Chinati Mountains eighteen miles north of Presidio in southern Presidio County. Its history is closely tied to silver mining. There is evidence that the Spaniards prospected for valuable ores in the area during the early 1600s, but Shafter became a mining town only after September 1880, when John W. Spencer, a freighter turned prospector, found silver ore there. Spencer showed an ore sample to Col. William R. Shafter, commander of the First Infantry Regiment at Fort Davis, who had it assayed. When small amounts of profitable silver were found, Colonel Shafter interested two army friends, Lt. John L. Bullis of the Twenty-fourth Infantry and Lt. Louis Wilhelmi of the First Infantry, in a land deal on the acreage surrounding Spencer's strike. In October 1880 Colonel Shafter and his partners asked the state to sell them nine sections of school land in the Chinati Mountains near the site of Shafter. Colonel Shafter requested two sections in his name and two in his wife's. Wilhelmi filed for three sections. Because Bullis already owned many acres of West Texas land in his name, he applied for two sections in his wife's name. Though the three partners petitioned for the land individually, they verbally agreed to make Spencer a partner and to share equally the profits earned from the acreage. In January 1881 Wilhelmi bought two sections of the nine for which the partners applied. At the same time, Bullis purchased the two sections he requested in the name of his wife. The other five sections were not purchased. Even though the partners owned four sections with potential silver deposits, they lacked the capital and the technical expertise to mine the ore. In June 1882 they leased some of their acreage to a California mining group which, in late summer 1883, organized the Presidio Mining Company and contracted individually with Shafter, Wilhelmi, and Spencer to buy their interests. Each received 5,000 shares of company stock and $1,600 cash. At the same time the manager of the company, William Noyes, found silver deposits on the acreage, valued at $45 per ton. The silver deposits found by Noyes were on one of the two sections owned by Bullis's wife, and Bullis refused to sell. He claimed that the two sections had been bought by his wife with inherited family money and were not his or his partners' property. He secured a court injunction to stop mining on that section, but the company continued work in the other sections. When the injunction expired in the spring of 1884, the Presidio Mining Company resumed operations in the productive Bullis section. The company hired more workmen and installed milling machinery.
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