Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Lesser Known Arizona Ghost Towns


You may know of ghost towns such as Tombstone, Jerome and Bisbee in Arizona, but the state has many more that are noteworthy.  These places also had enjoyed rich mines, interesting history, murder, deaths, and good times.  Nowadays, they are empty shells of what they used to be.  In other words, ghost towns.


VULTURE MINE


If you travel about 70 miles north of Phoenix and approximately 15 miles southwest of Wickenburg, you will find the ghost town of Vulture Mine. This once booming mining town now sits empty with many of the still standing structures slowing decaying with time. Underneath its dirt floors lay the many bones of those who crossed the wrong person and was buried right where they died. This ghost town is rumored to be haunted by the spirits of those who died there, and is an astonishing walk back into Arizona’s most colorful past.  Vulture Mine started mining gold in 1863 and proved to be one of the most industrious mines in Arizona’s history.  It was a man named Henry Wickenburg who first unearthed a quartz deposit which was encompassed with gold and started excavating the mineral to preserve for him.  He sold the mine to Benjamin Phelps, who was the representative for the Vulture Mining Company.  In the town’s heyday, the mine was yielding 340,000 ounces of gold and 260,000 ounces of silver with more than 5,000 souls living there.  Today, Vulture Mine lies empty with scattered decaying abandoned structures throughout the area and is open for tours, but at limited times.


RUBY MINING/GHOST TOWN
Photo is from Wikipedia.
Located near the Arizona/Mexico border in the southeastern portion of the state, Ruby began mining sometime about 1877.  This Montana Mine was rich with every mineral you can think of from gold, silver, lead, zinc to copper.  At the town’s crowning moment in the 1930’s, it hit around 1,200 residents calling Ruby home, and was one of the leading zinc producers in Arizona.  The small mining camp slowly became the town of Ruby and was named after Julius Andrews’ wife.  He owned the general store and founded the post office.  Ruby couldn’t escape controversy when three grisly murders occurred sometime sandwiched between 1920 and 1922, either in or near the town.  They labeled the slayings as the “Ruby Murders” and set off the greatest manhunt the southwest has ever seen.  A year after the mine closed in 1940, Ruby’s residents were gone and it became a ghost town.  Today, it takes all day to walk through the streets and inside the building left abandoned so long ago.  I have not been there, but many say it is one of the most unabridged ghost towns in the southwest.


ADAMSVILLE GHOST TOWN

It was in the 1870’s when Charles Adams from Ohio purchased land in the Arizona Territory near the Gila River.  He would name his place, Adamsville with ideas of turning the dry piece of earth into a thriving farm land.  He worked diligently removing shrubbery and digging ditches so he could plant his grain.  He saw his crops prosper and his dreams of turning Adamsville into a flourishing farming town.  Shortly after the crops were growing well, a store and post office were built.  By 1871, the overland mail stage stopped in town where by this time stores, homes, a flour mill, and water tanks now existed. The town hit its peak of 400 residents in 1872, growing in such a short amount of time.  Even Charles Adams didn’t realize that his dream of a town was sitting on the flood plains of Arizona. In 1900, the town and surrounding area experienced a severe rainstorm causing the Gila River to rise and run over its banks. The water surged towards Adamsville and completely wiped out the entire town.  All the buildings and vegetation were utterly destroyed.  Many of the residents were forced to flee to the nearby town of Florence two miles away.  Today, all that remains of Adamsville are the cemetery, old flour mill, some ruins, water tanks, and a sign which displays the town’s name.


FAIRBANK

This notable town is only 10 miles west of Tombstone on SR 82 east.  It was built in 1881 on the old San Juan de las Boquillas y Nogales Mexican land grant and named after Nathanial Kellogg Fairbank.  Fairbank was a businessman who put up his money to build the first railroad in the region. The first structure to be constructed in town was the mercantile building in 1882. It was owned and operated by several families throughout the years while it was in service. By 1881, a railroad line was built between Fairbank to Bisbee and then extended to Douglas in 1901. A year later, the town was enjoying the bustling community with five saloons, a meat market, general store, three restaurants, a hotel, a Wells Fargo office, livery stables, post office, and many houses where the hundreds of residents dwelled.  By 1901, the settlement became mostly a family community and largely known for its abundance of trades. It had the reputation for being a much tamer place to live unlike the unruly western towns which surrounded it. By the late 1920’s, to accommodate the many children who lived in town, a schoolhouse was built. It was originally constructed as a one room wood building, but when it burnt down it was replaced by a block structure and two more rooms were added.  Fairbank survived a major earthquake in 1887 and continued thriving during the turn of the century when Tombstone’s mines flooded.  It remained the place where transportation was still the focal point for the southwest until the price of copper dropped. In the Grand Central Mil near Fairbank, they used the practice of mixing mercury to bind the silver and crushed ore.  Many of the men suffered from the constant inhaling of the poisonous toxins and died young. In 1944, when the traffic from the railroads and mines diminished, the town closed the school. By the 1960’s, the Southern Pacific Railroad ceased to run through the Fairbank Station. Seven years later the Depot was removed and shortly afterwards, the last of the Fairbank residents left town for good. In 2008, the remaining railroad tracks were abandoned and removed.  When you visit the site today, you will find the schoolhouse just beyond the parking lot. Inside the building is a museum and recreation of the classroom chronicling the early years of the tiny schoolhouse.  


SASCO GHOST TOWN
The smelter complex at Sasco in 1910. (from Wikipedia)
Located in Pinal County, west of Red Rock, sits the tiny ghost town of Sasco.  The initials SASCO stand for Southern Arizona Smelter Company and where the smelter for the Silverbell Mines was located.  On July 10, 1907, the post office was built, and ended up closing its doors on September 15, 1919.  During the town’s uttermost times, around 600 people resided there.  Today, all that is left is the skeleton of the Rockland Hotel, widespread footings where the smelter once stood, and a timeworn cemetery.


PEARCE MINING GHOST TOWN
The Old Pearce General Store, 1990.  (From Wikipedia)
Christened the name Pearce after Cornishman James Pearce, this miner and cattleman uncovered a gold vein in the area in 1894 where the town would be constructed.  He named his mine the Commonwealth Mine, and two years later, he had a post office built.  After the post office, a railroad station, general store and other structures were built where the almost 1,500 people lived.  His mine was producing several million tons of ore, silver, and gold.  By the 1930’s, the town started to diminish, and became almost a ghost town by the late 1940’s when the mine closed.  Today, there are only ruins of what was and a handful of residents making Pearce their home.


BRADSHAW CITY
Photo from http://www.bushducks.com/tripreps/crownking.htm
Bradshaw City was named after the man who established the town, William D. Bradshaw, and started out as a mining camp in 1863.  Bradshaw City is located in Yavapai County and near Mount Wasson where the gold was found.  At the beginning, many tents dotted the area and were quickly swapped out with dance halls, restaurants, saloons, hotels, and homes for the over 5,000 people living there.  The town was sustained by the nearby Tiger Mine until the end of 1871 when it started to dry up and people left for work elsewhere.  The settlement was abandoned and became a ghost town.  Today, all you will see is a scattering of foundations and a forest service sign indicating where Bradshaw City once upon a time was full of life.


HYDER GHOST TOWN/CAMP HYDER
Photo from http://www.ghosttownaz.info
Hyder was a farming village and located in Yuma County adjacent to places like Sentinel and Agua Caliente.  This tiny town once served as the training location for General Patton’s armies during World War II.  It was in 1942 when Patton needed a location where his troops can train for battle in the North African desert.  This training facility was the most prevalent in the world, and extended from Pomona CA, Phoenix AZ, to Yuma AZ and north to Las Vegas NV.  Hyder was one of the Arizona accommodations.  Over a million men were prepared for war at this location, and on November of 1942, they set out to fight.  By May or 1944, the camp shut down for good.   Today, the camp is nothing but a few decaying buildings, and a mobile home surrounded by a fence with no trespassing signs hanging everywhere.  Not sure is anyone has made the trailer their home, but each structure has shown obvious signs of decline for many decades.   As for the town, nowadays you will find about 6 buildings still remaining.  Other places such as a general store and bar are also sitting empty because of the struggling economy.  Nearby the railroad tracks are a couple more buildings, a well, and a scattering of ruins.

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