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Monday, April 20, 2015

Ghost Towns In The Dragoons


On the eve of the sacred fourteenth day, Mr Ranger Sir sayeth unto us, "Your fortnight of coolness and shade in Madera Canyon expires tomorrow. Go, and Godspeed." Egads, man. So, in the midst of a prolonged heatwave, Bobbie and I descended the Mount. Outgunned by a calendar and thermometer, I grumbled that it was time to bid Arid-zona farewell and pointed Goldie homeward… sort of.



This year we were going to explore our way home to Lovely Ouray across New Mexico's back roads instead of Utah. We don't get to New Mexico much anymore… a little bit of sage and wind and bleakness goes a long way with a camera toter. But I have always loved the funk, rust, and culture of olden settlements, each a movie set for Grapes of Wrath type noir. 



Agreed, we motored Blue Highways across Patagonian grasslands toward Tombstone in hopes of finding a town-side boondock. We wasted a good hour of our lives wandering the Disney-like Frontier Land, being solicited by gun-toting cowpokes and saloon gals—side-show barkers that for 7 bucks would bleacher seat us in front of a real shootout at the O K Corral. I mentioned in a previous post that I wasted not one photo on this amusement park. But alas, I lied. The vacantness of Tombstone seemed a worthy shot.  




Our primary interest in Tombstone was as a base from which to explore the country and mining ghost towns in the nearby Dragoon Mountains. 


There wasn't much left standing in Gleeson, a roofless adobe building that used to be the hospital, a restored jail house (with admission fee), a saloon, and a foundation where the schoolhouse once stood. An old sign read, "Welcome to Gleeson— Population 2500, 1000, 500, 250, 100." I couldn't see evidence that a hundred people still remained… maybe if you count the cows.  


Gleeson boomed as a mining community when lead, copper, silver and gold was discovered in the area, but a "suspicious" fire burned down 28 buildings in 1912.

Gleeson Jailhouse.



Gleeson Saloon




Courtland

Next, nearby Courtland… another mining boomtown that busted in only 12 short years. "With a population of 2,000, the town had telephones and many businesses, including two stage stations, ice cream parlor, automobile dealership, motion picture theater, restaurants, grocery and general merchandise stores, pool halls, hotels, a barber shop, a bank, meat market, land brokers.  Besides the motion picture theatre you could always find a baseball game or a horse race going on." 



Courtland

Courtland

Courtland










On to Pearce, named after founder, James Pearce. James was getting into the cattle ranch business to feed everybody who was getting into mining. One day ole James was riding herd in the desert and stopped to take a break in the shade. Piddling around, he shattered one rock against another. Low and behold, GOLD. 

Thus was the humble beginnings of Pearce, today little more than a crossroads town that hasn't completely given up the "ghost." All said and done over 15 million dollars worth of gold came out of Pearce's mine, making it one of Arizona's richest mines. 

Bobbie, Jaywalking in downtown Pearce.



"The General Store pictured above was built in 1896 and the Post office was established on March 6, 1896.  The Railroad Station opened in 1903.  The community that grew up around the mine rapidly became a fair-sized city, with some of the families and businesses moving their homes and businesses, (literally) from Tombstone to the "new" boom town.  Peak production at the Commonwealth Mine was reached in 1896 and a 200-stamp mill was built and operated it for four years, until 1900 when it burned to the ground.  Another was built, and mining activity continued.  Two years later the mine was sold.  The mine remained operational until 1904 when a cave-in caused it to shut down.  In the late 1890's, besides its mining activities, Pearce became a rip-roaring cowboy town, and was headquarters of the Alvord-Stiles gang.  To frustrate outlaws, gold bouillon in the form of bars too heavy to be carried out on horseback were transported to the Cochise station in ordinary farm wagons.

By 1919, Pearce had a population of 1,500, a school, restaurants, boarding houses, saloons, hotels, a motion picture theater and other businesses.  People began drifting away in the 1930's as the Great Depression took its toll and the railroad pulled up its tracks. Today only a store or two remain however, there is a "revival" of sorts going on in Pearce.   The old store is being re-furbished and will be opening again this fall.   Several other old houses have also been restored and have various businesses in them such as Old Pearce Pottery."

















The old adobe church still stands...

The Dragoons, from Middlemarch Pass between Pearce and Tombstone

14 comments:

  1. Never realized Arizona had gold mines, very interesting. Great pictures of an isolated old town that is trying to save some of the past.

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  2. There's some very interesting places around there. While you were driving Middlemarch Pass did you take the turning and hike the Slavin Gulch trail? If you didn't it's well worth the hike. Have fun!

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  3. God, those are great photos. I absolutely love anything "old west". Too bad Pearce can't be totally restored in a non-tourista way. Kind of like an outdoor museum of the way it was WITHOUT trinkets and actors.

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  4. Mark I am new to your great Box Canyon Blog thanks to my special Florida friend-- Steve Kent ( the beach bum!) I enjoyed reading your blog as Steve predicted. Oh, by the way Steve says as acting sales manages of BCB, he is entitled to his 1 cent sales commission per agreement......ha ha Sharon Kamm Rochester MN

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    1. Welcome aboard, Sharon. Give Steve a penny for me… I'll pay you back later :)

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  5. This area has so many Ghost Towns we will need to return just to do a visit to all the sites. You certainly had the perfect sky for the photos...beautiful:) I love the new header! Gorgeous!!

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  6. The Southern Arizona Auto Company is still open for business in Douglas, AZ. Their logo claims they have been in business since 1908 but I can not find any company history. I did find a picture of a building in Lowell, AZ (part of Bisbee) that at one time had a Southern Arizona Auto Company sign on it.
    My foster sister worked at the Douglas location for a short time after graduating from high school in 1960. It is still owned by the same family that owned it at that time.

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    1. I'd love to flip through your family album sometime. We've got some common ground...

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  7. Don't you feel like you've just gotten settled in when the 2 week limit man shows up? Hate that but great pictures of these old towns. What an eye you have. I'm always amazed when I hear that a full blown town with everything anyone could want in the form of businesses and services just up and disappears in 12 years. Good luck to Pearce.

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  8. That header photo knocks my socks off.

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    1. I notice you never miss an excuse to remove socks… and shoes… and then take a photo :)
      But glad to get any kind of response… thank you. I liked it too.

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  9. .Rust -- and ghost towns, are some of my favorite things. Always love your pictures, but this post especially.

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  10. Mark, your photos are always amazing. And I love the way you write(think!). You are so creative in your use of words to get ideas across. Reading your posts is always a treat. Thanks!

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