Mining in Southeast Arizona

It was a search for gold and silver that drew the first Europeans into the land that is now Arizona, and many of those who came later shared this aim. Practically one out of every four people in the Territory of Arizona in 1864 was a prospector or a miner. Despite the great fame of Tombstone's silver boom, the Warren Mining District (Bisbee), in addition to the copper for which it's famous, also produced more gold, silver and lead than any other district in Arizona. This mineral wealth made the growth and development of Cochise County possible.

The Mowry Mine, originally the Patagonia Mine
Sylvester Mowry
In 1860 Sylvester Mowry purchased the Patagonia Mine and renamed it the Mowry Mine. A Confederate sympathizer, Mowry was arrested by General James H. Carleton during the Civil War, and his mine was confiscated by the Union for a time. After his release Mowry entered a lawsuit for $1,129,000 for alleged illegal seizure of the mine even though the confiscation had been authorized by a federal court. Mowry's suit was unsuccessful and he had not collected anything at the time of his death in 1871.
J. Ross Browne visited the mine in 1864. Click the links below to view his descriptions of the mine complete with drawings.
The Mowry Mine by J. Ross Browne.
In Murders at the Mowry Browne describes the death of several mining officials at the hands of the Apaches.

The Copper Queen
At the Copper Queen and associated mines in Bisbee there were both open-pit and underground mines. Today visitors can take a tour of an underground mine and view the famed Lavender Pit Mine. (See photo below.)

Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum
The Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum highlights the district's hard-rock underground and open-pit mining as well as the daily lives of the miners and their families nearly a century ago. Rock samples are displayed, and the museum has an outstanding collection of early photographs. An 18-gauge electric mine train and hoisting equipment are on display on the lawn in front of the 1897 museum building, which served originally as the offices of the Copper Queen Consolidated Mining Company. This museum was the first rural affiliate of the world-renowned Smithsonian Institution.Lavender Pit Mine, NARA photo

Queen Mine Tours
(520) 432-2071
or toll-free (866) 432-2071
Underground mine tours, surface mine tours and guided van tours of the Bisbee historic district as well as a walking tour of historic Bisbee offer a variety of ways to learn about life in old Bisbee and mining at the Copper Queen. Tours include Queen Mine Underground Tour, Historic District & Surface Mine Tours, Historic Walking Tour and Cochise County Van Tours.
The Queen Mine Underground tour lasts about an hour. The temperature underground is about fifty degrees year-round. Tours begin at 9, 10:30, 12 noon, 2 and 3:30. Prices are $10/adults, $3.50/youngsters aged 7-15 and $2/children 3-6, children under 3 are free. Tax is added to all ticket prices.
Van tour of surface mine and historic district starts at 10:30, 12 noon, 2 and 3:30. Cost for the van tour is $7 plus tax per person, children under 3 are free.
Both tours leave from the Queen Mine Tour Building located just south of the Old Bisbee Historic District, off the Hwy 80 interchange. For more information, reservations and group rates, call toll-free (866) 432-2071, (520) 432-2071.
Mailing address: Queen Mine Tours/City of Bisbee, 119 Arizona St., Bisbee AZ 85603.

Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park
Though famous for the gunfight at the OK Corral, Tombstone was first and foremost a silver-mining town, and this museum devotes a considerable exhibit to mining equipment and methods.

Fairbank ghost town
A short hike north from this ghost town along the San Pedro River will take you to the ruins of one of the considerable stamping mills that operated at the time of the silver boom in Tombstone.

Ghost mining camps
Many of the ghost towns of Cochise County were associated with mining. A gold or silver strike would bring hundreds of hopeful prospectors to a region. There would be a brief boom and then a collapse after a year--or two--or ten. Near the ghost towns of Pearce, Courtland and Gleeson are numerous deserted mine workings. The ghost towns along the San Pedro River were the sites of stamping mills for the silver from Tombstone, and ghost town sites in the Huachuca mountains were often lumber mills which harvested and processed the wood necessary for the operation of the mines.

Mining camps in the Chiricahuas
There are a number of ghost towns and old mining camps on the east side of the Chiricahua mountains, including Galeyville and Paradise. Use extreme caution in any mining district since the ground is often filled with hidden pits, shafts, rusty nails and broken glass. Do not trespass, and NEVER enter a tunnel in a mining district.

Recommended reading:

Sagstetter, Beth and Bill. The Mining Camps Speak: A New Way to Explore the Ghost Towns of the American West. Denver, CO: Benchmark Publishing of Colorado, 1998.

A highly-mineralized area such as southern Arizona is fascinating to anyone who collects rock and mineral specimens. Turquoise has been found near Courtland and selenite roses can be found in the hills west of St. David. Rock and mineral shows, local rock shops and rock hounding groups can often provide interesting specimens and information about specific areas of interest. For further information contact the Arizona Department of Mineral Resources or the Bureau of Land Managment.

Long before the entry of Europeans into Arizona, Native Americans mined turquoise in Cochise County. Major prehistoric turquoise mining was done on Turquoise Mountain, north of Courtland near the Pearce-Gleeson road. Later a turquoise mine owned the Tiffany Company provided the gem to easterners. The mine has been re-opened from time to time since the early 1900s, depending on the market demands for the stone.