In my last two blogs I talked about the history of mining in Arizona and the mining towns still active today. There are a lot of ghost towns in Arizona as a result of nearby mines or mining activity. There are so many ghost towns that no longer exist, some disappearing with no trace and some still have relics of what they once were, that it would take a full book to discuss them all. Instead I am taking a look at some of the smaller towns that are considered ghost towns, but still have residents and/or are tourist attractions.
I am not a historian and I share the history and lore that I have heard or read about only for entertainment purposes.
Here is a list of some of the mining towns that are now considered ghost towns:
Castel Dome (Castle Dome Landing)- Located in Yuma County and Established in 1864
It is believed the ore vein on Castle Dome Mountain had been worked previously by Natives because ruins were found nearby on the Gila River, however it was discovered by prospectors in 1863. The prospectors thought the shiny Galena was actually silver. In disappointment they left. In 1864 Castle Dome Landing was founded on the Colorado River as a supply and shipping point by steamboat for the mines in Castle Dome Mountains. There were over 300 mines in the Castle Dome District. A mining camp sprung up nearby and in 1875 Castle Dome was established. The landing site itself is now covered by water impounded by the Imperial Dam. Though mining ended in the District in 1979 a lot of the artifacts were left behind and the property that was previously Castle Dome town and mining camp was purchased in 1994 by Allen and Stephanie Armstrong, and turned into the Castle Dome Museum. The museum site houses over 50 restored and recreated buildings-seven original to the town, and the rest are period representations built mostly from locally scavenged materials. The museum sits on 3 patented mining claims the Floral Temple, Floral Temple extension and the Castle Dome.
Chloride- Located in Mohave County and Established in 1863
Chloride was a silver mining camp and is considered the oldest continuously inhabited mining town in the state. Gold, lead, zinc, and turquoise were discovered in the area in the 1840’s. The town was founded in 1863 and by 1944 it was a ghost town. Chloride is now a historic tourist town. Some retirees and artist still call it home. The Chloride Historical Society maintains several old buildings including the Jail and the Playhouse. There is an assayer’s office, an undertaker’s office, a saloon, a general store, a livery stable, a blacksmiths shop, Lavender Lace’s Boarding House for Fine Women, a bank, a schoolhouse, and the feed store. The do mock gun fights and have wonderful souvenir shops to explore.
Christmas- Located in Gila County and Established in 1905
Two copper mining claims were made in 1878 and 1882, but invalidated in 1884 because they were located on the San Carlos Apache Reservation. When the land was resurveyed and the miners found out on Christmas Eve 1902 that the land was no longer reservation land, they hurried to the site on Christmas Day to stake their claims. This is an uninhabited ghost town now, but I find it interesting to include because for three decades post office in this mining town existed, it got mail from all over the world in December so people could have their Christmas Cards postmarked from Christmas! When the post office closed in 1935 it continued to get these mailings for almost 20 years. The mine is now owned by Freeport McMoRan and it closed in the early 1980’s.
Congress- Located in Yavapai County and Established in 1889
The Congress Gold Mine was located in 1884 and bought and developed 3 years later. Congress became quite large with a mill, a hospital, salons, Chinese and Mexican restaurants, and even a tennis court. The major drawback was lack of water. The only spigot was in front of the mill and families had 50 gallon buckets they had to fill up and roll home. Because of this the town was nearly destroyed in 1898 and 1900 by fire. Congress Junction was the nearby railroad station. The Congress post office closed in 1938 and Congress Junction became known as Congress. Some ruins are still visible.
Crown King- Located in Yavapai County and Established in 1888
The famous Crown King gold mine is near the center of the Bradshaw Mountains. The mine was discovered in the early 1870’s. The Crown King mining camp started in the 1880’s. The company discouraged drunkenness and the town attracted mostly respectable people. In 1897 the town actually had electricity and a telephone. IN 1901 some litigation closed the Crown King Mine, but other working mines in the area supported the community and kept it alive. Today Crown King is a cute little unincorporated community that’s a scenic 26 mile drive on dirt roads to get to. The Crown King Saloon has maintained its place as the center of activity in town. The Saloon was originally constructed and operated in the nearby mining town of Oro Belle (now also a ghost town). In 1910, it was disassembled and brought to Crown King piece by piece. The building was home to a brothel and bar in both towns and now serves the public as a hotel, cafe, and bar. The red one-room schoolhouse was built in 1917 and still serves a small number of K-8 students.
Goldfield- Located in Pinal County and Established in 1893
Goldfield was established when a large, but low grade, gold deposit was discovered in 1892 on the western slope of the Superstitious Mountains. Fortune hunters poured into Goldfield. When the mine closed, people moved on and the town died in 1898. In 1910 the town was reestablished and named Youngsberg after the acting Arizona Governor, George U. Young, who bought the mine, instaledl a stamp mill and cyanide plant, and a bunkhouse. But since the ore was still low grade, the mine failed again and the town died in 1926. Then in 1984 the town was purchased by Robert F. "Bob” Schoose, who renamed it Goldfield, and he rebuilt and restored the town complete with gold-mine tours, Old West gunfights, and a history museum.
Jerome- Located in Yavapai County and Established in 1883
In 1876 a claim was filed on Mingus Mountain, leased to the Governor, and backed by New York investors. One of these investors was Eugene Jerome, hence the name of the town. In 1882 the United Verde Company was formed and the coper mine of the same name was developed. Despite being a mining town, Jerome maintained fairly good law and order. When copper prices dropped the United Verde Mine closed in 1932. It was reopened by Phelps-Dodge in 1935 but only lasted until 1950. The town might have gone the way of other ghost towns in Arizona, except the citizens where smart enough to have Jerome declared a ghost town and it soon became a popular tourist destination. Its biggest claim to fame is since a mining blast in 1925, the town is slowly sliding down the hill. Jerome is considered a ghost town. According to the Jerome Chamber of Commerce, Jerome has about 450 residents.
Oatman- Located in Mohave County and Established in 1904
The Vivian Mine was discovered in 1908. Interesting to note is nearby the Nixon Mine was worked solely by a blind miner. With the discovery of the Tom Reed gold mine in 1908, the town formally called Vivian became known as Oatman. It was named in honor of Olive Oatman, a white girl who had been taken captive by Indians when her family was slaughtered. Her brother sought for her for 5 years and finally secured her release in 1856. The gold mines were ordered closed in 1941 because of the war, but Oatman survived catering to travelers until a bypass was built in 1953. Otman saw a resurgence or tourist interest with the interest in the legendary Route 66 and the growth of Laughlin, Nevada. Oatman is famous for 3 things- the wild burros that fill the streets in town, the honeymoon of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, and Oatie the Ghost at the historic Oatman Hotel.
Patagonia- Located in Santa Cruz County and Established in 1893
Patagonia was established as a supply center for nearby mines and ranchers. It is near the Santa Rita Mountains and the Patagonia Mountains, where there was lots of mining activity and there are now several ghost towns. In the 1930s ASARCO built a mill and power plant at the Flux and Trench mines in the area. Those and other mines were revived to supply lead, copper, zinc and molybdenum to the allied armies of World War II. The town incorporated in 1948. In 1957 ASARCO closed the Mill and Power Plant, and in 1962 the ICC granted the NM&A’s petition to abandon the rail line to Patagonia But in 1968, Sonoita Creek was dammed about 10 miles south of town to create Patagonia Lake, which was made a state park in 1974. Patagonia is now a tourist attraction, retirement area, and arts and crafts center. It is famous with birders for its varieties of rare birds.
Ruby- Located in Santa Cruz County and Established in 1912
The Montana gold mine at the foot of Montana Peak was quite prolific and a jumble of shacks and tents grew into a mining camp called Montana. In 1912 when the town got a post office they changed the name to Ruby, in honor of the wife of the man who ran the camp store. The town of Ruby was a rough and lawless place. Unfortunately in 1920 and 1921, the town store, was the scene of two gruesome double homicides committed by Mexican bandits. Together these incidents are known as the Ruby Murders, which led to the largest manhunt in the history of the Southwest. A posse searched for the outlaws trail in the second murders in an airplane, the first ever used in Arizona for that purpose! The mine closed in 1940, and by the end of 1941 Ruby was abandoned. Today Ruby is one of the best preserved ghost towns in the state and its attractions include about 25 buildings, including the jail and houses, the school, the playground, mine machinery, buildings and mine workings. Ruby is entirely on private property and there is a charge for admission to the site.