Saturday, March 27, 2010

Bisbee, Tombstone and Fairbanks

Fairbanks is now a ghost town, although as late as 1972 they say you could stop and get a snack and soda. Although Tombstone is famous because of the OK Corral, they say many a gun fight and even a train robbery was held here in Fairbanks, too.
Although the town was founded in 1881, I doubt these street signs are that old. Originally a stage coach stop, the town blossomed when a railroad spur was built, connecting it to Benson and the Southern Pacific Railroad. Anyone heading to Tombstone or Bisbee had to pass through Fairbanks. Here you could stop for a elegant meal at the Hotel or have a drink at one of the several saloons. There were millinary shops and people had access to all the goods available by rail.

Located on the San Pedro River, it also became a hub for the mills located up and down the river.


Currently these buildings are under rennovation.

On the other side of this slab is where the train tracks used to lie. Today there are no signs trains ever ran through this town. The town managed to stay alive, even after the trains quit running, because of the highway which was built next to the town.

I believe the school dates back to the 1890s.
Some miles southeast lies Bisbee, famous for its copper mines.
After the mines all closed around 1985, the town realized it would die unless something was done. The citizens decided to capitalize on its heritage by putting together a first class museum and by keeping the town much as it was in the early 1900s.

Built on a hillside, you can see each of these streets is at a different angle.

The is the Copper Queen Hotel which dates back to when the town was in its heyday.

Another old building.

Site of "The Glory Hole" the original entrance to the Copper Queen Mine.
During the time the mines were operating they removed 8 billion pounds of copper and 3 million ounces of gold and silver, making this the richest copper mine in Arizone. Underground mining was central until 1910 when open pit mining came along and started mining the low grade ore while the underground mines continued to mine the higher grade ores.

Looking down the old main street.

A view of the town from the Copper Queen Mine.

I decided to take the Copper Queen Mine tour.

You can see this entrance was built in 1915.

Here we go, 1500 feet into the side of the mountain. Although the mine was several levels both above and below for a total of 700 feet, we saw mainly this level from where the train could take us.

We did stop once and climbed 35 steps to the next higher level. Here is one of the drills as was used at the time the mine closed. Our guide worked at the mine for 24 years before retiring. He had some interesting stories to tell, too.

Can you see the 2 green spots, one on the upper left, and one about middle? These are both copper in the rock. This is the purpose of the mines, to get that copper out. I found an explanation of the difference between rock/ore/grade. Any rock containing metal, which is profitable after digging it out is considered ore. All other rock is waste rock. Grade is the percentage of metal per ton. High grade ore is about 8-10%, meaning there is up to 160-200 pounds of copper per ton of ore. Nowadays high tech equipment can make a profit off low grade ores, some as low as .1% or 2 pounds per ton of ore.

These bicycles were provided for the bosses, who had to make the rounds of many sites multiple times per shift.

Ore broken up on the upper levels was sent down chutes into the ore cars for removal. We did not get to see how they removed the ore from the lower levels, only that it was said to be hauled up.

The mine is in much the same condition as it was when it closed operations 25 years ago, including many of the signs required to be posted.

Where did the guys go, when they had to "go"? These 'sanitary pots' were maintained on each level. I'm not sure why they were called 'honey pots' because I'm sure they didn't smell sweet.

This shovel could scoop ore and an experienced operator could fill one of the buckets in less than a minute.

An interior frame showing when it was constructed.

The town in its heydey in the early 1900s with a population of 20,000.


But by 1908 the downtown had burnt 3 times and was rebuilt.
When the mines opened in 1877 all the copper had to be hauled over 50 miles by freight wagon to Benson where it could be loaded on the railroads. But in 1881 they saved 25 miles when the New Mexico and Santa Fe Railroad opened in Fairbanks. In 1883 the trip was made easier when a toll road opened across the Mule Mountains.
Between Bisbee and Fairbanks was Tombstone. Made famous by the shootout at the OK Corral, the town itself was a short lived boom town fueled by silver mining. The first mine was found in 1878, and then the boom was on. It brought those prospectors and all the followers for the short time silver mining existed. In the late 1880s the mines flooded and the boom ended. But by that time it had a reputation for corruption and lawlessness which attracted many of the Old West's most famous characters. The town was known for its gambling, stage shows and prostitues. There were numerous gunfights, although none as famous as the shootout at the OK Corral. From about 1889 until the 1930s it was mainly forgotten. Now it contains many an historic landmark.
Many of these buildings are original, have only been restored and turned into shops and tourist traps. You can take a stage coach ride or watch a gun fight in the street.

The Bird Cage was one of the more prominent attraction in the 1880s. Now a museum, I did not have time the day I visited, so I decided this would be something to come back to.
Truthfully, I was disappointed in Tombstone. I knew it would be 'touristy', but I had no idea. I've been to places like Deadwood, and Dodge City, but never have I been to something like Tombstone. Every place you go into wants to sell you a ticket if you want to see it. And they aren't cheap either. Most tickets were $10 or more. Figure several of those and it adds up quick. Even the shootout at the OK Corral is now held privately and you have to pay to see the gunfight. Several places boast gunfights, but they all charge. I even saw a sign at one of the stores for a self-guided tour for only $1. At least in Deadwood the gunfights are free.

I did think this scene was cute. (He was soliciting business for a gunfight down the street for only $4)

The old courthouse is now a state park. I got to Tombstone on my way back from Bisbee and decided I didn't have time to do more than stroll down the main street. This is another site to come back to.

I did see these guys jamming on the porch, so I stopped for a few minutes to listen.

If you want to see the site itself you have to pay. I declined.

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