Highway 80 designated as historic route

This article appeared in the Bisbee Observer’s Sept. 27 issue.

To read some of the history of the route, click here

Highway 80 running through Arizona has been designated as a historic highway, bringing the hope of boosting tourism in Cochise County and Bisbee, as a similar designation of Route 66 has done for northern Arizona.

The Arizona Transportation Board approved the designation at its meeting Sept. 21, after some eight years of work spearheaded by the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation.

Highway 80 — once called the “Broadway of America” — is the nation’s southernmost coast-to-coast road, running from Savannah, Georgia to San Diego. It crosses Cochise County, from Rodeo, N.M. to Douglas to Bisbee to Tombstone to Benson, and before the completion of Interstate 10 was the main route through southern Arizona.

Main Street Bisbee 1940

Main Street in 1940 was part of a coast-to-coast highway that carried local, business and tourism traffic, as well as semis hauling the nation’s commerce. Nevertheless, there was still parking on the south side of the street. (Photo from the Library of Congress.)

The road goes on through Tucson, on to the Phoenix area, and then west to Yuma. U.S. 80 was commissioned in 1926, but parts of the road date to much earlier under other names. The route over the Divide, for example, was built in 1913-14, and was originally part of the Bancroft Highway. But by 1989, all of the road in Arizona had been removed from the federal system.

The historic designation is only the beginning of a process that will require the cooperation of stakeholders all along the route, said Demion Clinco, CEO of the Tucson foundation, who did much of the work to get the recognition.

Marketing the route must be done statewide, he said. Smaller cities, such as Bisbee, actually will benefit more than the larger ones, though Tucson is already moving ahead on work that will be enhanced by the designation, such as revitalization of the Miracle Mile area, once a part of Highway 80. Continue reading

Review attacks Council with sharp sarcasm

Sarcastic comments on CouncilMy BHS classmate Joe Von Kanel has worked for CNN most of his career, both in Atlanta (its headquarters) and in Washington (the center of the known universe.)

He writes for many of the big names you see on the tube, such as Wolf Blitzer. He told me during one of his visits a few years ago that he writes the script for personalities all along the political spectrum, so he has learned to be “snarky” from both directions.

Snarky is a word that dates to 1906, so it wouldn’t apply to the article I’ll discuss here, and a combination of “sarcastic” and “nasty.” So for this 1905 article, we’ll have to make due with simply “sarcastic.” But with this kind of heritage, it’s easy to see why Joe is good with “snarky!” Continue reading

1885 Bisbee wants help with Apaches

I was at Burger King recently, my second office, researching the 1918 trial of “Big Bill” Haywood, head of the Industrial Workers of the World, when Larry Thomas came in. He’s been researching John Williams, the father of Ben and Lewis Williams, who ran the Phelps, Dodge mines in Bisbee from the early 1880s through the end of the century.

His research was aimed at learning more about the elder Williams’ time in Michigan, where he had been involved in developing and running copper smelters. By the 1870s, Williams had made his way to California, where he formed a partnership with D.W.F. Bisbee, the namesake of our town.

Happily forsaking the research I had been tied to for hours, I made a few checks on Williams. One of the items I encountered wasn’t about John, but Lewis, who was in Bisbee and who from his leadership position in the new community was busy imploring the federal government to “do something” about the Apache problem.

San Jose range

A rancher in the southern end of the Huachucas, in the foreground, watched a day-long battle play out between the Apaches and a force of soldiers and civilians in the San Jose range south of Naco, in the distance.

The Sacramento Daily Record-Union kept close track of what was going on in other parts of the West in a column titled “Pacific Slope.” It apparently had a regular correspondent down in Tombstone, then a boom town and the seat of Cochise County. Continue reading

Colorful writing about boxing in 1903

One of the beauties of days gone by is the language they used. When you see a headline that says, simple, “World of Fistiana,” you assume it’s going to be about boxing — correctly so — but it sounds so classy . . . so elevated.

Such was the story that appeared in the Bisbee Daily Review of June 13, 1903, discussing the return of boxing to Bisbee at — of all places — the Opera House.headline for boxing in bisbee

It was a front-page article promoting the meeting a couple of days later of featherweights (128 pounds) Jack Bain and Jack Bolan. “When these men enter the ring, Bisbee will be treated to the best game of fisticuffs which has been presented to the sport-loving fraternity since the fighting game in this city underwent a revival under the conservative management of Harry B. McCoy last winter.” Continue reading

IWW on trial in Chicago draws attention

Members of the IWW on trial in Chicago in April, 1918, lost no opportunity to garner attention to themselves and their cause.

After a raid on offices of the Industrial Workers of the World, a trial was begun before federal judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis in Chicago.

To get to the courthouse from the jail, they had to walk a mile down Clark Street. That walk, reported the New York Tribune on April 4, “is becoming more and more hazardous.” More than 120 members of the union were on trial in the early days of the case. There was a deputy U.S. marshal for every two of them and each couple was handcuffed.

They walked in “squadrons” of 10 prisoners each, the paper reported. Some of the groups had come up with money to charter cars for the trips, but the paper said it was unlikely that would continue. Continue reading

Arizona Rangers moved into Bisbee

Harry Wheeler tombstone

Harry Wheeler was the third and final captain of the Arizona Rangers, but was best known as Sheriff of Cochise County. The modern-day Rangers, a volunteer group, added the last line to his monument at Evergreen Cemetery much after his death.

Arizona had been a territory since 1863, being brought into the Union sphere of influence largely because of the gold and silver it held, needed to finance the Civil War.

Later in that century, Arizona began lobbying for statehood and its attendant benefits. It continued to tout its mineral wealth as the major reason for acceptance. Arizona and its mines participated in a number of major fairs around the nation, and the world, with Bisbee’s fabulous minerals as centerpieces.

Bisbee, for example, was heavily represented at the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 with a variety of museum pieces, including a gigantic (4.5-ton) block of azurite and malachite, which is now on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Despite the value of Arizona’s natural resources, with Bisbee heavily contributing, both in terms of wealth and beauty, folks in the East felt that the Wild West territory was too lawless to be admitted as an equal partner. Continue reading

Central School vital to Bisbee, in the past and now

Central School

Central School, bottom center with bell tower, back when it was an operating elementary school.

A part of Bisbee’s Backstory

Central School, opened in 1905, was the first school in the district paid for by the public. Before that, dating back to 1883, the school buildings were built by the local mining companies, but by the opening of the 20th century, the firms were of the belief that the community could be self-supporting in terms of infrastructure.

Bisbee had become an incorporated city in 1902, with no small amount of prodding by the Copper Queen Consolidated Mining Co., and residents had to start getting used to taxes, license fees, bonds and the like. It wasn’t always easy, despite the fact that local miners were among the best-paid blue-collar workers in the nation. After all, the vice economy was running strong as well, and workers with families weren’t in the majority.

But for Central School, a bond issue was set out to build a K-12 facility at the site of the existing cobbled-together facility. The day of the election, the kids were given the day off, and they canvassed the town, encouraging citizens to vote. Continue reading

Copper Queen Hotel marked change in Bisbee

Copper Queen HotelA part of Bisbee’s Backstory

The Copper Queen Hotel, build by the Copper Queen Consolidated Mining Co., opened in 1902, the same year that Bisbee became an incorporated city.

While these were important milestones in the city’s history, they are also symptoms of tremendous growth in the community. A second company, Calumet & Arizona Mining Co., had started up in the area, and it and the Copper Queen were building smelters at Douglas.

These smelters would require thousands of workers, yet despite the outflow of employment (for the Copper Queen, at least), this would mean great growth for Bisbee. It was at this time the city came close to being the largest community in Arizona and became, for the first time, the wealthiest. Continue reading

What is Bisbee’s history canon?

Judy Perry mural indicating one of the sets of stairs on the Bisbee 1000.

Judy Perry mural indicating one of the sets of stairs on the Bisbee 1000.

What does “Bisbee’s history canon” mean? Just as with all other topics that have a “canon,” so does Bisbee history. And there are differing opinions as to what constitutes the canon.

A “canon” is the works that constitute what is important to a topic. The Protestant Biblical canon, for example, includes the Old and New Testaments, while the Catholic canon adds to that the books of the apocrypha. Many today argue that the Western canon of great literature, generally taught in colleges, omits many writings of people of color and women.

BIsbee’s history canon includes a number of stories that define the town, and it is those which are told time and again, while others seldom get aired. The Bisbee Massacre, this discovery of ore here by Jack Dunn, the great fire of 1908, the Bisbee Deportation of July 12, and a handful of others constitute the canon. Thousands of other stories are not included, each for one or more of many reasons.

Is Bisbee’s history canon, which came into existence decades ago, appropriate for today? That is a very good question. The decision on what is and isn’t included is a result of opinion and inertia. Continue reading

What is Bisbee’s Backstory?

“Backstory” perhaps is not the best word, but it’s the closest I could find for what I wanted to convey.Cemetery and Denn headframe

As 2018 opens, I’m getting ready for the next season of visitors, mostly from the snow belt, who have come to Arizona and are now exploring the state, including Bisbee. A great portion of these folks are boomers, and thus they are heritage tourists, who appreciate history. My believe, as you probably can surmise, is that Bisbee offers up history in quantities available to no other community in Arizona.

I will spend quite a bit of time between now and April showing off Bisbee as a guide for Lavender Jeep Tours. A typical tour through the Historic District takes about 90 minutes, giving me, speaking at the rate of about 100 words per minute, an absolute maximum of 9,000 words to introduce these heritage-hungry folks to our town. It’s realistically more like 4,000 words. Continue reading