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

Civil War service record was important in 1870s

Unknown Civil War soldiers buried in BisbeeWhen James Duncan made his first venture into Mule Gulch in 1879, which he documented in 1911, he met only a handful of prospectors who lived there at the time. It is interesting to note that he identified them by their Civil War service, by the units in which they served in the Union Army during that recent conflict.

This was a time only 14 years after that war ended. The excitement of the conflict was responsible for so many me going west, into the last frontier, and undoubtedly, it was a bond — a shared past — that brought many of them together, and elicited many a tale around the evening campfire.

The first cabin he encountered in Bisbee, or Mule Gulch at the time, Duncan said, was “occupied by two Union soldier who had served in the Civil War — Marcus A. Herring served in the California column and George Eddleman served in a Pennsylvania regiment.” Service in the California column may have brought Herring to the area that would become Cochise County in another couple of years. Part of that unit entered the area of Apache Pass to the north and established Fort Bowie, though one could only speculate on whether Herring was in that particular action. Continue reading

Treating water for the steam shovels

To assure quality, Phelps Dodge Corp. was buying treated water for its steam shovels and steam engines being used at the Sacramento open-pit mine from the Junction mine of the Calumet & Arizona Mining Co.

The Bisbee Daily Review reported Feb. 2, 1919 that a Reisert water treating [that’s what they called it] plant had been started up for softening — or removing minerals such as calcium — from the mine water.Patent application for water treating

Once treated, the water was sufficiently softened for use in the boilers on equipment that would be removing ore and waste from Bisbee’s first open-pit mine.

The water was treated with barium carbonate and lime, which precipitated the soluble sulfates which were the scale-forming constituents of the water as it was removed from the mine.

The water-treatment device had been patented by Hans Reisert in 1909. The German inventor said in his patent application that within the device the ferruginous matter and similar material was removed by oxidation by bringing the air under pressure into contact with the water “in a finely divided state.” The device also regulated the pressure and the water level.

Click here to read the entire patent application.

Buying another shovel

The Review reported Oct. 30, 1919 that J.J. Curtain, who was the steam shovel foreman at Sacramento Hill, had returned from Milwaukee, where he had gone to purchase a steam shovel for the mining work. He had been gone for about a month.

The shovel acquired was a Bucyrus 88C, the newspaper reported, “with reinforced I-beams and frames, costing about $34,000.

Steam shovel falls in

This steam shovel at the Sac pit fell into the old underground workings.

The magazine Steam Shovel and Dredge, in 1920, showed a photo of one of the 88Cs that had broken through some old underground workings. “Although no one was injured, the incident managed to stir things considerably. After a considerable lot of ‘strength and awkwardness’ combined, the shovel was lifted from the cave by means of a cable fastened to the top of a frame equalizer.”

A correspondent for the magazine said the prospects in Bisbee “are decidedly encouraging in their brightness for a long time ahead.” Another 88C had been added to the Copper Queen fleet, bringing the total to six shovels in all on the project.

In the same issue of the publication, a blurb reports the “Brother” T.A. Melville is in Bisbee, which he said is “about as attractive a place in which to live as one could with.” He reported that about 11 crews were on the job at the Sacramento pit, with more shovels to be added later, “88C being used exclusively.” (The magazine was published for the International Brotherhood of Steam Shovel and Dredge Men.

Train robbery and Bisbee massacre

1883 train robbery blurb

So little time, so many good stories to follow!

Working on some details for an article on the Bisbee “massacre” back in 1883, using a newspaper I hadn’t accessed before, the Weekly Phoenix Herald, and came across a blurb in the issue of Dec. 13, which had picked up an article from the Tombstone News of Dec. 6, before the Bisbee event.

At that time, Cochise County law enforcers were interested in finding the robbers of a train in the northeastern part of the county. For a while after the massacre, there was a lot of talk about the train robbers and the town invaders being the same folks, but soon that line of discussion disappeared. One of the fun things about research.

The Dec. 6 article said that “Bob Hatch’s party (he was a deputy sheriff at the time) returned last night from a 10 day’s unsuccessful hunt for the train robbers.

“They scouted through the San Simon Valley into Skeleton Canyon, on the Sonora line [that’s a site with lots of history], but found no trace of the robbers.

“The recent rains have destroyed the trail of the band that went that way.”


Fire alarm draws crowds

Nothing like a fire to draw crowds!

Just when you think people would be staying far away, and just when the men fighting the fire need room to work, that’s when the crowds show up.

That’s something I saw was a universal problem as I was putting together Bisbee Burns: The City’s Most Destructive Fires and the Creation of a Fire Department.

Back in 1908, the Bisbee Fire Department discovered that it wasn’t wise to use the fire bell to summon firemen, because a crowd would gather around the station so quickly that the engine would have to move slowly or risk running own bystanders. Instead, it used the whistle, which was also used for other purposes, such as requesting more hose, so it was more generally ignored by the public.

Fires and fire engines draw crowds

Whenever they come out, fire engines and the fires they attend will draw crowds. This photo if from New Orleans (Canal Street) in 1900 and shows an early steam-powered fire engine. The crowd just naturally congregated.

During the fire on Chihuahua Hill in 1907, there was so much excitement among the residents, the newspaper reported, that several time officers had to draw their sidearms and order people back to give the firemen the opportunity to work.

Three decades later, during the fire which destroyed the Phelps Dodge Mercantile store, it was the fire itself that encouraged the hordes of onlookers to move back. Walls crumbled, plate glass windows shattered and ammunition started to crackle, enough clues, perhaps, for even the densest gawkers.

The story of Bisbee’s major fires provides a fascinating look at the community in its heyday, at a time when it was still booming and just learning how to take care of itself.

Lots of mining companies in early Bisbee

When we think of the mining companies of Bisbee, three come to mind: the big one, sequentially known as Copper Queen Consolidated, Phelps Dodge and Freeport-McMoRan; Calumet & Arizona; and Shattuck-Denn. Phelps Dodge/Freeport eventually would consolidate all of the land holdings in the district.

In the early years, however, there were many more operations, some of which would be merged into one of the big three or others which were not successful ventures, or perhaps were stock scams. Continue reading