Boom at Cananea coincided with Bisbee’s

As the 20th century began, Bisbee was booming, as were the new communities of Douglas and Naco (both sides of the border.) Bisbee’s growth, to a great extent, came from the startup of mining interests affiliated with the “Bonanza Circle,” all of which later would be amalgamated into Calumet and Arizona Mining Co.

Douglas was created to accommodate the C&A smelter, and before long, the Copper Queen Consolidated Mining Co. decided to move its facility there from Bisbee. Those two acts not only created Douglas, but also allowed for more growth at Bisbee because larger smelting capacity meant more demand for mining.

Cananea smelter

Cananea smelter


At the same time, however, a mining boom was taking place south of the border. “Colonel” William C. Greene’s Cananea Consolidated Copper Co. was abuilding at a similar pace as Bisbee and Douglas, which also providing for the development of the two Nacos.

Fastest growth yet

The Bisbee Daily Review reported Jan. 11, 1902 that “building in the Cananeas has been greater during the last three months than during any other time since the camp was started.

“More machinery has been received and installed, and more new buildings have been completed than at any other time.”

Cananea’s growth was important to Bisbee since so many of the workers and managers there were Americans, many of whom had homes in Bisbee and did most of their commerce here.

converter aisle at cananea smelter

Converter aisle at Cananea smelter

The Review detailed smelter construction that would take the copper complex’ output to 100 tons of fine copper per day by the end of January. The newest furnace being erected had a daily capacity of 350 tons of ore and was the largest of five at the Cananea smelter. By comparison, the Copper Queen smelter being developed at Douglas would have a total capacity of 1,000 to 1,500 tons of ore per day. (This was in the days prior to concentrators; the rich underground mines produced “direct smelting” or “direct shipping” ore.)

That means Cananea’s mining and smelting capacity was on a par with that of the Copper Queen in Bisbee and Douglas, and well ahead of the C&A.

Unlike Bisbee, but like the new smelting works at Douglas, the Cananea facility vented its sulfur offgasses through a stack, which stood 208 feet and 3 inches from base to top and was 12, feet, 6 inches in diameter.

Ancillary facilities at the mine also were being increased. The carpenter shop, for example, was being expanded to accommodate growth.

Rail, trolley and stage

For a mine the size of Cananea, of course, a railroad was a necessity, and the Review said that the local railroad had reached a point about a quarter mile from the smelter, and it would complete the distance by the following week. That would allow coal and coke to be delivered directly to bins at the smelter.

headline about cananea smelter“The first through freight train went into Cananea Monday evening [the article was published the following Saturday] and consisted of 11 carloads of lumber and three cars of machinery. Two engines are hauling freight into the new camp, working night and day and the present yards will have to be enlarged to hold the freight that is being brought in.”

At the time, a stage line connected the mine and smelter to the townsite, providing transportation for workers. But grading was to begin soon for a trolley line, which would cover the same ground, making trips every hour. This was happening a full six years before the same would be done in Bisbee.

Commercial enterprises booming

The mining company — the 4Cs — was building a new store, which was nearly finished at the time, ready to be occupied within a week. The town was being built for permanence: The building was of brick, two stories high, with a frontage of 47 feet and a depth of 100 feet. It had a cellar for storage.

“The fixtures of the store are the finest and costliest of any store in either Arizona or Sonora, and the cash carrier system will be the best of any store in the Southwest.”

cananea stores

Cananea stores

The company also was putting a bank in its offices to cash employee checks. The workers had been paying a service fee elsewhere for check-cashing.

A company hotel also was in the works, for a purpose similar to that of the Copper Queen Hotel in Bisbee, which had just been completed. It was expected to be ready for occupancy the following month.

Company-built infrastructure

A two-story brick hospital also was under way, with the first story completed, and work being “pushed with vigor. The hospital will be fitting up with the latest improved appliances and will be a model institution of its kind.” (Here’s a look at what a modern hospital of the time would have been.)

The 4Cs also had just completed a reservoir for domestic water. It was brought in from one of the mines, Puertocitas, some 18 miles away, and came from mountain springs. The brick water tank held 40 million gallons. A pipeline was run to the smelter and town, which also provided for fire protection.

The townsite itself was “rapidly assuming a town-like appearance. Some 30 residences are now under course of construction, and with the arrival of material a building boom will be on in earnest.

A brick yard at Cananea was turning out brick in large numbers and had enough orders in place to run for a year or more. Most of the buildings in the new townsite would be brick and adobe and finished in wood. The townsite also had a two-story brick schoolhouse.

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