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

Bisbee’s share of population, based on Democrats

There used to be a saying around Cochise County that if you wanted to vote in the primary election, you’d better be a Democrat. That inertia is probably why I’m still a registered Democrat. Today, if you register Independent, you can choose your primary ballot, which I think is totally wrong.

But back to the point of this article. Way back when, Cochise County was strongly Democrat, and Bisbee certainly was, though that didn’t mean the D letter after a candidate’s name would guarantee him an election. Voters looked at the man, and many Republicans were elected to office.

Distribution of Democrats in Cochise CountyIn May, 1904, Arizona was gearing up for sending representatives to the presidential conventions. Citizens of territories could not vote in federal elections, but they could participate in the conventions, and the Bisbee Daily Review, a Democrat newspaper (in that day, it actually mattered; in fact, Bisbee’s first newspaper, in 1888, was named the Democrat), was whipping up the politically interested.

The Cochise County Central Committee had met in Bisbee on April 23 and had called for a county convention to be held in Tombstone on May 14 to elect 30 delegates to represent the county at the territorial convention in Tucson May 23.

Apportionment of delegates

The Bisbee meeting apportioned delegates to Tombstone based on the population of Democrats in each community. A total of 105 delegates would attend, with 40 of them coming from Bisbee, which was both the largest population center and the largest party stronghold. Douglas, which was an up-and-coming smelter and railroad town at the time (both major Bisbee mining companies had built their facilities by that time), was second, with 15 delegates.

Tombstone, the county seat, added 10 and Bisbee’s borderlands suburbs, Naco and Osborne, also had a total of 10. As can be seen, the greater Bisbee area had almost half of the votes.

The Review included a series of editorials in its May 1 edition to discuss the upcoming meeting, including a warning to stay focused on “the common enemy,” the Republicans, who were very likely to be manifested in the ever-popular visage of Teddy Roosevelt. Continue reading

Start of Charleston Dam idea?

For as long as I can remember, I have heard of the Charleston Dam project, once apparently considered a part of what would become the Central Arizona Project.

The CAP, of course, is in full swing today, providing water from the Colorado River, through a series of canals, to Phoenix and Tucson, and perhaps soon to the Green Valley area courtesy of the aborning Rosemont mine.

Crops cartoon

The Review ran this cartoon during the time it was promoting participating in the work to get federal money for watering the San Pedro River Valley.

The Charleston Dam, which was to be located somewhere near the erstwhile Wild West town of Charleston on the San Pedro River, was designed to capture water before it wended its way to the Gila River and thence on to the Colorado.

While the massive CAP was a concept for decades, it wouldn’t get funding for quite a while. According to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Charleston dam was once authorized for construction for water conservation and flood control [in the Colorado River Basin Project legislation of 1968], but a review of the project in 1977 recommended it be removed from the project and the concept went no further.

About 20 years ago, I took a trip up the San Pedro in Mexico (it originates in the Cananea Mountains) with Gene Brust. The ejidos, or communal farms, that line the river in Mexico have extensively dammed and put to beneficial use the waters of the San Pedro, perhaps accounting for the reduction in the river’s flow over the past decades. That, of course, would have made the Charleston Dam less tenable. Continue reading

No end to learning about Bisbee’s history

I once figured that eventually I’d learn all the “big” stuff about Bisbee’s past. Then I’d just be filling in the gaps, like grouting tile.


Today, I was reading the transcript from the Deportation trial in 1920. W.G. Gilmore, an attorney for the defense of Harry Wootton, is making a closing argument to the jury. In part of his comments, he is trying to show how the prosecution’s testimony — all deportees — is rehearsed, since they all testify to the same thing in the same way, even if it were not possible for all of them to have seen all of the activities that are discusses.One of the boxcars in which deportees were sent to New Mexico

“There were 1,200 men and some man testified, I think, that there were 50 men to the [cattle or box] car; I think they said there were 24 cars and every man — you remember that Mexican that they shot at at Orborne?” [No, I didn’t remember.]

“Every man saw that, every one. They were in box cars; they were herded in there 50 men to the car, and there were, they say, 24 cars, but every witness that Mr. [Robert] French [the county attorney/prosecutor] brought on here, saw that — except the women. That is the character of the testimony you have to consider.” Continue reading

Just getting a city job isn’t enough

Tony Kyle, Bisbee’s newly appointed night policeman, discovered that celebrating New Year’s can be bad for your tenure.

The Bisbee Daily Review reported Jan. 1, 1907 that on Dec. 30, the man was found intoxicated in a saloon on Brewery Avenue. Someone reported the fact to his boss, City Marshal Haskall “Hank” Snodgrass, who went to the saloon and found Kyle drunk and asleep in a chair.Drunk cop discharged

Snodgrass asked him to turn over his star and the keys to the city jail, “but Kyle was in such a condition he was unable to do so,” so Snodgrass had to take them.

Kyle was appointed by the marshal, with the deal confirmed by the city council, to replace Jay. F. Wilmoth, who resigned to become constable, a post he had been elected to that fall.

Kyle had been a miner and came to his new post highly recommended. “It had been reported several times that Kyle was conducting himself in a manner unbecoming an officer, and although the city marshal investigated the reports, he was unable to get facts to prove the charges,” the newspaper reported.

With the final report, Snodgrass checked it out himself. “I want men on theh police force who can be depended upon adn who are looking out for the best interests of the city,” Snodgrass said.

“I want to give the peoeple of Bisbee the best police protection I can give, and must have the best officers I can get.”

It didn’t take Snodgrass long to replace Kyle with Jack Meany.

Violin virtuoso plays in Bisbee

One of the world’s finest violinists performed in Bisbee in 1920 to a packed house. A recording of his work from that era is included below.

As the superior court in Tombstone was in the final stages of selecting a jury for the kidnapping trial of Harry Wootton in early March 1920, Bisbee was being soothed by the music of world-famous violinist Jacques Thibaud.

Violinist Jacques Thibaud played in Bisbee in 1920In what was a century-earlier version of today’s For the Love of Music classical music series held at the Bisbee Woman’s Club, this event was part of the season for the local Musical Events Club.

On the Lavender Jeep Tour, I often point out to visitors that Opera Drive got its name from the former presence of the Opera House, which did sponsor some opera, but was mainly a vaudeville house, among other more plebeian activities.

Similarly in 1920, when the columns were filled with ads for minstrel shows, this event was unusual enough to justify listing in the news article the specific music that he would be playing.

Thibaud, who later in life would play with the likes of the virtuoso cellist Pablo Casals, already had a top reputation, both at home and abroad. He had extended his tour of America and that, reported the Bisbee Daily Review, “has been a source of widspread gratification. Thibaud is the one great representative of the fine French school of violin playing and his following in this country has assumed extraordinary proportions.” Continue reading