Mine Tour

Tombstone Mining District

The Tombstone Mining District was nearly 100 square miles and included 60 producing mines. This post introduces all of the mining districts in Cochise County and includes a map outlining the Tombstone District.

Most folks know about the GoodEnough Silver Mine because of our tours, but Tombstone had many mines. In this post, I’ll describe the Tombstone Mining District and in another I’ll pinpoint some of the mining claims, and shafts, found near the city of Tombstone.

In 1973, the Arizona Bureau of Geology and Mineral Technology published an “Index of Mining Properties in Cochise County.” That report divides Cochise County into 18 different mining districts:

  1. California (Chirichua). In the modern Chiricahua Monument area near Willcox. The major producer was the mine at Galeyville, where lead and silver were mined. The total value of all ore extracted amounts to about $1.75M.
  2. Cochise. Near Benson, mainly north of the present-day I-10. Major metals were copper, lead, zinc, silver, and gold. In the early 1900s it was a major tungsten producer. The total value of all production would be over $32M.
  3. Do Cabezas – Teviston. East of Willcox in the Dos Cabazes mountains. These are small mines producing copper, lead, zinc, silver, and some gold worth a total of $1.8M.
  4. Douglas (Ash Peak). This is a volcanic area and has had no major mining activity. It has produced some gypsum and volcanic cinder blocks used for construction.
  5. Dragoon. East of Benson in the north end of the Dragoon Mountains south of I-10. About the only major producer has been the Golden Rule (or Old Terrible) mine. It produced copper, lead, zinc, gold, and silver for a total value of $340,000.
  6. Hartford (Huachuca Mountains). Huachuca Mountains, from Ft. Huachuca and south to Mexico. The district had only a few small mines that produced copper, lead, zinc, gold and silver worth a total of $140,000.
  7. Middle Pass. Gleeson road through the Dragoons. There were only a few small mines and they were worked for only a few years at a time. The district produced copper, lead, zinc, gold, and silver for a total production of $1.7M.
  8. Paul Spur. Tiny district south and east of Warren, near the border of Mexico west of Douglas. This district has no metal deposits and is noted only for Limestone operations.
  9. Pearce. East of the Dragoons, near Pearce, in the middle of the Sulphur Spring Valley. The Commonwealth mine is responsible for nearly all activity in the district. It produced copper, lead, silver, and gold for a total value of $10.6M.
  10. Peloncillo. Where I-10 crosses into New Mexico. This district has never been mined and only a few weak oxidized copper deposits have been found.
  11. Rucker Canyon. East of Elfrida, about half-way between AZ 191 and AZ 80. This district has produced only a few tons of metal ore and has never had any significant commercial mines.
  12. Swisshelm. East of Elfrida. Mines have produced copper, lead, zinc, silver, and gold worth a total of $2M.
  13. Tombstone. (See below)
  14. Turquoise. East of the Dragoons, near Elfrida. Indians extracted turquois from this area long before white prospectors discovered silver in the 1850s. The major producers were Gleeson (silver) and Courtland (copper). The major metals were copper, lead, zinc, gold, and silver for a total value of $14M. Additionally, there has been an unknown quantity of gem quality turquois extracted.
  15. Warren (Bisbee). This is, by far, the most productive area in Cochise County. The annual totals produced from this district has always exceeded the combined total of all other districts in Cochise County. The district has had both underground and pit mining operations. The major products have been copper, lead, zinc, gold, and silver. Additionally, manganese was shipped out in war years. The total value of this district’s production exceeds $1.9B.
  16. Whetstone. The western edge of Cochise County, near the modern town of Whetstone. Mines in this area have been relatively small and shallow, yielding copper, silver, and gold. The total value of the district has been $14,000. Additionally, about 47 tons of low-grade uranium ore was shipped out of this district.
  17. Winchester. North of Benson and near the western edge of Cochise County. This district has had very little mining production.
  18. Yellowstone. North of I-10 east of Willcox. There were unconfirmed reports of gold production in the 1880s but there has been no known mineral production since then.

Mining in Cochise County can be traced back as early as the 1860s, but continuous Indian raids and general lawlessness in the area stopped any major mining efforts. Tombstone’s first serious mining activity started in 1878 with Ed Scheiffelin’s discovery of the Tombstone Claim. Shortly afterward, he discovered the Goodenough, Lucky Cuss, and Toughnut claims.

Tombstone Mining District
Tombstone Mining District

The map on the right highlights the boundary of what was considered the Tombstone Mining District. The city of Tombstone is near north-east corner, but the district incorporates land all the way to the San Pedro River on the west. The northwest corner of the district includes the former rail head at Fairbank and the southwest corner includes the mill sites of Millville and Charleston. Altogether, 60 mines are listed in the Tombstone district.

The records for mineral production from those early years are fragmented and scattered among many governmental offices and several mining companies that no longer exist. However, the Index used for this post provides the most accurate estimate available. The following is quoted from pages 12-13 of the Index.

The first mineral location in the famous Tombstone district was made in 1857 but the rich silver deposits were not found and worked until after 1877. Development and mining proceeded rapidly and by 1890 over one-half of the total district production had been extracted. Since that time, up to about 1951, there was continuous operations although the yearly amounts extracted varied with silver prices and operational conditions. The major production period declined after uncontrollable flooding prevented deep development. Lead and manganese contributed to the total ore value extracted. A few small outlying mines have produced base metal ores with minor amounts of molybdenum, vanadium, scrap mica, and clay.

Production figures for the Tombstone mining district before 1900 can only be estimated, but up through 1970 not less than 1.5 million tons of silver bearing ore, either with lead or manganese, was extracted. The yield would amount to some 1.5 thousand tons of copper, 22.5 thousand tons of lead, 590 tons of zinc, 240 thousand ounces of gold, and some 30 million ounces of silver. The total value of the production would exceed 38.8 million dollars. Besides the manganese-silver ore used as flux in the early days of the district, about 9,000 tons of manganese ore was shipped out during war years.

Arizona Bureau of Geology and Mineral Technology, “Index of Mining Properties in Cochise County,” 1973.

By George

I was born and raised in Missouri and have been an elementary school teacher, an EMT, an electronics technician, and a dean at a community college. I retired in July 2019, so I now have time to follow my dream and lead tours in Tombstone, Arizona. I work at the Goodenough Silver Mine and lead tours down into the mine, trolley tours around Tombstone, and ghost tours every weekend.

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