one of the best preserved
in the state, filled with history, including lawlessness, murder, and
mayhem, not to mention dozens of great photographic opportunities.
Nestled below Montana Peak, rich minerals were
first discovered here by the Spaniards who came through in the 1700's.
However, not rich enough for their tastes, they performed only limited
placer mining before moving on. The area remained undisturbed for nearly a
century until two mining engineers by the names of Charles Poston and
Henry Ehrenberg revived the old Spanish placers in Montana Gulch in 1854.
Discovering rich veins of gold and silver in the area, other prospectors
followed, but mining remained limited primarily due to the hostile
inhabiting the area.
However, by the 1870’s, new prospectors made a
number of additional claims and the fledgling settlement that formed at
the base of the mountain was called "Montana Camp.” Other veins of lead,
copper and zinc were also found in the immediate vicinity, beckoning yet
more miners to the to the fledgling settlement.
The Ruby Mercantile was
first opened in the late 1880’s by a man named George Cheney. In 1891, a
large body of high-grade ore was discovered in the "Montana Mine” by J. W.
Bogan and company, who pronounced the Montana Mine to be a veritable
"bonanza.” When samples were assayed at eighty to ninety ounces of silver
per ton, prospectors began to flood the region.
In 1897, the Ruby
Mercantile was purchased by Julias Andrews. More than a decade later,
Andrews applied for a post office, which opened in the store in April,
1912. He named the post office, and effectively, the town -- Ruby, for his
wife, Lillie B. Ruby Andrews.
During Ruby’s early days,
camp life was unglamorous and most of the miners lived in tents or adobe
huts. There were no businesses other than the general store, which was the
only lifeline for the miners. Most men relied on hunting to provide food
for their families, but others would turn to cattle rustling.
In 1914, Andrews sold the
store to Philip C. Clarke, who soon built a bigger and better one just up
the hill, the remains of which still stand today.
Like most other early mining camps, Ruby had
its share of lawlessness, but for this camp, so near the Mexican border,
attacks by the town’s hostile neighbors were extremely common, so much so,
that store owner Philip Clarke and his wife, Gypsy, kept weapons in every
room of their house and store. In fact, Mr. Clarke felt that the town was
so dangerous; he insisted that his wife travel to
give birth to their son, Dan.
In the beginning, Ruby grew slowly due to its
dangerous location and high cost of processing the ore, hampered by poor
extraction methods and inadequate water. A dam was built to collect water
runoff and several small operators worked the ore but it would be more
than a decade before the rich minerals were worked in large quantities.
In 1915, the Montana
Mine was leased by the Goldfield Consolidated Mines Company, which
began the first large scale operation. Soon the Montana Mine grew to
be a leading producer of lead.
Though Ruby was growing, it was still a
lawless place and finally Philip Clarke became so concerned for his
family’s safety that he moved them away to nearby Oro Blanco. However,
he continued to work at the Ruby Mercantile, as well as amassing large
amounts of land and cattle up until 1920 when he sold the store to
brothers, John and Alexander Fraser.