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Ruby, Arizona - Page 2

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Ruby, Arizona RuinsOn July 12th, the two men appeared for sentencing. Martinez was sentenced to be hanged on August 18, 1922, while Silvas was sentenced to life imprisonment in the Arizona state penitentiary. Of the crime, Judge W.A. O’Connor said: "The crimes of which you have been convicted are perhaps the cruelest ever committed in Arizona. Let the punishment that awaits you serve as a warning to others who may contemplate the commission of similar crimes.”

But the drama was not yet over. The next night Santa Cruz County Sheriff George White and Deputy L. A. Smith loaded the prisoners into a car to take them to the state penitentiary at Florence. But, before they reached their destination, Pima County Sheriff Ben Daniels would receive a disturbing phone call. The prisoner car had been found rolled over in a ditch near Continental, Arizona. Near the car the bodies of White and Smith were sprawled on the ground with their skulls caved in. White was already dead but Smith was still breathing and rushed to the hospital.

Authorities immediately began an investigation, finding a place about 200 feet from the wreck where it appeared the prisoners had jumped from the moving car. Nearby was a blood-stained wrench that had obviously been used to bludgeon Officers White and Smith.

Lawmen, using dogs, immediately began to pursue the outlaws. But it was raining and the dogs quickly lost the scent. The pursuit was given up for the night but immediately resumed the next morning. Following their trail over the Santa Rita Mountains, they lost it near Ruby.

In the meantime, Deputy Smith died without ever regaining consciousness. As the news spread of a third double murder, area citizens were enraged and volunteer posses poured in from Pinal, Pima, Cochise, and Santa Cruz counties, who were sent out to scout the desert and guard the roads.


The dogs were brought in once again, but were of no help. Five days after the convicts’ escape, some 700 men were combing the area in the most extensive manhunt in the history of the entire Southwest.




Finally on the sixth day, a blood-stained file was found, that authorities believed the convicts had used to cut off their handcuffs. Immediately, the lawmen were on the trail again finally catching up with the pair who were hiding under brush in the Tumacacori Mountains. Having run for over 70 miles of broken country, they were raving with thirst and exhausted. Arrested once again, they were first taken to Nogales before being quickly whisked off again to the penitentiary. This time there would be no escape for the two men.


On the date of his execution, Martinez was granted a last minute stay of execution. As his appeals dragged on, they were finally exhausted and he was sentenced to die once again on May 23, 1923.


In another desperate attempt, the Mexican Consul obtained a writ that once again delayed Martinez’s execution. However the Supreme Court intervened, quashed the writ and the killer was sentenced to die for the last time. On August 10, 1923, Martinez was hanged.


Placido Silvas was sent to prison for life. However, on December 3, 1928, he escaped from a State Penitentiary work ranch and was never seen again.


In the meantime, the town of Ruby, so drenched in blood, petitioned the U.S. War Department for protection, which stamped out the threat of bandit raids. Ruby lived on, albeit quietly for the next couple of years. Unbelievably, the store sold once again and was run by a man named Worthington who operated it for a couple of years.


Placido Silvas

Placido Silvas escaped from prison and was never seen again. Photo courtesy Arizona Department of Corrections.


Posse and Prisoners

Posse and Prisoners. Over 200 men pursued the Pearson’s murderers after they escaped during transport to the prison in Florence. Silvas and Martinez are in middle of the back row. Photo courtesy Nogales Herald, July 20, 1922.


In 1926, Ruby was to see excitement again when the Eagle-Picher Lead Company bought the mine. Leading to Ruby's most prosperous period, the Eagle-Picher Lead Company brought in much improved technology, hired some 300 men, built several dams for obtaining water, and the town boomed.


When the dams still did not provide enough water, the company built a 15 mile long pipe extending to the Santa Cruz Valley that lifted water 1,500 feet in two storage tanks. Before long, the town had electricity provided by the company’s diesel engines, a doctor, an infirmary, company stores, a school with three teachers instructing eight grades, the ever present saloon, and some 2,000 residents. The mine ran 24 hours per day, only closing on Christmas and July 4th.


From 1934 to 1937, the Montana Mine was the leading producer of lead and zinc in the state, and the third largest in silver production. However, the ore finally played out in 1940 and the town became a ghost. The mill operation was moved to Sahuarita. The post office closed forever on May 31, 1941. Though no records exist on the dollar amount taken from the Montana Mine, one estimate puts the total for the Oro Blanco district at more than $10 million for the period between 1909 and 1949.


The Ruby Mercantile remained intact until 1970, until it finally collapsed. For decades, the area remained private and because no access was allowed to anyone other than owners, Ruby has suffered few of the indignities of vandalism and theft often found in other ghost towns.


Montana Mine, 1935

Today, Ruby remains private, owned by a couple of different families who are working to preserve the town and make it into a recreational area. The good news is, they now allow visitors. The old settlement continues to boast more than two dozen buildings. Only Vulture City rivals it in the number of remaining structures in a ghost town mining camp.

Some of the more interesting structures remaining today include the school, which continues to display its chalk boards and some furnishings; the jail, mine offices, warehouse, head frame, the infirmary, and several homes.

Two small lakes created by the dam remain shining blue against the mountains and surrounded by sifting sands created from the many tailings of the area. It’s a beach oasis in the middle of the desert. Across the sand dunes is an old cemetery.


Ruby, Arizona Mining OperationsThe hill behind the warehouse is unsafe for hiking, as it is filled with collapsing mining shafts below the ground. During the mining heyday, the main shaft extended down some 700 feet with lateral bores heading out some 2,000 feet at various depths. Over the years, water erosion has added to the instability and large cave-ins have occurred across the mountainside.


Work continues on the town of Ruby to stabilize its remaining buildings that will continue far into the future. A perimeter fence that has been erected around the site has resulted in a noticeable improvement in the water quality of Ruby's two small lakes, as cattle are prevented from entering the site. Though the lake has never been stocked, it does provide some fishing opportunities for as visitor s have pulled out blue gill, catfish and large mouth bass.


A Colony of Mexican free tail bats, numbering an estimated 1.5 million, makes their home in Ruby's abandoned mine shafts from May to September. During the summer, it is a sight to see as the emerge enmasse at sundown from the mine.


Looked after by an on-site caretaker, the site can be accessed, as of this writing, only Thursday through Sunday. After driving through the main gate, stop at the caretaker’s house. There, an admission is charged ($12.00 per person as of this writing,) a short oral history given, and a map of the old settlement provided. Fishing and camping are also allowed, also requiring a fee.


Ruby, Arizona is located about 30 miles west of Nogales and four miles north of the Mexican border. To get there from Nogales, take I-19 north to Ruby Road/AZ-289 West, exit 12. Follow 289 for some 10 miles before arriving at the town site. Much of road is unpaved, winding, and can be treacherous. A high clearance vehicle is recommended.



© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated April, 2017.


Also See:


Arizona Ghost Town Gallery

More Ghost Towns of Arizona




Is Ruby Haunted? See Next Page



Ruby Mercantile Doors

It was through these very doors that the bandits entered twice, leaving behind a

 double murder each time. Photo by Kathy Weiser. This image available for photographic prints HERE!


Ruby, Arizona Mercantile Window

A view inside the Ruby Mercantile today, Photo by Kathy Weiser. This image available for photographic prints HERE!



Ruby Ghost Town Slideshow

All images are available for prints and downloads HERE.


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