Tombstone, Arizona’s Riches

Consolidation of the Tombstone Mines

In the early days of the camp, A.L. Grow was one of those who came from Signal. In 1891, he was made local agent for a couple of the companies, and in 1894, that included the Grand Central property within the scope of his supervision. He evolved a great idea, that of consolidating all the mines of the district into one corporation that could handle the water, and thus again make available the riches of the flooded lower workings. Grow got satisfactory bonds on about all the properties. He tried to float the consolidation in New York and London but failed, though at one time came very near to success.

In 1901, E.B. Gage came to the fore and took over the bonds. Gage knew the property very well indeed, for he had been superintendent and later president of the Grand Central Company.

The new controlling corporation, the Tombstone Consolidated Mines Company, was more or less a subsidiary to the Development Company of America, which had been organized mainly through the efforts of Frank M. Murphy of Prescott, controlling the stock of companies operating mines at Imperial, Congress, Poland and other Arizona points.

Tombstone mine shaft, 1940

Tombstone mine shaft, 1940

Not far from the old Contention workings, a Boom shaft, with the view toward tapping the great ledge at depth, was driven down to 1,080 feet. Good silver ore was found and it was felt that a wonderful copper body eventually would be uncovered a little further down. Other shafts were cleaned out and equipped, and an expensive forty-stamp mill was built. As depth was attained, difficulty with water increased with every foot of sinking. A dozen great boilers were found necessary to provide steam for pumps that at one time were raising 8,000,000 gallons of water a day, the oil fuel expense alone amounting to $700 a day. It was said that all in all, the company showed debits amounting to over $5,000,000 during the term of its activities, with only relatively small returns from the ores extracted, for the main workings did not reach the point where the managers believed the best ore lay. Disaster came quickly in June 1909. Failure to properly drain the oil tanks let water into fuel pipes under the boilers and the fires immediately were extinguished. In the shaft, the water leaped upward and drowned out the pumps within an hour. New sinking pumps were lowered, but it was .just 15 months before the pumping station on the 1,000-foot level again was drained. The expense proved too much for the company to bear, and on January 19, 1911, the fires were pulled and the water again was allowed to rise unchecked to its natural level. On August 10, 1911, the company went into bankruptcy. On June 23, 1914, at the receiver’s sale, the whole property of the Tombstone Consolidated Mines Company was purchased for $500,000 by the Phelps-Dodge Company.

The Phelps-Dodge Company, warned by the experience of its predecessor, has not attempted the task of draining the locality but is proceeding on an exploration of the ground that may take years before pumps again are started.

During the period of bankruptcy, the trustee in bankruptcy of the property was none other than Mr. Grow, and it is notable that during this term, instead of sitting idly, he made the mines bear more than their own expense, producing $46,000 under a system of leases, with a minimum outlay. The property now controlled by the Phelps-Dodge Company in the district embraces about 150 claims.

An aftermath of the failure of Tombstone was a suit, filed on June 4, 1914, by the Development Company of America against the Southern Pacific Railroad of Kentucky, seeking $15,000,000 damages. The complaint, on the evidence of Frank M. Murphy of the Development Company, included a passing reference to the manner in which the Southern Pacific had checkmated Murphy and the Santa Fe in their attempt to enter the transportation field of Southern Arizona.

Tombstone, Arizona Stagecoach

Tombstone, Arizona Stagecoach

Apparently involved in the transfer to the Southern Pacific of the Santa Fe Railroad, east of Phoenix, was an agreement whereby 51% of the stock of the Development Company was to have been taken by the Southern Pacific for $3,500,000. With it, would have been carried control of the stock of the Tombstone, Imperial, Congress, and Poland mining companies, as well as the railroad out of Red Rock and a concession for building a railroad into Mexico. It was alleged that in July 1910, in consideration of the agreement, the defendant company, through its president, R.S. Lovett, promised to loan the Development Company $500,000; that this agreement was not kept; that the plaintiff was forced to borrow, under unfavorable terms, later to lose the hypothecated stock and that the mines finally had to be closed down for lack of funds to continue their operation.

The Commonwealth Mine was discovered in 1894 by a miner, from whom the resulting camp of Pearce took its name. Two years later, the property was sold for $275,000, though the deepest shaft was only fifty feet. A 200-ton mill then placed on the mine was destroyed by fire in June 1900. It was succeeded by an eighty-stamp mill, which continued in operation until December 1904, when the mines were closed down. The ores were assumed to have been much leaner than had been known, though the cause given for the stoppage was a serious cave-in. It has been said that the output for four years approximated $4,000,000, mainly in gold. The owners were Pennsylvania people, including Senator Boise Penrose. The following year, Swatling & Smith, former heads of the mining and reduction departments, paid the owners $200,000 on lease percentages and were assumed to have cleared at least as much more for themselves, during the one year. In 1909 Swatling & Smith, having bought the property, added to its equipment only to again see the mill destroyed by fire. In all, the mine is credited with the production of at least $10,000,000 in gold. The property still is operated.


Tombstone, Arizona today

Tombstone, Arizona 2007

Written by James Harvey McClintock in 1913, compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated February 2018.

Notes and Author:  This article is primarily a tale told by James Harvey McClintock between the years of 1913 and 1916 when he published a three-volume history of Arizona called Arizona: The Youngest State. However, the article that appears here is far from verbatim. While the story remains essentially the same as originally published, heavy editing has occurred for spelling and grammar corrections, revisions for the modern reader, and updates to this historic tale. McClintock began his career working at the Salt River Herald (later known as the Arizona Republic). He later earned a teaching certificate, served as Theodore Roosevelt’s right-hand-man in the Rough Riders, and become an Arizona State Representative. He died in California on May 10, 1934, at the age of 70.

Also See: 

Mining on the American Frontier

Arizona Lost Mines


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