The Black Diamond Mine in Arizona? Have You Heard? There’s a Black Diamond Mine near-by to Tombstone AZ!
In 1880 mining prospector Thomas Pidwell was scouting the Dragoon Mountains in Southeastern Arizona. He found an opportune area. Tucson’s Arizona Daily Star, of February 1, 1880, described it as having “the showing for many good mines there.” Pidwell’s Black Diamond was named a “valuable property.” By 1897 he and his partner Hudson had started excavating. Financing came via partnering with a Bond Deed from Copper Queen Consolidated.
What! a Diamond Mine Near Tombstone?
But did they discover diamonds there? No! It was named for the types of minerals surrounding the copper and silver ores. All with a black or dark gray coloring. But sometimes with this added sparkly, reflective coloring reminiscent of diamonds. The peak nearby eventually was named for the mine – called Black Diamond Peak.1 It’s notable at just over 7,086 ft.2
Several Eastern businessmen got together in forming the Black Diamond Copper Co. They had gathered funding. So they were able to buy out Pidwell with a Bond for Deed. Next they hired an experienced miner, John Graham, as the superintendent.3
The Black Diamond Mine Valued Highly
A team began the preliminary work in April of 1898. The Black Diamond Copper Mining Company filed their corporation papers with Cochise County in July of the same year. Tombstone solicitor Allen R. English was hired as their agent.3
Within that summer there were three eight hour shifts running around the clock. A boarding house was built for their workers. A nearby spring supplied water needs for the mine, as well as daily living needs.3
In mid 1900 the mine was up, off and running big time! They were onto a program of expanding operations.
Still Expanding in 1901 – 1902
The Arizona Republic, a Phoenix newspaper, reported in October 1901 that a Mrs. J. H. Bose had just opened a rooming house in the Black Diamond Mining Camp. She was in Tucson to buy supplies and hire three Chinese workers. She explained to the news reporter that the mining company had 80 workers, and had just purchased a smelter.
By the Spring of the next year all was still going well. They even formed a company to upgrade camp living conditions. That included a phone system to connect locally.3
The camp even gained a Post Office, established on February 12, 1902. Then a stage stop was developed, called the Black Diamond Station.1
The mine was tunneled into a pretty steep hillside. Ore that was extracted needed to get to the smelter located downhill. A tramway was built using the force of gravity for its power. From its extraction exit, the tram went downhill from the 800 ft. higher elevation.3
The mine had four main tunnels. Each of the tunnels connected to each other by a vertical opening called a winze. Ore could be chuted through, again by gravity, to reach the lowest tunnel. Then placed into the Tramway, where it traveled the 800 feet further downhill to the smelter.1
The Good the Bad & the Ugly!
In the middle of 1903 the Phoenix newspapers are pronouncing the Black Diamond Mine as “A big mining enterprise beyond experimental stage.” Still going strong at that point.
But the early 1900s saw many labor strikes throughout the United States. Mexican and Italian mine workers in Clifton-Morenci Arizona staged a strike in 1903. This likely influenced the Mexican employees at the Black Diamond smelter. They went on strike in early 1904. That led to more troubles, plus the murder of Deputy Sheriff Wight.3
Ensuing legal issues revolving around smelter management closed the Black Diamond Mine for a time. In August 1904 the mine reopened. 75 employees were back to work on three 8-hour shifts.3
That same month the Bisbee Review reported on the Black Diamond’s master mechanic’s interview. He stated the management was excellent, and the ore was abundant. So all seemed good once again.
Downhill Slide – Not on the Tramway!!
In mid April 1906 a few news items appeared that hinted at possible financial difficulties starting for Black Diamond operations. On November 26, 1906 the court granted the Black Diamond Copper Mining Company Bankruptcy. It was announced in the Tombstone Epitaph on Sunday, December 2, 1906. A Creditors’ Meeting was then scheduled for December 15th.
In Autumn 1907 the Bisbee Daily Review published an urgent sounding offer by the Black Diamond Copper Mining Co. They asked for sealed bids for adding 100 feet to the current 115 foot mine shaft. With their announcement, they requested a contract “as speedily as possible” with bids submitted within four days. So there was urgency here.
In 1908, it was still a visible town-site, with a school and a post office. But there now was intermittent mining since 1903.2 The Arizona Supreme Court held up most of that process with the Bankruptcy, which was still in force in March. They finally discharged it in May 1908.3 But would the town surrounding the Black Diamond Mine, and the mine itself continue on?
Thru the Years Til Today…
The property was still worked intermittently until 1957.2 It’s now considered a “ghost town” – but it is on private land. The owner currently is listed as Keith Englander – possibly since 1973.1
Since work apparently ceased after 1957,2 some have tried to find the mine. Some may have rediscovered it quite a few years back. Then tried again, but encountered very dangerous conditions. The roads and trails to get there, and surrounding it have been washed out. Even a 4×4 was seen crashed at the bottom of a deep ravine. You’re advised to not try these conditions.
As well as remember – it is private property.
But we love to learn of these histories. It’s so intriguing discovering the old mines and the people who adventured to Tombstone and surrounding areas, seeking fortunes and a new life. Who were they, what motivated them? How did it all turn out!
1 Fontana, B.L. (1988). Arizona place names. Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona Press.
2 Mindat (2021, April 8). Black Diamond Mine: Englander Mine; Black Diamond claim. Mindat.org an outreach project of the Hudson Institute of Mineralogy. Retrieved from mindat.org/loc-32793.html
3 Keith, S.B. (1973). Arizona Bureau of Mines bulletin 187. Retrieved from repository.arizona.edu/handle/10150/630600