Fairbank Arizona

See History at a Ghost Town

Fairbank Arizona is now considered a “Ghost Town.” But still, you can visit today. Plus it is not at all far from Tombstone, Arizona. It makes an interesting side trip, when you plan your Tombstone vacation.

We have for you an overview of its historical development:

Early on the area was first a Native American village site. This meant a lot for them, as it was a good choice with the continuously flowing San Pedro River, plus the often inflowing Babocomari Creek (or River) Tributary.

The area is situated on terrain granted to Rafael Elias Gonzales by the 1833 Mexican Land Grant. The June 1854 Treaty of Mesilla authorized the Gadsden Purchase, incorporating this land into U.S. territory. Thus afterwards, in early 1882, with the area’s mining and ranching developments, the town began.

What Were Fairbank’s Earlier Names?

They named this new town that developed: Junction City. Why would that be? Because of a junction of the two rivers mentioned above, maybe? But – No. It had to do with the railroad!

The Benson branch intersected the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe line (AT&SF). From there it the new line was essentially going to parallel the route of the San Pedro River. It would then continue on down to connect to a railroad line in Mexico. The main purpose was freight support for the ore mills along the San Pedro: for Contention City, and the Grand Central. A depot was planned, along with multiple related support buildings.1

But it also would be an ideal location for supplying Tombstone with needed wares. It would be the closest depot to the town.2 Also the closest to Bisbee, as well.4

The railroad line is mapped out in the image above.

From the Tombstone Weekly Epitaph – Heading: Local Splinters – Mon., Feb. 13, 1882 – Page 2

The town was more “bustling” soon, with its population rising. Homes had been built. And a store and saloon were already serving the town-folk needs.

From the Tombstone Weekly Epitaph – Mon., March 6, 1882 – Page 6

Then by mid 1882 the name had changed to Kendall. Named in honor of J.G. Kendall who was the civil engineer charged with oversight of bringing the railroad to that area. The planned railway station was also to be named for him: Kendall Station.2

Tombstone Weekly Epitaph – Heading: Private Land Grants in Arizona – Sat., June 10, 1882 – Page 1

But by the next year that name didn’t survive. On May 16, 1883 it became an official town. That’s when it received a new name: Fairbank Arizona. The decision was to honor Nathaniel K. Fairbank, an  investor and entrepreneur. He helped fund Tombstone’s Grand Central Mining Co., as well as a local railroad line.2

Important for Transport needs

By the 1900 Census Fairbank’s count neared 500.3 It had a stagecoach line and a hotel. As time went on, a school was built.4

Anyone needing long distance travel out of Tombstone usually went to Fairbank. Once built, it was the closest train depot. The route would be the stagecoach from Tombstone to Fairbank Arizona. Then catch the train there at Fairbank to Benson, where one could get to the train to Tucson. From there travelers could continue to many other cities.

Daily Tombstone ad – Dec. 1, 1885 – Pg. 4
From The Daily Tombstone – Mon., June 22, 1885 – Page 3

Visit It Now!

Take the Fairbank Side Trail to check on the San Pedro River

Yes, Fairbank is considered a “Ghost Town” – but it’s one lively place to visit. We have gone there, and can recommend a stop to others. Some buildings are still there, others barely. The old school-house, restored, is the visitor center. Other buildings are still being worked on – being restored, as well. It’s a fabulous learning experience, as well as a wonderful place to experience the natural environment. Plus experience a unique waterway in the middle of the desert!

Restored Fairbank Schoolhouse is Now the Visitor Center

In 1986 The Bureau of Land Management was able to procure this land, that was once the Mexican Land Grant. It’s a part of the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. This makes it a very valuable and diverse spot to spend some time.

Many beautiful trails start from Fairbank Arizona. Some are quite short and easy. Others not so much. The trains can get you to scenic spots along the San Pedro. Beautiful situations for birding, if you’re into that. You can also find the old railway station, now just the remnants.

Choose a Trail – Accessed from Fairbank Arizona
One Gets You to the Ruins of the Old Railway Station

You can find out more about the San Pedro Riparian NCA. We know the value of this waterway which is so important to protect in a desert.

One group that is very invested in that, in protecting this important waterway, and who could use your interest and assistance is the Friends of the San Pedro. They are a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. Why not take a look at them Here>

Here’s the Bureau of Land Management Details for Fairbank Arizona, when you: Click Here>

Directions to Fairbank Arizona

  1. Go South from Interstate 10 in Benson, onto Hwy. 80 – toward Tombstone AZ
  2. Just before you arrive to the town of Tombstone, you’ll see the junction for Hwy. 82
  3. Turn right, which means heading West on Hwy. 82
  4. From there it’s not quite 6 miles on the right. Plenty of parking.
  1. Take Hwy. 80 North, out of town toward Benson
  2. Just after exiting the city limits – at the top of the hill, you’ll see the junction for Hwy. 82
  3. Turn left, which means heading West on Hwy. 82
  4. From there it’s not quite 6 miles on the right. Plenty of parking.


1 Epitaph Reporter (1882, March 6). Along the railroad line. Tombstone AZ: Tombstone Weekly Epitaph. Retrieved from Newspapers.com

2 Bailey, L.R. (2004). Too tough to die: The rise, fall and resurrection of a silver camp; 1878 to 1990. Tucson AZ: Westernlore Press.

3 Moffat, Riley (1996). Population history of Western U.S. cities and towns, 1850-1990. Lanham MD: Scarecrow Press, Inc.

4 DesertUSA newsblog (2007, March 28) Fairbank Arizona. Via Wayback Machine web.archive.org/web/20110716081618/http://www.desertusablog.com

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