Gleeson Arizona

Gleeson Arizona - A Ghost Town

Gleeson Arizona is Tombstone’s neighbor. Native Americans were first in the Gleeson area, the Chiricahua Apaches. They removed turquoise located there, using it for personal decor and trade.6

Arizona copper, silver and gold mining attracted many from the East. They came and forced the local Indians out. One way or another. Let’s see how this area developed into the “ghost town” it is today.

What’s first for your interest list?

Gleeson Arizona - A Ghost Town
Gleeson AZ – Present-Day: Still see Mines on the Hills, Jail Museum Below, Hospital Ruins in Distance

Gleeson Arizona: Original Name – Turquoise

Some miners looking for any valuable mineral began arriving in the area in the late 1880s. They heard about the turquoise in the area, and began collecting it. The town where they settled was called Turquoise, Arizona Territory.6 They built a Post Office on October 22, 1890 with that name.

Tiffany of New York even sunk a turquoise mine in the area. The greenish mineral became jewelry that was all the rage with their customers – for a while! But the Post Office shut down on September 17, 1894. Miners desired better conditions. Area water was scarce. Then finally, someone came along to open up more opportunities.

Other Miners Come In

The first person to this other area was J. McMann. He opened a claim in 1879. It was on the other side of these distinctive Arizona mountains from current-day Gleeson. Later a tunnel through the hills connected this, that he called the “Mystery Mine” – to one on the Gleeson side.

Next came Kit Charleston in 1888. He made claim on the Leonard Mine. In 1888 he located the Tejon mine. He sold them both, making a good profit in pretty short order.

John Gleeson Arrives

In 1896 the town’s namesake, John Gleeson, arrived in the area. That year he purchased the Leonard Mine from Kit Charleston. He renamed it the Copper Belle. He developed it, as you may figure – for lots of copper ore he determined it had. It became the largest mine in the area.

Willcox Arizona Rancher William McKittrick bought the Tejon mine. It produced some low-grade copper. But as those before him were realizing, he was able to get some gold and silver out of his mining there, too!

Historic News Item from the Arizona Republic about Mining Find in Gleeson Arizona
Arizona Republic (Phoenix) Saturday, March 16, 1901 – Pg. 4
Gleeson Arizona's Main Street taken in 1917
Main Street in Gleeson Arizona Photo from 1917

The Silver Bill Mine was owned by Tombstone local, Martin Costello. East of town, on the side of the hill, it provided good silver and lead output. It connected to the Mystery Mine by a tunnel through the mountain.

Another of Costello’s was the Defiance Mine. It was a smaller operation, high on the Gleeson’s Eastern hill. Mr. Costello moved on to Los Angeles in 1902. But the family kept his local mine holdings.

If you’d like more interesting details about these mines, along with some notes about the Gleeson area, we have something we’ve located for our readers. You can download an eight page PDF pamphlet called The Mines of Gleeson>

By 1900 John Gleeson noted a nearby area with much better water availability.3 It was farther West from the Turquois town-site. And closer to the new mines. He realized it had better livability. So he settled there, and others followed. They began calling the area Gleeson, after the man who brought them to this new settlement.

The Town of Gleeson AZ

The Gleeson Post Office was chartered on October 15, 1900.4 It stayed open until the end of March in 1939. Everyone living there worked in the local mines or ran businesses that supported those who did. 

Gleeson residents often had business in Tombstone. They did some shopping, took care of legal issues, banking, etc. People in each of the towns knew each other – so they often visited back and forth.

The Tombstone Epitaph from Dec. 16, 1906 comments on the quality of mining at Gleeson's camp
From Tombstone Weekly Epitaph – Sunday, Dec. 16, 1906 – Pg. 3

One difficult thing for mining operations was the ore had to be carted to Cochise Arizona. That was almost 50 miles away. The Southern Pacific train depot was there. Town-folk were really excited when railroad surveyors came by. Their word was the railroad planned a line into Gleeson.

Newspapers around the state were keeping a watch on the train developments. It seemed promising that Gleeson was going to get that Depot and a line. Mining was doing very well, people invested. It was reported in Arizona, as far away as in a Globe newspaper.1

A doctor moved in. A hospital was built. Gleeson was seeing better and better times for quite a while. Stores opened, the town even got its own bank.The railroad was running by 1909.5

A Train Line Seems like it will be coming to Gleeson Arizona, says a 1909 article in the Daily Arizona Silver Belt out of Globe
Globe’s Daily Arizona Silver Belt – Thur., March 25, 1909 Pg. 7
Gleeson is getting a Doctor say the Tombstone Epitaph at the end of 1906
Tombstone Weekly Epitaph – Sun., Dec. 30, 1906 Pg. 3

At various times, Tombstone’s mining men would move to other more promising districts. When mining claims opened in Gleeson, some Tombstoners moved there. Then Tombstone suffered serious setbacks when the mines there had flooding problems, leading to Economic Depression for the town. Financially Tombstone miners were better off by working in other mining towns, including Gleeson.

From the Bisbee_Daily Review Newspaper of July 26, 1902 describing how miners went from one Arizona mining town to another wherever the work was better.
From the Bisbee Daily Review of Sat., July 26, 1902 – Pg. 4
Old time photograph of the Gleeson Arizona Jail as it was in 1910
Gleeson Arizona Jail – Taken in 1910

Gleeson Becomes a Ghost Town

Eventually, Gleeson had its own problems. A fire roared through town in 1912, consuming 28 structures. The people continued on optimistically.7 But the railroad line closed. Then the mines started to exhaust. There were a few more serious fires. More and more people moved away. By 1940 the mines were about done.

As long as the mines were producing, Gleeson was bustling. But all depended on that one source of income. When the mines didn’t produce anymore – most had to move away.

Today, only a few people live in Gleeson Arizona. The mines are all on private property, mostly fenced off. Ruins of the old mining town are scattered about. So it’s considered a “ghost town” even though some people do live there. One thing to check out is the Old Jail, which is now restored, as a museum.

Bill stands in front of the entrance to the old Gleeson Jail in the ghost town of Gleeson Arizona
Bill’s Going to Jail! The Gleeson Jail (Museum)

Getting to Gleeson Arizona – the Ghost Town

For the ruins that still stand and the historical Jail Museum, it’s an interesting way to spend a day. Well worth a visit. We hope we’ll see you in Tombstone, for A Stay There, and consider a side trip to Gleeson Arizona. 

Take the Gleeson Road. Find the turn-off: from Fremont Street in Tombstone Arizona (Hwy. 80). Turn North onto N. Camino San Rafael. Down the hill, you’ll see Gleeson Rd. on the right.

The Gleeson Jail Museum right turn marker sign. Also visible is the jail tree across Gleeson Road.

When you enter Gleeson, watch for the Gleeson Jail sign on the right to enter. That’s the side where the school ruins are also. Joe Bono owns the Jail Museum, opening it up the 1st Saturday each month. Or by appointment – if you call to arrange it: (520) 609-3549.

 It’s a little over 17 miles, a straight drive to get there from Tombstone. A nice scenic route toward the Dragoon Mountains.

Gleeson Road with the Tombstone Hills and then the Huachuca Mountains in the distance.
Looking Westward on the Gleeson Road, a few miles West of Gleeson

Old to New Gleeson AZ Photos

This is a Tree they used as a Jail Tree before the Gleeson Jail was built.  They Chained Prisoners to This Tree!
Before the Jail was Built, They Used a Jail Tree – They Chained Prisoners to This Tree!
Shannon Miner's Hospital in Gleeson Arizona, still there as a ruin in this ghost town.
Miner’s Hospital Vintage Photo
Photo of a photograph from the Gleeson Museum showing the Shiner's Hospital from 1937, with a view of the jail distant in the rear.
This photo of the hospital shows the back doorway facing the mining hills in the East. Compared to the photo, left. Were further additions made later, when looking at the size of the ruins below?
The Ruins of the Gleeson Shiner's Hospital behind a fence along the roadways in Gleeson Arizona
Recent Look at the Ruins of the Gleeson Shiner’s Hospital
News Article from the Arizona Daily Star about intentions for a saloon to open in Gleeson Arizona back in the town's mining heyday.
Published in Tucson’s Arizona Daily Star – Tuesday, June 4, 1901 – Page 4
A view of the saloon, with a tree in front, along the main street in Gleeson Arizona
This Saloon was in ruins. Known as Bono’s Saloon. It also had a store supplying many useful items.
Karen standing on the front porch of the old Bono Saloon in the ghost town of Gleeson Arizona.
But Me – I’m at the Bono Saloon! The Wall Mural Was Still Visible Thru the Window – There was NO Going Inside!
A View of the Gleeson School Ruins, which encompass quite a large area, with pillars and surrounding walls.
Ruins of the Gleeson School – Still There!
Bill at Gleeson Arizona School Ruins
Bill in Deep Study at Gleeson School Ruins. The columns once had an arch over the top.
Inner rooms of the Gleeson jail, with an old pot belly stove, a vintage desk and many antique museum pieces and other mementos of past times.
Rooms inside the Gleeson Jail Museum


1 Arizona Silver Belt (1901, May 23). T.T. Davidson made happy. P 8. Globe.

2 Tombstone Weekly Epitaph (1909, Oct. 24). Gleeson will have bank of its own. P 4. Arizona.

3 Cochise Review (1900, Aug. 29). Gleeson mining. P 1. Bisbee Arizona

4 Arizona Daily Star (1900, Nov. 22). A new post office. P 4. Tucson.

5 Graham Guardian (1909, July 2). Railroad completed to Gleeson, Ariz. P 3. Safford Arizona.

6 Luetche, R. (2017, Feb. 22). Gleeson Arizona mines. Retrieved from

7 Marshall, J. (Oct. 19, 2014). Ghost Towns. The Post Crescent. Associated Press. pp. F1, F2

1 thought on “Gleeson Arizona”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *