Gleeson AZ 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.
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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.
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.
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!
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 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.
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.2 The railroad was running by 1909.5
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.
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.
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. It's a little over 17 miles, a straight drive to get there from Tombstone. A nice scenic route toward the Dragoon Mountains.
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.
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. Mindat.org Retrieved from mindat.org/article.php/2526/Gleeson+Arizona+Mines
7 Marshall, J. (Oct. 19, 2014). Ghost Towns. The Post Crescent. Associated Press. pp. F1, F2