Tombstone Bonanza – Mining
Yes, that’s how Tombstone Arizona became a town. Got it’s start because of Mining in Tombstone. Which gathered attention of all those interested in making bucks in that industry. From the owners & investors down to miners & support entrepreneurs.
As you’ll see from the map below, many mine claims were filed by 1881. One with great potential was the Grand Central Mine. Discovered by Hank Williams & Oliver Boyer on March 27, 1878. About 1 mile South of the Toughnut claim.
Began with some controversy. Assayer Richard Gird & the Schieffelins weren’t in the claim, as specified. Solved by sectioning off an area, aptly named “The Contention Mine.”
1st Owners & Grand Central $$$
Quickly they determined the Grand Central looked really good! Williams sold his half & retired back East. Boyer subsequently was involved in another controversy, shooting a man.
He went on the run, but ended up in Yuma prison with a life sentence. His Grand Central Shares were sold. He missed out, for whatever reason he caused that fracas!
The Grand Central was doing quite well. Umpteen takers were in on it, buying up shares. Many investors from back East, as well. One prime local owner was Captain Samuel M. Whitside of Camp Huachuca. Then he sold out in May 1879 to Eastern investors. In that group was Nathaniel K. Fairbank (sound familiar?)
A corporation was formed: Arizona Grand Central Mining Company. Some investors were actively involved.
Grand Central Mine Management
Eliphalet Butler Gage, already in Tucson when investing, had a science engineering degree & mining experience. He took charge at the Grand Central. Highly experienced, Charles W. Leach hired on as foreman. They made an excellent collaboration!
True to expectations, the ore assay valued highly from $118 to $200 a ton. Miners throughout the West couldn’t help but notice!
By August they realized the vein ledges of the Grand Central & Contention were indeed connected. The Grand Central Commissioned a survey for documentation. With the abundance of ore, Gage decided a stamp mill was needed for local processing. The Grand Central Mill build began Oct. 1880 on the East side of the San Pedro River.
The mill stamped (crushed) the ore. Then a chemical process took place.
Silver bullion & even gold flowed out of the mill in a titanic quantity.
Strong For Tombstone Through 1881!
Tombstone built a very strong year because of mining in 1881. It was a growing town of the Old Wild West! Despite some of the troublesome events with the Tombstone Cowboys, and the local infamous Gunfight. Even into the year of Tombstone 1882, it’s economy was traveling along pretty well.
But the 1880 Christmas gift was not a lasting one! Sigh!!!
Water Everywhere! In a Desert!!
In the Spring of 1880 water was noted seeping into the Toughnut mine. Not too much of a problem, they overcame it.
But March 13, 1882 a strong water flow entered the Grand Central Mine. The water table was reached, actually breached! This desert area has a substantial, quite high water table. The value of ore sitting below water decreases, through a chemical reaction. Not good!
E.B. Gage saw he needed action. Work was suspended at lower levels. A meeting with Contention Mine Management assessed solutions. They decided to cooperate on a large-scale hydraulic pumping operation. Powered by a “Cornish engine.”
Finally, mid December 1883 the pumps began working at the Contention, expelling 700 gal./min., drying it out. Then slowed down, to maintain its waterlessness.
July 1885, the Grand Central Mine got its pumps. But things didn’t go so smoothly. From almost the start, vibration & breakdowns were problems. Then in Dec. that year, a pumping rod cracked. The system was off-line for 4 months!
May 1, 1886 – the town cheered in relief as all repairs seemed to have everything finally working well! Maybe Tombstone was on the upswing again?
Another Horrific Meltdown?!
The optimism was short-lived. May 26th, just over 3 weeks later, calamity struck. A fire consumed the wood housing of the Grand Central pump’s hoist & the pump operations. Turning the mine’s main shaft to ashes, & twisted engine parts into scrap metal. The fire produced extraordinary heat!
The Mine Foreman wanted to get a look, evaluating the situation. He took a few key men down with him.
When 300′ down, he realized they’d “gone far enough.” Fumes reached them, they began keeling over. Watchers at the surface called for Dr. Goodfellow & began winching a couple victims up.
Still in the mine were a few unconscious men who needed attention. They brought them up, & Dr. Goodfellow attended to them.
It was the beginning of the end of Tombstone mining. The Grand Central Mill took on work from other mines. But the price of silver began its dips.
In Spring 1887 the Grand Central Mining Company formed to enable a re-do. Over the years, other companies bought into it. New pumps brought in to counter the ever-present water. New shafts dug. A constant fight. Silver had variable pricing, which often hurt. Plus the best vein areas were below water levels.
Mining opportunities elsewhere attracted workers & businesses into leaving town. E.B. Gage left in 1894 & many mining professionals followed. He did return, though.
So what of it now?
The Grand Central Mine was worked infrequently until about 1929. The coordinates are: Latitude of 31.7025 & Longitude of 110.06222. It’s currently privately owned (private property) by the Tombstone Development Co. Take a look At It Now.
Historical places & events create curiosity for facts about people who roamed the Tombstone area & the Old West. What’s the true story? And what happened to them – do we even know? Can we discover the authentic history?
And we enjoy sharing what we find with you.
We hope we’ll see you in town sometime, seeing areas where they spent time – back in the 1800s.
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