Arizona Mining History

In Sylvester Mowry ‘s book: ” Arizona and Sonora,” 3rd Edition, published in 1864, is given the report of F. Biertu, metallurgist, on the Mowry mine and others situated in that part of the country, which describes, perhaps better than can be done in any other way, the condition of the mining industry around Tubac and Tucson in the year 1860. The report is as follows:

“My first visit to the Patagonia Mine, now called Mowry Silver Mines, has lasted four days – the time necessary to give it a full examination in all its parts, and to make a careful assay of its ores. But why was it called the Patagonia Mine? Is it because it is situated in a desert inhabited only by Indians? Such were the questions I put to myself while travelling, and which I thought might be answered affirmatively. Great was my surprise, however, when, instead of finding as I expected, barren mountains as at Washoe and Mono, I gazed on beautiful landscapes, and a country covered with trees of different kinds, with fertile lands perfectly watered. True it is that the nearest neighbors, the Apaches, are far from being even equal to the Patagonians; but this, it seemed to me, could not be a reason for giving to such a beautiful spot, which in spring must be covered with flowers, so savage a name. Mr. Mo wry was perfectly right to alter it.

“This property, containing about five hundred acres of land, is situated ten miles from parallel 32° 20 7 north latitude, which forms the limit between Arizona and New Mexico, twenty miles from Fort Buchanan, fourteen from the town of Santa Cruz in Sonora, and at an elevation of 6160 feet from the level of the sea; and a good road, 280 miles in length, and which, with a little repair, might be made excellent, places it in direct communication with Guaymas. By this route, freight from San Francisco to the mine does not go beyond five cents per pound. The mine is situated on the last hills forming the eastern slope of the Sierra de Santa Cruz, and is bounded on the northeast by extensive plains covered with mesquit and oak trees, which reach the line of Sonora, whose elevated mountains rise in the horizon. Between these plains and the mine is to be seen the Sierra Espuela, called also Wachuka (Huachuca) Mountains.

“The road leading to the mine from Fort Buchanan crosses a range of hills, and mountains completely covered with oak, pine, sycamore, poplar, willow and hazelnut. The land and the hills around the mine are covered with green oak, cedar pine and manzanitas. The whole country abounds with rabbits, quail, and wild turkeys. It is not a rare occurrence to meet droves of deer and antelopes numbering from twenty-five to thirty. The amateur of more intense excitement may also indulge in bear and Apache hunting.

“About a mile from the mine, and near a little village, called Commission, of some fifteen houses, intended for the peons and laborers of the mines, there is a creek called Commission Creek, which is on the property itself, whose waters never dry up, and which are more than sufficient to run one or several mills. The buildings for residences, and those for stores and furnaces, are halfway between the mine and the small village. Nearby there is a spring of excellent water, which also never dries up. There are other springs lost in the hills, and which may easily be turned to some purpose.

The Lodes and Ores; – The principal lode of the Patagonia Mine is composed principally of argentiferous galena, and runs south 85° E. Its thickness, which increases as it dips in the earth – now eighty-three feet in depth – is of about three feet. Three small veins, excessively rich, cross each other in the main vein, all running in different directions. The size of these small veins varies from ten to nineteen inches. Other veins, whose outcroppings are visible on the top of the hill, and which run in a parallel direction at a great distance, will, according to all probabilities, be met with as the working of the mine proceeds. No prospects have as yet been undertaken to ascertain the nature of these veins. The galena of the principal vein contains a small quantity of copper and arsenic. It seemed to me that I detected appearances of zinc, but I had no means to ascertain the fact. An assay of the different ores has given results varying from $80 to $706 in silver per ton, and up to sixty-two per cent of lead. Their reduction is of the utmost facility.

The Shafts and Tunnels; – Unfortunately, all the operations perfected up to this day are, I might say, useless. The labor expended on shafts and tunnels has been conducted so carelessly – the different stratas of earth have been subjected to so little investigation, that while, on one hand unnecessary expense and labor have been incurred, on the other, a quantity of ore, sufficient probably to pay for the whole expense of the establishment, has been thrown aside as worthless. Ores which I have picked up on the creek, being assayed, have given the best results that I have obtained.

“But the actual owners of the mines are not the ones who ought to complain of the bad direction of the works, for, according to my idea, it is principally this bad management which has enabled them to purchase the whole mine at a comparatively low price. However, it will be easy to remedy the evil, either by beginning new works in a more suitable locality, or by modifying those already existing. The quality of the mine is such as to cover in a short space of time all the expense which may be incurred in a rational manner.

“The discovery of the Patagonia mine dates only from the fall of 1858, but it would appear that its existence was suspected long ago, for the first parcels of ore gathered by the Mexicans were taken, at the time of the late discovery, from shafts which had been sunk many years ago, and which had been abandoned.

The Owners; – The first owners were Colonel J. W. Douglass, Captain K. S. Ewell, Lieutenant J. N. Moore, Mr. Randal, Mr. Lord, and Mr. Doss, – all belonging to the United States Army excepting the last named individual and Colonel Douglass. Those parties started some preliminary works – sunk shafts, extracted a certain quantity of ore, and built up several furnaces for smelting. But, being short of capital for a regular system of reduction on a large scale, two of the principal shareholders, Messrs. Lord and Doss, who had charge of the whole mine, sold their interest during the year 18589 to Mr. Brevoort, who thereupon became superintendent of the mine and principal owner.

“The administration of Mr. Brevoort was not a happy one. The mine, which as I have before stated, had been badly opened and badly worked, being turned into inexperienced hands, fared much worse. A certain quantity of ore was extracted, but, whether the proceeds were expended in useless operations or for any other purposes, they were not sufficient to cover the costs incurred. These failures gave rise to disagreements between the owners, which could not be settled except by the sale of their whole interest, which Capt. Ewell and his partners made to Mr. Brevoort, this last named gentleman turning the interest immediately over to Mr. H. T. Titus. But these negotiations did not put a stop to the difficulties, which were renewed on account of the payment of the purchase money. Consequently, the sale of the whole was resolved upon, and the conveyance took place in the spring of 1860 in favor of Lieutenant Mowry, all the interested parties joining in the deed. The price of the mine, including the lands surrounding it, all the works and establishment standing at the time, fixed at $25,000, was paid in cash by the new owner, who some time after sold one-fifth to a wealthy capitalist in the East. Hence four-fifths of the Patagonia Mine are now held by Mr. Mowry, who has given his name to it. In the hands of the last-named gentleman, and under the direction of Mr. Charles Mowry, his brother, the works will be started with unusual activity. Already preparations have been made to carry on works of a considerable extent, so that next summer the mine will be in full operation.

The Management of the Mine; The old furnaces having been badly constructed, and being out of use, they will be replaced by others containing all the later improvements, either for smelting or refining. A steam-engine of fifteen to twenty horse power will be put up for the trituration of the ores, for the working of the pumps, and to run a saw-mill. The waters of the creek will be gathered in large reservoirs, twelve feet in depth, constructed by means of thick embankments. Buildings will be put up for the accommodation of the superintendent of the mine and the reducing establishment, and for the engineer and other employees. A laboratory for assays will also be annexed to the works. The ores will be carried from the mine to the reducing establishment by a railroad, for the building of which Mr. R. Jones, Jr., has already taken the preliminary steps. Finally for the accommodation of laborers, numbering from seventy to eighty, and for the inhabitants on the frontiers of Sonora, a large store will be opened for the sale of all sorts of provisions and merchandise. The expenses to be incurred this year to put in operation the different projects in view will exceed the sum of $60,000.

“Such is the history of the mine, which I intended to relate to you with details, because within a short space of time it is called upon to rank among mines of the first class. Even now, in the neighborhood, by the abundance and richness of its ores, the facilities for extraction, and reduction, and the convenience of the locality, it is considered one of the best in Arizona. Its importance would be greatly increased if a project in which rich capitalists of the East are actively engaged, is put in execution, which is to build a railroad between Guaymas and El Paso, in Texas, which would connect with the Pacific Railroad. This road, following the ridge of the Sierra de Santa Cruz, would run at a distance of only ten miles from Mr. Mowry’s mine.

“The mine which I have just described is not the only one to be found in that part of Arizona. The Santa Cruz Sierra already renowned since days of the Jesuits, who had opened locality the Compadre and French mines, has lately given evidence of new richness. Besides the two which I have just named, the Boundary, Empire, Eagle and St. Louis Mining Companies form a part of the Sierra.

Other Mines

The Eagle Mine; – this mine is situated to the east of the Mowry mine, and its vein, com-posed of argentiferous galena, exactly similar to the Mowry Mine, is, it is stated, its continuation.

The San Pedro Mine; – this mine is situated on the east side of the San Pedro River, about twenty-five miles from the Overland Mail road, and half a mile from the river.

Empire or Montezuma Mine; – I have mentioned above this mine as forming a part of the Santa Cruz Sierra. It is half-way between the Mowry Mine and the town of Santa Cruz. The ores are composed of lead and silver. The first owners were Th, Gardner and Hopkins, who it seems, sold their interest out to New York companies.

Santa Rita Mining Company; – the Sierra de la Santa Rita as that of the Santa Cruz, in-closes rich deposits of precious ores. The Cazada, Florida and Salero Mines are united in one company, under the above title. The last one was known a long while ago, and was worked by the Jesuits. In that one also the argentiferous galena dominates. Shortly furnaces will be put up for smelting and reducing; they will be erected on the very mountains of Santa Rita, which are to the east of Tubac, at the distance of about ten miles. The superintendent of the mine is Mr. H. C. Grosvenor, and Mr. Pnmpelly is the engineer. The capital is $1,000,000. These mines were opened in 1856.

Maricopa Mining Company; – this company is working a copper mine, situated forty miles from Fort Breckenridge at the junction of the San Pedro and Arivaca Rivers, and from three to four miles south of the Gila. The road known as the Leach Wagon Road, nearby, renders the transportation of the ores and provisions quite easy. It is under the direction of Mr. A. B. Gray, ex-surveyor of the United States attached to the commission of the Mexican frontiers, and engineer-in-chief of the Pacific Railroad. Mr. Hopkins is the engineer of the mines; the house of Soulter, of New York is the principal owner.

Sonora Exploring and Mining Company; – this mine, situated at about thirty miles from Tubac, in the Cerro Colorado, is one of the principal mines, if not the richest in the Territory. The Company is working the vein known as the Heintzelman Mine, rich in argentiferous coppers, and also several other veins on the Rancho Arivaca. The actual and imperfect system of reduction is by means of amalgamating barrels. Steam-engines of forty horse-power with a new process of amalgamation and refining, will soon be introduced. One of the principal share-holders, Mr. Charles D. Poston, is the director, and at the same time lessee of the mine for the term of ten years. This company was incorporated in Cincinnati, Ohio, with a capital of $2,000,000 divided into 20,000 shares. The sum already expended for the working of this mine is estimated at $230,000, either in ready cash or from the proceeds of the mine.

Cahuabi Mining Company; – the mine going by that name is near meridian 112 and 32 north latitude, in a region inhabited by the Papago Indians. The argentiferous copper ores are treated according to the Mexican amalgamatory process known as the patio. I have seen specimens from this mine in the hands of Mr. Herman Ehrenberg, president of the company, of extreme richness. The mine was opened since 1859.

Arizona Copper Mining Company; – the bad administration and the difficulties of transportation have been the main causes why this mine, so rich, and which created so much excitement in California two or three years ago, has not given any good results. Its oxides and copper sulphurets are excessively rich, the extraction exceedingly easy, and the veins are numerous. Works at this present moment are suspended. This mine is situated 120 miles southeast from Fort Yuma. It was opened in 1855, and the company was incorporated in San Francisco.

Arizona Land and Mining Company; – this mine is situated north of the Rancho of Sopori. This company owns a large tract of land, of thirty-two leagues square, on which is situated the old silver mine of San Xavier, which was worked during the time of the Jesuits, and which appears exceedingly rich; other veins, equally rich, are to be found in the center of the property, on the Sierra Tinaja. The company was incorporated in Providence, R. I., with a capital of $2,000,000. The Honorable S. G. Arnold is the president. The treasurer is Mr. Alfred Anthony, President of the Jackson Bank of Providence. Colonel Colt, Lieutenant Mowry, and other rich capitalists of the East are the actual owners. Mr. Mowry is the holder of more than one-half of the stock of the company. N. Richmond Jones, Jr., is the engineer-in-chief of this mine, as also of the Sopori Mine.

Colorado River Copper Mine; – about three years ago a Mr. Halstead, well known in the Colorado districts as an indefatigable prospector, discovered this mine on the shores of the river, at about forty miles from Fort Yuma. Having been examined and tested by experts from New York, they found it to be very extensive and very rich. Several tons sent to San Francisco last year were also admitted to be of uncommon richness. Consequently laborers were engaged in Sonora, and preparations made to work the mine on an extensive scale. Difficulties, however, eventually arose which prevented the completion of the works. The mine is owned by Messrs. Wilcox, Johnson and Hartshorn, owners of the steamer navigating the Colorado, by Mr. Hooper principal merchant at Fort Yuma, and by Lieutenant Mowry.

Stevenson Mining Company; – this mine has been worked during several years by Mr. Stevenson, according to the Mexican process, and yielded him from $40,000 to $50,000. After-ward Mr. Stevenson sold his mine to Major Sprague of the U. S. Army, who organized a company in New York, to which belong General Clarke, Doctor Mills, Mr. Russell of the Pony Express and Missouri bonds notoriety, and several other persons. The mine appears to be very rich in silver and lead, but it has been wretchedly administered. The Stevenson Mine is situated on the Rio Grande, not far from Mesilla.

Hams Mine; – the mine belonging to this company was discovered several years ago. It was recently purchased by Lieutenant Mowry of Judge Hoppin, Mr. Cuniff and Mr. Bull. This mine is also on the Rio Grande, six miles from the Stevenson mine. The ore is composed of lead and silver.

St. Augustin Mining Company; – this mine is also situated on the Rio Grande, and the ores are like the above.

“Several other silver veins supposed to be very rich, have been discovered on the same river, but have not yet been worked. All these mines of the Rio Grande are to be found in the hills at the foot of the Organ Mountains. Besides silver, copper and lead mines, coal mines are also to be found near the Rio Grande in the Organ Mountains, in Arizona Territory. There are also mines of plumbago in the Sierra Rita, and some of iron in different localities.

“Traces of quicksilver have been found in the Heintzelman Mine, belonging to the Sonora Company, but they own particularly rich gold placers and veins of auriferous quartz. The new district of Pino Alto, whose placer diggings were discovered in May last, and which have yielded fine results in gold of a fine quality, is also rich in quartz veins.

“One of the main ones is the one known by the name of Jackson Quartz Vein, owned by Q. A. Oury, of Tucson, P. T. Herbert and others.

The vein was discovered in July, 1860, by J. J. Jackson, on Bear Creek, about thirty miles from the Overland Mail Station on the Mimbres River, and twenty-five miles from the Gila River, The vein is two feet in thickness and promises to become exceedingly rich. Specimens taken from a depth of ten feet and which were handed to me by Mr Oury, have yielded more than $600 of pure gold to the ton. The persons who have visited the Pino Alto district, speak of it as a section of country exceedingly healthy, well wooded, but quite barren in the summer months. A population of 800 to 1000 souls inhabit already the district and the town hearing its name. An express, connecting the district with that of Wells, Fargo & Co., runs between that town and Mesilla.

”Another mine of auriferous quartz, which is stated to be quite rich, was lately discovered ninety miles from Fort Yuma on the Colorado. The owners are Messrs. Halstead and Jaeger, residents of Fort Yuma.

“On the Mimbres River, ninety miles from the Rio Grande, are to be found the renowned mines of Santa Rita del Cobre, worked by Mexicans many years ago, and well known for their richness. These mines and the Hanover Copper Mines, situated in the same locality, were profit-ably worked a long time ago. The copper, worked into bars, is sent to New York by way of Port Lavaca in Texas. Two new towns, Mowry City and Burchville, are also built on the Mimbres River.

“Auriferous deposits of some importance are also to be found on the shores of the Gila, not only at its source, but all along its course.”When we passed by Gila City, three weeks ago, nothing was spoken of but the discovery of rich deposits of gold on the river. It was stated that Mexicans were gathering from ten to fifteen dollars per day. Besides, at the junction of the Gila and the Colorado, about 300 Mexicans are constantly at work, and obtain excellent pay. The greater part of this gold is forwarded by Mr. Hooper of Fort Yuma.

“The particulars I have just given you, al-though already quite lengthy, are far from containing all that might be stated in regard to the mineral wealth of the Territory ; but I must stop here, as I only intend to give you statements entirely correct.”

The withdrawal of the troops from Arizona meant the destruction not only of valuable mining properties, but also of ranches, that here and there had sprung up in all directions, which it took years thereafter to replace. The population, which had grown to several thousand, sought safety in flight. Those who could, left for their old stamping grounds in the East and West. Those who could not afford to leave, were gathered together in Old Tucson.

Of these conditions, Sylvester Mowry says: “Many lives were lost; property of all description was abandoned; crops to an enormous amount were left standing in the fields; never to be gathered. Never was desolation so sudden, so complete. In my late journey from Tucson to Guaymas, I passed over one hundred and fifty miles of beautiful country, studded with ranches and farms, where at every step were found comfortable houses, outbuildings, fences and tilled fields utterly abandoned and tenantless. The mining interest suffered at the same time. Partly through the cowardice of agents and superintendents, partly through the fault of Eastern directors, the various silver mines in Central Arizona were temporarily abandoned, and I was left with a handful of men who were willing to share my fortunes, and, if fate so willed it, be the last Americans in the Territory to fall by the lance or arrow of the Apache. We not only survived, but we built up a great work in the heart of the country ; thoroughly demonstrated the great value of the mines, and, what is more and better, proved conclusively that the Apaches are no obstacle to working in the Terri-tory, compared to the great result to be accomplished. It is sufficient proof of this that I did not lose two hours’ work in ten months on ac-count of the Indians. Some valuable lives were lost, but it was by recklessly disregarding my repeated injunctions and directions.”

Notes About Book:

Source: History Of Arizona Volume 2, By Thomas Edwin Farish, 1915, Printed and Published by Direction of the Second Legislature of the State of Arizona, A. D.

Notes about Online Publication: This manuscript has been ocr’d and heavily edited. Many of the Native American words have been reproduced as clearly as online publication will allow us, but not all are exactly the way they were in the original work. The structure of this manuscript has been changed to allow better online presentation.

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