Would it be the West without a ghost town or two? Perhaps nothing evokes the history of the Old West more than a ghost town. It speaks so clearly of people’s hopes, their sense of adventure. Brought to life in film, history lives on in the remains of the Old West’s ghost towns.
In the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, you can find the remains of Fairbank, an historic townsite. It began as a stagecoach stop and later became a railroad transportation hub, as it was the closest railroad stop to Tombstone. In 2007, the Fairbank schoolhouse reopened as a museum, information center and gift shop. Remains of many other buildings are on the site, along with a graveyard and the sound of distant train whistles.
About 15 miles outside Tombstone on an unpaved road, Gleeson was a prosperous copper mining town from 1909 until the 1930s. By 1953, it had all come to an end. Today, a few substantial buildings are left including the jail, which has been renovated as a museum, the hospital and some local residences. While wandering, watch for mine shafts.
Located south of Willcox, near Sunsites in the Sulphur Springs Valley, Pearce was the greatest gold mining settlement in Arizona. The Commonwealth Mine was founded in 1894 and flourished for just under 40 years. At its peak, Pearce boasted a population of 2,000 as well as its own movie theater, a rarity for that time. Plenty of places still stand to see — the cemetery, post office and a few thriving stores.
CHARLESTON AND MILLVILLE
Having sprung up to process mining ore, as so many towns did, Charleston and Millville lasted only 10 years — the length of Tombstone’s silver boom. Aptly named, Millville was the mill site for the Tombstone silver mines and at its high point in 1882, produced more than $1.3 million in silver. Charleston, initially the bedroom community for Millville, quickly became a highly active trade center. By the mid 1880s, Millville was abandoned because Tombstone’s mines flooded. Once the stockpiled ore had been processed, the mills along the San Pedro River shut down.