Welcome to the Library System's Local History Website of Greenlee County, AZ

The Greenlee County Library Districtís history page was supported with funds granted by the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records, a division of the Arizona Secretary of State, under the Library Services and Technology Act, which is administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Thanks to the groups who gave letters of support as partners: Duncan P.R.I.D.E. Society, Duncan Public Library, Clifton Public Library, Freeport McMoRan Archives in Phoenix, Arizona Workforce in Action, Duncan Town Hall, Greenlee County Tourism Council, SEAGO, Greenlee County Cowbelles, Blue River Cowbelles, Greenlee County Historical Society, Greenlee County Chamber of Commerce, Western Heritage Cultural Center, Tom Powers-Greenlee County Schools Superintendent and Greenlee County Board of Supervisors.

Please click on the links  to view pertinent historical photos or the Greenlee County Timeline. This is a work in progress so more information may be added in an on-going process.


GREENLEE COUNTY HISTORY LINKS

 

Greenlee County Government General History Website

Greenlee County Government Mason History Website

Greenlee County Government Seal Website 

Greenlee County on Wikipedia

Simpson Hotel History Site

U of A Historical Archives

Arizona Geological Survey Mining Data

Historical Waymarks

Greenlee County Historical Society Facebook Page


DUNCAN HISTORY LINKS

Wikipedia on Duncan, AZ

Greenlee County Government Duncan History 

Simpson Hotel Duncan History

Duncan P.R.I.D.E. Duncan History

Empie Mural Restoration Facebook page


BLUE HISTORY LINKS

Wikipedia on Blue, AZ


CLIFTON HISTORY LINKS

University of Arizona Clifton History

Visit Clifton Copper History

Visit Clifton-Clifton History

The Story of Clifton

Apache Wars - Clifton

Greenlee County Government Clifton History

U of A Historical Archives

Historical Buildings Photos

Al Fenn Interview


MORENCI HISTORY LINKS

Wikipedia Morenci, AZ

Arizona Memory Project Morenci

Greenlee County Government Morenci History

Greenlee County Government Mining History in Morenci

Greenlee County Government Railroad in Morenci

Mining History in Morenci

Morenci Town History 

Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project

University of Arizona - Morenci History

U of A Historical Archives



Greenlee County, Arizona

Blue

Clifton

Duncan

Morenci

 

The genesis of Greenlee County, AZ was a most fortuitous one and began millions of years ago. The combination of pre-historical geology and hydrology involving faults, intrusions, and volcanism shaped the county into the geography we see today. It also provided for the living waters in the form of rivers and streams that are so rare throughout much of the state of Arizona. The topography consists of desert flats, river valleys, and upright mountain ranges. The historical tapestry of the county is woven with many interconnecting threads including dinosaurs, Ice Age megafauna, pre-historic Indian cultures, Spanish conquistadores, Apaches, mountain men, soldiers, miners, outlaws, ranchers, and farmers.

 

Greenlee County was created from the eastern portion of what had once all been designated Graham County, on March 10, 1909. It became Arizona’s 14th county. It was named after Mason (or Masin) Greenlee, one of the area’s early mining men and won its very existence by assuming a $146,000 debt that Graham County had accumulated. The Forest Reserve Act of 1891 began removing "forest reserves” from the public domain and in 1901 the agency overseeing these lands became called the Forest Service. That agency currently controls 63.5 per cent of Greenlee County. In 1946 two former federal agencies, the General Land Office and the U.S. Grazing Services were combined to form the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). BLM currently controls 13.6 per cent of Greenlee County lands. The State of Arizona reigns over 14.8 per cent of the county’s area and private or corporate ownership is rated at 8.1 per cent.

 

Greenlee is the least populated county in the state yet is one of the richest in life zones. Starting at the southern end and going north one may experience the yucca and creosote flats of the Lower Sonoran; the chaparral, juniper, and scrub oak of the Upper Sonoran; the Ponderosa pines of the Transition Zone; the quaking aspen and Douglas fir of the Canadian; and the spruce forests of the Hudsonian Zone. Elevations run roughly from 3,300 feet in the south to over 9,300 feet in the north, a vertical rise of over six thousand feet. The county is approximately 120 miles long and 20 miles across at its widest point. It is about 1,843 square miles in size.

 

The County Seat is in Clifton. Greenlee County is bordered by Graham, Apache, and Cochise Counties in Arizona and Catron, Grant, and Hidalgo Counties in New Mexico. The main state routes through the area are #191 (also known as the Coronado Trail), #70, #75, and #78. The 2013 census listed the population at 9,049. Mining and agriculture are the main industries. Copper, gold, cattle, cotton, and other farm produce generate the largest proportion of livelihoods. The Morenci mining district is currently owned and operated by Freeport McMoRan Inc.; it is the principal employer in the county.

  

Tourism is an ever-growing industry in Greenlee County and a variety of attractions are offered. Fishing, hiking, birding, biking, backpacking, sight-seeing, hunting, and rock hounding are some of the more popular pursuits available.

~~Narrative written by Dexter Oliver

 

History of Duncan, Arizona

 

Duncan is inextricably tied to the Gila River, which supposedly got its name from the Yuma Indian language. Their term for it was "hah-qua-sa-eel” which translated into "running water which is salty”. Somehow this was transmuted into "Gila”. The original human settlers who favored the area probably had another name for the river but they left few clues about themselves so we’ll never know. But they too utilized the life-giving waters that are so rare in our Southwest deserts.

After gold, silver, and copper deposits were discovered in great quantities north of the Duncan valley a need for way stations to supply wagons hauling ore to Silver City, New Mexico became apparent. In the fourth quarter of the nineteenth century, despite the constant threat of Apache raids, Anglos and Mexican Americans began colonizing the vicinity. Near the present-day location of the Duncan Valley Electric Co-op building a man named Purdy established his ranch headquarters. In 1883 a post office was secured and the community on the northeast side of the river was officially called "Purdy”. In some current Arizona state gazetteers that name is still on the map.

Assaults by Apaches, as well as the on-going activities of a variety of outlaws, caused the Duncan Militia to be formed. It was part of a larger, territorial volunteer group that often took orders from the Army, including those from General Crook. At one time there were nine militia companies in Arizona. The Duncan group was sent to the field to accomplish what the military was often too busy to handle and were kept busy tracking Apaches that had killed settlers or stolen livestock. They later became the Arizona National Guard which was subsequently re-organized as the Arizona Rangers. Local lawman John Parks was issued a commission as a captain in the organization. It was said that the rangers did more in one day than the military did in thirty days.

A school was non-existent at this time but the construction of a wooden-framed structure was paid for by local cowboys who could then hold their dances in the school house at night. It was also used for church services conducted by travelling preachers. This arrangement lasted until the late 1890s. Dances and horse races were the biggest forms of entertainment in Duncan at the time and would continue to be so until horse races were finally stopped more than a century later.

When the Arizona Copper Company built a narrow-gauge railroad between Clifton and Lordsburg, New Mexico in the 1880s, the rail line was on the southwest side of the river. The main part of town shifted over to the other bank too and was renamed Duncan. The broad river valley was well suited for farming and raising livestock. In the nearby mountains there was enough gold, silver, copper, and fluorspar to make private mining operations feasible. One such mining area was below the landmark mountain west of town called Ash Peak, named after an Army Captain who fought Apaches in the area. Noah Green’s stage coach line made daily trips between Duncan and the community of Solomon, which at the time was providing charcoal to the mining camps of Clifton and Morenci. There is a spring below Ash Peak that was on the stage route and Apaches routinely ambushed people there. The last such victims, Horatio Merrit and his daughter, were killed in 1896 by renegade Apaches who had broken free from the San Carlos Reservation.

Cattle rustlers and outlaws continued to plague the area and names like Black Jack Christian, Augustín Chacon, Red Sample, Tex Howard, Nicolaus Olquin, and Rufus Nephew were well known to those living in Duncan. County sheriff Jim Parks and his brother John had their hands full trying to maintain law and order here. But by the turn of the twentieth century the wild west atmosphere was slowing down appreciatively.

The old wagon road that would become state route 70 (also called The Old West Highway) was being improved and a bridge was built across the Gila River at Duncan in 1912. The river has always been a force to contend with during floods that occur with some regularity if not predictability. Some of the worst ones were in 1941, 1972, 1978, and 1983. The town was incorporated in 1938 and continued to grow after World War II. The population has never been much more than one thousand and that fluctuated as the economy of Greenlee County had its ups and downs. When there was plenty of work at the mine in Morenci new generations were more apt to stay; when those fortunes dipped people had to look elsewhere to earn a living. Many of those who did leave returned after retirement, once again seeking a country atmosphere without the hustle and bustle of city life.

During its heyday, Duncan boasted a movie theater, pharmacy, car dealerships, clothes and grocery stores, a bank that paid stockholders up to a whopping 20% yearly interest rate, taverns, and restaurants. There was little need for residents to go elsewhere for their shopping and entertainment. Many of those are gone now or replaced by new incarnations. The Simpson Hotel on Main Street has been serving travelers since it opened in 1914; nowadays it is a completely remodeled bed and breakfast. The town’s flavor is gradually becoming one that caters more to wayfarers. The Country Chic visitors’ center (and local artists outlet) and The Rock-a-Buy Rock Shop, both on the main drag, are founts of local information for such folks. The annual Greenlee County Fair is held in Duncan, as are other popular events such as mud bog racing and classic car shows. The now annual Javelina Chase bicycle event is drawing more and more interest from cyclists throughout the Southwest.

Duncan’s history is still in flux. Some say it hasn’t really been "discovered” yet by the outside world and there are those who like that. Others are pushing for more houses, businesses, and people. Some of the attractions include scenic drives in the outlying countryside, hiking, rock hounding, hunting in season, bird watching (which includes a new birding trail along the river), horseback riding, and the occasional motorcycle rally. There are mountains to be climbed such as Ash Peak (which has a sign-in log for those who make it to the top), and other landmark summits on the horizon such as Steeple Rock, Mt. Royal, Vanderbilt, and Saddle Mountain. The view from any of them is enough to make one understand the allure of the Duncan valley.

History of Blue, Arizona

Blue, Arizona is as much a state of mind as it is a speck on the Greenlee County, AZ map. "Down on the Blue” is an Arizona idiom that conjures up imagines of wild, rugged landscapes, equally hardy Native Americans and pioneer ranchers, as well as wildlife from a by-gone age, best exemplified by the once-indigenous grizzly bear. The perennial river that runs through the area is fed by important watersheds draining from Arizona’s Mogollon Rim and New Mexico’s San Francisco Mountains in the Gila National Forest.

The initial human inhabitants here left a wealth of mute testimony to their existence in the form of abandoned pit houses, cliff dwellings, and cultural artifacts such as pottery, flint-knapped arrowheads, tiny cobs of corn, and the like. Petroglyphs and pictographs etched or painted on stone faces in the area continue to add mystery to those earliest human lives.

The first Anglo settlers began carving their own niches from the canyon in 1878. Those homesteaders were challenged not only by the environment and capricious river floods but their very lives were constantly at stake from raids by the indigenous Apaches as well as the possibility of assaults by large predators. It took, and still takes, a self-sufficient, hardy type of person to survive and prosper in such an out-of-the-way, beautiful but harsh, surrounding.

In 1881 the Division of Forestry came into being by Congressional mandate and ten years later the Forest Reserve Act of 1891 began withdrawing public lands into "forest reserves”. In 1905 the U.S. Forest Service was molded together under President Theodore Roosevelt. Its motto is "Caring for the land and serving the people”, two sometimes divergent trains of thought that have often been at odds along the Blue River. The Forest Service’s mandate is to balance resource extraction, resource protection, and allow recreation. Those living on deeded land within the surrounding national forests on the Blue have often had their lives restricted by this decree.

In 1933 the Secretary of Agriculture established The Blue Range Primitive Area, the last chunk of land so designated, as 173,762 acres to be managed for "primitive use”. This generally applies to motorized vehicles that are prohibited everywhere but on existing roads. The CCC (Civil Conservation Corps) built some of these roads in the early 1930s. Since most of the original settlers here were cattle ranchers, work on horseback was already a way of life. The Blue Range is the last primitive area remaining within the holdings of the Forest Service; all others have been changed to wilderness distinction.

Some confusion over the name has arisen for those who think the word "range” means a group of mountains. It doesn’t. The Blue Range Primitive Area merely consists of lines drawn on a map, the boundaries of which were designed by the federal government. The part of this original primitive area which lies within New Mexico was formerly changed to "wilderness” status in 1980 by a bill sponsored through state congressional delegates. Certain environmentalists, the vast majority of whom live in cities far from the Blue River area, continue to push for wilderness ranking, even hoping for the day when people will be forced to give up their way of life here and move out.

There has already been some attrition that can be linked to stipulations dealing with endangered species such as loach minnow, Apache trout, Mexican spotted owls, Southwest willow flycatchers, as well as very real problems with the reintroduced Mexican gray wolves. Luckily, the wishful thinking of some city-dwelling folks to have the grizzly bear also brought back into the Blue River area has not come to fruition. These are the same people who once called for the area to be "cattle free in ‘93” and continue to believe that generations of families should never have lived here.

But the unincorporated society that exists on the Blue has always been resilient and able to handle most assaults on their way of life in one fashion or another. The Blue River Cowbelles, an organization of women first assembled in 1954, continues to this day, promoting the beef industry and supporting the area’s many functions and infrastructure. They also keep themselves well informed about threats to their lifestyle and stand firm in their desire to preserve a way of living that is quickly disappearing throughout the West. The Blue River Cowbelles have greatly assisted in keeping the area’s history alive by printing two books about it, "Down on the Blue” and "Down on the Blue – Old And New”.

Change, of course, is always inevitable and the Blue area has seen plenty of it. Transportation, for the most part, has gone from horse, mule, or shank’s mare to cars and pickup trucks. A heliport at the Forest Service Blue Administrative site is used during floods, fires, or other disasters and helicopter service is available for emergency medical service. The old crank-style telephones of the 1920s gave way to more modern service in the 1960s. Nowadays the area keeps itself connected to the "outside world” with even more modern amenities such as satellite TV, computers, and the Internet.

Other alterations came more slowly. Electrical power wasn’t introduced into the area until 1957. People were perfectly willing to use kerosene lamps, wood burning stoves, wash tubs, and hand wringers. Gasoline powered washing machines made an appearance after the 1930s. Water was carried from the river or pumped from shallow wells by hand or wind power. With the advent of running water and electricity most outhouses became obsolete. And with easier access to the closest towns like Alpine or Springerville, milking cows, raising and canning fruits and vegetables, or making jerky have become quaint pastimes rather than necessities.

Down on the Blue one finds a true sense of community. Neighbors may be spread miles apart but are always willing to help each other whenever needed. The one-room Blue school house made sure that new generations coming up got to know each other well. When the original building burned down another one replaced it in the same spot. In 2009 the half-century old Lee line cabin was dismantled up on the Mogollon Rim, reconstructed behind the school, and opened as the Blue library. It became another gathering place for residents.

A fine feeling of balance lightly blankets the Blue area. Floods, forest fires, road washouts, and drought are evened out by dances, potlucks, Cowbelle meetings, Christmas parties, and Easter egg hunts. Births and deaths are all part of the normal rhythm that comes from living so close to Nature. Down on the Blue is not only a state of mind; it is an honest and unpretentious way of existing.

 History of Morenci, Arizona

 

The history of the mining town of Morenci, Arizona may be broken into three separate eras. The first is one of discovery and innovation; the second deals with acquisition and consolidation; the final segment shows a time of industry domination. But before the town was even a gleam in the eye of some mining engineer, there were human inhabitants already living in the area.

Water, in the form of the not-yet-named San Francisco River, Chase Creek, and just to the west, Eagle Creek, were what originally attracted primitive people the area. In an arid land, water was the lifeblood that allowed human activities. Cliff dwellers and other prehistoric people of the Mogollon Culture disappeared from the area over a thousand years ago, for reasons still unknown. A new society, the western Apaches, took their place and this warlike group was here when the first Europeans began making forays into the region.

Spanish and then Mexican explorers made note of the expansive copper presence here in the early 1800s but they were more interested in other minerals and the Apaches made the area too dangerous. When the first Anglos ventured up the San Francisco River and Eagle Creek around 1825, they were looking for soft gold, in the form of beaver pelts, and knew little of extracting wealth from the ground. In mid-century, after the United States had acquired this land from Mexico, sporadic placer mining for gold and silver took place but the Indians were still a constant threat. In the early 1870s Army Captain Chase led a search party from Silver City into the area trying to recover stolen horses. In the group were the Metcalf brothers, Jim and Bob, who saw the mineral potential and would soon return to start the extraction that continues to this day.

Anglos with better armament and an endless supply of people finally conquered and displaced the previous human inhabitants. It was part of what was being called Manifest Destiny, the role of the new Americans to spread across the land from sea to sea. The timing was right for more people to enter the copper mining field in Arizona. The Apache threat was fading, the railroad was expanding into the territory, and the popularity of electrical power, which needed copper wire, was growing exponentially.

Charles Shannon, William Church, and Henry Lezinsky were a few of the more successful mining entrepreneurs of this era. The Shannon Mining Company, along with Church’s Detroit Copper Company and Lezinsky’s Longfellow Mine competed for mineral wealth. After Lezinsky sold out, Scottish investors who took over changed the name to the Arizona Copper Company. At the time, most copper ore in the United States was being sent to Swansea, Wales for smelting before returning to the U.S. for final purification. This was a long, arduous journey, first by mule trains and oxen carts to the nearest train depot, then by rail to the coast where it was loaded onto ships. Such an endeavor was not only risky but time consuming and expensive.

Now that the area once called Joy’s Camp and then dubbed Morenci had proven itself worthy of mining for decades to come, it would take Yankee ingenuity to break the cycle of smelting overseas. Crude smelters were refined until they proved sufficient for the ore to be dealt with locally. New crushers, concentrators, and leaching plants were also added. The history of all the mining towns in Arizona, including Morenci - which has the distinction of being the oldest one - was that of constant and dynamic change. This is still seen today, if the mines are still operating, as is the case with the Morenci Mine.

None of this extraction and distillation of copper ore would have been possible without a large and continuously changing population of workers to make it all happen. While most of the mine owners and engineers were of Anglo descent, the employees were a more cosmopolitan assemblage. There were Scotch, Irish, Italian, Chinese, and Mexican men, some of whom brought entire families into the region with them. The Morenci area at that time was as much of a melting pot as anywhere else in the country. And as such, suffered some problems associated with minorities. Mine officials rarely reported the deaths of any Chinese workers on the job and as one owner was quoted, "preferred Mexicans because they could easily be replaced if dissatisfied”. This would come to a boil in 1903 when a strike called "The Mexican Affair” would help improve pay status for non-Anglos.

Far away in New York City was a mercantile, import-export house formed in 1834 by Anson Phelps and William Dodge, a couple of Puritanical business men who dealt in everything from textiles to various metals. In a serendipitous historical moment, William Church, who needed more capital for his mining and smelting operations in Morenci, requested a loan from the company in 1881. After having a metallurgist, James Douglas, investigate both the Morenci and Bisbee mining sites in Arizona, Phelps, Dodge and Company invested fifty thousand dollars (or thirty thousand, reports vary) and found itself in the copper mining business. Things would never be the same. It soon began acquiring additional mines and by 1921 had consolidated all holdings in the Morenci area under its banner.

Under its auspices the town of Morenci became the most lavish of any company controlled mining town. They constructed two splendid hotels, the Morenci Club, a Corporation Hospital, two banks, the finest school buildings, as well as other mining necessities such as reduction works, mills, and flotation floors. The railroad now ran all the way from Lordsburg, New Mexico to Morenci. But the mining operations that had been so successful underground when the ore content was a high percentage per ton were no longer feasible and knowledge of a vast body of ore beneath the town doomed the community’s existence. Open pit extraction would be the new norm. The High School that had been built in 1942 was the last structure to be demolished, in 1982. The old landmark 3 B-Bar General Mercantile and White Owl Hotel, which had been crammed together on a hillside in Old Morenci back in 1910, were now gone. The three Bs had stood for "Bueno, Bonito, y Burato” or "good, pretty, and cheap”.

Phelps Dodge Corporation was now consolidated into a worldwide superpower in the copper and gold mining industry. It had withstood fluctuating prices, employee strikes, and changing societal laws dealing with safety and equality. It built its new town of Morenci nearby and vastly expanded its local operations. But change was, and still is, always in the wind and on March 19, 2007 the company and all its holdings, including the town of Morenci, were acquired by Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Incorporated, based in Phoenix, Arizona.

The new landlords have shown their appreciation of the community and its citizens in numerous ways, giving financial grants to help improve the well being of the county in general and Morenci in particular. The crowning achievement so far has been the multi-million dollar community center with its health and fitness theme and nearby day care facilities. Morenci is a town that is proud of its history but still looking to the future.

No history of Morenci would be complete without mentioning the road that ties it to Alpine, Arizona to the north. It was known as the Springerville Road initially and has been described as "an enchanted ribbon with ever changing vistas”. It has also been reported by the Federal Highway Administration as having more twisting turns than any other such stretch of road in the country, with approximately 450 switchbacks. Contractors building the byway utilized Mexican laborers and provided a traveling school house for educating their children as work progressed. The road was finished and dedicated as the Coronado Trail in 1926. It was rerouted in 1974 to accommodate the expanding mine pit.

History of Clifton, Arizona

 

The history of Clifton, Arizona is directly tied to that of its close neighbor, Morenci. This is because Clifton is the portal to the rich mineral deposits found farther up the creek that would be named after Army Captain Chase, who was one of the first Anglos to visit the area. Chase Creek empties into the San Francisco River, so named because its headwaters come from the mountain range in New Mexico of the same title, and is surrounded by rocky cliffs and canyons. The narrow course of the river through this unforgiving terrain was the main travel way from the civilized world into that of vast underground wealth waiting to be exploited.

The Apaches contested the coming of the white man bitterly, having a special hatred for miners who tore open Mother Earth. In the 1870s when the Clifton area was beginning to attract more outside people with dreams of overnight riches, the Native Americans made simple survival a dicey proposition. The town was founded in 1873. In 1879 Victorio left the San Carlos Apache Reservation and raided the town. In 1882 Geronimo’s band did likewise and killed eleven Mexican teamsters twelve miles to the south. The smelter in Clifton was once shot up so badly by Apaches that it had to be relocated closer to Morenci. But the Army and civilian militias eventually tamped down the threat of death from indigenous dissidents. Mining, providing housing and entertainment for workers, and getting much-needed supplies into this remote area picked up at a rapid pace.

When copper mining first began in Arizona the deposits were running 5-20% copper in four sites: Bisbee, Jerome, Globe, and Clifton/Morenci. The ore coming from Clifton/Morenci was hauled out through Clifton by mule-drawn wagons to begin a long and dangerous journey. At the time, Swansea, Wales was the copper smelting capital of the world. The ore left Clifton, and if Apaches didn’t waylay the wagons, much needed supplies and mining equipment would be brought back on the return trip. The whole process could be months in duration.

Both William Church and Captain E.D. Ward built the first smelters in Clifton, utilizing water from the river, in order to break the long-distance connection. The first railroad in Arizona, the narrow or "baby” gauge line, brought ore from the Morenci area to Clifton to be smelted. Carts were originally powered by the much-used mules then a diminutive steam engine was hauled overland, in pieces, from La Junta, Colorado. Once assembled and put into service, it helped make Indian attacks less successful. However, it was finally decided to move the smelters closer to the Morenci mines and get the necessary water from Eagle Creek.

As Clifton gradually ceased to be part of the actual mining and refining activities, it developed as more of a hub for people and trade goods coming into the region. The Arizona and New Mexico railroad had been extended from Lordsburg, New Mexico to Clifton where it terminated at a man-powered round-house. Construction of private houses hanging precariously on steep inclines increased, as did the building of meeting halls, brothels, taverns, hotels, and stores selling a variety of products. At one time Clifton was described as being the second toughest town in the territory, the first apparently being Tombstone.

Minority groups that had found their way to this remote outpost would leave cultural impressions on the town. One writer in 1890 stated that Clifton had three general stores, seven saloons, two doctors, several Chinese restaurants and "washee houses” with attached opium parlors, as well as a large machine shop, blacksmiths, and lumber merchants. The population was about two thousand, the majority of which were Mexicans, with lots of Chinese, some Italians, and itinerant Jewish merchants. The Chinese were first introduced to the area while working on the Southern Pacific Rail lines then on the railroads between Clifton and Morenci. They eventually got into the labor force at the mines as well.

The Lezinskys had built their Casa Grande structure near the railroad turnaround completely out of adobe, including the roof, so Apaches couldn’t set it on fire. There was also a series of adobe buildings for rent known as "bedbug row” nearby. These were in stark contrast to the more elegant Clifton Hotel where cricket matches were held, along with weddings and other social gatherings. There were also baseball and basketball teams. The whole town was occasionally inundated by the flooding San Francisco River and some old buildings were swept away only to be replaced by new ones after the water had subsided. Prisoners in the local jail sometimes had to be rescued by lawmen on horseback to keep them from being drowned when the floods got that high.

In 1911 the Greenlee County Courthouse was built and remains as the oldest functioning courthouse in Arizona. Also that year, many of the Chase Creek structures in Clifton were destroyed by fire. Construction of new buildings began right away. In 1912 one of them opened as a photo shop which later became Hoeye Barber shop and is now the Chase Creek Market Place. The Spezia Brothers finished building the Eagle’s Hall here, with its "Eagle Aerie” on top. At one time or another it housed a bar, a brothel, and various other commercial ventures. It is now home to the Greenlee County Historical Museum. Nearby are the arches that are all that is left of a theater. 1912 also saw the construction of the Presbyterian Church which is now referred to as "the Sanctuary on the San Francisco”.

In 1914 construction was begun on a road connecting the Safford/Solomon area with Clifton. It was dubbed "the convict highway” because prisoners were used to provide the labor. It took over six years to complete, finishing up in 1920. This is now a scenic route called the Black Hills Byway.

Because the San Francisco River has such a history of flooding, the town of Clifton engineered a levee system with two large internal drains and flood gates that can be closed to prevent the south side of town from being overwhelmed. The unique looking gates are Clifton town landmarks, as are the flags flying proudly at the Veterans’ Park high up on Mares Bluff. Clifton continues to reinvent itself as time marches on, gearing itself up more as a tourist attraction now rather than a rip-roaring mining town.

~~Narratives written by Dexter Oliver

 

 

 

 


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