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Bisbee Arizona

It was in the spring of 1877 Sergeant Jack Dunn, a government scout and a group of men with an Army search party from Fort Bowie are said to have staked the first claim in the region. At first this area was called Mule Gulch, but in 1880, the camp was renamed after Judge DeWitt Bisbee who was one of the financial backers of the Copper Queen Mine. Bisbee sat on one of the richest mineral deposits in the world and became famous for it's high grade copper mines. These mines produced more than 8 billion pounds of copper and nearly 3 million ounces of gold. By the early 1900s, Bisbee had a population that reached over 25,000. Bisbee would soon become known as the Queen of the Copper Camps.

At first Bisbee was rough and tough mining town much like all the rest of the old west mine camps. Drinking gambling and fighting were an everyday occurance. However in 1902 after the town became incorporated, the first ordinance passed by the city, was to ban women from saloons. Also in In 1902, the famous Coper Queen hotel was built. This hotel was a luxury hotel with over 70 rooms and is still in service today. By 1910 the town was booming with high copper prices and the mines wanted reliable family working men, so all gambling and prostitution was outlawed in the town, however there was an area called Brewery Gulch, that had saloons and shady ladies.

Like a lot of old mine camps Bisbee had a big fire. In 1908 a fire broke out and burnt half the town down but because the mines were so busy and workers needed housing, the town was quickly rebuilt. At this time the town started building everything in stone and brick and they also ran a water line from springs in the hills about 5 or 6 miles away. This enabled the town to have running water and the town also got a sewer system. In 1908 the town also got electricity and telephones.

In 1881 the Phelps Dodge company came to town and bought a group of claims called the Atlanta. Then in 1885, the company joined up with the Copper Queen mine, and this allowed the company to become the second largest producer of copper in the United States. Then in 1905 with copper prices soaring, another two companies moved into town. These were the Shattuck-Arizona and Calumet & Arizona mines. These mines were underground minebut in 1917 Phelps Dodge started an open pit mine. This open mine was the first in the nation and operated until 1929. This pit was known as the Sacramento Pit. Then in 1950 an even larger open pit mine called the Lavender Pit. This mine ran until until 1974.

Bisbee saw it's share of trouble too. The first episode was in 1883 when six gunmen robbed the mining payroll that was in the general store safe. However their timing was off and there was only around 800 bucks or so. During the robbery the men killed five people, including a lawman. A posse caught up with the men and all were later tried and hung. Bisbee would go down in the history books for the Bisbee Deportations. Tentions in the town started from striking miners about working conditons and pay. Bisbee policemen and some local citizens rounded up hundreds of out of town miners and deported them to New Mexico by train. This act was was declared illegal by the Federal Government. Over 200 people were arrested or indicted, including the President of the Phelps Dodge Mining Corporation. However nothing really ever became of it at the Federal or State level and only one case ever went to trial.

During the time that Lavender Pit was being developed in the 1950ís, some mine workers came across a turquoise deposit that would later become known as Bisbee blue. This turquoise mine is one of the few most famous turquoise mines in Arizona.

Over the almost 100 years of mining, the mines around Bisbee are said to have produced around 8 billion pounds of copper along with 102 million ounces of silver and almost 3 million ounces of gold.

Today Bisbee is a tourist town. The population is around 5000. The town has really neat architecture and narrow streets with lots of steeps stairs because the town in in a steep gultch. The street are lined with bars and cafes. Lots of gift shops and other antique type shops. You can take a tour of the Queen Bee Mine. Tours run pretty much everyday. Lots of places to stay if you decide to stay more than a day. The RV park is right close to the Queen Bee Mine. Bisbee is only a 20 minute or so drive from Tombstone so it's easy to catch two historical mining towns on the same trip.