Ghost Town Wednesday: Ruby, Arizona

GhostTownWednesdayAccording to Southern Arizona Guide, this is one of the best preserved ghost towns in Arizona.  Off the beaten track and twelve miles south of Arivaca, visitors are warned to NOT rely on their GPS to find Ruby.  The Spaniards discovered minerals there in the 1700’s but only mined a short time before moving on.

Mining was revived when Charles Poston and Henry Ehrenberg found the old Spanish mines, started digging and found rich veins of gold and silver.  Gold and silvers finds like that always brought more miners seeking their fortune, but it took until the 1870’s before prospectors came en masse to the area due to the strong Apache presence.  When they finally came, “Montana Camp” was setup, so-called because it lay at the foot of Montana Peak.

Poston was due to sail down to Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico to begin exploring the recent Gadsden Purchase. He persuaded his new friend to accompany him, searching for wealth in Ajo and Cerro Colorado. Poston later petitioned President Lincoln to organize the territory under the name Arizona, thus making him the so-called “Father of Arizona”. Ehrenberg published the first map of the Gadsden Purchase and continued his mining pursuits while Poston traveled back East to raise mining capital. Ehrenberg was mysteriously murdered in California in 1866 while traveling from San Francisco back to Arizona.

Gold and silvers finds always brought miners (and would-be miners) seeking their fortune, but it took until the 1870s before prospectors came en masse to the territory due to the strong Apache presence. In 1861 mining operations had all but ceased as troops were called back east to fight during the Civil War.

In 1877 mining started in Ruby, or “Montana Camp” as it was first called, because it lay at the foot of Montana Peak. The discovery of lead, cooper and zinc veins brought even more miners and in the late 1880s a mercantile was opened by George Cheney. In 1891 an even richer vein of silver was discovered and the flood gates opened once again as more miners came to stake their claim to what was being called a “bonanza”. Ruby would soon become the largest mining camp in that area of Arizona Territory.

In 1897 the mercantile was purchased by Julias Andrews and in 1912 he applied for a post office to be run out of his store. The camp became a town named Ruby when Andrews named the post office after his wife Lillie B. Ruby Andrews. Miners brought their families, and although there wasn’t much to the town except the mercantile, a school was later opened and at its peak served approximately one hundred and fifty students.

The population peaked sometime in the mid-1930s at around twelve hundred residents. The best years for Ruby were from the late 1920s to the late 1930s when the nearby Montana mine led the state in lead and zinc production. When the mine closed in 1940 it wasn’t long before the town was abandoned and the post office closed in 1941.

Today the town site is on private property and an admission fee is charged. Several structures remain, including the old school (with chalkboard and a few furnishings), the jail, mining office, and some homes. Tour information may be found at http://rubyaz.com/.

Ruby had been known, like so many other western mining camps and towns, for its lawlessness. The level of violence and criminality was multiplied, however, because of Ruby’s proximity to the Mexican border. Attacks from their Mexican neighbors, cattle rustling, and other criminal elements were all too common, unfortunately. In late August of 1921 one episode of violence brought calls for United State military intervention – a featured article (“Mining and Murder”) in the March issue of Digging History Magazine.

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