Ruby, Arizona - A term Paper by Tom McCurnin, 12/97

    Much of the history of Arizona or for that fact, that of the Southwest can
be observed on the many back country roads that criss-cross in many
directions. In these isolated and often seemingly inaccessible areas may be
found signs of past mining activity. These may be just a shaft with it's
tell tale pile of tailings or it may include an old headframe, living
quarters, headquarters facility, even left over equipment. These areas when
they contain visible and noticeable reminders of days long past are what we
commonly refer to as ghost towns. Some have been almost completely forgotten by time while others contain a rich and varied history. Tombstone, Jerome, and
Oatman are examples of efforts of preservation to serve the tourist
industry while others stand alone and isolated, often under protection of
private ownership. Ruby, Arizona, located eighteen miles west of Nogales
and a mere four miles above the border with Mexico is just such a place.

     Situated at the foot of a very prominent mountain known as Montana Peak
this was the site of a mining camp that was active from the1870's. The
initial discovery of minerals was during the 18th century by the Spanish
who did limited work among the placer fields before moving on. It was not
until 1854 when two mining engineers named Charles Poston and Henry
Ehrenberg revived the old placers left by the Spanish in Montana Gulch that
mining activity resumed in this area. Facing the danger of hostile Apaches,
Poston and Ehrenburg prospected the area further and discovered rich gold
and silver veins in the vicinity of Montana Peak. Ten claims were further
discovered in the 1870's and thus was established the Montana Mine.

     In 1891, a large body of high-grade ore was discovered in the Montana Mine
by J. W. Bogan and company, who pronounced the Montana Mine to be a
veritible ‘bonanza’ with several crosscuts showing the ore body to be
thirty feet wide with random samples assaying eighty to ninety ounces of
silver per ton . . . reported the Arizona Pioneers Historical Society.

     The camp was simply known as the Montana mine. This was until 1912 when the
post office was established and named "Ruby" in honor of Lillie Ruby who
was the wife of Julius Andrews, the manager of the general store. It was
Andrews who submitted an application for a post office in 1909, and this
was established three years later. He served as the initial postmaster in
addition to duties as the storekeeper.

     Life in the early days of the camp was unglamorous. Wages were small and
most families lived in tents and adobe huts. Fiestas and celebrations were
never held and baptisms or confirmations meant a trip to Arivaca twenty
miles away. Men often relied on hunting to provide food for their families
and occasionally some would turn to rustling. As was the case with so many
of the mining camps, lawlessness was common. Robbery was a constant threat.
Rustling of cattle for sale across the border in Mexico was profitable due
to a large demand for meat by two armies involved with revolution. With
revolution in Mexico, the presence of Mexican soldiers roaming about seemed

     The general store that served as a life line for the camp changed ownership
when Philip Clark purchased the mercantile from Juleps Andrews after the
latter had operated it for nearly twenty years. With an increasing
population a larger building was needed and thus was built a large adobe
structure farther up the hill. Clarke often spent much time away from his
wife and family and concerned for their safety to unimproved conditions
along the border he moved them away to Oro Blanco and leased the store to
two brothers named John and Alex Frasier. It was then that the isolated
mining community would become front page news.

     Early in the morning on February 27, 1920, a Mexican ranch hand named
Guitierrez went the store to purchase supplies. Finding the door locked he
looked through the window to observe the body of Alex Frasier and next to
him his mortally wounded brother John. Guiterrez rode off to summon John
Maloney the Justice of the Peace. Upon arrival and summing up the situation
Maloney instructed Guiterrez to ride to Nogales to notify the Sheriff. John
Frasier later died from his wounds and was unable to give a description of
the killers. An editorial in The Weekly Oasis (Nogales) stated: ". . .
tragedy is nothing new over there. In the wild and rugged region south from
the Atascosa mountains and The Bear Valley region, there has been always a
harbor for a bunch of desperate characters, whose depredations have been
felt by American cattlemen and ranchers through many years." The general
store was then turned over to Frank and Myrtle Pearson.

     After a year, the killers were still at large and then they struck again
killing the two Pearsons in the process. Two of Myrtle Pearson's sisters
and her daughter managed to escape and hid out. One of the bandits had
knocked out Myrtle Pearson's gold teeth and when a man named Manuel
Martinez attempted to sell these in a cantina in Sasabe, he was arrested.
This occurred after another of the bandits, Placido Martinez was captured
by lawmen after receiving information as meager descriptions perhaps given
by the surviving ladies and a woman who recognized the bandits when they
left the store. (There are varying accounts.)

     Upon trial, Martinez was sentenced to hang and Silvas received a life
sentence. It was during the journey to deliver the prisoners to the
Florence prison that they escaped which resulted in the deaths of two
sheriff’s deputies. Just what occurred is unclear. The vehicle was found
overturned near the town of Continental. One deputy was already dead and
the other seriously injured. One account relates that Sheriff White who was
driving was struck in the head with a wrench by one of the men and one
relates that the vehicle went out of control and overturned. Nevertheless,
both men made their escape and the second deputy L. A. Smith later died
from his injuries. There is also a dispute about the capture of the two
outlaws. In one version both of them were captured two days later and in
another, only Martinez was recaptured and that Silvas was never seen or
heard from again. In 1915, the Montana Mine was leased by the Goldfield
Consolidated Mines Company and was thus begun the first really large scale
operation. Soon the Montana Mine grew to be a leading producer of lead. In
1926 or 1927, the Eagle Picher Company of St. Louis took over operations
and began new revival period for Ruby. It was at this time that continuous
expansion of the mine was undertaken and this created new jobs that
employed some 300 men. A 400 ton concentrator was built along with several
dams for obtaining the needed water. This however, turned out to be
insufficient so a 15 mile long pipe extending to the Santa Cruz Valley was
installed which lifted water 1500 feet in two storage tanks. Homes were
built as was a school. The town also featured its own saloon and dance
hall. The population rose to over 1,000. The mine ran 24 hours per day and
only on Christmas and the Fourth of July was operations shut down. The pay
was $5.25 per day. Life was generally good for the people of Ruby during
this period. The peak production years were between 1934 and 1937 when
3,000,000 ounces of silver were mined.

     It was in 1940 that the ore finally gave out. The mill operation was moved
to Sahuarita. No record exists on the exact dollar amount produced by the
mine but an estimate puts the total for the Oro Blanco district at around
$10,496,625 for the period between 1909 and 1949.

     In its current existence, there are more than a dozen buildings plus the
headframe and mill. Upon entering the townsite one passes by snob hill.
This is the section where the well to do residents lived, and it is in this
area where many of the homes remain. These homes are currently being used
by the caretaker and guard. Just past this is the old school that served
grades 1 through 8 and had in attendance around 350 children. Also in this
vicinity are the old jail and what is left of the general store where the
murders occurred during the 1920's. On the north side upon a hill
overlooking the town are the remains of the headframe, assay office,
warehouse, and some old equipment. There are plans to do some refurbishing
of the buildings and opening the town to general tourism for a fee. At
present, special permission is required in order to visit the town that
includes a fee. It is accessible by a gravel road and is within the bounds
of the Coronado National Forest.


Over these past twenty years I have had the pleasure of exploring the many
ghost towns of Arizona and in neighboring states. This experience I have
shared with two very good friends of mine, starting in December of 1977,
when we made our very first visits to some sites south of Patagonia. Ruby,
the ghost town to which I have chosen to do this project is of special
interest to me due to a family connection. It was my great-grandfather who
served as the postmaster of Ruby from 1937-1940 in the towns final years.
His son served as the Justice of the Peace for Ruby during this same
period. In addition two other sons worked at the mine. John Maloney, the
man mentioned in the murder case was my Grandmother's stepmother's father,
another Justice of the Peace.

Along with my two good friends, I have made two trips to the site. The
first being in May 1996 and the most recent in March 1997. A combined 15
hours was spent in exploring and photographing the area and being aquainted
with the current caretaker who showed us many interesting features of the
old mining camp. I was particularly interested in the slide at the old
school. One of my aunts attended part of the first grade at this school and
a favorite family anecdote is of the time she went up the slide but was too
afraid to go down. She began crying and had to be helped down by the


Meyer, Carol Clark. "The Rise and Fall of Ruby." The Journal of Arizona
History, Spring 1974. pp. 8-27.

Long, James. "Bloodstained Ghost Town." Frontier Times, March 1965, pp.

Sherman, James E., and Barbara H. Ghost Towns of Arizona. Norman, Oklahoma:University of Oklahoma Press, 1969.

"Ruby" 1997. On-line. Interment. Available World Wide Web:

Ghost Towns and other Haunts, Video Tours of Arizona. 1995.