Sharing thoughts on just about everything--travel, history, dogs, the spiritual life, keeping life simple.
It was field trip day in week four of isolation at Casa Wallace and so we headed out where the population is sparse or non-existent. It’s not hard to do in Cochise County, which helps us get out and enjoy the countryside while practicing social distancing. Over the hills toward Tombstone, my good husband drove, which is the way to the Ghost Town Trail. The spring flowers are still abundant along the roadsides and I resisted asking him to stop so that I could get some photos. It’s a winding and sort of dangerous road, so stopping on the narrow shoulders isn’t a great idea. But, I wish I’d been able to capture the purple, yellow, and pink beauties on my camera. Anyway, we drove into a very quiet Tombstone—it’s a little eerie to see the streets so empty and businesses closed. Very sad.
Taking North Camino San Rafael Road outside of Tombstone, we turned onto East Gleeson Road to head to the ghost town of Gleeson. The drive is spectacular—rolling hills, ranching country, mountain views in every direction, and cattle grazing on the hillsides. It was lovely. And there were more flowers along the roadsides--we didn't stop to take pictures either.
If you’re not careful, you can totally miss Gleeson, but we managed to read the sign, slowing down in time. First of all, there isn’t much to see since it’s a ghost town. However, folks still live in the area and there are plenty of “Private Property” and “No Trespassing” signs about. We stopped by the jail which is the easiest building to locate. It’s been restored (with a bit of humor thrown in) and if we weren’t in quarantine mode, we could’ve gone in the building. Perhaps another time, when they’ve reopened. We admired it from afar and snapped some photos. We traveled down High Lonesome Road made famous by J.A. Jance in her Joanna Brady series and took a look at the ruins of Gleeson which was once a thriving copper mining community.
Here’s a quick history lesson about Gleeson. Originally the Apaches mined turquoise in the area, but prospectors came in around 1890 to look for gold, silver, copper, etc. A rich copper vein was discovered by John Gleeson, who staked out a claim for his Copper Belle Mine in 1900. The town of Gleeson was quickly established and the population grew to about 500 in no time. In 1912, a fire swept through and destroyed many of the buildings, but mining was going strong and the town was rebuilt. The population continued to grow to about 1,000. There was a post office, stores, school, saloon, jail, residences, and even a hospital back in the day.
John Gleeson sold out in 1914 and the mine continued on, doing well through World War I. Copper prices fell after the war and by the time of the Great Depression, mining was a struggling industry. Most of the residents had moved away by 1939, although there was still some mining activity until 1958.
Gleeson is typical of the boom towns that sprang up around Cochise County in the 1800s and early 1900s, and most of them met similar fates. Like the April wind, they rushed in and out, tumbleweed towns that were here today and gone tomorrow. But it’s fun to imagine what life was like in those rough-and-tumble days of the Old West and soak in the beautiful scenery that is timeless.