Two Guns Tower

Arizona Ghost Town Tour

This is a guide I made for our March 2008 Spring Break road trip to camp in Arizona for 9 days. Me and Ross drove down from Portland in a rented SUV while my friend Lisa met us in Las Vegas. The drive down was fairly quick. We stopped to take photos while it was light.

I’ll try to keep them in the order we went to them in. I got most of my info from random historical websites and “Ghost Town” dedicated websites around the internet. If I remember which they are I’ll post some links. I added my own info to some sections based on my experience there and the photos are all mine.

We mostly camped on Reservations, 2 nights in scummy motels. Reservations are great because most the time you can just find a dirt road, drive down it, camp – and no one will bother you unless you’re in their back yard. 

Two Guns

COUNTY: Coconino
ROADS: 2WD
WHERE: On I-40 about 30 miles east of Flagstaff – has its own exit. Exit 230. (google)
REMAINS: Extensive ruins of 20th century commercial enterprises, 19th century old national highway and several Indian ruins. A cave where a week long stand-off took place.
Info from: http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/az/twoguns.html
Photos by: Katya Laroche

Two Guns was, in the past, the site of a major confrontation between the Navajos and the Apaches in the 19th century. Its modern history begins when the site is recognized as an easy place to cross Canyon Diablo–first, by wagon, and then later by motor cars. It was originally called “Canyon Lodge” when the National Trail Highway moved westward; when the Trail was re-named Route 66, the site’s name was changed to Two Guns, because the proprietor of the facilities located there was one Henry E. Miller, who called himself “Two Gun Miller” (for reasons unknown). During the heyday of Route 66, Two Guns became one of the numerous tourist traps along the way, with a gas station, overnight accommodations, a food emporium, etc., as well as the zoo (signs of which are still visible from the Interstate). Two Guns went into decline with the building of Interstate 40; although numerous resuscitations have been attempted (including by the owner of The Main Event, in Quartzsite), it is today fenced off (not when I was there Spring 08). (Supposedly) There is a caretaker who is quite vociferous about keeping people away in order to make certain that what is left is not vandalized or stolen.) Remains: The old bridge across Canyon Diablo which was a part of the National Trail and Route 66 is still standing; there are also numerous ruins associated with the zoo, as well as the remnants of buildings associated with various eras of Two Guns past. There are also the abandoned (modern) gas station and the camp grounds buildings, both visible from the Interstate.

A group of Navajo were attacked by Calvary there. They were out numbered and with no where to run, they heldup in a small cave there. They had to shoot their horses and stack them in front of the cave for protection. They held off the attack for three days until the Calvary burned them alive in the cave. It’s really freaky to walk around the cave, you WILL need a flashlight, assuming you can find the cave at all. Back in the day when Two Guns was still functioning, they told people that it was Calvary that were help up in the cave. We got a tour from a local from the nearby reservation who told us the real story. Watch your head, I hit it on a small door in the cave and had a headache for days. Also watch for bats.

two guns gas station
two guns gas station polaroid
Two Guns Gas Pumps
Two Guns Gas Pumps
Two Guns Tower
Two Guns Tower, Brownie Bullet

Two Guns Cave

Dos Cabezas

ROADS: 2WD
WHERE: To get to Dos Cabezas, head east on I-10 from Phoenix or Tucson to Willcox. Take SR186 south to Dos Cabezas. (google)
Photos by: Katya Laroche

STORY: Named after the double peaks of the nearby mountains, Dos Cabezas (Spanish for “two heads”) is a ghost town in Southern Arizona’s Cochise County, south of Willcox. Gold and silver found in the mountains brought miners and their families to the town in the late 1870’s, with its population reaching approximately 4000 folks. A stage depot soon followed, and eventually became a Wells Fargo station. The town boasted many businesses from a barbershop to a brewery to a brickyard. As mining findings became scarce, people moved on. The Dos Cabezas’ post office was officially closed in 1960.

When arriving at Dos Cabezas, the cemetery will be your first sighting. Distinct from other area ghost towns, this cemetery has been well maintained making it a favorite of genealogists and historians. Other features include an operational frontier relics museum, and buildings such as houses, the stage stop, and the dance hall.

dos cabezas cemetery
dos cabezas cemetery
dos cabezas house
dos cabezas house

Pearce

WHERE: To get to Pearce, take I-10 east from Tucson or Phoenix to exit 318. Turn right onto Dragoon Road, right again onto US-191, and exit at Pearce Road. (google)

Info: http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/az/pearce.html
Photos by: Katya Laroche

STORY: In 1894, Jimmie Pearce struck gold. He had been a miner some time before, but left the backbreaking job to run a boarding house with his wife. After years of scrimping and saving, they were able to buy a parcel of land, where Jimmie found his gold. The ensuing town was named Pearce, and eventually Jimmie sold his mine, the Commonwealth, for a hefty $250,000. His shrewd wife had the foresight to include a clause in the contract that allowed them to operate a boarding house at the mine, which they ran until the 1930’s.
Many old buildings remain in Pearce, including the still-operating post office, a school, and the general store, which is now a museum.

Pearce, AZ Jail - Duaflex Camera
Pearce, AZ Jail - Duaflex Camera

Courtland

ROADS: 4WD, maybe 2WD
WHERE: To travel to Courtland, take I-10 east from Phoenix or Tucson to exit 318. Turn right onto Dragoon Road, drive about 13 miles and make a right onto US-191. After about 26 miles, you will arrive at Courtland Road.
Info: http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/az/courtland.html
Photos by: Katya Laroche

STORY: Prior to becoming a Southern Arizona ghost town, Courtland was quite modern in its heyday. The progressive town of about 2000 inhabitants boasted running water, electricity, telegraphs and telephones, a movie theatre, a public swimming pool, an auto company, and even two newspapers. Although Courtland did survive the depression, its post office officially closed in 1942.
While Courtland offers more than a few structures and mining remains to discover, the most prominent is its jail. The jail’s construction of solid concrete, built sturdily to assure no prisoners would escape, allowed it to stand up to time and the elements.

Courtland, AZ, - Brownie
Courtland, AZ, - Brownie

Courtland Jail
Courtland Jail

Gleeson

WHERE: To travel to Gleeson, take I-10 east from Phoenix or Tucson to AZ-80 east. Turn left onto Davis Road, and left again at High Lonesome Road (google)
Info: http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/az/gleeson.html
Photos by: Katya Laroche

STORY: Native Americans mined turquoise in the Dragoon Mountains long before white men arrived there in the late 1800’s. Gleeson, Arizona was originally named for the bluish-green stone, although the miners mainly found copper, silver, and gold in Turquoise. After Jimmie Pearce established the Commonwealth, most forsook Turquoise for greener – or perhaps “golder” – pastures.
In 1900, an Irishman named John Gleeson began prospecting the Turquoise area and opened the Copper Belle mine. The former Turquoise post office reopened as Gleeson, but the mine shut down following World War I. Ruins of a hospital, jail, and saloon are among the sites worth seeing

Gleeson AZ
Gleeson AZ
Click for a larger view

Tombstone

WHERE: To experience Tombstone, take I-10 east from Tucson or Phoenix. Turn right onto SR-80 to Safford Street.
(google)
Info: http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/az/tombstone.html
Photos by: Katya Laroche

STORY: Although Tombstone is a commonly known tourist favorite, and has a current population of about 1500 people, it still ranks on this list. Warned that all he would find would be his tombstone, prospector Ed Schieffelin brazenly donned the area such as he sought his fortune in the hills.

Visitors to Tombstone can behold such spots as the Bird Cage Theater Museum, Boothill Graveyard, and Wyatt Earp’s house. Tombstone is a cornucopia of Old West history with homes, businesses, and cemeteries that have been lovingly preserved and expertly restored to provide a convincing example of what life was once like in Southern Arizona’s ghost towns.

Tombstone Gun Fight
Tombstone Gun Fight
tombstone tourists
tombstone tourists

Fairbank

ROADS: 2WD, Walking / Hiking
WHERE: To visit Fairbank, head east on I-10 from Phoenix or Tucson. Take AZ-80 east, and turn right onto AZ-82 to Old Fairbank Road. (google)
Info: unknown
Photos by: Katya Laroche

STORY: The Southern Arizona railroad junction town of Fairbank went through numerous name changes between its formation in 1881 and the establishment of its post office in 1883. Some folks called the town “Wye” because of the Y-shaped railroad spur. Others dubbed it “Kendall” after a railroad engineer. When the town finally got a post office, it was baptized “Fairbanks.” The letter ‘s’ was dropped upon the realization that the town’s namesake – Nathaniel K. Fairbank, who organized Grand Central Mining Company – didn’t have one.
Upon the end of the silver boom in the 1890’s, the once-thriving city dwindled. In 1901, a wealthy California family acquired the town’s land and evicted all its inhabitants – with the option of renting their own homes to them. Infuriated, many of the remaining locals burned their homes to the ground before departing, giving Fairbank its Southern Arizona ghost town status. Some of the remaining structures include the school, the mercantile, and a handful of homes. (didn’t see any but the cemetery was cool)

Lisa at Fairbanks Graveyard
Lisa at Fairbank Graveyard
fairbanks trail
Fairbank, AZ trail

Old San Carlos

(under water but the drive looking for it was well worth it and the area is pretty)
ROAD: 4WD (google)
WHERE: San Carlos Reservation, north side of San Carlos Lake, we had to ask at a mini-mart/tackle shop.
Photos by: Katya Laroche

San Carlos, AZ
San Carlos, AZ

Sasco

ROADS: 4WD, DIRT

WHERE: To visit Sasco, take I-10 (east from Phoenix, or west from Tucson) to exit 226, which is Sasco Road. Stay on Sasco Road for about 7 miles, past a stockyard. You will see the ghost town to your right. Avoid the area during monsoon season, as you will be traveling on a dirt road.
Info: http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/az/sasco.html
Photos by: Katya Laroche

STORY: Sasco is about as far north as a town can be without considered it Central Arizona, but it definitely warrants mention. Named for the Southern Arizona Smelting Company, the town was built in 1907 for workers of the smelter and their families, with a population peak of 600. Between the closing of the smelter and the nation-wide influenza epidemic, the town was deserted by 1919.
Although Sasco is one of the more difficult Southern Arizona ghost towns to reach, it is worth the trouble. Remains to see include The Rockland Hotel, expansive smelter structures, the jail, and a quaint cemetery scattered with simple, white crosses.

Like the mines in the nearby ghost town of Silverbell, Sasco’s stamp mills were a great asset to local industry. Unlike the nearby town of Silverbell, Sasco isn’t buried under tons of tailings from a new mining operation. Looks like Sasco is a new favorite for paint ball enthusiasts, and it also seems to be a local shooting gallery; last time I was there, there were literally bullets flying over my head from someone who badly needed target practice. Bottom line, be careful when you visit. Located just outside the new Ironwood National Monument, Pima County, Arizona.

Sasco, AZ
Sasco, AZ


Click for Larger View

Places I looked up but didn’t have time to visit:

Lochiel

(unverified)
WHERE: To reach Lochiel, travel south on I-19 from Phoenix to US-89 south. Turn right on AZ-82, right on Kino Springs Drive, and right onto Duquesne Road, ending in Lochiel
STORY: Lochiel lays claim to a colorful history. In 1539, a Spanish Franciscan priest named Fray Marcos de Niza entered the San Rafael Valley in this border town on his quest for the Seven Cities of Gold. Pancho Villa found Lochiel – named by a family of ranchers who hailed from Lochiel, Scotland – a prime spot to rustle cattle.
Most of Lochiel’s 400 residents were ranchers, but the many nearby mines in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s supplemented the town. Many old buildings remain to be admired including church, deserted homes, and the old U.S. Customs building.

Sunnyside

(unverified)
WHERE: Follow I-10 east from Phoenix or Tucson to AZ-83 south. Turn left onto Sunnyside Road. You will need a four-wheel drive vehicle for this dirt road.
STORY: Sunnyside is the only Southern Arizona ghost town known to have been completely occupied by a religious group. Sam Donnelly was sent to the area by the Salvation Army to establish a “holiness mission” in Tombstone. He became disenchanted with what he saw as the church’s hypocrisy, and eventually settled in Sunnyside with a few of his Tombstone converts. Friends and correspondents of Donnelly, who lead other converts there, joined them.
The “Donnellites” worked hard at the nearby mine. They lived communally, eating together and pooling their individual incomes and talents. They were an exceedingly generous society, lending a hand whenever they saw a need. In 1897, Brother Donnelly faced scrutiny after accusations of child abuse and detaining inhabitants against their will. The charges were later dismissed. Brother Donnelly died in 1901. His followers buried him at the Lone Star Mine. By 1903, Sunnyside was deserted. There are a handful of buildings still standing in Sunnyside, as well as the skeleton of a windmill and remains of a water tower.
Although it is somewhat of a trek to reach Sunnyside, its remains and lush surrounding are rewarding.

Brunckow’s Cabin

(unverified)
ROADS: 2WD
WHERE: If you are brave enough to visit Brunckow’s Cabin, you can get there by heading east on I-10 from Phoenix or Tucson. Take AZ-80 east about eight miles southwest of Tombstone to Charleston Rd. The cabin can be seen from the road.
STORY: Southern Arizona’s Brunckow’s Cabin, near Tombstone, is not a ghost town per se. However, if you are seeking ethereal sightings it is definitely worth the trip. Built in the mid-1800’s by Frederick Brunckow, a German-born mining engineer, the cabin holds many a dark secret. It is recorded that 21 people have been murdered there, 17 of those prior to 1880. The first killings, according to legend, took place when the mining superintendent left town for supplies. Upon his return four days later, he found the grisly remains of an assayer, a machinist inside the cabin and Brunckow, who was in a mineshaft impaled by a rock drill. The murders were never solved, and there have been numerous reports of ghostly hauntings at the cabin.

Fort Bowie

COUNTY: Cochise
ROADS: 2WD
WHERE: Near Dos Cabezas, Eastern Arizona, South on 186 from Wilcox, East on Apache Pass Rd.
STORY: Fort Bowie was established in 1862 to help in the fight against the Apache Indians and Geronimo. The fort that stands today was built in 1868. In 1886, after Geronimo’s final surrender, Fort Bowie was no longer a military fort and served travelers until 1894. The Second Cavalry troopers packed up and left for their new home in Colorado. The land was sold in 1911 for $1.25 to $2.50 an acre and many of the buildings dismantled. In 1964, the site was authorized to be a National Historic site as it is today. – ghosttowns.com
Ft. Bowie served as a base of operations for the resulting offenses against Geronimo in 1885. The commanding generals at Ft. Bowie during the 1885-86 campaign were Gen. George Crook and Nelson Miles. After Geronimo’s final surrender in 1886, he and his followers, now numbering only 34 were brought to the post. On September 8, as a photographer focused his camera lens on this historic scene, the Apaches were loaded into wagons to begin their journey to Florida where the remainder of the Chiricauhuas at San Carlos had already been exiled. Geronimo later died at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma – Harry & Ingrid McNeer

Aztec

COUNTY: Yuma
ROADS: 4WD
WHERE: Station on the Southern Pacific Railroad. Exit 73 off I-8.
STORY: Two standing buildings, foundations and scrap. One building is completely made of railroad ties. 80 miles east of Yuma. Post Office was established by Charles A. Dallen on September 12, 1889. Just off I-8. Aztec was a stop on the Southern Pacific Railroad line between Phoenix and Yuma.

Camp Rucker

Where: Cochise County, in the Chiricahua Mountains, on Coronado National Forest land near Lake Rucker.
Attraction: Army post during the 1870s and 1880s. Still visible are the bakery, wooden stable and part of the officers’ quarters, remnants of a barn and the commissary and an adobe ruin.

Goldfield

Where: Pinal County, 45 miles east of Phoenix, at the base of the Superstition Mountains near Apache Junction.
Attraction: Built around a gold strike in 1892. Today, it’s a living museum with underground mine and other tours, narrow-gauge railroad, rides, exhibitions and shops. Details: (480) 983-0333.

Copper Creek


(could not find, locals were clueless – even asked a cop)
A large mining complex located on its namesake creek. Few structures remain of the town, but there are many mines still semi-active around the area. The highlight is definitely the Sibley Mansion, formerly a three-story, 20-room edifice along the creek built for mine manager Roy Sibley in 1908. This isn’t a drive-up ghost town; to see the good stuff, you’ll need to hike to it. My hike was gorgeous, though — trees and hummingbirds everywhere along the creek. Located east of Mammoth, in Pinal County, Arizona. Photographed May 2002


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