"Once upon a time there was a town" The ghosts of southeastern Arizona
— H. L. James


What makes a ghost town? A purist will argue that the place must have a population of zero; others say that a caretaker status is acceptable, but must not exceed ten inhabitants. A scholarly approach would be, a high percentage of deserted buildings of distinctive character—and so forth and so on. A reasonable definition might be a town that is a vestige of its former self. The ghost towns of southeastern Arizona are plentiful—the state's richest harvest of Old West lore. Cochise, Santa Cruz and the eastern part of Pima County hold within their boundaries thirty-three former towns and settlements (fig. 1). Available data indicates that populations exceeded 50 residents. Most of the towns had schools and several businesses; a few had newspapers; and all but Mineral Hill and Russellville were on established mail routes.

Having long been dismissed as places of smashed dreams and boarded-up hopes, the ghost town is now experiencing a re-birth of curiosity. Once protected by washed-out roads, sandy arroyos and forbidding terrain, the towns were left to bask and age in desert solitude. Now man has returned—this time in four-wheel drives; intent to ply the plan kings, dig the cellars and sift the dumps for relics of an era past. As they criss-crossed the back-country, some so-called "antique hunters" destroyed what they couldn't take. As a result many of the ghost towns of southeastern Arizona are much less than vestiges of their former selves. As categorized in Table 1, the state of preservation of towns can be divided into three groups: (PI) partly inhabited; (C.D.) completely deserted, but containing structures, foundations, walls, etc.; and (S.R.) site remains (usually rubble mounds and faint cemetary plots).

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Recommended Citation:

  1. James, H. L., 1978, "Once upon a time there was a town" The ghosts of southeastern Arizona, in: Land of Cochise, Callender, J. F.; Wilt, Jan C.; Clemons, R. E.; James, H. L., New Mexico Geological Society, Guidebook, 29th Field Conference, pp. 365-367. https://doi.org/10.56577/FFC-29.365

[see guidebook]