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Gleeson Arizona Mines

Last Updated: 22nd Feb 2017

By Rolf Luetcke

Gleeson Arizona Mines
By Rolf Luetcke

The mines of Gleeson go back historically just after the discovery of the Tombstone silver deposits around 1879 to 1880. After the area of Tombstone was claimed, prospectors moved to surrounding areas and at first discovered gold at the Gold Hill by Signal Hill, thirteen miles East of Tombstone and another gold deposit at the Golden Rule Mine, near the present town of Dragoon. Then in 1887 the Copper Bell Mine was discovered and claimed near what was then called Turquoise because of the early turquoise mines mined by the Indians. The Copper Bell also had 9 other adjacent claims under its ownership, each with a separate name. The Copper Bell was worked until about 1957, when it closed for good. The Copper Bell went down to about 600 feet with many underground tunnels and numerous levels. The Copper Bell was the largest mine in the Gleeson area. Much of my information comes from a 1927 University of Arizona bulletin on the Geology and Ore Deposits of the Courtland-Gleeson Region in Arizona. This paper was a wealth of information but since I tried to use an online copy I was not able to access the plate with the maps of the actual mine locations.
In 1888 the Tejon Mine was discovered and claimed. This was another of the larger mines of the Gleeson area and went about 518 feet deep with numerous levels and tunnels. It closed about 1954. Another mine of the Gleeson area was the Tom Scott Mine, started about 1880 and closed around 1954 also. The Silver Bill Mine was started in 1900. The Silver Bill was owned by the same man who had the Mystery Mine on the NE side of the hills and a 780 foot tunnel was dug under the mountain to join with the Mystery Mine and most of the ore was taken out by the Mystery Mine entrance because the access at the time was by wagon at the rail head in Cochise and the Mystery Mine was a lot closer. The Silver Bill was the mine that was worked the longest and closed about 1978. The Defiance Mine was discovered in 1900 and produced only about ten thousand tons of ore until it closed in 1958. The Defiance Mine was also worked for specimens for a few years by one man who was caretaker of the mining properties of the Gleeson area. When I did some work for a friend on his collection I was gifted a wonderful rosasite which came from the Silver Bill. I had seen other specimens from the Silver Bill and wondered when and how those came out. There were attempts at smelting at Gleeson but those were not efficient and failed so ore was transported to Cochise and the railroad to move the ore to smelters from there.
My own history with Gleeson goes back to the early 1970's when I was looking for collecting areas in Cochise County. I drove to Gleeson and saw many mines in the area. At that time the bar at the center of old Gleeson was still open and several other houses had activity. The mines close to the small cluster of buildings in Gleeson were posted and fenced so I drove a bit North of town on a small dirt road to the set of hills behind and North of Gleeson. There were a couple of small side dirt roads that went to the mines . I took one dirt road and it quickly got rough and steep. The mine I was headed toward was the Defiance mine. My old VW bus did well on these dirt roads since it had high ground clearance and the engine in back gave good traction to the wheels and even with car stopping ditches and steep climbs I made it up to the mine.
I parked at the dumps and collected specimens for use in boxed mineral collections. Not a lot of really nice specimens lying around on the dumps but I used a lot of low end specimen to break up for the collections I was making. I explored the Defiance mine and close by mines. There was a big steel door over the Defiance Mine itself and it was locked so no way into the mine here. The old head frame was on the S end of the dump but nothing was open here. To the North a little was a smaller opening and there was a lot of wulfenite here. I found a number of habits of the crystals, including blocky brown crystals that reminded me of the Mexican wulfenite from Los Lamentos. There were also long pyramidal crystals that were quite interesting. This small digging didn't go in very far and was at a steep upward angle. Besides the wulfenite I was looking for here I also found cerussite in nice crystals, a few specimens of jarosite and a number of other less common minerals.
I had wanted to go and visit the other mines of the Gleeson area but since they were posted and closed off with fencing I decided it was not a good idea to tempt fate. I had heard the other mines closer to Gleeson were copper mines and those were actually the minerals I loved to collect.
Since the northern area was open at this time I took one trip to collect at the Defiance mine and decided to camp overnight. I drove up to the mine and at the lower dump I wanted to collect found a level place to park. I collected until near dark and then gathered some wood to do a little camp fire and roast a few hot dogs. I went to sleep and sometime around midnight I heard a car engine that woke me up and I looked around. There was someone driving slowly up the little dirt road to the mine. I remembered one particular ditch that took a bit of skill to go through but after years of driving on dirt roads I made it through fine. As the vehicle got to the ditch I heard it attempt to navigate the ditch several times without success and finally give up and turn around. This was a good reason not to have a fire that is visible from far away.
I assumed it was someone that lived in the area and had probably been at the bar and had seen my camp fire and was driving up to see what I was doing up there. I was happy for my driving skills and thought that was the end of it. No such luck. When the vehicle got way down toward the main dirt road I saw it again turn around and head up the road again toward the mine. I had no gun along and wondered if the people meant me harm. I was a bit worried but most of the people of the area were not dangerous and I hoped it was the case here.
When the vehicle got to the ditch it stopped and I saw someone get out and walk around the front of the vehicle and I knew what they were doing, engaging their four wheel drive. Sure enough, they got through the ditch this time and pulled up in the little pick up next to me. They asked what I was doing up there. I said I was collecting at the mine and decided to camp out. It turns out they had been at the bar and had seen my camp fire. They decided to see what I was doing and had nothing else to do out in Gleeson. When I said I had been sleeping and would like to go back to sleep they backed up and left. It took a long time to fall back to sleep and since they had been drinking at the bar and had a rifle in their gun rack I did have some worries but they left me alone.
It was the last time I camped out at the mine. A couple of years later the roads to the outlying mines were closed off and fenced and posted. The whole area became off limits to collecting in the late 1970's.
There is a friend in Phoenix who knew the watchman at the Gleeson mines. The watchman lived in a small trailer next to the bar and was actually going underground at the Defiance Mine and working out wulfenite specimens in the 1970's to early 1980's. The friend would go down occasionally to check up on the old fellow since he told me he used dynamite in the mine to loosen rock to collect. He didn't think the mine was safe and also checked up on the fellow to make sure the mine had not trapped him with rock falls. The rock which contained the wulfenite was quite fragile and the walls not very solid and often collapsed without warning. There was no timbering where the watchman worked and at that time there were no mine inspectors overseeing personal collecting operations. I know the inspectors were in Arizona but this was long before private collecting mines were opened up and it became a more common practice to work old mines for specimens.
I don't know how long the active collecting took place but our Phoenix friend said the old fellow had stopped the collecting when I had asked about it.
I had wanted to get to the mines but with the posting and fencing and still residences within sight of all of the mines I never went back for collecting.
I just went out to the area in 2017 to help a friend with some sampling a mile or two from Gleeson and decided to get some photos of the mines so I could post them on the mindat pages since very few had photos of the mines. I drove the dirt roads and got photos of all of the mines there and the outlying mines I was helping with.
When I got home and downloaded the photos from my camera I decided to match the names of the mines with the photos. Big surprise when I looked at various sources and found some of the mines were in the right places but the majority of the mines right near Gleeson were not. Some were way off. I got out my Mining Properties of Cochise County book and saw the map on the Gleeson mines was so small I had to put it under the microscope to even make a larger map of the mining properties. What this showed was that the symbols on mindat were different than the main group of mines I found in the book and further work with the satellite map showed that to actually place the right location with the mine may not be that easy. The claims were practically right on top of each other in a couple of areas. I also found that other literature didn't give precise locations of the mines either so none of what I have found gave me confidence to be able to sort out the right mines with their names. In research on the internet a few other bits of information came up that made for even more confusion. A satellite map showed the mines nicely but it did not correspond to the other things I had found. A topographic map showed even more mines in the immediate Gleeson group but no names with the symbols and it was not close enough to make any matches. I am at the moment waiting for correspondence with an Arizona Geological Survey gentleman. One paper gave more precise information but it was from 1927 and when it showed a fold out map, the internet didn't have this map available. Another dead end. Eventually I think I will figure out the proper locations and can post photos of the mines on mindat. I have often found the coordinates listed in the literature do not correspond to the Topographic CD I have where I can zoom into a mine location and read the numbers from the CD. I don't know if this is due to errors in transposing the numbers or if the early readings were done on poor equipment.
Another reason for writing this article was to also show how difficult it often is to put names to individual mines in groups of mines. I have run into this quite a few times with groups of mines I have worked on in Southeastern Arizona. I have found it a huge task to straighten out the mines of the Courtland area. I have tried several times in Courtland but given up because I know what a tremendous job it would be to get things right there. Gleeson was a lot smaller but I have found just as complicated. Even attempting to get the mines of the small Gold Camp area straight has proven to be a problem as well.
When I lived in Bisbee and it was all under one company I never gave it much thought but obtaining a 1919 topographic map showed hundreds of separate mines in the Bisbee hills. Those all went under the one name of Bisbee eventually when the one company had bought up and consolidated all the smaller claims. In posting specimens from Bisbee I have found many can be traced to individual mines. Having lived there for a number of years I realized this as I found places to collect. Late on I discovered one location I had always known as one mine was in fact two separate named mines. Even just this year I found photographs on facebook using the one name when the mine was actually a different name. Funny thing is that the people posting are Bisbee residents and even most of the people who know minerals in Bisbee are not aware of the separate names of these two mines. Just some examples of how hard it is to make sure you have the correct location with the correct name of the mine.
Gleeson produced a lot of ore in the days the mines were in operation but now they are closed and the area is abandoned for mining. There is still no access since the area is fenced and posted heavily. Since there are people living in sight of pretty much all of the mines it is not a good idea to wander around there. I have heard of people being arrested for going to the mines and don't know if it is just a story or if it has actually happened. More people are moving into the old Gleeson area since it is a wonderfully scenic area. Right across from the Gleeson bar is a road that goes to a development now and is called High Lonesome Road. It follows the valley south and eventually connects to highway 80 outside of the Mule Mountains near Bisbee. I had driven this road a few times back in the 1970's and at that time it was a real adventure. I don't know if this road is still open to driving or has been closed off by the development.
When I visited Gleeson back in the early 1970's there were many old buildings still standing but over time they have mostly been reduced to rubble. The main reason for this was that someone had published an article in a treasure magazine and it told how the early residents had hidden bricks and cubbyholes in their walls and often when they left the stashes were left behind. This led to a lot of people going to the old ghost towns and knocking down the walls looking for possible loot left behind. I don't know if there was an article telling this since I was never shown the article but I had heard if from more than one source. Many old ghost towns I had visited long ago now have very few standing buildings and I wonder if it was because of the treasure story of just weather taking its toll.
The friend I just went with on the sampling trip was working a location a bit East of Gleeson and that area is posted as well but since he has the claim it was fine to be working it. It is called the Wisconsin Group but from a mineral collectors standpoint, I found nothing to collect, only a sample or two to identify any minerals in the material.
I don't know if the mines of Gleeson have any potential for specimens if the area were opened to collecting again but seeing what has happened to many of the mining areas of Arizona, I doubt whether there will be any collecting allowed in the future.
I am still working on trying to put mine name with actual location and if I am successful I will post the photos I have taken.

A bit more information I just received from a geologist friend who has a map of all the patented claims in Gleeson and while there are over fifty individual claims, they do not match the present day mine names we use. The claims are also measured plots on the map and don't correspond to the actual mine entrances and the names of those are not listed, only the claim names. So, it does seem that to actually put names onto the mine dumps visible today will not easily happen. I now know why the confusion exists in naming the dumps one can see on the satellite map.
Unfortunately it leaves the area as the Gleeson mines. I was able to identify the one striking feature in the Gleeson area and that is the mine with the head frame and water tower is from the Copper Belle Mine.
If more information is uncovered I will post it also.

I do have a last addition to this story. I did get a response from the State of Arizona and in the second email it was admitted that I was not alone in the problems I was having. It seems they had been attempting to consolidate their various information and found the same as I had, the information didn't match from different sources. It was stated that to solve the problem would be a huge and time consuming enterprise, maybe taking years. They said that even on site study may not actually solve the problem.
So, I am not the only person pulling back from trying to figure out the various mines in a small group of mines. It seems that it may not be possible to attach the proper names to the various shafts and dumps of the Gleeson area. I had thought of doing this with Courtland also and this experience has shown me that an even larger mine district with many more mines would be impossible to clear up.
Thank you for your nice comments on my collecting articles.

Article has been viewed at least 1639 times.



Thanks for another nice story! However, it is disturbing to hear of so many areas becoming closed-off, especially in a state like Arizona.


Kyle Beucke
20th Feb 2017 1:21am
It is always a pleasure to read your articles. Your stories always breathe that typical Arizona atmosphere!

Best regards,
Mario Pauwels

Mario Pauwels
21st Feb 2017 4:27pm
I might be able to add to the confusion. There's a website that I've found to be pretty accurate, even though it's a little cumbersome. The following link will take you to Cochise County: www.us-mining.com/arizona/cochise-county You can zoom in and out, and toggle between map and satellite views. When you "hover" your mouse above a dot on the map it will tell you what name (if any) corresponds to that location. Unfortunately sometimes there are duplicate entries with the same name at different locales (I just checked the Defiance Mine for instance). The dots are also sometimes offset from the real location, but they're usually close enough that you can figure out where they actually go. Now the wild card: I have no idea where they get their info from. All I know is that for Missouri (I'm in St Louis) overall the locales are very good. By the way, this site has info for all of the US. Just start at www.us-mining.com and navigate to where you want to investigate. Good luck!


Kevin Conroy
22nd Feb 2017 5:27pm
Thanks for the added info, will check it out. Problem is I have several sources of literature here, maps that show the original patents of the claims, Az. USGS site with google and zoom into mines etc. Have done all of them and with the satellite view made my own maps but all the various sources don't seem to fit. That is why I said enough is enough. At least for me. When the State USGS said the same thing I let it all go for now. Problem is it is all on my free time and I much rather do "fun" stuff than the drudgery of the map/location thing. Every source I have accessed seems to have a different location and not knowing which one to use has made me pull back.
Thanks and will look at it when I regroup my Gleeson energy.

Rolf Luetcke
22nd Feb 2017 6:39pm

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