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Wed Sep 30, 2020, 01:25 AM

Once a boom town, now a ghost town. Always a hometown.

Centuries-old sycamore trees tower over the dry riverbed of Harshaw Creek, in the Patagonia Mountains of southern Arizona. Where houses once stood, flat barren earth stretches to the base of nearby low oak-covered hills. A crumbling wooden building, relic of a mining supervisor's home, and a cemetery are all that remain of what once was one of the West’s richest mining towns.

Now a ghost town, Harshaw was one of nine mining camps in the area that saw waves of prospectors come and go in the 19th century. It held some of the Arizona Territory’s highest-grade silver, lead and gold ore, so when the U.S. government passed the General Mining Act in 1872, giving prospectors the right to claim mineral deposits on public land for no more than $5 per acre, investors poured in. A patchwork of mining claims soon covered the region, with 40 operations in Harshaw alone. Within three decades, the Patagonia Mountains had produced 79% of all the ore processed in the territory, with a total value exceeding $2.5 trillion yearly in today’s currency.

With the mines came thousands of workers and their families, most of them Mexican Americans and Latinos. For nearly a century, they drilled and transported ore through tunnels for $2 a day — half of what their Anglo counterparts earned. But in 1925, and again in the 1950s, the combination of collapsing metal prices and exhausted mineral veins sent the mining companies looking elsewhere, leaving tons of untreated mineral waste behind and no future for the workers who’d powered the industry. Now, more than half a century later, mining is coming back to Harshaw: South32, an Australia-based polymetallic mining company, estimates that there are still at least 155 million tons of high-grade metals hidden deep underground. It is currently doing exploratory drilling half a mile away from the ghost town, acquiring permits and gearing up to operate in the near future. But whether modern mining — with its much greater profits and the promise of better environmental safeguards — will leave a better legacy this time around remains to be seen.

FRANK, HENRY, MIKE AND JUAN SOTO grew up in Harshaw in the 1940s and ’50s with their parents and three sisters. On a recent spring day, they sat around their family dining table on the south side of Tucson, 70 miles north of Harshaw. Angelita Soto, the fourth of the siblings, joined in by phone as the conversation flew back and forth in English and Spanish. The siblings laughed and reminisced about their childhoods: the pranks they played on each other, their backyard with its bounty of black walnuts, acorns, watercress and fruit trees. The Soto kids grew up running around barefoot, without tap water or electricity. “We were poor, but we had everything,” said Angelita.

Read more: https://www.hcn.org/issues/52.11/south-mining-once-a-boom-town-now-a-ghost-town-always-a-hometown
(High Country News)

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Reply Once a boom town, now a ghost town. Always a hometown. (Original post)
TexasTowelie Sep 2020 OP
byronius Sep 2020 #1
Kali Oct 2020 #2
byronius Oct 2020 #3
Kali Oct 2020 #4
ChazII Oct 2020 #5

Response to TexasTowelie (Original post)

Wed Sep 30, 2020, 01:39 AM

1. Rural Arizona is full of interesting pockets.

We used to go to Bisbee all the time. Loved it. Loved Tucson. Flagstaff. The Mogollon Rim.

I left in the early eighties after Mecham. But I went to high school at McClintock in Tempe, college at U of A, ASU -- I don't recognize Tempe anymore.

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Response to byronius (Reply #1)

Thu Oct 1, 2020, 12:18 AM

2. McClintock eh?

I lived in North Tempe but went to Coronado. Born in Flag, lived in Tempe, Tucson, and now in Cochise County between Benson and Willcox. I also went to both ASU and UofA.

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Response to Kali (Reply #2)

Thu Oct 1, 2020, 01:27 AM

3. I loved U of A.

Only stayed a year, though, until the parents got caught up in the giant wave of early eighties divorces.

Good and bad memories, but formative. I got spooked when I went back for a high school reunion. Too different.

I belong in NorCal. But I do remember Papago Park, and the trampoline place, and Legend City, and the ASU theater department.

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Response to byronius (Reply #3)

Thu Oct 1, 2020, 01:47 AM

4. the trampoline place!

with the sprinkler, and then to Pizza Hut after. lost my first pair of glasses there. what a scene. all rides tickets at LC for my birthday several years in a row, then concerts in later years out front (what was the name of the venue?) lived right across the canal from Papago Park. must have been at UofA around the same time. I did about 2 years there before giving up on academia.

lived in the Bay Area a couple of times. Menlo Park when I was young, el Cerrito when I was younger.

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Response to Kali (Reply #2)

Thu Oct 1, 2020, 05:51 PM

5. Hi to a fellow Don.

Class of '76 and my son '04.

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