Our October Map of the Month is this 1963 map titled “Arizona’s Lost Mines and Ghost Towns”. It features some of Arizona’s most famous lost mines and ghost towns as well as the more obscure, and it includes many illustrations related to Arizona’s history and the “Wild West” era that these towns and mines were established in.
In the mid-1800s, Arizona experienced a rush of settlers after the discovery that its hostile environment was accompanied by a multitude of mineral and precious metal deposits. So many settlers were eager to tap into the money in mining Arizona that the sudden population boom required the establishment of new towns for miners and their families to live in. These “boom towns'' were often very near the mines and the majority of their inhabitants were dependent upon the mine as a source of income. This dependence led them to be bustling and full of life while the mines had a good yield, but as mines began to slow production and a decline in metal and mineral prices occurred, the towns quickly died out and were often completely abandoned. This increase in ghost town numbers was accompanied by an increasing number of lost mines as owners and discoverers of prolific mines took the secret of the mine locations to the grave and old Indigenous and Spanish legends of fabulous treasures surfaced among settlers.
Several of these lost mines were rumored to be located in the vicinity of Phoenix, including the Lost Pima Indian Mine, Dr. Thornes Lost Mine, Rich Silver Ledge, and the most famous of all: The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. The legend of the mine goes that a German man named Jacob Waltz discovered it in the Superstition Mountains sometime in the 1860s-70s and kept its location to himself until on his deathbed, when he told his caretaker about it and drew her a crude map of its location. Despite this supposed map, all searches for the mine came up empty and it went undiscovered. This in itself was no great phenomenon in a region with several other lost mines, but the legend of the Lost Dutchman’s Curse launched this mine to national fame as the remains of one man who went missing while looking for the mine were discovered with a bullet wound in his skull. This was the first of several mysterious disappearances and deaths of people in pursuit of the Lost Dutchman’s gold, effectively immortalizing a mine that otherwise would have faded into local legend like most other lost mines.
This map also shows some of Arizona’s (and the United States’) most famous ghost towns, including the ever-famed Tombstone. In its prime, Tombstone epitomized what it meant to be a Wild West boom town as it grew to include a population of miners, cowboys, saloon owners, and gunslingers. The town is best known for the infamous O.K. Corral shootout where lawman Wyatt Earp, his brothers Virgil and Morgan, and Doc Holliday got into a deadly gunfight with five local outlaws. Despite the international intrigue this gunfight aroused, the town’s silver mine eventually ran into problems and was closed, leading many of the townspeople to abandon the town until an industry of tourism saved it from becoming a complete ghost town.
In addition to all the ghost towns and lost mines on this map, there are also quite a few historic military forts as well as a variety of illustrations of historic events and figures that played a large role in Arizona history. Most of these military forts were created to provide troops to enforce the various treaties made with New Spain/Mexico and the Indigenous treaties in the region, and later to protect settlers as many Indigenous leaders and individuals grew hostile at their abusive treatment and began attacking settlements in retaliation.
This map also has several border illustrations, all of which continue the in-map depictions of historically significant events or people. One of the most prominent of these illustrations is a group of unidentified soldiers who appear to be from the Civil War Era, possibly depicting the 1862 Battle of Picacho Pass where Union and Confederate troops engaged in combat next to Picacho Peak. This was the only Civil War battle to occur in the then Confederate Territory of Arizona and is commonly regarded as the westernmost battle of the Civil War.
The most visually shocking illustrations on this map’s border depict common perils of life in the Wild West that are often overlooked in the face of a romanticized view. From the years when the Wild West was still alive until the 1960s, most Americans had a soft spot for this romantic Wild West of bold explorers, brave men seeking their own fortune, and a prosperous land of opportunity. The social changes around this map’s production in the 1960s brought these beliefs into question for the first time as more people began to study the history of the Wild West as an era that was also full of great lawlessness and violence. The images above allude to this much darker side of the Wild West even while being part of a map that romanticizes Arizona’s legendary ghost towns and lost mines.
We hope you enjoyed this look at our October Map of the Month! To request a high resolution scan of this map or schedule an appointment to explore the collection in person, please submit a service request to the Map and Geospatial Hub. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for November’s Map of the Month and follow us on Facebook for all Map and Geospatial Hub updates!
-Kelsey Kerley, Map and GIS Assistant