Thursday, February 7, 2013
Feb 7 - Ghost Town Fairbank Arizona
Founded in 1881 and located along the banks of the San Pedro River, it was a stop along a stagecoach line and, a little later, the New Mexico and Arizona railroad which was built to service the mining activities in nearby Tombstone. It quickly grew to be a valued transportation and supply hub, eventually serving three separate rail lines. The town had an elegant hotel with a restaurant and bar, a post office, several businesses, and a schoolhouse.
Over it's first few years Fairbank endured floods, an earthquake, and even an infamous attempted train robbery. Even though mining declined significantly during the first half of the 20th century, good old Fairbank struggled on. There was still a countable population of folks into the 1950s but it was slowly dying and by the 1970s only a roadside store remained. In the mid-70s the last residents closed the store and moved away.
Now public land and managed by the BLM, a handful of original wood and adobe buildings remain and Fairbank has become a minor weekend tourist stop for those seeking a view of history and, like us, heading out on trails through the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, which surrounds it.
The Fairbank Loop Trail we chose was about 4 miles, and we probably added another mile or so with a side trip to the Fairbank Cemetery and another to the ruins of a stamping mill -- a ore processing facility that liberated silver from the crushed ore through the use of mercury. During the heyday, there were 7 of these stamping mills along this stretch of the San Pedro River which processed the ore from more than 50 silver mines in the Tombstone Hills a few miles away.
In the dry Southwest we're used to seeing rivers with absolutely no water in them, especially during this time of the year. But the San Pedro was flowing the day we were there, not a huge flow by any means, but enough to suggest the reason these mills were located here, and why the town thrived for a period.