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185 pages
50 minutes
Aug 24, 2015


Before Bisbee became a bustling mining camp, it was a haven to Native Americans for centuries. However, their presence brought the intrusion of army scouts and prospectors into the Mule Mountains. The coincidental discovery of vast mineral wealth at the future site of Bisbee permanently affixed the fate of the land forever. Rising from the remote desert was a dynamic mining city, a city that grew into one of the most influential communities in the West. Bisbee was unique in the Old West because of the mixed moral values. High society and the decadent underworld lived in a delicate balance, but a vibrant multicultural community was forged from these social fires.
Aug 24, 2015

About the author

The Graeme family's ancestors arrived in Bisbee in 1883. Five generations of the family have continued to live and work in the community, including siblings Annie Graeme Larkin, Douglas L. Graeme, and Richard W. Graeme IV. With their deep roots in the community, the family strives to preserve multiple facets of Bisbee's past, including images and minerals. Presently, Annie Graeme Larkin is the curator of the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum, Douglas L. Graeme is the manager of the Queen Mine Tours in Bisbee, and Richard W. Graeme IV is a science teacher at Joyce Clark Middle School in Sierra Vista, Arizona.

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Early Bisbee - Annie Graeme Larkin



On the yellowed, brittle paper of the 1854 map sketched for the Gadsden Purchase, the area that would become Bisbee was blank. During the westward migration, this portion of the Southwest was bypassed. Pioneers faced the high desert’s uncertain supply of water and game. For most explorers, this would have been the primary concern; but here, just staying alive was uppermost in their minds. This was one of the last fighting grounds of the Indian Wars, and the Chiricahua Apaches fiercely protected their lands from intruders. For those who dared to enter the unsettled region, their only protection was the Winchester in their saddle. But the forces that sent people West fueled the desires of some to journey into the dangerous lands. The Arizona Citizen stated that desperate prospectors believed that poverty alone lurked in the rear and [were] somewhat mixed as to whether scalps or fortune hung in the front.

The treacherous mountain range that sheltered Bisbee was initially considered the Lower Dragoons. Legends tell of steep-walled canyons filled with Apache plunder, including numerous mules taken from ravaged Mexican settlements. An 1881 newspaper states that these actions gave the mountain range a new name, Sierra de las Mulas, the Mule Mountains. Conflicting legends claim the area was named for its abundance of mule deer.

The Mule Mountains were known to be dark and bloody grounds, where the Apaches and outlaws took advantage of the close canyons and rugged terrain to ward off unwelcome visitors. In an effort to enable Americans to exploit the natural resources of the area’s untouched land, the US Cavalry moved into the region. Fort Bowie was established in the eastern portion of modern-day Cochise County in 1862. Then, in 1877, the western section became the site of Camp Huachuca. With these military installations established, people began to move into the area.

The first reported journey into the canyon was led by Major Brayton, with a scout named George Warren, around 1869. The men were following the trail of the Apache leader Cochise when Warren noticed rocks containing copper. Duty required the men to continue their hunt for the elusive Cochise, and they moved on. In the winter of 1875, a bold and enterprising prospector named William Garrett entered the Mule Mountains and found evidence of a mineral deposit. However, the find became less intriguing when he also discovered signs that Apaches had recently been in the area. His instincts for survival being stronger than for wealth, the man made a hasty retreat out of the mountains. When Garrett returned to Tucson, he showed the ore samples to D.B. Rea and Maj. William Downing. His efforts involved recruiting men for an expedition to investigate the discovery. However, a group of Apaches, with tempers flared, broke out of the reservation near Fort Bowie. On the warpath, they took the lives of numerous people who had invaded their land along the Sulphur Springs Valley and the upper San Pedro River. As a result, exploration of the area came to a standstill, leaving the tantalizing possibility of mineral wealth unobtainable.

In 1876, the hunt for the renegade Apaches led the 6th US Cavalry into the Mule Mountains. The cavalry party included Indian Agent Tom Jeffords and the son of Cochise, Chief Taza. The men traveled up into what would become known as Mule Gulch. Upon approaching a jagged iron ore outcropping, near what would become the Copper Queen Mine, a battle erupted between the fugitive Apaches and the cavalry. The Apaches utilized the impenetrable rock as a natural fortification to defend themselves from the pursuers. Under the hail of bullets, Taza pleaded with his tribesmen, to no avail. Accepting that further conflict was futile, the cavalry retreated.

According to the Arizona Weekly Citizen, in the winter of 1877, D.B. Rea, along with army scout and guide George Warren, set out to find the El Dorado of their expectations. Heading east not far from the San Pedro River, the men followed an old Indian trail, leading them into the Mule Mountains toward Mule Gulch. Along this rugged trail, they rode upon a human skeleton, apparently that of a girl or small woman—probably some poor, weary emigrant or Mexican captive who had fallen or left to perish by her cruel captors on the way to this ill-fated mountain castle. Not far from the tragic remains of the woman, the unmistakable signs of Apaches herding their latest plunder of cattle were evident. Realizing the potential danger ahead, the men withdrew.

Later that year, members of the 6th Cavalry, including Lt. John Anthony Rucker, scout Jack Dunn, and T.D. Byrne, entered the foreboding Mule Gulch. Rucker and Dunn are documented as being battle-hardened Indian fighters in the Southwest. When the soldiers reached the vicinity of the rocky outcropping where the previous skirmish took place in 1876, they, too, discovered signs of mineral wealth. The difference between this and former discoveries is that Rucker, Dunn, and Byrne acted upon their find. The men located the first claim in Mule Gulch, called the Rucker, which included the jagged outcrop that the Apaches used to successfully hold off the cavalry. Despite their interests in the area, the experienced Indian fighters were obligated to answer their call of duty to the military.

On the journey, they grubstaked the weathered prospector George Warren, who was previously repelled by the Apaches from exploiting his discoveries. Local lore insinuates that this was the first time Warren entered this section of the Mule Mountains. However, newly discovered information now places him in the region almost a decade earlier, when he traveled to the area with Major Brayton. Now tasked to locate claims, he reentered the perilous canyon and began to stake claims. However, he unscrupulously omitted his partners Rucker, Dunn, and Byrne as co-owners of the claims. The news reached prospectors of the ores hidden in the Mule Mountains like the plunder once concealed by the Apaches.

And so Bisbee begins. . . .



In 1872, the US government established the Chiricahua Apache Reservation in southeastern Arizona. The land extended from the Mexican border north to near

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