Tag Archives: southern Arizona

Map Musings: Unveiling the Lenon Collection

13 Dec

In early December the Library and Archives welcomed what may be the single largest archival collection to be acquired in at least 50 years – and perhaps in the history of the archives! We are excited to announce the newest collection at the Arizona Historical Society: The Robert Lenon Map Collection! This collection will be an amazing resource for people interested in mining and minerals, geography, family and property history, and Arizona history as a whole. We will post periodically about this new addition, including our adventures in transporting a 600-cubic-foot map collection from Patagonia to the Arizona Historical Society in Tucson, so keep an eye out here for more information!

 Part of the Robert Lenon Map Collection in its new home at AHS-Tucson. It’s in full view in one of our galleries, so if you come by the museum you will get to see it in person and watch the progress as we begin to process it!

Part of the Robert Lenon Map Collection in its new home at AHS-Tucson. It’s in full view in one of our galleries, so if you come by the museum you will get to see it in person and watch the progress as we begin to process it!

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Montana Mine Correspondence

22 Nov
I love the letterhead symbol on this one. As always, if you would like to use any of the photos seen here on the blog please contact ahsref@azhs.gov for information on image reproduction.

Honestly, I just love the letterhead symbol on this one. If you look closely you can see parts of a tank. As always, if you would like to use any of the photos seen here on the blog please contact ahsref@azhs.gov for information on image reproduction.

Lately I’ve been working my way through the correspondence series of the Montana Mine Collection. The majority of the correspondence, outside of that which is related to the financial business of the mine, is actually from a later period of the mine’s existence, when it was owned by a Mr. Hugo Miller. Most of this is the Miller family’s personal correspondence, offering an interesting insight into the lives of this entrepreneurial southern Arizona family.

As always, if you would like to use any of the photos seen here on the blog please contact ahsref@azhs.gov for information on image reproduction.

Living with a miner is never easy! As always, if you would like to use any of the photos seen here on the blog please contact ahsref@azhs.gov for information on image reproduction.

Miller owned an assay office in Nogales and mined on the side. It was not uncommon in the past for men and women with minds for business and an eye for good opportunities to work a mining claim into their business investments. Even now it’s not unusual for private citizens here in Arizona to have ownership of a small mine in the area that they work on periodically as they have free time. The letter you see below is an excerpt from a letter from Mrs. Gladys Miller to a friend and mentions the reality of living with the sort of jack-of-all-trades entrepreneur of a man that Mr. Miller was. From the excerpt you can tell that the Millers had great business acumen, even taking  boarders in their house to make some extra money. This correspondence suggests that the Miller family was a hard working one.

The letter below was interesting because of the context of the attached newspaper clipping. Again, this is a rare glimpse into the daily realities of living in past times. In this case, wartime rationing takes center stage as a friend, Edna, writes to ask whether the newspaper article is true and then asks her friend, Gladys, to purchase extra Nylons for her! Rationing during wartime meant people had to get creative in their daily lives to continue on as normally as possible. Having a friend who could easily get across the border to purchase stockings in Mexico definitely would have been an advantage. This is just another example of how people worked together and created good relationships during times of hardship.

As always, if you would like to use any of the photos seen here on the blog please contact ahsref@azhs.gov for information on image reproduction.

A clever way to circumvent wartime rationing. As always, if you would like to use any of the photos seen here on the blog please contact ahsref@azhs.gov for information on image reproduction.

These letters are all great examples of how the correspondence in a collection can yield really interesting insights into the past. Whether it’s fun snippets such as these I’ve shared above or more serious historical connections, correspondence is always a treasure trove of historical moments.

An Archivist’s Journey: Ruby, Arizona

22 Feb
The peak in the distance. Mining business buildings below.

The peak in the distance. Mining business buildings below.

One of the great parts of working with a collection that originated from a local area is that you can actually visit the place where your materials were created. There will never be enough time for me to visit every place I come in contact with through the Arizona Historical Society’s collections, but I made an extra effort for the first collection that I am processing here at the Arizona Historical Society: a collection from the Eagle-Picher Mining Company’s Montana Mine in Ruby, Arizona.

The mine is closed now, and the land privately owned. However it’s not a long journey to get there from Tucson. You may want to note that a significant portion of the road is dirt, though pretty well maintained. The area around Ruby is really lovely hills and mountains, perfect for a day trip at any time of year. I expected a few sad remnants of buildings along with the usual interesting mining equipment rusting away, so I was surprised when I saw how much of the town has actually survived over the years. Your first stop should be to visit the caretaker. There you can pay the entrance fee, get a quick history lesson, and snag a quite excellent map of the area that shows all the buildings and tells you what they used to be.

The lake at the end of the tailings pile.

The lake at the end of the tailings pile.

I loved walking across the pile of tailings, white as snow, to reach the lake on the other side. I had the illusion of walking through a gorgeous white desert towards an oasis. A different feeling from the rest of Arizona. Also impressive was a house which once belonged to one of the mine bigwigs that was perched on the side of one of the hills with a good view of the mine shaft. We could immediately tell upon peering inside that this was at one time a very nice house. Quirky built-in furniture that had been left behind allowed me to paint a picture of what life might have been like so close to the daily work of the mine. I felt the same way about the schoolhouse with its old furniture, sad abandoned piano, and the precarious slide. I could imagine living a very good life in this little town.

Probably the best part of Ruby however, stems from a lucky coincidence. At some point in time a section of the hill collapsed and washed away, leaving a large gaping hole into the mine itself. This mine is definitely NOT safe to enter, but this lucky washed-away slice of hill let me see directly into the mine. I could see tunnels and old support structures and utterly unfathomable blackness. It was a simultaneously breathtaking and terrifying experience to think about the men who worked in these passages every day.

The Ruby jailhouse.

The Ruby jailhouse.

Ruby has a really interesting history that reads like an adventure novel at times. Besides being a mining town, Ruby was also the site of an amazing, horrific series of double murders that spawned the biggest manhunt in the Southwest (at the time). If you want to learn more about Ruby, I suggest checking out the book “Ruby, Arizona: Mining, Mayhem, and Murder” by Bob Ring, Al Ring and Tallia Pfrimmer Calhoon. Tallia actually grew up in Ruby, which gives their account of its history even more sharpness. Conveniently enough, you can pick up your very own copy of this book at the Arizona History Museum’s Arizona Mercantile gift shop, which is located in the same building as the Historical Society (ask for directions at the front desk if you have trouble finding it).

I hope you will stay tuned for my post at the end of next month, where I will be sharing some photos from the processing of the mine collection and some of the interesting details that I have found so far.

A view of the Ruby Mercantile. The site of Ruby's (in)famous murders.

A view of the Ruby Mercantile. The site of Ruby’s (in)famous murders.

Inside the Ruby schoolhouse.

Inside the Ruby schoolhouse.

An old piano in the schoolhouse. No music anymore.

An old piano in the schoolhouse. No music anymore.

Slide at the Ruby schoolhouse. I definitely wouldn't want to take a ride on it!

Slide at the Ruby schoolhouse. I definitely wouldn’t want to take a ride on it!

One of the many buildings still standing in Ruby. This was the home of one of the mine bigwigs and it looks out towards Montana Peak and some of the main mining buildings.

One of the many buildings still standing in Ruby. This was the home of one of the mine bigwigs and it looks out towards Montana Peak and some of the main mining buildings.

Inside the mine bigwig's house.

Inside the mine bigwig’s house.

Looking down into the collapsed mine shaft.

Looking down into the collapsed mine shaft.

Close-up of the collapsed view into the mine shaft.

Close-up of the collapsed view into the mine shaft.