Ask Evaline: What is the Mining History of the Oracle Ridge Mine opening next year?

HISTORICAL SITES Near Oracle Ridge mine.jpg

This map was made by the Oracle Mining Company specifically for the Oracle Historical Society, showing the Two Portals for the Newly named Oracle Ridge Mine, owned by the Oracle Mining Company. This map also shows how to get to the sites from Oracle and San Manuel.  Ore will be trucked to San Manuel to be picked up by buyers. Workers will drive up the Mt. Lemmon Road or the Black Hills Road and leave their vehicles at a parking spot near the junction of those roads, where they will be bussed to the mine portals to work. Note that the historical name of the mines group together was “Apache Camp” and the road from that mine to Summerhaven was the “Control Road” so that the Mine also became known as the “Control Mine” as it served as the spot where traffic was controlled: up to Summerhaven in the morning and down toward Oracle in the afternoon.  At the time of the establishment of this mine and road, there was no traffic up the road from the Tucson area. That came later than the establishment of the mine in about 1912. The Crier thanks the Oracle Mine for making this map. It is available in the files of the Oracle Historical Society, as is a large version of the map.

Part I: First claims to 1910.

By Evaline Auerbach

Special to the Crier

After 134 years, a group of historic claims in the Old Hat district up the north slope of the Santa Catalinas (up Mt. Lemmon Rd.) is about to make its way into existence as a “real” mine, with profitable ore. Oracle Mining Corp. (, a Vancouver, Canada-based company with “a focus on uncovering overlooked and undervalued projects,” has, for the last couple of years, been developing a group of historical mining claims at the site previously known as the “Apace Camp” or “Control” mine. In 2014, the newly-named Oracle Ridge Mine on Mt. Lemmon Rd. above Oracle and San Manuel, will become a working mine, sending its ore down Black Hills Road and Reddington Rd. to San Manuel, where it will be picked up by the buyers and processors of the ore (still to be announced.)

Following the intervening successes of first the Mammoth mines and then the San Manuel Mine, this will be a historical reversal: Those mines have “petered out” while the new mine comes to life in the area where many had prospected and claimed, only to prove mostly unprofitable mines. Most who staked claims or even improved their claims and qualified for patents, sold out cheaply or gave up and turned to ranching in this Old Hat district.

Daily bonds claims

In December of 1906 William H. Daily, a former school teacher from Illinois, bonded the whole group of claims in the Apache district — those belonging to me, to Leatherwood, to Steve Ramsdale, and to Geesaman. Will Daily was a nephew of Judge William H. Barnes, who got him to come to Tucson and study mining at the University of Arizona [He is not to be confused with the Dailey who, with his family, lived and ranched in Oracle]

Daily sent Frederick Swinney, the mining engineer, out to make a report. He bonded my claims for $35,000 and paid me $600 right then to do the assessment work and to secure an option on the property until April 1, 1907. I agreed to locate on the 1st of January, all vacant ground between the Stratton and Leatherwood claims on the south and the Geesaman and Hartman claims on the north. The last-named claims were those belonging to Francis M. Hartman, an Ohio lawyer who had come toTucson in 1902 as the attorney for the Southern Pacific in Arizona and New Mexico. I was to file on all this ground in return for the sum of $1,000.This was my introduction to Will Daily, and his introduction into the Santa Catalinas. Since that time, with the addition of the Ramsdale properties to the claims that I located for him, Daily has become one of the big holders in this district. That $1,600 was all I got from Daily at the time.

“When the option was up on April 1, 1907, Leatherwood, Geesaman, and I bonded [our original claims] to Epes Randolph, the big railroad man. Mr.Randolph, a native of Virginia had come to Arizona in 1895 as superintendent of the Southern Pacific. [By the time he optioned the claims, he had become] the president of three lines — the Southern Pacific of Mexico, the Gila Valley, Globe & Northern Railroad, and the Phoenix & Salt River Valley Railroad. He had interested the Chicago Development Company in our properties, and sent a mining engineer out to make an examination. The Chicago Development Company did considerable work on all three properties, but most on Gesssaman’s. I received $150 a month for nearly two years. Then a big payment was due me, but about that time Randolph and the Chicago people had some misunderstanding and they threw up the bond [about 1909].

Stratton opts out again; Others sell to Copper Queen

In August of 1910, Leatherwood, Reid, and Geesaman bonded to B. Hattick of Tombstone. I could not come to terms with him and so stayed out. Hattick in turn sold out to the Copper Queen Consolidated Mining Company, which was working the big mines at Bisbee.

Copper Queen Steps in

Copper Queen sent in an engineer to inspect those claims for development. From August 1910 through July 1912, Eugene Sawyer wrote frequent letters to his mother in Maine, giving us a picture of the area, the weather, others in Oracle, and the development of “Apache Camp” as Copper Queen called the group of claims.

As Stratton summarizes: “The Copper Queen people came up and went to work sinking test holes with diamond drills and making a survey for a railroad from the San Pedro to the mines. When they had satisfied themselves as to the value of their holdings, they secured patents to the claims and then closed down. I guess they figured they had another mine salted away for the time when their ore gave out in the Bisbee district. They left Leatherwood in charge as caretaker. It was said that when they shut down they had three million dollars’ worth of ore in sight. At any rate, their superintendent told me that they had enough ore in sight to pay for the building of a railroad to the property.”

However, Stratton’s claims were once again in doubt and he brought a lawsuit against Copper Queen when they purchased the Geesaman and Leatherwood properties.

Thus, just after Arizona has become a state, the Geesaman and Leatherwood “Apache Camp” (also known as the “Control Mine”) claims were in the hands of the Copper Queen Mining company with Leatherwood ensconced as Caretaker and Stratton in Florence where the family had moved there in 1895, where his older daughter was a teacher, his younger daughter Edith could attend grammar school and son Elmer could begin school.

He had sold out his failed ranch and some of his mining claims were in contention. But in Florence, he could pursue his business career as cattle buyer and keep his hand in following likely mines – Florence being a central place for all that. Beside that, he continued a political career as one of the few Republicans in Pinal County, beginning a term as County Treasurer. He had been Pinal County’s first Republican County Supervisor in 1892, commuting from his Pima County ranch. He dictated his memoirs to Edith in 1925 in California and died soon afterwards. Edith Stratton Kitt became associated with the Arizona Pioneer’s Historical Society which became the Arizona Historical Society. The memoirs were edited by a University of Arizona Historian and published by the APHS in 1968 as Pioneering in Arizona:

NEXT MONTH: From 1910-1912, Eugene Sawyer, of Copper Queen, develops a mine at “Apache Camp”/ “Control” mines. Just over 100 years later it is finally to become Oracle Ridge Mine, expected to open in 2014.

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