MINE TALES: William Ascarza is an archivist, historian and author of five books, including “Southeastern Arizona Mining Towns” and “Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.” Email him at mini[email protected]
SITE NEAR DRAGOON STILL ACTIVE TODAY, HAS LARGE RESERVES OF ORE
Located 65 miles east of Tucson on the eastern slopes of the Little Dragoon Mountains, the Johnson Camp Mine is a working copper mine in Cochise County. Substantial mining operations didn’t start there until the early 1880s upon the arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad through the nearby town of Dragoon, seven miles south of the mine.
The property has been the site for underground mining, open-pit mining and mineral processing. Early smelting operations began with the erection in 1882 of a 30-ton smelter that had an output of 4 tons of copper bullion a day. The ore during that time contained as much as 7.4 percent copper.
Two towns emerged in what became known as the Cochise (Johnson) Mining District. The first was Russellville, which was soon replaced by Johnson.
Russellville lasted from 1881 to 1883, reaching a peak population of 100, with a small business district. Its demise was caused by the relocation of the smelter to the Peabody Mine, about three miles away, along with the ravages of a spring blizzard.
Earlier that year, the Russell Gold and Silver Mining Co. sold its Peabody claims for $350,000 after removing $100,000 in ore.
The town of Johnson was built a half-mile from the new smelter site, which by that time accommodated two 30-ton smelters. It became the headquarters in 1883 of the Peabody Co., which employed 150 men. The camp was named after George J. Johnson, who served as the general manager of the Cochise Copper Co.
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