Bisbee 101

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Bisbee, 90 miles southeast of Tucson and nestled amongst the Mule Mountains, is the picturesque county seat of historic Cochise County. The community was founded in 1880 and named after Judge DeWitt Bisbee, a financial backer of the Copper Queen Mine.

Once known as "the Queen of the Copper Camps," this Old West mining camp proved to be one of the richest mineral sites in the world, producing nearly 3 million ounces of gold and more than 8 billion pounds of copper. The rich Mule Mountains also produced silver, lead and zinc. 

By the early 1900s, the Bisbee community was the largest city between St. Louis and San Francisco.

With a population of over 20,000 people in the early 1900s, Bisbee had become one of the most cultured cities in the Southwest. Despite its culture, however, the rough edges of the mining camps could be found in notorious Brewery Gulch, with its saloons and shady ladies. 

Brewery Gulch, which in its heyday boasted upwards of 47 saloons,  was considered the "liveliest spot between El Paso and San Francisco." Bisbee offered other recreational pursuits in that it was home to the state’s first community library, a popular opera house, the state’s oldest ball fields and the state’s first golf course. 

In 1908, a fire ravaged most of Bisbee's commercial district along Main Street, leaving nothing but a pile of ashes. But the residents of Bisbee quickly began reconstruction and by 1910, most of the district had been rebuilt and remains completely intact today.

Bisbee was a thriving community until the large-scale mining operations became unprofitable in the mid-1970s. As mining employees left to go elsewhere, many artistic free spirits found Bisbee an ideal, attractive, and inexpensive location to settle and pursue their artistic endeavors. 

The small town's legacy has long been preserved not only in its architecture and mining landscape, but is world-renowned for its diverse minerals and wealth of copper. 

Although its mines closed in the '70s, a museum has welcomed, educated and entertained more than a half-million visitors ever since.

Featured among its exhibits is "Bisbee: Urban Outpost on the Frontier." It's an in-depth look at the depths - and heights - to which miners and settlers went to carve a community and a living out of rock.


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