CLIFTON, AZ (ARIZONA HIGHWAYS TV) - Walk the streets of Clifton, Arizona and you see history all around town.

Founded back in the 1890s, this tiny, northern Arizona city was barely 20 years old when a good part of it was destroyed.

A big fire in 1911 destroyed the wood buildings in the center section of the town. Undeterred, those living here picked up the pieces, replacing wooden buildings with brick ones.

Many of these structures have stood for more than a century. And while some of the bricks are crumbling and the paint peeling, the town has not lost its western charm or character.

The downtown area is in many ways, a nod to the early years, when railroads were used to haul copper from the nearby mines, still a booming business in this part of the state.

At one time, Clifton was the largest copper producer in North America, producing over 2 million pounds every 24 hours.

Not far from the downtown area, is the old Clifton Cliffs Jail. Built around 1879, the underground jail features cells dug underground and into the rock.

They built two rooms. One of the rooms has chains on the floor where inmates would be shackled. Still there, the chains are tattered and rusted just like the bars on the cells.

The old jail had its first prisoner more than 140 years ago, and to the surprise of many, the man locked up that night, was the man who built it!

As the story goes... when he finished the jail, he went across the river to a bar and drank a little too much. He ended up pulling out his pistol and firing several rounds. That landed him back at the jail he had just built.

The owner of the bar was a deputy sheriff, and he thought it would be a fitting thing to arrest him and put him in his jail, so he was the first one to be brought into this jail.

Many a prisoner spent time down here over the years, but the jail was actually only in service about 25 years. In fact, it hasn't been used since 1906. Built on the banks of the San Francisco river, flood waters poured in that year during a storm, trapping several people. They were able to rescue them by removing the bars from a window.

Now, a popular tourist spot in Clifton, you can go to the jail, play on the rails, or just walk around the downtown area and yonder back to a time when life was a little slower.

Arizona's Highways TV with Robin Sewell airs Saturdays on 3TV at 8:30 pm and Sundays on CBS 5 at 4:30 pm.


Copyright 2019 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

Recommended for you