Located 90 miles southeast of Tucson, Bisbee is the county seat of Cochise County. This town was once one of the largest mining sites in the world. The community was officially named in 1880 after Judge DeWitt Bisbee, a financial backer of the Copper Queen Mine. Bisbee was incorporated in 1902.
The history of Bisbee started in 1877 when a detail of army cavalrymen was sent to the Mule Mountains to search the area for renegade Apaches. Instead they found signs of mineralization indicating the presence of lead, copper and possibly silver and gold. This event started an influx of mining camps. The Copper Queen Mine was the most famous mineral site in Bisbee. Phelps Dodge acquired the mine around 1885. From 1887 to 1975 more than 8 billion pounds of copper, along with large amounts of gold silver, lead and zinc were extracted.
By mid 1970 the precious metals were depleted and all mining ceased. The Copper Queen Mine was closed in 1975. With the departure of its mining base, hundreds of homes went up for sale leading to a collapse of the real estate market. The availability of cheap real estate drew retirees, artists and speculators. Bisbee has since reinvented itself as a retirement community and tourist attraction.
One of the main attractions is the Copper Queen Mine. A portion of the mine was cleared out and re-timbered. The Queen Mine Tour was officially opened to visitors on February 1, 1976. Since then more than a million visitors have enjoyed the ride into the mountain on the underground mine tour train. Tour participants travel 1,500 feet into the underground mine. Bisbee’s mines, of which the Queen Mine is just one, include more than 2,500 miles of tunnels.
Another attraction of interest is the Mining and Historical Museum, which was once the corporate headquarters of the Copper Queen Consolidated Mining Company. This museum is a member of Smithsonian’s Affiliation Program. Former saloons are now art galleries, restaurants, coffee houses and specialty shops. There are many restored Victorian and European style homes sitting on the hillsides. Also many bed and breakfast places were once boarding houses for miners.
Trivia fact: The TV series “Sheriff of Cochise” was filmed in Bisbee from 1956-1958.
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