We missed our days of exploring abandoned mining towns of the old wild west so we set out on an adventurous binge along the dusty Ghost Town Trail to explore Gleeson, Courtland, Pearce, Douglas, Bisbee, and Tombstone.
After traversing some 14 miles of barren dirt road on East Gleeson Road from Tombstone, we came suddenly upon the old Gleeson Jail, restored to its former glory. Our arrival did not coincide with a day that the jail was open (open for tours on the 1st Saturday of every month) but we were able to walk around the small building. Originally completed in 1910, the jail was built about 40 years after the town of Gleeson was established. The Gleeson Jail went through various stages, the first being just a large oak tree in a wash with a metal cable wrapped around it. The constable of Gleeson would chain the prisoner’s right hand to the tree. Sometimes the wash the tree was situated in would flood during monsoon season and the unfortunate prisoner would drown. The next stage of the jail was an actual wooden structure with a tin roof. The tin roof allowed prisoners to escape easily resulting in the 3rd phase of the jail: the concrete building that stands today.
This building once served as a gas station, a private home, a hotel, a general curio shop, and as Joe Bono’s saloon. During prohibition, Joe Bono once replenished his supply of alcohol by purchasing confiscated whiskey from the deputy of the Gleeson Jail.
This dirt trail is dotted with many abandoned buildings and the mine can be seen from a distance. Many of these structures are situated on private property with brightly lettered ‘No Trespassing’ signs.
Courtland is the next stop along the Ghost Town Trail. Courtland was established in the early 1900s and boasted a population of 2,000 residents. It’s populaton was 4 times larger than Gleeson but unfortunately, most of what remains are crumbling foundations and the old jail.
The most preserved building in Courtland, the jail, is riddled with graffiti. Unfortunately, there are one too many idiots who don’t believe in leaving nothing but footprints.
After the disappointment of Courtland, we continued 10 more miles down the dirt road to the ghost town of Pearce. Pearce was accidentally founded in 1894 when Jimmie Pearce’s family was looking for a nice, quiet retirement ranch. They were retiring from mining in Tombstone when they stumbled upon gold on their property. Thus the mining boom began and Pearce increased to 1500 residents. Pearce’s Commonwealth mine was one of the richest in Arizona, producing over $15 million in gold until the Great Depression took its toll in the 1930s. Today there are a handfull of residents still hanging on, one of them being a pottery.
Pearce post office, operational until the 1960s.
Arizona Ghost Town Trail Overview
- Gleeson Jail Coordinates: 31.732111, -109.829444
- Courtland Coordinates: 31.77, -109.808611
- Pearce Coordinates:31.905, -109.820556
- Fees: FREE
- Things to note:
- Dirt road, low clearance vehicles okay in dry conditions
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