Text by Gary Carter. Images sourced by Western Mining History.
Founded in the late 1870’s, Globe is one of the older mining towns in Arizona and mining is still the biggest employer in the area with Pinto Valley, Miami, Ray, and the Carlota all operating open pit copper mines.
The large Ray Open Pit Mine is about an hour drive from Globe but considered, along with Superior to be part of the Miami-Globe Mining District. The Ray mine has some of the largest copper reserves in the United States.
The incredibly rich Inspiration-Miami Mines, near Globe, started out as underground copper operations and like many others transitioned to an open pit mine once the ore values became so low to profitably mine underground. The Inspiration Mine produced some beautiful high grade chrysocolla ore and later chalcocite.
The Inspiration Mining Company, among others had various properties which actually were more than one mine as many were close by or extensions of the original. They were so rich that $20 million was put into a mill, smelter, production works, and rail line before any production took place. It paid off, with high grade copper ore being milled using the flotation-concentration process.
The Globe area was originally worked for silver, in fact, legend persists that the town name derives from the shape of an early silver specimen. The Globe Ledge (silver) was known early but Indian activity delayed working and production until the mid 1870s.
Globe City was established in 1876 with the 1880 census showing 704 citizens. The name was shortened to just Globe at the recommendation of the editor of the Arizona Silver Belt news, one of the oldest papers in Arizona. Most of the 704 were involved in mining.
Bob Metcalf who along with his brother founded the Metcalf Mine, later to become Morenci, was one of the early miners.
By far the largest silver find and continuous operation in the general area was the Silver King Mine, which is actually closer to Superior than to Globe but The Silver King’s riches shed its glow over the entire area and prospecting activities grew.
Some small silver outcroppings were found in the Globe area but certainly nothing of enduring significance and the Globe silver interests were pretty much gone by the late 1880’s. From early on prospectors knew of the copper minerals but deemed them not of significant interest or value and soon the silver finds played out.
Once the country began to implement telegraph, telephone, and electric lines the demand for copper rapidly grew and Arizona copper districts, including Globe, flourished.
The Old Dominion Mine
The big mine for the town of Globe was undoubtedly The Old Dominion. As the fortunes of this underground copper producer rose and fell, so did that of the town.
In the late 1870s several small mines in Globe began pulling out copper ore and around 1880 the Old Dominion Copper Company was formed. The town saw a meteoric rise for the next ten years as ten to twelve percent copper ore was being roasted in furnaces, as large as 200 tons, that had been installed in both Globe and Miami.
Early photos from the 1880s until 1930s, show numerous smelter stacks, some of which can still be seen from Highway 60. Not only did the mills and smelters process ore from the major mines but also handled smaller contracts.
The 1890s were not a good decade for the mine or Globe. A flood swept through town in 1891 and destroyed many homes and businesses, just two years later another flood on Pinal Creek did as much damage. The financial panic of 1893 caused further hardships for the town and mine and the Old Dominion was shut down until copper prices improved.
In 1899, water seepage in the mine began to be a problem and pumps needed to be installed. By now the mine had been sold and reorganized more than once. Improvements to get back to production were going on in a big way but the water problems and dewatering costs continued.
While the last decade of the 19th Century was a difficult one for the Globe area, by the early 1900’s the Old Dominion Mining Company had in place some of the best and newest copper mining facilities in the nation, including an aerial tram to carry ore from small mines to a smelter outside of town. The addition of six new smelters saw the Old Dominion racking up new production totals and profits. In some years of this new decade trains were hauling out up to 2 million pounds of copper a month!
Although times were good, problems still emerged. The mine and town experienced additional flooding, a fire, and numerous underground accidents. In 1917 a strike divided the miners, owners and town`s people to the extent 4 companies of Federal troops were sent and set up camp in Globe.
A settlement was eventually negotiated and by 1919 the Old Dominion Company had around 1500 on payroll. However, mine repairs were neglected and water damage and decreasing copper values caused a slow decline that resulted in reduced employment. Financial woes increased and the Old Dominion Mining and Smelting Company was unable to repay its loan to Phelps Dodge and the mine shut down for good.
During the life of the mine, it produced over 800 million pounds of copper and returned gross revenues of $134 million. The mine buildings and equipment were auctioned off or used at other plants. An unusual and interesting footnote to The Old Dominions demise is that water that hastened its decline was later purified and used by Globe for its drinking supply and into the 1990’s was still used by Magma Copper at its Pinto Valley Plant, near Miami.
Globe, situated along Pinal Creek and sandwiched between mountain ranges, is reached by Highway 60, a winding road about an hour and half drive almost due east of Phoenix, Arizona. The scenery between Superior and Miami (6 miles west) is incredibly beautiful.
As the seat of Pinal County and a popular tourist and retiree spot, Globe has transitioned into the modern era and maintains a population of around 7,300.
Many historical buildings survive today, although many are in disrepair. The 1906 courthouse is still ornate and beautiful, and is still the working office of the Gila county seat.
The town has done a wonderful job of transforming the property of the Old Dominion Mining Company into a hiking and recreation area while preserving some of its mining history.
Arizona Mining Photos
View over 35 historic Arizona mining scenes at A Collection of Arizona Mining Photos.