Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project

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Ghost Town in Gila County, Arizona


Pioneer was a short lived mining community, located in a straight line, approximately 11 miles south and slightly west of Globe. Pioneer established its post office on April 24, 1882. The post office was discontinued on September 4, 1885.


Community was established and existed around the Pioneer Load Mine. Primary ore mined was silver; mines responsible for Pioneer existence were located in 1877.


Business’s and buildings at Pioneer were a school, brewery, bank, hotel, general store, sawmill, an extensive reduction works.


Population in Pioneer, at its peak was approximately 400 people. The 20 stamp mill was destroyed by fire in 1887. This would have been the demise of Pioneer if the ore was low grade and about played out. That same year, the company that owned the mine went bankrupt. Today the site is a current ranch site.


Pioneer, Arizona, Gila County, Township/Range: T2S, R15E. Warm winters, hot summers. Winter, fall or early spring, best time to visit. A ranch now resides at Pioneer, Arizona. A few foundations of the former town currently remain. High Clearance 4WD required to reach Pioneer.



The silver crash of 1893

The effects of repealing the "Sherman Silver Purchase Act" in 1893 left deep scars in the economy for many years to come.


Silver was King in the 1880's. Men where making fortunes in mining, railroading and banking industries. Over-extended investments and sometimes sheer extravagance ruled the day.

To shed some light on what led to the severe Depression in the 1890's the currency system of the United States must be examined.


The US, since the days of George Washington, had based its system on "bimetallism"...use of both gold and silver in legal coinage.


The Gold Rush to California in 1849 resulted in such large quantities of gold found that the value of gold became less. Previous to this, gold was 16 times more valuable (16x more silver in a silver dollar than gold in a gold dollar).


People began melting down silver dollars and using the silver for other purpose, such as jewelry. In 1873 Congress terminated the making of silver coins and placed the country on a "gold standard".


The great silver strikes of the 1880's made silver prices fall even further, but the mining of silver continued to be a profitable venture.


President Benjamin Harrison agreed, in 1890 to purchase $4.5 million ounces of silver a month. The "Sherman Silver Purchase Act" was passed by Congress and the price of silver shot up from .84 cents to $1.50 an ounce, but it's market value would drop from this high.


This created fear among eastern republican business men and foreign investors that the gold dollar would be replaced by a less valuable silver dollar. Stores and banks began to go out of business and gold became a commodity to be hoarded.


The pay for mine workers continued to decrease and the hours of work became longer. The unrest of miners resulted in strikes that impacted the economy of the state as well as the mining industry.


1893 spelled the end of an era of silver by the repeal of the "Sherman Silver Act". Almost immediately mines and smelters began to shut down in Colorado. Silver prices dropped from .83 cents to .62 cents an ounce in one 4 day period. Banks closed their doors and real estate values plummeted. The repel of the silver act was felt around the country.


The passage of the Gold Standard Act in 1900 resulted in a further price drop of silver and the few remaining silver camps in Arizona were given a death blow.


So ended an era and one that the state would be long in recovering from. But recover it did to become one of the most prosperous states in the union.



George Brunson - 8/13/08


I am still looking for two grave sites - and a cemetery that I didn't know existed (but should have). The old (ghost) town of Pioneer (on the west side of the Pinal Mountain) was a rip roaring mining town in the 1880's, I have been there several times, that had a 'killing' that I was looking into.
Seems one cowboy by the name of Thomas Karr, was partying it up, one Christmas night in 1882 when a guy wouldn't have a drink with him - so - he shot and killed him! Next morning the people notified the sheriff over in Globe that they had a dead guy in town that had been shot by a drunk. When the sheriff arrived he asked them about the guy hanging out in the tree - they said 'what guy'!
The story went that they 'had buried them together in the Pioneer Cemetery about 1/2 mile south of town on a ridge'!
So, my search is on!


TO: George Brunson

Subject: Ten Theory
Date: Wed, 13 Aug 2008



Found this information on Pioneer, AZ. APCRP uses a "Ten Rule" when estimating graves or population.


"There was a school, brewery, bank, hotel, general store, sawmill, an extensive reduction works, and about 400 people at Pioneer, Arizona"


Based on a population of 400 residents its possible there could be approximately 40 graves in and about Pioneer, AZ. While there may not be in a formal cemetery, as graves may have been buried in back yards or at the mine etc.





8/14/08 George Brunson


That's kind of what I thought.
The ranch is at N33 13 56.6 by W110 50 14.8 which would put the cemetery (1/2 mile from there) at N33 13 26.1 by W110 50 12.4. (WGS84 D,M,S,)
There is a ridge in that area with road junctions going both right and left. I have been up there to that location, and, it is possible. Now will have to go back and look around a little better.

Attached the info I got about Sheriff Louther which pointed me in this direction. Good stuff!


RE: Sheriff Louther

From: Guy Cockerum

Sent: Mon 8/04/08 5:33 PM

To: George Brunson



Will be glad to help, this story my grandmother Fannie Melinda (Builderback) Deskin told to me when I was very little, she passed in 61, age 86.  Before her passing, my family and grandma traveled back to Globe, Pioneer and recall time past.  It's funny just yesterday I was showing pictures of Pioneer we took from that trip.  Included in them is the sycamore tree Thomas Kerr was hung from.  A local historian of yours Jess G. Hayes used the story in his book "boots and saddles" and credited grandma in the back of it.  Around here I've got his correspondence and newspaper clippings from then also. 


Someday I hope to make another trip back to Globe and Pioneer at which time these items will be donated to your museum along with grandmas doll she received at the first Christmas celebrated in globe which took place in a saloon. 


The lynching of Thomas Kerr also took place on Christmas in Pioneer; his last words were "here comes Thomas Kerr's Christmas present to the devil". 


After that, 2 caskets were ordered from my great-grandfather Andrew Jackson Builderback, a carpenter, who also did the shoring timbers in the mines. The two were laid to rest side by side, Thomas, and the dude he shot in the cemetery in Pioneer. 


I don't remember anything on a Andy Hall or Dr. Vail.  I went in and asked mom if she remembered ever hearing anything from her mom on those two names, she didn't either. 


I'm very lucky!  At that age I was always taking pictures and have the only pictures to go with the story even though I have no idea what is what except for the tree. 


One of the stories that made such an impression on me at that age was how grandma took us on a tour of a mine in pioneer. We got to a point in pitch black darkness and she had us all stop she bent over and picked up a rock and tossed it forward. We waited what seemed like such a long time finally hearing a splash. After all those years she still knew where the mine shafts were.  I also remember her house, or what was left of it, a bit of wall and floor and a copper boiler.  How I cried wanting to take her boiler with us but was told “why would you want that thing”.  Give me a few days and I'll start scanning items for you and email them. Looking forward to this project, but its fair time here this week.



Map to the Ghost Town of Pioneer, AZ


Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project

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