Courtland GPS coordinates: 31°46'12.81"N -- 109°48'31.48"W Heading south from Pearce on Ghost Town Trail, Courtland is about 10 miles.
In the late 1890's, on the east side of the Dragoon Mountains in SE Arizona, Messrs. McCormack, Hardy and P. B. Warenkross staked a few mining claims A settlement grew up around these mines, which at first was called Leadville, or North Turquoise. Eight of these claims were bought by the Young brothers of Clinton, Iowa in 1899. In the following year, they formed the Great Western Copper Company. capitalized at a million dollars. Though there was some mining activity at the Great Western and Leadville mines, things could be characterized as quiet...until 1904.
As large veins of copper ore were discovered, more miners and their families moved into the area. Homes were scattered here and there...mostly tents, or what were known as house tents at the time, that could easily be moved. Being a mining "town," it was not uncommon in those early days to be told on a Monday that you had to move your house, because drilling for a new shaft was to begin Tuesday morning at your current location.
In 1908, the Great Western Copper Company dedicated a piece of their land so that an actual town could be built. This chunk of land would be named "Courtland," after one of the Young brothers, Courtland Young. Surveyors were brought in, streets and avenues were cut into the desert, and a new town began to take shape.
On a morning in late February, 1909, Courtland was opened up to investors (mostly business folks) wanting to buy a lot in the new town of Courtland. Over 100 people began to form the line the night before, in order to get the best of the pick. Sales were first come, first served. By June of 1909, Courtland was a fine place to live. At its peak, Courtland boasted a population of around 2,000 citizens and had all the amenities of any "big city" anywhere.
In addition to having a waterworks with over five miles of water lines, Courtland also had a coal fired power plant for electricity, the service of two rail roads, a Post Office, banks, a Wells Fargo office, a school, a weekly newspaper, several restaurants (oysters were a big menu item!) and hotels, mercantile stores, hardware stores, feed stores, a car dealership, undertaker, slaughterhouse, roller skating rink, and a movie theatre, to name a few.
All went well for several years and Courtland prospered. Then in 1917, the USA became involved in World War I, which took many of the able bodied men to war. In the last quarter of 1918, the world-wide Spanish Flu pandemic left no one exempt and took a lot of lives. The mines began to play out, and the few people that were left moved on to other jobs in other locations. Buildings were either moved, torn down, or otherwise destroyed, and by 1921, Courtland was well on its way to becoming a ghost town.
As you drive through Courtland today and look hard enough, you'll see part of a wall here and there. The only intact building is the Courtland Jail, which used to stand in what was called Center Courtland. The desert has reclaimed most of Courtland. Third Street was the main road through town and is still used today under the name of Pearce Rd/Ghost Town Trail. It connects with the ghost town of Pearce to the north, and the ghost town of Gleeson to the south. Main Street can barely be seen. To sit up there now and try to imagine the noise of several mines going, shift whistles blowing, two trains running through town, hammer mills, cars, horse wagons and people...the silence now...is deafening.
One of the first things you might notice as you approach Courtland from the north, is a sidewalk on the right side of the road. You're actually in "North Courtland."
The sidewalk was the only concrete sidewalk in town, and ran the length of what was called "The Brick Block." The Brick Block contained six businesses--an ice cream parlor, meat market, barber shop, and candy store, to name a few. Today, only the foundation and a pillar remain.
The bricks were made at the Higgins brickworks outside of what is now known as Elfrida.
The Courtland jail is just a few yards south of The Brick Block sidewalk, and on your left. Built in 1909, it is the most intact building standing in Courtland today. When the Courtland jail was constructed, the cells and window bars from the old jail in Bisbee were installed. When Benson built its new jail in 1938, most of the window bars and all of the cells were removed to be used in the Benson jail.
Many of the "guests" at the jail preferred to stay there, as conditions were usually better than the tents they lived in. Prisoners were allowed out during the day, to work community services and the time spent was taken off their sentence.
The original Courtland Jail was an abandoned mine tunnel with a wooden door. This worked fairly well until one of the prisoners tried to break out by placing his mattress and bedding against the door and lighting them on fire. When Sheriff Bright came to take the prisoner to breakfast, he found him passed out from the fumes. One dragged out in the fresh air, he quickly revived, but the incident reinforced the need for a "real" jail.
Continuing just a shade more than a half mile south past the jail, you'll come to a rock wall structure on the right and some tall concrete structures on the left. We'll cover the concrete structures in the next photo.
The rock structure in its day, was a store, photography studio and residence. Not all at the same time, but people moved in and out of Courtland. If you notice, there's a bit of a dirt road on the south side of the building. That was "F" Avenue. At his point, you're standing on the corner of Third Street and F Avenue. Just to the west of the building, is the old railroad bed that runs parallel to Ghost Town Trail (also known as Third Street). Main Avenue is now barely a trail, a little to the west of the railroad.
Across the road from the rock building, are some tall concrete structures. These were two cottages. Their entrances faced Second Street, which from this view point, ran behind them.
The cottages were not exactly two floors. Being built on the side of a hill, there was a lower level--more of a basement/storage room. The top level was the living area, and both most likely had a balcony where residents could enjoy a commanding view of the bustling town of Courtland, and some great Arizona sunsets.
When not serving as residences, the cottages were occupied by various office-type businesses that served the population of Courtland.
Just a little ways down on what would have been Main Street and "E" Avenue, was the Western Hotel. The convenience of being just a couple of blocks from the EP&SW depot, and modern day furnishings provided all the comforts of home.
Just a couple of blocks south of "F" Avenue, you can see on the left where the railroad entered Courtland from the valley. This is where the El Paso & South Western railroad had their depot. In 1912, both the EP&SW and Bisbee depots tied for first place as the nicest depots in Arizona.
Courtland was also served by the Southern Pacific Railroad. Their depot was located about a mile south of Courtland. Their tracks did not run into Courtland, though. But SP did go into Gleeson.
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