ANY NUMBER OF REASONS TO VISIT BISBEE, ARIZONA

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Check out these numbers: remember when gas was 33 cents a gallon?

 

ON DECEMBER 15, 1844, JOHN WESLEY HEATH WAS BORN in Ohio. When he was still young, his family moved to Texas. Texas is where Heath became a long-horn cattle rustler. He then discovered robbing people and stores was much easier and less risky. Heath married a couple of times. His first wife disappeared rather mysteriously. His second wife gave him three children.
In the early 1880’s, he was living in Cochise Country, Arizona, where he became the deputy sheriff. But he soon realized this was too dangerous and didn’t pay as well as thieving.

In 1884 in Bisbee, Arizona, he masterminded a robbery of the Copper Queen Mine payroll, which he’d heard was being held for safe keeping in the Goldwater and Castenada Store. Things went haywire. His gang shot the sheriff. Then, they shot four innocent people in cold blood, one a pregnant woman. And worse it turns out, the payroll hadn’t arrived in the store yet. The gang got diddly squat, so they ended up robbing the store and the few customers inside. The gang rode slowly out of town, rather nonchalantly after such a massacre, with a few dollars in their pockets.

Outraged for vengeance, the people of Bisbee formed a hard-ass posse and caught the robbers. Because he’d planned the robbery, John Wesley Heath got strung up on a telegraph pole on the corner of First and Toughnut Streets (really) by a mob of vigilantes. His last words were: “Don’t mutilate my body or shoot me full of holes!”

Apparently, the lynching was publicly condoned, as indicated by the coroner’s jury verdict: “We the undersigned, a jury of inquest, find that John Heath came to his death from emphysema of the lungs–a disease common in high altitudes–which might have been caused by strangulation, self-inflicted or otherwise.”

There was such an abundance of copper and ore in Bisbee that by the turn of the century in 1900, Bisbee had become the largest city between St Louis and San Francisco, with a population of 20,000, and it had become one of the most cultured cities this side of the Mississippi. It built the first ball field in the West. And the first golf course. And an opera house. And breweries.

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Today, you’ll find a bit of the Old West still alive in Bisbee, Arizona. Bisbee residents have always been a little frayed around the edges, a tough bunch of outliers, unafraid to be exactly who they are—good, bad, ugly, beautiful. You’ll still find the culture of artists and the flare of bohemians. Today, residents pride themselves on allowing anyone in Bisbee to be who they are. Anything goes in Bisbee. For instance, you may find a dog running without a leash, and gay marriage was recognized in Bisbee, long before it was condoned by the state. You might find a breakfast joint named The Whyld Ass Coffee Shop serving a vegan quinoa scramble for breakfast.

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Gate door on a Bisbee house

If you visit Bisbee, you might want to steer clear of Brewery Gulch after dark. Some say the ghosts of outlaws and ruined women roam the valley. Others say it’s coyotes.

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Store front of a wickedly weird place of business

Why go to Bisbee?

  1. Because it is the quintessential quirky burg on the fringe of nowhere
  2. Because instead of a five-star, you can rent a vintage 1950’s Airstream trailer to sleep in for the night
  3. Because you can down hand-crafted beer at a microbrewery
  4. Because you might see a ghost
  5. Because you might see a dog, without a leash or master, running down Main Street
  6. Because it’s there
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Copper Queen Mine pit and eye sore

You can find other entries to DP Photo Challenge here: Numbers

You can find other entries to Lucile’s Photo Rehab here:   Photo Rehab

View other entries to DP Prompts here: Transformation

Resource: legendsofamerica.com

 

203 comments

  1. Shame about that big hole in the ground! They oughta set some pots of flowers around on those ledges to brighten the place up. Darn! I always kinda liked Bisbee…but then any place in the desert is MY KINDA place, being a Desert Rat and All. As for those “ruined women” ghosts wandering the desert…didn’t their Mamas ever tell them what happens to young ladies that hung around in bars and consort with miners and outlaws…and the like? gosh!!!

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    • HA! Right…flower pots all along the ridges! Or pine trees. Have you been to Bisbee? And photographing the hole is like the Grand Canyon…you never get the grandeur and scale in a photo!

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      • yes, back in the early 60’s we lived in Tucson, and visited Bisbee a few times…also in the 90’s we went out there and did the tourist thing in Bisbee. I recall the hilly area, winding streets leading into town, lots of trees and the vast holes and the access roads along the rims. Copper mines?

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      • I never got to the Grand Canyon. We lived at Ft. Huachuca, then Tucson…so that is where I reckon my heart is. Bisbee, Sierra Vista, Tombstone, Sonoita (the Sonoita Pass was the only way to get down to the border back in the day we lived there, before they built the main highway (is it 10?) Once we were thinking about buying a house in Yuma…

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          • back in about 1960 Sierra vista was just an army town…a couple of grocery stores, a bank, some bars…we did all our shopping on the base, Ft. Huachuca. We lived in a huge trailer park

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          • Tombstone is fun…love Boot Hill. Last time we were there we went to Old Tucson…I hadn’t been there in decades…its still cool. Also went to the De Gracia studio. My friend who has lived there all her life had never been there to the art place. Also she had not been to Old Tucson maybe ever… always pretty pricey.

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          • A lot of movies were filmed there, and its fun to watch the old westerns and see a familiar set. De Grazia’s old home is there, and a nice little museum, which reminds me someplace I have a print of a Spanish Galleon that I want to frame. The place is way up in the foothills north of Tucson.

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          • No…in Old Tucson.
            80s TV shows featured Wyatt Earp and the Sheriff of Cochise, and lots of backdrop photos of the various Tucson mountain ranges. Old Tucson really is cool…we went in April when the tourists were still home packing…I hate tourists. I’m going to post some photos from three or four years ago…soon…

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          • Oh, right. That place burned down a while back. Who doesn’t hate tourists, especially when you’re touring a place to see it…you don’t want a bunch of other people gawking at what you want to gawk at. Who are those guys anyway? Can’t they just stay home?

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          • burned down? no… I love it there because it IS a movie set, ultra-realistic. Drama-queen that I am, I can sit there by myself and day-dream about the Old West. The fewer obnoxious tourists the better. Tourists are OK if they mind their own business, refrain from insulting the “funny natives” and stay out of the way of my pitcha-taking.

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          • yeah…but they rebuilt it…and it is cool. Tourists are fine when they sleep in late and leave you alone at where ever you are being a tourist, eh?!

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          • my husband and I sneaked into Chichen Itza through the back way one morning just at dawn…it was lovely, NO tourists and no stupid guide. Let me rephrase that, it isn’t the guide that’s stupid, its the fawning rhetoric of jokes and half-truths he needs to entertain the tourists. yes I’m a snob…

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          • I’m traveling out of the country…I’m trying to keep up with comments on my blot, but haven’t had time to look at nor comment on other posts. But I’ll try to get over to yours.

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          • I see you’re back! nice to see you…wish I could just run around the world…lying by a pool sipping margaritas or something. I actually DO deserve it…I do get sick of the snafu!

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          • I’m mostly offline because I don’t have a good connection…or actually much time!! There is no sitting around no pool sippy margaritas going down. But YOU should do that!!!

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          • referring to the post as “new”… photo quality difference was enormous. However the mundane reference to the place itself also applies. I am being slow this morning…duh.

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          • I always wanted to see Mt. St. Helens after the eruption…and when finally got there I was NOT disappointed…got some decent shots, bought the sweat shirt, but then my daughter-in-law said “oh no! Here comes the tour bus!” Haha…we were leaving anyway.

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          • No…a sweatshirt. Probably a T-shirt, but since it was cold the day I was there I needed a sweatshirt…but its slightly too heavy for Ohio, and bulky. Pretty green though. 🙂

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          • The answer to questions like this is always…as Douglas Adams proclaims…42.
            PS: I may be a little late in answering previous comments, dear

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          • I didn’t mean that…your comments are always pertinent and timely. 🙂 When I was in school (forever) I never knew what page we were on…even now at a conference or something I’m always asking what page we are on…invariably some other than the one I’m on. The new/old thing was that my first version of the post was terrible…blurry and missing pics, had to start at the beginning…still out of whack.

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          • oh yeah…those trees…still there I guess…but without the debris and the big hole in the side, it would just be another beautiful mountain park. I was looking more for little flowers and plants and critters that survived the volcano.

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          • it’s the ones that have a checklist (sometimes actual) and say stuff like “oh! I thought the Taj Mahal was much bigger.” or in a war museum someplace they say stuff like “oh…if we would all just learn to get along.” and especially “humph! in my country we all speak English, and our money actually looks real!”

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          • Once I chaperoned a group of eight 11-year-olds to Greenfield Village, in Michigan. I thought it would be frightful, but it was actually quite nice. My son was in the group. Each kid had basically one main thing or place they wanted to see. One girl did not care what we did, as long as she got time for spending her souvenier money.

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          • three teachers took about eight kids to Wash.D.C., my son one of them (about 11)… he loved it! I didn’t go, the teachers were their own chaperones.

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  2. I LOVED this and am now definitely going to go there on my next road trip!!! Let’s see, Seattle to Bisbee,,,1619.3 miles and it takes 24 hours…I bet I can cut off some of that time…Thanks for the story and these amazing photos.
    Hey, you aren’t there right now are you??

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  3. I shot the sheriff.. but I did not shoot the deputy…..right, Badfish?

    Favourite bits: “diddly squat”, John Heath’s famous last words, and “death by strangulation, self-inflicted or otherwise.” Oh, and that car-door gate! Fabulous!

    An excellent piece of concise and articulate writing, where all the words fall in the right place.

    But then again, it IS a Badfish post. Keep ’em coming. 🙂

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    • No…I think I shot the deputy, too! One bullet, two birds. I know…that car door. Who woulda thunk? Only in Bisbee, maybe? Concise…I wanted to keep it short!! Time is sifting out of my cup right here in the BF&C CAFE.

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      • Two for the price of one is always good value. Where you channeling the ghost of John Wesley Heath? Sifting time – tell me about it. Are you off to Scotland ? ( not that im keeping track, of course, youve got plenty others to do that!) Me, im off on June 21st. Destination Italy. 🙂

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        • I think I’m related to John Wesley! You’re traveling AGAIN!!! Man, you get around, girl. Are you going to Rome? Maybe I should go to Rome? Or Scotland? Or Prague?

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          • I think you should go to Rome, Scotland AND Prague. Only dont do that five countries in a few weeks thing again – too scary! BTW the thought of a Badfish Post in Prague, where you are channeling Kafka – well, all i can say is JWH, eat your heart out!
            and Scotland – all those ghosts! yeah! Rome would just be for fun!
            Me? had a lifellong dream to make it to Venice, and now am going! a week there, few days in Rome, a week in Florence, Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terra — in a carefully planned and accomadation fully booked trip. Most unlike my usual travelling style, but my usual travelling style changed considerably when my daughter decided to drop down from heaven into this planet!!

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  4. Another great post Badfish. Some hilarious lines, especially the report from the coroner’s jury! Keep ’em coming.

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    • Hey Don. I was wondering about you, where you’d gotten to, hadn’t heard from you in a while. Your back? I keep thinking about you always wearing your Merrells…and me in my thongs! You writing?

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  5. Hi Baddie! May 26th has passed and you never showed up for my birthday party nor announced your destination. Btw, you’re still keeping the announcement there and hiding your whereabouts. Are you sleeping in a trailer and drinking beer in Bisbee? How many ghosts did you already meet?
    Loved the place and the stories, but not sure I’d like to go there, just because of the ghosts….

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh boy, so very Western! Great photographs. I think just living in good ole SoCal with all the cowboyabilia everywhere I look is almost as good as going to Bisbee. But then again, you make it sound so compelling …

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    • HA! Bisbee is like California was in the 70’s. Guys with hair down their backs and headbands, leather pants. Girls in long dresses, feathers in their hair. Good vibes all around, artsy fartsy in a weird way.

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      • Will it all ever come back? I see it in pockets here. What happened to the mentality that went along with the paraphernalia, though? In some respects all our mountain communities in California attract that crowd. But instead of being peace, love, consciousness brethern/sisteren, they are the truck driving survivalists instead, with no thought of the revolution on their minds. Sigh. Where is Woodstock when we need it?

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        • Yeah…I was wondeering where all those guys went (after they grew up). What happens to people when they get older? Seems to me they just start mimicking the younger generation. Like now, every old geezer is wearing a white goatee…what’s up with that. Just who have we become. I’m going to go buy a gun this afternoon. And shave off this dang goatee.

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  7. I’m with Jo…exactly where are you? After all that contemplation you ended up in Arizona? Love the quirkiness. ‘Ruined women’. Is that what happens after riding too long on a cycling tour? 🙂

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    • I’m with Jo and Sue…just where in the BEEP am I? Is that Arizona? And yeah, I believe a long cycling tour might do it, but in their case, I think it was the Clydesdales. And a cowboy or two.

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    • Hey, it is a cool place. Lots of interesting things to see. And I can’t imagine keeping, or walking, my dog on a leash (if I had a dog, which I don’t these days). It’s not natural. And training them is just an aweful task…all that choking.

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      • I see people “walking” dogs all the time that seem to need training themselves. In the past I’ve had a number of dogs that didn’t need leashes; they just heeled nicely with the right (and early) training and walked with me. People seem to try to combine walking the dog and giving the dog a run, which simply doesn’t work. They need both. But, at least where I live, people keep dogs in spaces that are too small and without a place to run them (which is why I don’t have one).

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  8. Cause you gotta keep the weird in Bisbee. Bisbee is awesome and an old mining town . And now YOU ARE IN AZ??? I live north of Bisbee!
    Next stop for you to visit is Jerome, AZ!!

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    • HA! That is funny. I remember seeing my first Starbucks in a Safeway in the little town of Winona, MN on the shores of the Mississippi. I almost gagged. But hey, a Starbucks is a Starbucks. Take it where you can get it is what I say. But really…Safeway?

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  9. Please, please, please tell me that Toughnut Street is still there … and is still called Toughnut Street. Because that would be street name perfection.

    I love your photos … and I love that gate door, which, I’m going to hope (hope, hope, hope) is located on Toughnut Street.

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    • Toughnut Street is still Toughnut Street, but I got my details a little mixed up. Toughnut Street is in Tombstone, just down the road, where the US Martial was. Tombstone is a cool place, too.

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  10. How have I never heard of weird old Bisbee? We have spent a decent amount of time in AZ with family and we’ve been to some other quirky spots there, but I do not remember this name at all! Great post about the town – both the prose and the photos create such a clear picture of this oddball place.

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  11. It sounds like a quirky little town with a lot of history. John Wesley Heath clearly wasn’t much of a criminal mastermind given that his plan seemed to consist of wandering into a store when the payroll was not being held there, shooting dead everyone he could find, and then wandering back out of town again. I’m not surprised his criminal career came to an abrupt end in the way it did.

    I’d like to visit that store in your photograph, by the way. It looks weirdly fascinating. I see from the door that previous patrons include Martin Luther King, John Lennon and Mother Teresa. That’s quite a client list. I’m pretty interested in the old brewery too. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. W go to Tucson a bit for bicycle races and events. We did look at property out that way once, not too sure we went that far down. At the time homes were being vacated and easy to buy because no one wants to stay there. We were told that the drug cartel runners make it a bit dangerous to live too close to the border and that’s real close to the border. Still like Tucson though. It’s pretty hot there right now isn’t it?

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    • yeah, it’s pretty close to the border, but it’s not so much the cartels you need to worry about as the illegal Mexicans crossing the border…thousands daily last time I was in Sierra Vista…

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          • How does that work? I had thought we ought to just acquisition the whole dang country and if we put a wall up it would be to keep the easier further down where it narrows. There are many Guatemalans in this country as well. Some our very nice but others are pretty much how they’ve had to be to survive down there and can be very ruthless and without conscience. I worked with many of the indigenous ones mind you. They are different and their story is very sad. Do you know they have like 84 dialects and most can’t understand one another? I had to learn about their culture as an interpreter.

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          • I think we should put up a wall, and send a bunch of Americans down to Mexico to live. And hire the Japanese to run the place…talk about efficient!

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  13. Love love love this post! Believe it or not we were thinking of going there to try something new. We spend a lot of time in Arizona since my parents live there and Brisbee once came up as an option. Wonder if my kids would like it at all?

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      • I’ve been traveling there since I was 4 and find Suguaro National Park, The Painted Desert and The Grand Canyon to be magical. Haven’t been since 2007, but Have pleasant memories of my last visit. It has the bluest skies I have every seen (they look photo shopped) and I love the climate…but then, I guess I am pretty much happy wherever I travel 🌵

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  14. Sounds like a town authorities, health and safety officers, the dog pound and tourism board have not found. Long live freedom sounds like my type of town.

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  15. Hi bad fish – once again I find that I wish I had time to read the comments – but I did enjoy the post – toughnut street was funny and the emphysema cause of death- well those tough posse’s get the job done –
    Eh?
    And actually as I read this post – I had to double check that it was bf I was reading! I mean – it had your voice and smooth writing (whew –
    Which you know I like)
    But Arizona ? The states ? I guess I was waiting for some monk photo to show up-
    Either way – looks like a very cool town and another reminder of the gems that are waiting to be visited here in the States –
    Not sure i f the old airstream would be for me –
    But we did rent a small pink house in Frisco CO – and that was fun!

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  16. I’ve traveled in the American West a fair amount, but somehow missed Bisbee. And from this post, it looks like my loss. I’ve always loved the desert SW. The heat, sun, and solitude provide lots of opportunities to clear the mind. I hadn’t heard the John Heath story, but it’s typical of those days – criminal turned lawman turned criminal. I truly love the jury verdict – real gallows humor. ~James

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    • James…that’s funny! And yeah…those were the good old days when men could be who they wanted when they wanted, I guess. I like the SW okay, but it’s just okay to me…not bad, but not real good either. Except for the weather! Love the sun.

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  17. I’m glad to see your back in the country. You been photographing Europe instead of Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. You said you were going back to Tombstones to get your motor home. It must have kept well setting there. I took a close look at your picture of the old copper mine but I couldn’t make out any skid tanks down in the mine. I hauled fuel to those big tanks, they were scattered out all the way down to the bottom. Those big old end dump trucks burned lots of fuel.

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    • Hey Leland, yeah, this week it’s Europe instead of SE Asia, somebody has to keep the balance in nature. You hauled fuel into that mine? Man, I bet that was a little hairy? Low gear or breaks? I think that mine is closed now, not sure.

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