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.
Courtland was not to be a "company town." When you bought a house, land, and/or business in Courtland, it was yours to run as you wished.
By June of 1909, Courtland was a fine place to live. At it's 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 railroads, a Post Office with 289 boxes rented, a school, a weekly newspaper, several restaurants (oysters were a big menu item!) and hotels, mercantiles, hardware stores, feed stores, a car dealership, undertaker, slaughterhouse, roller skating rink, and a movie theatre, to name a few.
About the only thing Courtland did not have was a fire department, hospital, or a church (services were held at the school).
Although once considered for the new county seat, Courtland never incorporated. There was no mayor, city council, or town hall. Decisions were made by the more prominent members of the community.
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 and early 1919, 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 1920, Courtland was well on its way to becoming a ghost town.
But even after the mines shut down, Courtland served as a supply hub for the homesteaders in the Sulphur Springs Valley until 1938.
In 1938, both Southern Pacific and El Paso & South Western railroads stopped running train service to Courtland, and the tracks were removed. The jail was also closed, and most of the iron from the Courtland Jail was removed to be used in the new jail in Benson.
The Post Office closed in 1942, and Courtland officially became 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.
Photo above: Main Street in Courtland around 1910.