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charleston.jpg (46679 bytes)
Photo courtesy of
The Cochise County Historical Society


Charleston was located on the San Pedro river about 6 miles south of Fairbanks. Charleston came into being due to the small settlement of Millville on the east side of the San Pedro River that had two stamp mills, the Tombstone Mill and Mining Company a ten-stamp* mill  and the Corbin Mill and Mining Company who opened a fifteen-stamp* mill shortly thereafter.   For lack of water at Tombstone the stamp mill of the Tombstone Mine and Milling Co. was located here. 


Recognizing the potential for business opportunities near the mills on October 28, 1878, Mr. Amos W. Stowe recorded a claim for 160 acres directly across the river, supposedly for grazing and agricultural use.    Immediately often obtaining the claim, Mr. Stowe hired Mr. Mitchell, a surveyor from Tombstone to mark off a townsite.  Stowe leased his lots at Charleston on a free, three-year basis.  The lessee had to, within a stipulated time, add $100 worth of improvements to retain his lease.  After the third year, the tenant had to pay Stowe the market value of lot and its improvements.  These lease agreements were amazingly popular and businesses were soon opening their doors to serve the residents of Charleston, Millville and the surrounding ranchers and miners.  By May of 1879, Charleston contained about forty buildings, most of which were substantial adobes.   Twenty-six blocks had been surveyed with each block containing sixteen lots.   The streets were laid out at right angles, those running north/south being about 80 feet wide and those running east/west about 50 feet wide. There were five stores, four restaurants, four saloons, one hotel, two livery stables, two butcher shops, two bakeries, one physician, one lawyer, one drugstore, two blacksmith shops, one brewery, one jewelry store and watchmaker, one carpenter shop, one baker shop, one washhouse, one stationery and fruit store, and one brickyard.

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The "Tombstone Epitaph" on May 6, 1882 noted "Charleston has a very extensive trade with the surrounding country and Sonora.  Its Mexican business is daily becoming more important, and it will continue to increase until it reaches very large proportions.  The town is well regulated and free from turmoil.  In fact, it is one of the most peaceful places we were ever in."

Charleston in 1885
Courtesy Arizona Historical Society

From the outset Charleston grew rapidly.   A post office was opened April 17, 1879, and the population was soon over 400 hundred, including men, women and children.  A schoolhouse was built and transportation made available to everywhere in Southern Arizona.  However, no bank or newspaper was ever established.  With the mills operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the demand for people of all professions was high and publicized throughout the state.  Between 1880 and 1886 there were 62 professions represented in the town.

Today some ruins remain but not many due to the fact that during World War II the town was used for war training games by the Ninety-third Infantry Division at Fort Huachuca, which caused severe damage to the remaining adobe buildings. In recent years souvenir hunters have caused even more damage.   The map that is shown below is a "research-maps or re-construction maps" as not much of the town is left.  A large portion of the townsite has literally been "swept away" by cliff erosion on the San Pedro river.

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Fun Facts: If you go here you can see a registry of people and voters that lived in Charleston and their occupations and country of birth.

Located about 3/4 of a mile from the San Pedro River bridge on the old Charleston Road between Tombstone and Sierra Vista.

* The word "stamps" refers to the machine that was used to crush the ore into fine powder before it was sent to the smelter.


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