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Contention City
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Contention City circa 1880
Courtesy Arizona Historical Society

Contention City, at one time was expected to be the rival of Tombstone.  Discovered by a prospector named Hank Williams when one of his mules got away.  When he began following its trail he noted that the mule's halter chains were scraping something, and upon looking at it closely discovered that it was metallic ore.  He immediately staked a claim which later became the Contention Mine when Ed Schiefflin and Richard Gird bought him out and provided the foundation for Contention City.

The first problem that Schiefflin and Gird ran into with the mine is when they realized that water, which was not in the area of the mine, was needed to work the rich ore deposits.  For this reason Contention City and a stamp mill were established about 12 miles from the mine, on the San Pedro River, about 10 miles northwest of Tombstone.

When the town was established in 1879 "The Arizona Daily Star" wrote a series of articles on what it called "the rival of Tombstone".  In the September 23, 1879 issue this was written, "The town called Contention City has been laid out, surveyed and mapped, and the enterprising proprietors, D.T. Smith and John McDermott, are selling lots to all who desire to invest in the new city, and although it is not one week since the survey of the town was made, a number of lots have been sold and preparations to build are going on as fast as material can be had. From the very nature of things Contention City must grow and flourish even to be the rival of Tombstone".  March 4, 1880 issue notes the town's improvements.   According to the paper, Contention City was "A landscape for the pencil and fancy of an Italian painter."  "In short, we are compelled to say, that in point of strength, durability and perfection, the Contention mill stands without a rival, at least in Arizona........"  Contention City's post office was established April 6, 1880.

At its peak their were three stamp mills and they served the Tombstone mines also. The "Contention" Mill had 25 stamps and employed 35 men, the "Grand Central" Mill had 30 stamps and employed 35 men, and the "Head Center" or "Sunset Mill" had 10 stamps and employed 10 men.  The word "stamps" refers to the machine that was used to crush the ore into fine powder before it was sent to the smelter.  The railroad came to the town and the first passenger train reached town about January 10, 1882 - twenty years before the railroad was brought into Tombstone by way of Fairbanks.

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Originally the town was built up on the east side of the river near the stamp mills, and a number of businesses located there.  Hopkin's Restaurant, Marks General Merchandise, Mason's Hotel an McDermott's Saloon.  With the coming of the railroad, however on the west side of the river, everyone began to move.  A 15' x 175' two-story depot was built first and everything was built around it.  Describing the move, the "Tombstone Epitaph" said "The residents of old Contention are making preparation to move across to the new town, and it is only a matter of time when the whole town will be abandoned and a flourishing village will spring up around the station."

But the town was coming to a fast end when the mines in the area started to flood and quit showing profits.   People started to move on and the post office was discontinued on November 26, 1888.

There are still some ruins to be seen at this location.


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