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The town of Fairbanks came into existence in 1882 when the railroad established a station.  It was named for N.K. Fairbank, well-known Chicago merchant, a stockholder in the railroad and an organizer of the Grand Central Mining Company. Fairbank became an important supply point for Tombstone and was a bustling community well into the twentieth century.  The Post office was established on May 13, 1883 and has not been discontinued.  Before the post office was established people had to go to Contention City, just north of the mill.

fairbank1.jpg (15254 bytes)Fairbanks was not only the main supply point for Tombstone but also served the many freighters hauling ore from the Tombstone mines to the mills at Contention City and Charleston.  It was an important point in the railroad between Guaymas, Mexico and Benson, Arizona, and a stage station for mail and express.   The town had about 100 residents, a Wells Fargo office, store, meat market, restaurant, saloon and a mill.  In 1885 the Butterfield State Line opened a stage station.

Fairbank faded away when drought ruined the farmers, who traded there and the Tombstone mines closed in 1887 forcing the mills that processed their ore to shut down.  In September 1890, Fairbank was flooded by the San Pedro River.  There was much property damage, but apparently no lives were lost.

The general store was open until a few years ago and Fairbank is still on the Southern Pacific Railroad today.  However the excursion train out of Benson, Arizona does a turn around at Fairbanks, the end of its ride.

Fairbank also managed to be written up in the chapters of the wild and wooly West on February 15, 1900.  Perhaps the most memorable tale recounted about Fairbank concerns events in February 1900.   Billy Stiles and Burt Alvord, both deputy sheriffs, who yo-yoed between playing lawmen and outlaws, joined up with the Owen brothers, Bravo Juan Yaos, Bob Brown, and Three-Fingered Jack Dunlap.    Their mission was to rob the Wells Fargo express box when the train arrived at the Fairbank railroad station. 

The train pulled into the station and as the crowd was milling about the outlaws mingled with the crowd, pretending to be drunken cowboys.  Milton was standing in the open door of the baggage car when the outlaws opened fire with lever-action Winchesters, shattering his left arm and severing an artery.   Unable to return fire because of the innocent by-standers Milton grabbed his shotgun and awaited his chance.  The outlaws took the opportunity to charge the train in all the confusion and were met with buckshot.  Three-finger Jack was caught in the chest and died shortly after confessing who the gang members were.  Bravo Juan took a load of buckshot in his pants as he went the other direction.  Milton slammed the door shut, tossing the keys into a corner of the baggage car.  He stayed conscious just long enough to make a tourniquet for his nearly severed arm, then collapsed unconscious between two large trunks, which fortunately saved his life as the remaining three outlaws riddled the baggage car with bullets.

When the firing stopped the outlaws opened the door of the baggage car and found Milton lying in a pool of blood.  Believing him to be dead they searched his body for the keys but were unable to find them.   Frustrated, the outlaws mounted their horses and rode away.  The gang was later caught and served lengthy prison sentences.  Medical care for Jeff Milton in Fairbank was limited, so he was moved to San Francisco for hospitalization and specialized treatment.   When told an arm would have to be amputated, Milton went into a rage, vowing he would kill any doctor who amputated his arm.   Milton won the argument.   The shattered arm served him well in his later activities as a  U.S. Immigration Service border rider.  He died in Tucson on May 7, 1947 at the age of 85.

Today the ghost town of Fairbank is the Bureau of Land Management regional headquarters and is part of the San Pedro River Riparian Area.  The area is rich in natural history with remains of Pima Indian Villages and petroglyphs.  This is also a prime area for birding being located the heart of the best birding area in the United States.

The photo shown here is the San Pedro River near Fairbank.  The San Pedro does flow year round, however large portions of the river bed is dry as it goes underground only to re-appear above ground miles down the riverbed.  


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