Tombstone was a mining town. Everything that happened here happened because of the lure of the silver and gold found by Ed Schieffelin in the hills of Tombstone in 1877. And so they came, the prospectors, laborers, miners, lawmen, "shady ladies," gamblers and those who hoped to prosper from the ones that "struck it rich." Thirty nine million dollars in ore were extracted from the mines in the 1880's until the 1930's. The area was enormously rich in silver and gold and much of the ore was close to the surface. This made early mining ventures easy if you consider that the labor was supplied by the backs of young strong men and the major tool for evacuation was a shovel.
But the lack of a plentiful water supply was a problem. Mills were built on the San Pedro River, 10 miles from Tombstone. Ore was hauled in wagons pulled by 20 team horses or mules over steep and rugged terrain. The water problem seemed to be solved when water was struck in the Sulphuret Mine at 520 feet. But the water that seemed a savior proved to be the mines executioner. The same water table was soon encountered in all the other mines. In 1883, gigantic Cornish style pumps were installed to pump the water from the mines at the Contention and the Grand Central Mines. In 1886, the pumps at the Grand Central burned leaving only the pumps at the
Contention to handle all the water. They proved inadequate, forcing the suspension of all mining below the water table. From 1886-1901 mining was at low ebb. In 1901 the Consolidated Mining Company was formed, a four compartment shaft was sunk and mills were built. The Contention, Empire, Lucky Cuss, Silver Thread, Toughnut, West Side and Grand Central were reconditioned. By 1906 the Boom shaft had reached 1000 ft. level and water was being pumped at the rate of 3000 gallons per minute. Approximately 3,700,000 gallons were pumped on a daily basis. In 1909 water again dealt mining a serious blow. Defective fuel for the boilers caused the pumps on the 1000 ft. level to seize and stop. Sinking pumps failed to handle the water and the overtaxed boilers ruptured, stopping all pumping. New compressors and boilers solved the problem, but the cost of defeating the water coupled with the falling price of silver and insufficient high quality ore bodies made mining economically unfeasible. In 1911, all pumping was stopped and the 600, 700, 800, and 1000 foot levels of the Boom shaft were allowed to flood. This was the last hurrah for mining in Tombstone. While mining continued for a number of years it never reached the production levels of the early years.