Arizona's mining towns are full of historic buildings built to last but they're showing signs of weathering a century later. Superior, less than an hour east of Apache Junction on U.S. 60, is an example of mining towns that prospered on and off for nearly a century starting in the late 1800s. But Superior has endured hard times since the mines closed two decades ago.
Arizona Territory commander Gen. George Stoneman arrived in November 1870, set up a short-lived camp near Picketpost Mountain and started building a road to Camp Pinal to the east, according to David Briggs, an economic geologist with the Arizona Geological Survey. Briggs' full report: https://bit.ly/2RMQlfy
A soldier who worked on the road found some nuggets in 1873 in the area that turned out to be native silver. That indirectly led to exploration of the Silver King Mine two years later and attracted other mining interests to what would be beomce Superior, he said.
In 1902, George Lobb sold his Golden Eagle Group silver mine to the Lake Superior & Arizona Mining Co. Lobb laid out the town site, naming it Superior after the Lake Superior & Arizona Mining Co. The town's post office was established in December 1902.
The Magma Copper Co. mines in Superior operated from 1911 to 1996 and produced 27.6 million tons of ore, including 34 million ounces of silver, 686,000 ounces of gold and 1.29 million short tons of copper, according to Briggs.
Superior has since worked to save its historic downtown buildings A years-long effort to restore the Magma Hotel led to its reopening in March 2019.
The hotel has 21 rooms, a dining room, a tea room and a bar that's open from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
Previously, Magma Hotel also housed a drug store and served as the Greyhound Bus depot.
Superior also has a town museum in the former home of Bob Jones, the town's first postmaster and Arizona's sixth governor.
The Magma Copper smelter site has been razed and its 300-foot smelter stack -- a town landmark -- was imploded Nov. 10, 2018.
Resolution Copper, which owns the site, cleaned up the contaminated debris and reseeded the site.
Superior has no stoplights and not many shops are open. But the throw-back streetscapes with an old Sprouse-Reitz store are worth a detour of U.S. 60.
My list for future Superior visits include a hike on Picket Post Mountain and a visit to the nearby Boyce Thompson Arboretum. Also, an historic cemetery west of Superior is the final resting place of Celia Blaylock, aka Mattie Earp, common-law wife of Tombstone lawman Wyatt Earp.