Column No. 11

Your Friendly Neighborhood Store

Bob Ring, Al Ring, Tallia Pfrimmer Cahoon

Wherever there were successful mines, you could often find a general store in the neighborhood. The mine owners usually operated these stores to provide the miners and their families with such critical supplies as food, general merchandise and mining equipment. By the early 1880s there were stores at the Warsaw, Montana, and Old Glory mining camps and in Oro Blanco village.

Robbery Concerns – Trade Tokens

Being so close to the international border, storeowners worried about potential robberies by raiding bandits from Mexico. An editorial in an 1883 issue of Tucson’s Arizona Star captured these storeowners’ concern in eloquent and remarkably prescient terms:

The uncared for condition of our border is a condition which no civilized community should tolerate. It offers a sanctuary for every cutthroat, desperado who, offending on one side of the line, has but to cross over to be in absolute safety. It offers a premium to the lazy and worthless to live by theft easier than by honest labor.

Because of this fear of robbery, from the 1880s to the 1920s, many Oro Blanco area mining camp stores used trade tokens instead of cash. These tokens, only good for store goods, allowed commerce without the need of a large amount of cash to be on hand. This decreased the chance of robbery. Other camps used cardboard tickets, coupon booklets, or paper scrip. Miners could have these alternatives to cash deducted from their pay.

Montana Camp never used trade tokens, but in the 1930s (the camp was then known as Ruby) the general store did use paper scrip. Not using tokens may have contributed to the two sensational robberies and murders at the Ruby mercantile in 1920 and 1921. (See future columns.)

Griff Jenkins

Griffith Jenkins had a store at the road fork between Montana Camp and the Old Glory gold mine. He sold hay, grain, and good red liquor, "refreshment for both man and beast."

Jenkins, “said to be the ugliest man in the Oro Blanco Mining District,” was a remarkable character. He was concurrently a saloon owner, a rancher, and a miner. Over 41 years, from 1885 to 1926, Jenkins located over 50 mining claims in the Oro Blanco Mining District. Two of these claims, the Ruff and Ready, and Ruff and Ready No. 1, became part of the Montana Group of mines in the 1930s.

Jenkins had eight children, all born in or around Montana Camp.

Julius Andrews and the Montana Camp Store

The story of Montana Camp’s general store parallels the development of mining. The increasing population around the Montana mine in the late 1880s created the need for a general store. That first store was built and operated by George Cheyney who was busy developing the mining property.

In 1895, with Cheyney still running the mining operation, J. B. (Pie) Allen operated the store. In the late 1860s, Allen had been Treasurer of the new Arizona Territory and a merchant in Tucson. The nickname “Pie” derived from Allen’s previous business of selling pies almost exclusively. However, the 77-year old Allen apparently didn’t pay much attention to the Montana Camp store and was soon heavily in debt.

Next, a man named Julius Andrews came to Montana Camp at the urging of a friend who wanted him to take over the store. Andrews ran the store for Allen and soon got it out of debt and on a paying basis. But J. P. Allen “pulled a fast one” on Andrews by leaving Montana Camp and putting a man named Allen Bernard in charge.

Andrews remained a couple of months with Bernard, but saw little prospect of being the top dog, so he left to work in the village of Oro Blanco. Bernard didn’t last much longer than Allen had, so by default the store was soon left in the hands of Louis Zeckendorf, owner of the Montana mine.

Meanwhile, George Cheyney was getting ready to leave the Montana operation and suggested that Zeckendorf sell the store to Julius Andrews. So in 1897, after a long negotiation with Zeckendorf, Julius S. Andrews purchased the store for $900.

Andrews was born in Ohio in 1853. He married Lille B. Ruby in 1879. (Remember that name.) Andrews worked at farming and the lumber business in Minnesota, before coming to Arizona in 1884. For a year, he ran a sawmill engine in the Hauachuca Mountains. He moved to Tucson in 1885, tried farming near the San Xavier mission, and established a cattle ranch in the Santa Rita Mountains. After selling his interest in the ranch in 1891, Andrews managed ranches for others and hired out to help develop a mile-long irrigation canal for the Canoa Ranch.

With Julius Andrews as owner and proprietor, the Montana Camp store became as profitable as the early mine. Julius and his wife Lille rose at dawn and did not return home until closing time, which was frequently ten o’clock at night. They pushed themselves to the limit, determined to make a success of the business. They sold food, clothing, ammunition, dynamite, mining tools, oil lamps, stove parts, and many other items. Their customers included homesteaders and miners from outside the community as well as the local people.

Montana Camp Becomes Ruby

Arizona became the 48th U.S. state on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1912. Officials established a post office at the Montana Camp general store. (General stores, where people congregated naturally, were common locations for local post offices.) Julius Andrews applied for and was elected as the first Postmaster of the Ruby Post Office, named after Andrews’ wife, Lille, whose family name was “Ruby.”

Gradually the mining camp also became known as Ruby. People forgot the name “Montana Camp.”

The Andrews owned and operated the general store until 1913, selling it before the tragic events that were to make the mining camp famous in the 1920s.

The Andrews retired from business and moved back to Tucson. Sadly, poor investments diminished much of their savings from running the store in Ruby, but Julius stayed busy with activities of the Masons. Lille died in 1939. Julius Andrews died four years later in 1943 at the age of 90.

(Sources: Nogales Oasis; A. M. Peck, In the Memory of Man; interviews with descendants of Griffith Jenkins; State of Arizona, Department of Library, Archives and Public Records; J. Michael Canty and Michael N. Greeley, ed., History of Mining in Arizona, Vol. II; Julius Andrews file, Manuscript MS0021, Arizona Historical Society; Mary Noon Kasulaitis, The Connection)

Photo of store tokens
Customers used tokens like these in the Oro Blanco village store. (Courtesy History of Mining in Arizona, Vol. II, J. Michael Canty, Michael N. Greeley, ed.)
Photo of old store
In 1897, Julius Andrews took over Montana Camp’s original general store, located just east of Ruby Lake. (Tallia Pfrimmer Cahoon private collection)

NEXT TIME: ALONG THE RUBY ROAD The Montana Mine Transitions from Gold and Silver to Lead and Zinc