Column No. 41

Ruby Gets Some National Recognition

Bob Ring, Al Ring, Tallia Pfrimmer Cahoon

After the hippies left Ruby in the mid 1970s, Ruby’s private owners nominated the old mining camp to the National Register of Historic Places.

From January through March 1975, Louis Daugherty, one of Ruby’s private owners, worked with the Arizona State Historic Sites Preservation Office in Phoenix to prepare the nomination form to be sent to the National Register of Historic Places, under the U.S. Department of Interior, National Park Service.

The nomination form required a detailed description of Ruby and its historical significance, plus historic photographs of the old mining camp. Daugherty got some help on old photos of Ruby from Phil Clarke’s family. (Phil Clarke was the builder and original proprietor of the Ruby general store.)

The form described the (then) current condition of Ruby:

“Approximately a dozen deserted and dilapidated buildings, including the store, the school, and the clinic, remain. The property is now fenced and locked because of extensive vandalism.”

On May 6, 1975, the Arizona State Historic Sites Preservation Office notified Daugherty by letter that “the ghost town of Ruby has been accepted and entered into the National Register of Historic Places as an historic property.”

In a second letter on December 5, 1975, the Arizona Historic Office advised Daugherty that Ruby was eligible for a Federal Historic Sites Preservation Grants-in-Aid program. However, it would be another 18 years before the owners of Ruby attempted to get government money for a Ruby preservation/restoration program.

In February 1993, Pat Frederick, daughter of original private owner Richard Frailey, and Ned and Jim Daugherty, sons of original owner Louis E. Daugherty, were awarded a two-year, $28,000 grant from the State Historic Preservation Office.

A month later, Frederick appealed to the public in the March 1993 issue of Arivaca’s The Connection:

“The town of Ruby is now recognized as DESPERATELY in need of help and repairs as she has been disintegrating since 1949.”

Frederick went on to say:

“The Ruby owners have applied for and received a grant, which will last two years (1993, 1994). The Arizona Preservation Foundation has responded to Ruby’s need by sponsoring her to the State Parks Board. The Arizona Preservation Foundation will govern use of the funds and supply much needed advice on the restoration when that time comes. In the meantime, Ruby has gained a matching fund grant, which will allow the owners and any volunteers to keep her from any further deterioration. Matching funds means money, volunteer time and any other donations of material particular to the job at hand will get matching funds for purchased materials or skills to keep Ruby from moldering any further. The grant money comes from the State Historic Preservation Office and is from Heritage funds.

“Our first job involves waterproofing, erosion control, roofing, adobe building, and fencing.”

Frederick’s husband Howard oversaw construction. Nearby residents pitched in to help, moving equipment, repairing roads and offering to repair windows at cost. The initial phase one objective, funded by the grant, was to re-establish perimeter fencing and to stabilize the remaining buildings.

Howard Frederick remembered:

“We bought linseed oil and some tools, sprayers, and mud-smearers and things that would make it easy to do that stabilization. It went on for about two-and-a-half years and lot of volunteer work went into it and I think we accomplished a lot in that time.

“We were donated a lot of material from the Buenos Aires Wilderness near Sasabe. The ranch was sold to the Fish and Wildlife Service. All the old fences and corrals were removed. … we went down there two weekends, and hauled truckloads of good fencing … a fair bit of equipment/materials that we used for bits and pieces and repairing.”

The Fredericks had hoped to start actual restoration of the Ruby ghost town in a second phase of the grant program, but unfortunately the State Historic Preservation Office did not fund a second phase.

Meanwhile,Ruby had become a TV star.

Sometime in 1990, Gerald Harwood, a Tucson producer/writer with Anubis Productions got the idea for a television program about the “natural history of a ghost town.” Three years later, the result was The Ghosts of Ruby, a one-hour natural history documentary set in the ghost town of Ruby. The documentary aired on the PBS series “Nature” on May 9, 1993.

The film was a joint effort of the PBS in the U.S. and the BBC in Britain. Cooperation included creative talent, technical expertise, and shared financial resources. Many local Arizona individuals and organizations provided scientific and historical resources. Former residents of Ruby and the group of private owners helped. Also assisting were the Arizona Historical Society (Tucson), the Pimeria Alta Historical Society (Nogales), the University of Arizona, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, and Sonoran Athropod Studies. Reenactment sequences featured children from Tucson and Vail.

Filming in Ruby took place over the spring and summer of 1992. “Additional filming locations included the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, Colossal Cave, Old Tucson and Mescal, Tombstone, the Queen mine in Bisbee, and the Broken Circle Bar G ranch in Pomerene.”

Maggie Milinovitch, writing in The Connection, described the untraditional nature documentary:

“Wildlife cinematography, historical photographs and reenactments, and an original musical score, are combined with science, drama, and humor to tell the story of a Western town’s development and abandonment by humans, and its recolonization by nature. Interactions between people, wildlife, decaying buildings and the elements are woven into vignettes flavored with an aura of the American frontier.”

Nature’s stars included bats, tarantulas, scorpions, swallows, Gila Monsters, coyotes, foxes, carpenter bees, snakes, packrats, and wolf spiders.

Bonnie Henry, writing in the Arizona Daily Star, added additional descriptions:

“Produced by Oxford Scientific Films in association with WNET and the BBC, the British version was narrated by Robin Brown, who wrote the script. … Gerald Harwood served as associate producer-writer for the project. ... The original script was adapted for Nature’s American audience, with George Page doing the narration.”

The Ghosts of Ruby was rebroadcast on May 15, 1993. Video copies of the film can be obtained from Anubis Productions in Tucson.

In late 1995, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission approved a cooperative 10-year agreement with the owners of Ruby. By 1998, the Commission spent nearly $30,000 to fence the entire, irregularly shaped, “two piece” ghost town against trespassing cattle, preventing them from damaging the buildings and consuming native vegetation. The big-game fence also allowed access for wild life and protected the property’s ecosystem.

Ruby has more than 20 special status wildlife species as well as a variety of bird life. A side benefit from the fence was the noticeable improvement of water quality of Ruby’s two lakes. In previous years, cattle would wander into the lakes, adding a burdensome nutrient load and stirring up the bottom silt, make for low visibility. Since the fence was completed, the lakes are a lot clearer and there is less weed encroachment.

(Sources: Louis E. Daughterty letters, Arizona State Historic Preservation Office; Arizona Daily Star; The Connection; Interview with Pat and Howard Frederick)

National Register Acceptance Letter

The U. S. Department of the Interior accepted Ruby on the National Register of Historic Places in May 1975. (Letter courtesy of Arizona State Historic Site Preservation Office)

Next time: Ruby Caretakers

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