Column No. 45

The Future of Ruby

Bob Ring, Al Ring, Tallia Pfrimmer Cahoon

Ruby is still owned by Ruby Mines, Inc., the Tucson consortium of the children of the five 1961 purchasers. The ruins of the old mining camp spread over 300 acres on the hills that surround Ruby Lake. Southeast of the Lake is a huge, flat area of 700 tons of snow-white mining tailings. On the south end of the old camp are the remains of the Montana mine pad and mining buildings. Remnants of the mine managers’ adobe and frame houses that populated “Snob Hill” can be seen on the northwest side of the ghost town. Just west of Ruby Lake, in the center of the mining camp, are the deteriorating hospital, and two bunkhouses. What’s left of the old schoolhouse, the mercantile, the jail, and columnist Tallia Pfrimmer Cahoon’s home dot the hillsides in the old Anglo “Hollywood” neighborhood on the north side of Ruby. On the east side of the camp, hardly anything remains of the Mexican area that used to have four or five frame houses and over a hundred tents.

As evidence of mankind in Ruby slowly disappears, nature’s rebirth continues. Ruby has become a birdwatchers paradise. During three visits to Ruby in the summer of 1994 and spring of 1995, Arizona Fish and Game representatives conducted a bird census that reported 64 different species.

The future of Ruby is anything but certain. Over the years, there has been talk among the owners about creating a Ruby historical site by restoring the old mining camp and turning it into a collection of museums. Alternative ideas include a center for ecological research and interpretation; a wildlife sanctuary; a recreational facility with a golf course, tennis courts, and a swimming pool; and an RV park. Some owners talk about a bed and breakfast facility.

Speaking in 1993, owner Pat Frederick said, “The Ruby owners dream of nature trails connecting with the Altar Valley; solar energy sources; wind generators; scientific study of riparian areas of Ruby and the surrounding Coronado National Forest; educational processes for history, geology and wildlife; and last but the very least … rebuilding of the Ruby mercantile which has been melting away since the roof was removed in the 70s.”

Environmental designer Ned Daugherty, son of Louis E. Daugherty, one of the five individuals who bought Ruby in 1961, prepared a plan in 1998 for a combined corporate retreat and environmental interpretation center. According to Daugherty, “The project concept is … hopefully to raise the awareness of both individuals and corporations as to our responsibilities and showcase sustainable environmental technologies. The point is to clearly and compellingly demonstrate that environmental integrity and bottom line corporate profits are not mutually exclusive, but in fact, complementary, if done intelligently.” To this date, no action has been taken on Daugherty’s plan or on any of the other dreams for Ruby.

In late 2003 owners Pat and Howard Frederick were interviewed about the future of Ruby. Howard Frederick still talked about the mercantile and a partial restoration of Ruby, “Twenty years from now I want the mercantile to be standing but, our goal in the restoration is to maintain the buildings that are salvageable. I think there are several that are doable in that area. The assay office has sort of really become a hard task but the warehouse, the school, the jail is indestructible, the three houses up the hill, supervisor’s house are really worth [restoration] … or salvageable.”

Responding to her husband’s comments, Pat Frederick said, “That’s what I would personally like to do but I would literally have to win the lottery in order to do it. … We have trouble maintaining the house we live in and there’s a lot of effort goes into maintaining three other houses. Nature’s way ahead of us down there.”

Asked if they’ve given any thought to renewed mining, Howard Frederick answered, “No! Never! We signed a covenant with the Game and Fish when they helped us with the fencing materials that we wouldn’t mine or run cattle on the property for at least ten years and I on my own thinking said, ‘That’s in perpetuity.’ It’s not legal but probably fifty-five or sixty per cent of the other owners feel the same.”

In summary, Howard Frederick eloquently stated his view of the value of Ruby, “The value of Ruby it is what is historically, environmentally, [and] aesthetically. That’s its real value and that’s a very difficult concept to get across.”

Today little evidence remains to remind visitors of Ruby miners’ perseverance, iron will, tremendously difficult mining efforts, and personal sacrifices and tragedies. Illusive too, and fading quickly, are memories of many good times – a wonderful life in Ruby. Now the old mining camp lays still, except for the wind-whipped clatter of aged, bent, pieces of rusted galvanized iron that once provided cover for the homes of former residents. The richness of Ruby is found not only in its unique history of mining gold, silver, lead, and zinc, but also in fondly remembered experiences there. In the end, both the mining history and the stories of its people define the brilliance of Ruby, truly a gem of a ghost town.

(Sources: The Connection; email from Ned Daugherty to co-columnist Bob Ring, May 18, 2004; interview of Pat and Howard Frederick)

Mine Superintendent’s House
Ruby’s old mine superintendent’s house – home of hippie squatters in the 1970s – is still in pretty good shape. (Photo by Bob Ring, 2001)

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