Column No. 5

The Austerlitz Mine and the Father of Oro Blanco

Bob Ring, Al Ring, Tallia Pfrimmer Cahoon

The Austerlitz gold mine was one of the more important and successful of the Oro Blanco mines. The mine’s long time owner, Adolphus H. Noon, was a prominent area pioneer, so highly regarded, that newspapers called him the “Father of Oro Blanco.”

The Austerlitz mine was about two miles northwest of the Montana mine (and Ruby) along the Ruby Road. Jesuits from Tubac may have first worked the mine as early as the late 1700’s. Mexicans reportedly mined there in the early 1800’s. In the 1870’s, two Frenchmen tried their luck for a short period. They named the mine the Austerlitz, for one of Napoleon’s victories in Eastern Europe in 1805.

Captain E. P. Voisard made the first American location (mineral rights claimed) of the Austerlitz mine in 1877. A 40-foot wide exposed ore vein produced promising gold and silver specimens. But development proceeded slowly. By 1880, miners had just started sinking preliminary shafts. They expected much gold, but early production didn’t match expectations, so the mine’s location lapsed.

Doctor Adolphus H. Noon relocated the Austerlitz on the first day of 1890.

Adolphus Noon was born in London England in 1838. At age 15, he left school, enlisted in the British Army, and deployed to South Africa. While in the Army, he befriended an Army surgeon and became interested in medicine. In 1865, Noon came to America and settled in Utah, working as a doctor and helping to found the town of Eureka. After ten years in Utah, Noon moved to San Francisco, California to pursue his medical career.

In 1879, at age 41, attracted by mining and ranching possibilities, Noon came to Oro Blanco. He continued as a doctor, for many years the only doctor between Tucson and Hermosillo, Sonora. In 1881 Noon started cattle and horse ranching near Oro Blanco Village. In addition to the Austerlitz mine, Adolphus Noon and his sons Alonzo and Arthur had interests in several other mines.

By 1894, the Austerlitz had a working mill. But, in 1896, after a period of prolonged drought and periodic mine closings, Adolphus Noon left the day-to-day mining operations in the hands of his sons and moved to Nogales, Arizona.

In 1900, Adolphus Noon became the first representative from Santa Cruz County (partitioned from southeastern Pima County in 1899) to the Arizona Territorial Legislature. In 1910 and 1911, he was Mayor of Nogales. Noon retired from community activities in 1912 to devote full time to his medical practice.

Meanwhile, by 1907, the Austerlitz included 75 acres of mining property with three shafts, and over 1,500 feet of tunnels on two levels. The greatest depth reached was about 100 feet. But in spite of this extensive development work, the mine continued to be unproductive.

In 1912, prospects at Austerlitz gold mine brightened considerably. Adolphus Noon optioned the mine to Todd Woodworth and W. R. Layne, who formed the Border Mines Company to work the mine. Miners discovered a new vein, called the Crawford stope, that produced copper sulfide ore carrying high values in gold and silver. Forty men worked on the property.

A tram line moved ore cars from the mine to the nearby mill. Each car carried a ton of ore. Wagons, pulled by a stable of 350 mules, hauled fifty tons of ore concentrates per day to Amado. From Amado, the railroad carried the ore concentrates to El Paso for smelting. Woodworth looked forward to the day (soon he thought) when the railroad would be extended from Amado directly to the Austerlitz mine (never happened).

By the middle of 1913, the mini boom was over. The Border Mines Company ceased operations. In doing so, the company violated the terms of the lease agreement with Adolphus Noon, so after a court suit to settle the matter, the mine was once again in the full possession of the Noon family.

Adolphus Noon and his sons operated the mine until 1916 when they leased it for $50,000 to Joseph W. Bible from Silver City, New Mexico. Bible and his associates formed the Austerlitz Gold-Copper Company and attempted to sell $2 million worth of common stock. But, Bible’s venture never got off the ground.

There is no record of any significant production from the Austerlitz after the 1912/1913 Border Mines Company activity. Over that two-year period the mine produced ore worth about $96,000.

Adolphus Noon died at his home in Nogales in 1931 at the age of 93. Noon had six children, and the history of the Oro Blanco region shines with Noon family contributions as mine owners, cattlemen, miners, engineers, doctors, lawyers, historians, and politicians. Adolphus Noon’s original ranching operations continue to this day, in the hands of his descendants. The old Austerlitz gold mine also remains in the Noon family.

Of special interest to you readers, Noon’s great granddaughter, Mary Noon Kasulaitis, is the Librarian at the Arivaca Library, a branch of Tucson Pima Public Library, and writes the “Arivaca Yesteryears” column in Arivaca’s newspaper, The Connection.

(Sources: Louis Harold Knight, “Structure and Mineralization of the Oro Blanco Mining District;” Fred Noon, Arizona Cattlelog; Border Vidette; Oasis; Arizona Geological Survey; Mary Noon Kasulaitis)

Photo of Adolphus Noon and wife Emma

Dr. Adolphus H. Noon, shown here with his wife Emma, was a prominent area pioneer, so highly regarded, that he was called the “Father of Oro Blanco.” (Photo courtesy of Mary Noon Kasulaitis, 1914)


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