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Ring Brothers History

Friday, September 19, 2003

Road to Ruby--filled with history and mystery

By Jim Lamb-- Photos Mario Aguilar - Green Valley News

RUBY—Twice in the 1920s bandits from south of the border robbed the general store in the Arizona town of Ruby.

Both times they killed the proprietors--four murders in all.

Some of the walls of the Ruby Mercantile still stand and before it closed, it "served the best root beer floats in the world," recalled Tallia Pfrimmer Cahoon, who lived there in the 1930s.

Cahoon has joined Al Ring and Bob Ring of Tucson to research the history of the Oro Blanco Mining District, the town of Ruby and other settlements and mines nearby.

Ruby is about 12 miles southeast of Arivaca, a sparsely settled area.

Roads are gravel for much of the way.

Montana Peak looms just south of the town.

Hills are still showing the greens coaxed to life by summer rains.

Rivulets flow across the road, attracting yellow-winged butterflies. They light on the mud and flutter away as vehicles approach.

Al and Bob Ring and Cahoon will soon share some of their discoveries in a new column, "The Road to Ruby," in the Green Valley News and Sun.

Mysteries to remember: Besides the discoveries they'll also share some mysteries of the old mining community that numbered 1,200 persons at one time.

One mystery is why mining engineer Ambrose Ring, their grandfather, fresh out of Columbia University, and his bride Grace stayed for only a few months in 1905 and 1906.

It was his first professional job and in his diary he wrote they left, "when conditions became intolerable (personal.)"

In a family album there are 33 photos they took when they lived there. It apparently wasn't the work that caused the sudden departure.

He pursed a career in the mining business before retiring to Tucson after working for Asarco for many years and in many places.

Family members don't recall him ever mentioning that job long ago in the Ruby area, "and as far as we can tell he never visited the area" during the years he and Grace lived in Tucson, said Al Ring.

The Rings haven't solved what the intolerable personal situations were that sent their grandparents elsewhere.

Recent visitors arrived at the locked gate. The key they had wasn't the right one.

Cahoon hopped over the fence and said, "Let's go."

Two of the co-owners, Pat and Howard Frederick of Tucson, arrived a few minutes later with the key, but by then the tour was already under way.

School in a tent: Cahoon pointed out the old school. "My third-grade class was in a tent," she said.

One of her ancestors was a mining engineer who supervised the installation of a water line from the Santa Cruz River near Tumacacori, 17 miles over the mountains to Ruby.

That line, built from 1928 to 1930, cost $100,000. It was a 4-inch pipe that filled up a water tank. Lines led to homes and campsites.

The pump site is gone now, but recently Cahoon and another area historian, Philip Halpenny, went looking in the areas west of Tumacacori. In the desert they found a 20-foot section of the old water line.

Cahoon spent a few minutes looking at the walls of her old home.

"We don't have time to paper the walls today," Al Ring called in jest.

Cahoon lived in an area known as Hollywood. The mine managers lived on a hill across the road in what the locals dubbed "Snob Hill."

Visitors tramp through knee-high Side Oats Grama Grass beneath native mesquites and Arizona oaks. A small pond is east of the town and fishermen can try their luck for $17.50 a day. Admission to the town is $12.

Al Ring has spent several years looking at the history of the area, and hopes to find more early records and former residents.

The three are writing the column partly to set straight myths and legends that don't quite hew to historical reality.

The area was originally mined for gold and silver but at the big operations at Ruby miners went 700 to 800 feet down to search for lead and zinc.

Part of the old mine structure and smelting plant are still there. The mine closed in 1941 and residents started moving out.

Al Ring has compiled more than 80 ring binders 2-inches thick with his research.

And part of that tells about other money-making and money-losing endeavors--selling gold mining shares to unsuspecting buyers often from back East.

The writers will talk about mining for gold in the Montana Mine, the two double murders, what Ruby was like in the 1930s, and "How Ruby Became a Ghost Town."

Read 'em all here. Cahoon conducts tours with Pima Community College. For information call non-credit classes, 206-6579, and ask for Ann Warner.

Three Historians with ties to mining ghost town Ruby, Arizona, stand outside the old schoolhouse. From left they're Al Ring, Tallia Cahoon and Bob Ring. Cahoon lived and attended school there. The grandparents of Al and Bob Ring also lived there briefly early in the 20th century.


Do you have any related documents, photos, or personal histories that you could share with us? If so, please contact:
Al Ring

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