On our way to Tombstone, we crossed the San Pedro River and saw a sign for Fairbank Historic Townsite. We decided to stop and see it on our way back from Tombstone. (And it's FREE.)
In 1986, the Bureau of Land Management acquired the townsite and 40 miles of river corridor along the San Pedro. In 1988 it was designated the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. From the pamphlet:
"The 56,000 acre riparian corridor features some of the richest wildlife habitat in the Southwest. Here you will find 82 species of mammals, dozens of different reptiles and amphibians and nearly 350 species of birds. In addition, the river supports one of the largest cottonwood-willow forest canopies remaining in Arizona, and is one of the last free-flowing rivers in the Southwest.
The area contains significant cultural resources dating back approximately 11,000 years to the Clovis people, the first known occupants in the upper San Pedro Rive Valley. The river valley was home to a Spanish fortress, several stamping mills, the ore-processing towns of Charleston, Millville, Contention, and others. The Boquillas Land and Cattle Company set up its ranch headquarters just south of Fairbank. One of the ranch manager's houses, now the restored San Pedro House on Highway 90, is open daily."
Fairbank is named after Nathanial Kellogg Fairbank, a Chicago merchant who helped finance the first railroad into the area in 1881. He was also a founding member of the Grand Central Mining Company in Tombstone. By 1889, Fairbank had five saloons, a meat market, general store, grocery, three restaurants, a hotel, a Wells Fargo office, livery stables, train and stage depots, a school, post office, and residents' houses.
The building on the left was built in the 1930s (making it the same age as our house in Forest Falls), and is often referred to as the "Teacher's House." the building on the right was a stable.
This is a two-seated outhouse - the second seat is hidden to the left.
The Fairbank schoolhouse was built in the late 1920s, replacing a wooden structure that had burned down. The original building was one room, but a partition separated it into two rooms. In the early 1930s a third room was added. The school was closed in 1944, and the students were transferred to the Tombstone Unified School District. The BLM restored the schoolhouse in 2007 using original materials where possible, and replicated features such as the doors and windows. It's been converted to a museum that is open to the public on the weekends.
This is the mercantile building, the oldest surviving building in Fairbank, dating to 1882. It housed a store, saloon, and post office owned and operated by several families. Some of the families lived in the building as well. The BLM is still in the process of renovating the building. Upon completion, the fence will come down and new interpretive signs will be developed.
The town still had people living there well into the 1950s, but the town was slowly dying and by the 1970s only a roadside store with a gas pump remained. By the mid-1970s the last few of its residents closed the store and moved away. the old train depot for the New Mexico and Arizona Railroad was moved to Tombstone.
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