"Fairbank - Ghost Town in the Desert" Fairbank by Basaic

Fairbank Travel Guide: 34 reviews and 98 photos

Historic Fairbank Township

Researching the history of Fairbank, I came across various dates for its origin. Native American tribes occupied the area for a number of years before the first white man showed up. The area was then part of an old Mexican land grant called the San Juan de las Boquillas y Nogales. In the late 1870s a town called Junction City was started as a stagecoach stop en route to Tombstone. Around 1881 a railroad station was built there and the town was renamed Fairbank, after Nathanial Kellogg Fairbank, a well-known Chicago merchant, who was also a stockholder in the railroad and an organizer of the Grand Central Mining Company. Fairbank became an important supply point for Tombstone and was an active community over halfway into the 20th Century. The Fairbank Post Office was established in May 1883 making Fairbank an official town.

By 1882, the town had a store, a saloon, and a several houses, with most of its residents working at the nearby Grand Central Mining Company or with the railroad.

On May 16, 1883, the post office was established in what is now known as the Adobe Commercial Building, which also housed a general store, and a saloon.

Fairbanks served as the main supply point for Tombstone and much of the ore from the Tombstone mines passed through town en route to the mills at Contention City and Charleston. Fairbank was also an important point in the railroad between Guaymas, Mexico and Benson, Arizona. At one point, Fairbank was a stop on three different railroad lines, and became a central point of entry and exit for miners, prospectors, and ore, headed to and from Tombstone. The town grew to about 100 residents, and had a Wells Fargo office, a General Store, a meat market, a restaurant, a saloon and a mill. In 1885 the Butterfield State Line opened a stagecoach station there. In 1889 the Montezuma Hotel was opened.

Fairbank started to fade away when droughts ruined the farms and the Tombstone mines closed in 1887 forcing the mills that processed their ore to shut down. A subsequent flood of the San Pedro River in September 1890 severely damaged Fairbank.

Fairbank is located ten miles west of West of Tombstone on State Highway 82, and about 1o miles East of the intersection of State Highway 90 and State Highway 82.

Learning the History

There are signs giving historic information about Fairbank and its inhabitants throughout the site.

One of the interesting stories from the history of Fairbank involves Jeff Davis Milton and an attempted robbery. According to the story; Milton was working for Wells Fargo as an Express Messenger on the Southern Pacific run from Benson to Guaymas, Mexico. Milton's job was to guard the railcars filled with gold and silver. In February 1900, former lawmen turned bandits Burt Alvord and Billy Stiles with other members of the Stiles-Alvord Gang decided to rob the express car while it stopped for water in Fairbank. In the gunfight that followed, Milton killed one bandit, wounded another and saved the shipment; but not before suffering a bad wound to his left arm. Milton could not receive adequate medical care in Fairbank so he was sent to San Francisco for specialized treatment. When told his arm would have to be amputated, Milton vowed to kill any doctor who amputated his arm. The arm was not amputated and he regained some use of it.

Fairbank Today

In 1987, the Bureau of Land Management acquired the land and the area became the part of the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. The Fairbank area was declared a national historic site and the restoration of the buildings was begun. Fairbank is situated ion a level plain surrounded by various mountain ranges. A number of buildings: including the old school house, which has been restored and now serves as the Visitor's Center/Museum; a couple of old homes; a stable; and an outhouse are now available for tours. The Montezuma Hotel, which stood just south of the Adobe Commercial Building, was torn down when Highway 82 was built. Today, all that's left of the old hotel are portions of the old foundation. The Adobe Commercial Building is currently fenced off.

In addition to the remains of the town situated by the Visitor's Center, you can take a short 1/2 mile hike to the Fairbank Cemetery (a short distance off the main trail and up a hill) and about a mile further down the trail, the ruins of the Grand Central Mill.

Fairbank also offers a walking trail along the San Pedro River and a picnic area.

There is a trail on the south side of Highway 82 leading past the Boquillas Ranch all the way down to the remains of the Charleston Ghost Town by Charleston Road, and a third trail leading to the remains of the Presidio Santa Cruz de Terrenate and the remains of the Contention Townsite.

There is also the ruins of an ancient Sobaipuri Village called Quiburi in the area; but it is not open to the public.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Historic and Beautiful
  • Cons:You are in the hot, hot desert with no shade
  • In a nutshell:Interesting part of Western history
  • Last visit to Fairbank: Nov 2013
  • Intro Updated Nov 5, 2013
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Reviews (48)

Comments (3)

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    Jun 11, 2010 at 1:04 PM

    I envy you to find all these cool places to visit off the tourist routes. This looks like I could venture and really enjoy. Good presentation, and great detail as always. Monsoons here-wow

  • aussirose's Profile Photo
    Dec 9, 2009 at 4:09 PM

    Now this looks like a lovely place Jim - bit of a bush walk, nice sights, interesting plants & lovely flowers :o) Enjoyed the read. Cheers, Ann :o)

  • Kaspian's Profile Photo
    Mar 18, 2009 at 1:16 PM

    Hey Jim, thanks for the Fairbank postcard! I have a question for you--do mesquite trees have a natural strong scent to them? Or is it only after they make smoke?


“As for me, I'll take the road less traveled.”

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