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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Swansea Ghost Town

Because we were suffering from airplane colds, and because of the heavy social schedule at Boomerville, we found it hard to get out to see the desert around our campsite in Quartzsite.  Finally, on Friday, January 25, 2019, we were able to take a Jeep ride northeast to Swansea Townsite, a ghost town located near Bouse, Arizona.

It was about an hour's drive.  Near the end, we summited a ridge and saw this view down into the valley where Swansea Townsite is located:

The site is well signed.  We stopped to read the historical markers:

Swansea was settled around 1909. It served as a mining town as well as a location for processing and smelting the copper ore taken from the nearby mines. Prospecting and mining in the area first began around 1862, but the remote location and lack of transportation kept activity to a minimum.

By 1904, the railroad was coming to nearby Parker, and local miners Newton Evans and Thomas Jefferson Carrigan saw an opportunity to develop the area. Within a few years, the two miners had built a 350-ton furnace, a water pipeline to the Bill Williams River, and hoists for five mine shafts.

By 1908, the claims in the area had been consolidated by the Clara Gold and Copper Mining Company, which set up its headquarters in the mining camp that would become Swansea. That same year, what was to become the Arizona and Swansea Railroad connected the town to Bouse about 25 miles away. These two factors spurred the growth of the town, and its population quickly grew to about 300 residents.  At its peak, Swansea boasted an electric light company, an auto dealer, a lumber company, two cemeteries, a saloon, theaters, restaurants, barbershops, an insurance agent, a physician, and of course the local mining and smelting facilities.

The town was short-lived. By 1911, the Clara Consolidated Gold and Copper Mining Company was in financial trouble. The company's promoter in Swansea, George Mitchell, spent considerable sums of money on improvements aimed at attracting investors at the expense of practical improvements to the process of mining, hauling, and processing ore. As a result, the high cost of improvements coupled with the high cost of production meant that the mines could not turn a profit, as the per-pound cost of copper production exceeded its price by three cents. The company collapsed in 1912, closing down the mines.

A new owner reopened the mines, and Swansea lived on until just after World War I when copper prices dropped, and the town went into a steep decline. Swansea's post office was discontinued on June 28, 1924, and the population dispersed. By 1937, the mines shut down, and Swansea was already a ghost town.

Today, Swansea is under the protection of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). You can still see a number of adobe structures, the remains of the railroad depot, two cemeteries, and several mine shafts. Remains of numerous cars can be seen scattered throughout the site. The BLM has restored roofs to rows of single-miner's quarters:

The miners' quarters boast views of the valley below.

Foundations of other structures remain, such as the general store:

However, adobe walls have been deteriorating, leaving partial walls as unique sculptures in the middle of the desert:

Some vehicles still sit where they were last parked, but the desert is slowly swallowing them:

Slag piles and tailings loom over the foundations of the main mining buildings:

This wall and its dramatic vents are all that remains of one of the separator buildings:

The ruins have become part of the dramatic Arizona landscape:

We only had time to spend about one and a half hours walking around the townsite, but we could have spent several hours exploring the ruins of the ghost town.  The trip paid much higher dividends than we expected!

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